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Sunrise on the River

Bob Kihslinger - Boomer - Madison, Wisconsin

 Sunrise on the River


Standing on a pier before the light of day,

No sound, no movement, only darkness,

There is no river, nor a tree, only silence, 

Nothing to see, only feel 

Frosted air cuts through your jacket and invades your shoes, 

With open unseeing eyes you struggle for your balance, 

After a while, as if a trick, the tree line’s jagged edge separates black from black, 

You strain to see it

You feel cold and alive 

You smell the dews and the dampness that cloak you, 

Above the trees it turns slate grey

You look down in anticipation into a black hole where the river should be, 

Your eyes fall closed and you listen

But there is nothing to hear, 

A dense indigo lies atop the blackness, 

But you don’t trust your eyes, 

Soon a mantel of royal rich purples, now maroon, is dragged imperceptibly across the heavens

Magically the water mirrors infinity and you look down into the sky below

Lean forward and fall forever, 

A treetop heats up turning rose to gold

Suddenly, the river breathes and the water shivers, 

A bird calls out and a fish rolls on the surface, 

You hear the leaves shake off the night, 

You see the river stretch and with great effort heave itself forward, 

A duck takes flight squawking his morning song, 

Below long legged bugs skate here and there on the calm shoreline water, 

Looking up you are surprised to find blue, green and golden hues everywhere painted like water colors on canvas, 

The surface mists rise up smearing the gentle pastels 

The tree tops catch fire boiling off remaining shadows  

Color explodes everywhere, everything moves

You shudder and breathe

What the river and its children take for granted 

Shakes your soul.   

          I don’t know what has happened to fresh water in my life time.  The rivers now lie lower in their beds for the lack of creatures in their waters.  When George Washington fished the Potomac that ran through Mount Vernon it gushed millions of fish of all kinds.  Today, after 150 years, we define abundance as a “fishing hole” where an angler can fill a bucket in the course of a day.

            We are content to suck up the deep ground waters at a pace and in a quantity that is virtually drying up lakes and rivers, and drinking water as well.  Such is the price of hog farms and soil fracking for natural gas.  We have polluted them with our wastes both human and industrial to an extent that from time to time a river would actually catch fire.       

            The wetlands are being filled with soil and rock so humans can live and work in buildings with a view.  The wetland birds take flight confused by the loss of their generational home and lifelong migratory patterns.  Floodwaters can no longer find refuge there and take their revenge out on neighboring farms and cities.

            The thing is that it all happens so slowly that our awareness is numbed.  If humans lived to 150 years instead of 70 the advance of such wanton decay would horrify us.  I don’t offer this as a defense for our behavior but as a reflection on human nature.

            From time to time we foul the air and waters to such an extent that we pass legislation to stem the tide of destruction.  Then, in a decade or two, we forget and now we are working to remove the regulations that protect our environment and us as well.  Humans need to create crisis before action on behalf of common good is demanded.  All the other creatures of the earth have no say in the matter.

           These are my thoughts as I stand on a pier on the Radisson, Wisconsin Flowage.

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