It's no secret that I grew up in the woods, in a trailer. It's something I like to tease myself about, especially if I have an audience. I was one of a legion of barefooted tomboys the Ocala National Forest turned out over the decades. But not everyone knows that I grew up in the woods on a river. The Ocklawaha River, to be precise, the muddy step-sister of the pristine, spring-fed Silver River, famous in Florida for its glass-bottomed boats and gigantic cyprus trees inhabitated by mysterious chattering families of feral monkeys. So, it wasn't just the bare feet, but also long pony-tailed hair perpetually dredded with river water, and shorts bottoms that were never anything but wet from a bathing suit underneath and muddy from river bank play. I remember always being sticky and sun-burnt and a heathen, really. When we were kids, we could spend a whole day cruising Juniper Run in a canoe, letting the river do all the work as we glided past 15 foot gators sunning themselves, great (and I mean great big) blue herons fishing for their suppers, and hordes of turtles piled cattywompus on partially capsized logs, all but an armspan away. As children, we really had no sense of the surreal, I promise you.
Anyway, I thought I jumped that ship a long time ago. Stepped out of the current and brought myself north to urban Durham, North Carolina, and Duke University, the proverbial fish out of river water. I never joked even once, at Duke, about the woods or the trailor. I knew, somehow, that it wouldn't have been funny. And I got used to thinking about Then and Now like they happened to two different people.
But this weekend, after a beautiful day lingering in the Eno River,which rumbles less than a mile from our house, Isaac said to me, "I feel sorry for people who don't have their very own river."
"Huh," I said, "Me too." And I surely meant it. Guess that still makes me a river kid, doesn't it? Wonder what that does to the whole Then and Now distinction.
Just look at those river kids:
Jada is a water pixie and she promised to that her stick could mix a birthday present just for me out of the whole, entire river together:
Even a snake's heart isn't unaffected by Spring. Look, they are making love:
The boys ran wild, roaring through the water:
They would disappear at times, so I would wade down a ways until I spotted them playing together on the bank:
Or sword-fighting down by the bridge:
Tiny Dog doesn't like to get his paws wet, but he kept watch over his children at all times:
That face! Oh, how I love that little face!
Thank you, Eno, our very own river.