Thursday, July 12, 2012

Everything I Know I Learned from a River

In 1998 my husband and I were casting about for something new to do on summer weekends. The kids were getting older--read bored--and an occasional trip to the beach just wasn't cutting it anymore. So we bought a power boat. The combination of speed and water was just the perfect combination for two pre-teen boys.

The boat was big enough to be fun and small enough to be trailerable. That meant we weren't tied down to one marina. We explored the local lakes and occasionally took the boat to the bay in Rhode Island. The boys went tubing and learned to water ski. It was all a great adventure.

It didn't take long, though, for us to outgrow the little lakes where we were skiing. There's only so long that you can tolerate going around and around and around in endless circles. It was then that my husband suggested taking the boat to the Connecticut River.

The river? I hadn't really thought about the Connecticut as a real river. It had always been just something I crossed over on my daily commutes. I had only ever seen the river from the highway bridge, and in truth, I usually didn't even give the river a glance. Were there even boats on that river? Maybe, but I couldn't have told you.

Well the river turned out to be our home away from home for many summers. It was a delightful discovery. Instead of water skiing in circles, we could ski long straight stretches of river. The boys swam from the boat and watched schools of fish. Once or twice a year we took the boat to the mouth of the river and into Long Island Sound. And when it was nap time (uh, not them, me) we put them ashore and let them play explorers or pirates. Every year we watched the Fourth of July fireworks from the cockpit of the boat anchored in the river.

But mostly we just powered down the river and watched the scenery. Who knew that below the crisscross of highway bridges was such unspoiled natural beauty? Well, my husband obviously did, but I hadn't a clue.

Last month the federal government launched the National Blueway System to focus attention of the nation's rivers and our historic connection to them. I am proud that the first river to be designated a National Blueway is the Connecticut River. Maybe more people will discover what I did: that if you really want to experience something you can't just look down at it from above. You'd better get down there and get wet and squish some mud between your toes.

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