Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Creek

On days when the spring weather tilts closer to summer, I wander through the marsh at the back of my property, then sit at the edge of the creek. I enjoy it when the tide is low and I can watch the fiddler crab, smell the pluff mud. The creek has it all: the sounds of the wind rushing through the reeds, the birds calling to one another, and the sun, hot against my skin.

We fished for catfish from these banks, we caught a dinner plate sized snapping turtle and had no idea how to release him. We threw the biggest rocks we could find into the water to scare away the snakes before sliding down the muddy banks, grabbing handfuls of marsh grass to slow our progress. If we had no rocks, the smallest tag-along brother or sister was tossed into the brown water. We once built a raft that disintegrated the moment it touched the current of the outgoing tide and played under towering pines on a small spit of land that the creek wrapped around in a sinuous curve.

We pretended we were pirates, shipwreck survivors, Indians or pioneers.

We snuck back home and stole sun hot tomatoes from our mothers’ gardens, raided kitchens for shakers of salt and pitchers of Kool-Aid. We’d eat in a circle, beef steak tomatoes as big as softballs, juice running down our arms, dripping from our elbows and wash up in the muddy water. We’d pass the pitcher around the circle, the Kool-Aid almost unpleasantly sweet. For dessert, we would sample honeysuckle blooms.

We fought and argued back along those creek banks. We negotiated. We presented our ideas. We made up stories. We worked together. We sweated and swatted mosquitoes while learning to put ideas into action. We improvised.

We bled on those creek beds. We took trips to the emergency room for tetanus boosters and stitches because of them. We helped our wounded home and went to visit them the next day. We promised our parents we would be more careful.

We all survived to adulthood.

Now I go to sit on those banks before writing a difficult piece. Just sitting there releases a childlike part of me that is forever fascinated with ‘what if’. What if this happened? Or that? What would this person do? How would that person feel?

And, if after a particularly emotional writing session, I go there just to drop my mind to neutral, to feel that same hot sun, to hear that same rustle of reeds, to hear the song of the birds.


Pam said...

What a great place.

joan said...

How lucky are you! What a beautiful spot. My grandparents had a river on the back of their property that we had adventures on. When I grew up I discovered it was a ditch ;)

JanetLee said...

Thanks. I'm sort of fond of it.

Joan - at my mom's old house, we played in the "little creek" out back. When I grew up, I realized it was a ditch.

Marcheline said...

That was beautiful. And I'd bet you would be surprised that a New York girl knows how to get the sweet stuff from a honeysuckle bloom! I didn't spend all my summers in NC for nuthin', ya know!


- M