Tuesday, October 28, 2014
One morning, early, a man was paddling very close to my houseboat and looking in. How rude, I thought and debated whether to close the curtains. Then my doorbell rang. It was my neighbor Courtney, telling me that a fawn was swimming between my houseboat and Keith's upriver. I went out and realized that's what the paddler was looking at, not me. The fawn was frightened at the sight of us. We had no idea how to help it. It went around the front of my deck, then in the space between my houseboat and the downriver one. Courtney tried to get it onto the walkway but it just swam away from us. The guy in the boat couldn't figure out anything that would be useful. Eventually the fawn turned away from us all and swam across the channel to the other side.
I went for one of my typical three-hour paddles on a sunny summer day. After I tied up the kayak I stood and happened to catch my reflection in the window. I was taken aback because I saw myself, not as the older woman I am now, age 66 which is not too hard to think that I'm not far from 70, but as the young paddling woman of my 20s--sunglasses, big head of hair, life jacket. What else was there to see? No wrinkles in such a reflection, but as I look later at the photo I spot the arthritis in my hands and know that the years, well-earned and well-paddled, are all there.
It's gone now in autumn, but it spent a lot of time this summer at my houseboat, and I was delighted every time it graced my space with its appearance. It's a green heron, now called green-backed, and somewhat rare. I'd seen only a few in my lifetime until this one took up residence here. I pointed it out to many people who'd never set eyes on one.
It is perched here on the stringer next to my tenderhouse. If you were staying in the guest room of my houseboat you could look outside your window and see this view. Whenever I came outside it would fly off to the opposite shore, but in the summer when I was regularly swimming back there, it might hop to a more sheltered spot but stayed put as I glided past.
I think of this as a UFO -- Unidentified Floating Object. I was awake reading one night about 1:00 a.m. and saw blinking lights in the distance. What could that be? Okay, it was definitely something on the water and moving downriver toward me. I looked with my binocs. I looked with the spotting scope. I could not figure it out. Even as I stood outside as it passed and took these photos, I could not tell what it was. The next morning I wrote and asked some of my neighbors, and our Community Association newsletter editor, if anyone else had seen it or reported anything. I described it as "the crazy blue-lights-flashing plus red light plus green light plus yellow light thing..." I was guessing it was some kind of search and rescue boat.
My neighbor Barb (a writer who is usually waking up around the time I'm going to sleep), said:
Living on a moorage, we're always helping each other. I needed a new picture of myself to include in a resume and my neighbor Courtney, a professional photographer, offered to take it. We don't have far to go for a setting with nature in the background. I went and bought new mascara and red lipstick, which I would normally never wear, in a bold shade called Diva Red. We agreed to meet at 8am Sunday but a little after 7 she called and said the sun was perfect and could I get on over. I threw on some clothes, grabbed the makeup and a mirror and went next door.
Courtney had to do it right, so she used a sheet tossed over a swim float to bounce the light off my face. We don't have far to go to find a superb backdrop.
Living on the water, you never know what is going to pass your way. Because I'm a writer sitting all day working and looking out a 6ft x 6 ft window, I see and notice more than most people. This battleship pushed by a tug came chugging upriver one summer day.
I heard a huge thundering sound one afternoon and ran outside to see what it was. Someone on this "pirate ship" was trying get realistic and shooting off some sort of gun or cannon.
It is a bit startling to see a huge cruise ship of tourists floating past. This is inside looking out through my window with hawk silhouettes (so birds don't crash into the windows). You can see how we are part of the watched scenery.
And then, because this is a working river, working things float by with regularly, like these new floating homes being delivered to their moorages.
As an aside, and not pictured, today an egret landed on the opposite shore, quite unusual to see. A great blue heron came and flew at it, chasing it off. The egret tried landing again two or three times, but the heron persisted and by the time I got outside with my camera the two were too far downriver for me to get a good shot.
It's funny how something different will catch your eye. One morning I was strolling along the walkway and noticed something odd about a log along shore. I squinted and realized there were eight young mallards asleep, like so many burls on a tree trunk. On a nearby log was a solitary mallard, I presumed the mom, watching over them.
My neighbor Ron needed to borrow the moorage's extra float. This is something we use to tie up to our houseboats or tenderhouses to give us a platform for working on the structures. You can set up a ladder on the float and lean it against your building and work from there. How did he get it from where it docked over to his place? He paddled on over -- a version of Stand Up Paddle truly at work.
My neighbor Mary was out in the water, but what the heck was she doing? She was wrapping in bubble wrap a log jutting out next to her houseboat. Our resident white geese pair was arriving in the wee hours of the morning, landing on the log and honking up a storm. She was hoping this would deter them.
Here is her description of the result, dated September 15:
"Well, they showed up and HONKED VERY LOUDLY at 4:45 am - it was still very dark out. I looked out and they were perched on the log, so I felt disappointed and closed all my windows. Couldstill hear them. But then, it stayed silent! So maybe they were screeching about What is this shit under our feet? and after awhile got uncomfortable and left. I wonder if the bubbles were popping?! So maybe this will work.I might go out and put a few more tacks in and a little more bubbles on top of what’s there . . . "
... followed by this on September 24:
"They are still roosting here and screeching--but I think less often."
These house concerts are set up in different ways and I decided to have a BYO snacks and B for the intermission. It was a lovely evening and people gathered outside on the deck for food and drinks. I issued a warning that I wasn't thinking and set out my good silverware and asked people to please try not to donate it to the river gods. Friday I set out the Goodwill-silver-colored-party utensils.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Me, jump in the river water? That cold liquid downstream from all the Superfund Sites? Well, if it got to 95+ degrees I did. But this summer, not only did I lower that minimum temp to 80 degrees, I found myself jumping in for refreshing swims on a daily basis. Then I took to what no one else on the moorage had done -- swim-circumnavigate the moorage. I'd step down the ladder slowly, acclimating myself to the cold, then swim downstream in the main channel, and come upriver in the backwater and around by the sailboats, where every time, a guy on the end sailboat working on it would spot me and say "Here comes the blue river rat." (for my blue life jacket.)
I started out wearing a life jacket, since I'm not a great swimmer and I was going alone. Then my neighbor Mary let me try her less cumbersome AquaJogger, and I liked it so much I got one of my own.
How far was I swimming? I wondered. I walked up and down the walkway, counting the boards which, with spacing, are a foot wide. Then I saw Bruce and of course he knew and it was 1,000 feet, which, doubled and adding the moorage width, comes to something like four-tenths of a mile. Then I found a swimming/distance/calories calculator to see that one circumnavigation burns 259 calories -- a small mocha frappuchino with calories to spare.
It occurred to me that I probably swam more in the past month than I had in the whole rest of my life. We didn't swim as kids -- just floated in inner tubes at a lake. I didn't learn to swim until I took classes at the Y after I got out of college, and since then have swum mainly occasionally in hotel swimming pools.
River swimming is part of a new movement called "open water swimming." I looked it up and came across an organization in England called the River and Lake Swimming Association, or RALSA. Their main goal is to "increase public awareness to the fact that swimming in open water is a natural, healthy and ecologically friendly sport." My favorite of their club names is one called the Welsh Wild Swimmers Club. Maybe we here would be the Willamette Wild Swimmers.
These swims feel invigorating and like extremely good exercise. When I am in the backwater I swim on my back with a graceful underwater dance-like stroke. It doesn't cause any splashing and one lovely benefit was passing a rare-to-see green heron who didn't fly away as I glided past.