I’ve been nominated by Elusive Trope for the Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge. I want to thank Doug for nominating me for this challenge. He offers interesting insights, and I respect the chops he shows in his poems.
The Rules of the Challenge are fairly simple: (1) Thank the person who nominated you; (2) Select one quote per day for the next three days and write a little something on it; and (3) nominate three other bloggers for each day of the challenge.
However… rather than nominating other bloggers, I will point you to the blogs of other poets (surprise!) that I follow. Their names will be at the end of this blog. I haven’t been posting poetry here at WordPress for very long, but I think that if you’re reading my poetry, you probably know about these other poets. In any case, check them out. You won’t be disappointed.
And now, I’m going to take a quote completely out of context, just so I can talk about myself. Hey… isn’t that what blogs are all about?! (Well, sometimes.)
But first, some true context for the quote. During the Inauguration of President William Clinton, in 1993, Maya Angelou delivered a poem written for the occasion, titled, On the Pulse of Morning. In her poem she cites three elements of Nature – A Rock, A River and A Tree – to address the issues of peace, inclusion and the cost of prosperity. Her message is just as relevant today as it was in 1993.
Now, for my own bit of context. The following lines are from On the Pulse of Morning:
“Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song. It says,
Come, rest here by my side.”
I was born and raised in Western New York, half-way between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, and for the first fifty-nine years of my life I lived within a couple of miles of the Niagara River – just a half-mile away for the last thirty-seven years.
When I was young, my father would take me fishing on the shores of the river and nearby streams. Sometimes we would be sitting with our lines in the water long before the sun came up. At times he would talk to me about the hardships of growing up during the Depression and war years. They were broad brushstrokes that he used to describe those times, especially the teen years after his mother’s death. My father died too young, at sixty, and one of my deepest regrets is not having talked with him about his youth when I might have had a better understanding. Even so, sitting by the water while my father talked in the early morning light is one of my strongest memories from that time.
There are stretches of park land along the Niagara River, and during my high school and college years, in the late Sixties and early Seventies, they were a popular place for a couple to park a car and “watch the submarine races.” I’m sure you can imagine what that entailed. Yes, there were a lot of steamed up windows! That’s far less likely to be the case these days, since it’s not unusual to see a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle parked or driving along the park roads at the river’s edge, checking vehicles and watching the shore for illegal entry into the country. (Canada is just across the river.)
When I started scuba diving, it was only natural that some of that would be done in the Niagara River. More than 100 dives, in fact. The current’s speed ranges from four to thirteen miles per hour, so the dives are called river drifts. Divers park a car at their planned exit point, then drive upriver for their entry. The parks were a favorite place to picnic, so having friends and family waiting at the exit point was natural, and the after-dive could be as much fun as the dive, itself. We would dive in teams of two or three, connected by buddy lines – usually a line five to ten feet long. A dive float and flag on the surface tethered to the arm of one of the divers is meant to warn boats to stay away, but some people can’t figure that out. Close calls when surfacing to the float were common for us, especially with jet ski riders thinking they could use it as a slalom.
Those dives were some of my favorite times, and sometimes the source of a good laugh. The hardest part of a river drift is kicking a short distance from shore at the start (on the surface), and then back in again at the end. However, the current could be unpredictable at times, pushing divers further from shore, only to discover when surfacing at the prescribed time that it’s a very hard kick in. One time, my buddy and I overshot our exit at a bend in the river and had to exit at an island (connected by a bridge). I still laugh when I think about walking into a bar wearing a wetsuit and asking the bartender for a quarter to make a phone call. She gave it to me with her phone number!
I had some interesting finds from the river bottom, including boat motors, anchors, hundred year-old bottles, a musket from the early 1800s and a ship’s anchor that sat on my lawn for years. I did have a boat for a couple of years, but I never got the same satisfaction from that as I did from diving. The boat always seemed like too much work, and as they say, “A boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money.”
My ankle was broken when it was run over by a forklift in the late Nineties. Coincidentally, I had been diving earlier in the day, not knowing it would be my last dive. By then, my dive frequency had dropped off. After recovering from the injury, I never returned to diving.
But that did not mean the end of my time by the river. I always enjoyed sitting on the shore in the morning hours. I worked afternoons, and it fit easily into my schedule. The river was always one of my favorite photo subjects, at Niagara Falls, in the lower gorge, and just a half-mile from my house, where I often could get a shot of the morning fog as it dissipated. I retired within seven years of that last dive, which gave me even more opportunities sit by the water and read or watch the birds and kites catching the breeze off the water.
Four years ago, the year before I moved here to Missouri, and after fifty-eight years of living so close to the Niagara River, I bought a kayak, which offered some great opportunities to appreciate the wildlife and scenery along the Niagara and local streams.
The rivers in Missouri are not on as grand a scale as the Niagara, but that’s not necessary for an enjoyable paddle. In fact, some of the rivers would qualify as creeks in New York State, but seeing an eagle or a mink as I sit on the water is a great reward for being by a quiet stream. As I sit there, it’s not hard to think back to the early mornings spent with my father. I would gladly rest here by the side of these rivers.
And now for Step #3 of Day #3… Three poets that I follow:
Elan Mudrow – evocative poetry with timeless images
Ben Naga – don’t be surprised if his comments come in the form of a poem
Elusive Trope (Douglas Ear Branson) – poetry, photos and more
Ken G. / rivrvlogr