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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



     Sometimes one needs to take time out to truly get their head back on straight and there is nothing better than spending a little time in nature with the bugs and the creepy crawly things that make you crazy. Ever since I was a small boy and was thrown in the deep end of a swimming pool by my instructor and told to swim or drown I’ve not really been a big fan of water. To me it is something to drink, and splash around in as long as it is hot and bubbly or I can stand up in it. The few times I’ve been to the ocean scared the life out of me and I’ve just shied away from the water as much as I can.

     So when I get asked to go floating down the river recently, I was a little more than hesitant to go. Fortunately, I decided to set aside my fears and take the plunge so to speak. So a few old and new friends and I loaded up and headed down the Raccoon River for an afternoon float. It’s been 20 years since I’ve been in a canoe, but it didn’t take long to remember how and I managed to do my part steering but I will admit I spent more time looking around than actually rowing.

     The river is an interesting place, in some areas calm and placid and yet in others dangerous and swift. The water is a contradiction within itself as it invites you in and yet your adult brain realizes just what interesting nitrates and other “floaty” materials it contains. Yet, one cannot deny the fact that for the few hours it takes for you to get nearly ten miles down the river times tends to stand still. It gives one the time to think and observe the beauty of life around us, without the constant interruption of cell phones, television and life in general.

     From the elderberry bushes on the side of the banks, to a sunken trailer of some sort on a sand bar, to the blue clay of the gorgeous outcrop cliffs there is always something interesting to take in. As we came around the bend towards the cliff, I studied the face of the bank that had eroded away. From the trees on top of the cliff, to the limestone underneath the small sliver of dirt, down through the shale to the coal vein and into the various sedimentary layers I thought of the millions of years it took to build that cliff. Thinking back to the lessons from school about glacier drift and thinking about the Native Americans that once roamed this land I thought farther as we drifted along. I wondered what it would have been like to have been a settler coming across the open prairies, being the first white men to have traversed the river and what game used to abound there.

     We watched a great blue heron standing along a rock outcropping looking for a snack, holding his ground until the last possible moment then flying up into a tree to watch us drift by. We weren’t alone on the river that day, as we passed and were passed by others, out sharing the day. Maybe in a way we were all there for the same activity, but I was sure each of us were looking at the world in a different way.

     Have we always been good caretakers of the river? That which has given us water, industry, life has not always, and in some ways still isn’t being treated as well as the ground on which we are caretakers of. It is easy to not think about the river as an important part of our eco-cycle. It’s too easy to ignore it, throw something into it, as the water washes it away and out of sight. I thought for a moment that it is probably treated much like a rural road side ditch. Too many people think nothing about it as they zoom along tossing trash and cans out of the windows. It is someone else’s problem when we streak by at sixty miles an hour, and like the highway, the river washes downstream away from us everything we dump into it.

     Now before you start wondering if I’m going to go out hugging trees, know that the sunburn that I’ve gotten from five hours on the river isn’t going to allow that. But it did make me just a little more aware of a part of the place where we live that I don’t tend to give much thought. I’m sure for a while, I’ll look at the water a little different when I go over a bridge and think back upon my float down the river. The beauty recharged me, and the friends along the way made for an enjoyable afternoon. So to my friends Chris, Pam and Digger, any time you want to go floating give me a ring and I’ll do my best to get there.

See you next week…remember, we’re all in this together.