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Withlacoochee Wonderment



Clouds and Trees Calling Me Home on the River ©Lynne Buchanan
A few days ago, I set off on a short three and a half hour paddle on the Withlacoochee around 3 in the afternoon.  The trees along the quiet riverbanks were majestic and delicate at the same time and there were some incredible backlit clouds.  The way all these elements were converging was dramatic and I knew it would make a great black and white because there were so many shades of gray.

As soon as I got on the river, I knew it was probably a little too fast for me–especially since I was carrying all my expensive gear.  A short ways up from where I put in at the campground and RV park, I could see the remnants of rapids, which would no longer have been much more of a threat if the water was lower.  Photographing was an incredible challenge.  I had to whip out the camera from the dry bag, where I religiously kept it this time in case I tipped, remove the lens cap, focus, and shoot, all the while being aware of exactly how far and fast I was drifting and where all the snags in the river were, as well as the location of any potential trees I was careening backwards towards.  I seriously thought about turning me back and getting off the river, but the clouds and trees in the photograph above kept calling me onwards. 

It dawned on me that this was much like the trajectory of my life of late, and actually that of the planet's as well.  Things are happening so quickly and are threatening to spiral out of control unless we keep orienting ourselves even in the midst of extreme circumstances.  Giving up is not an option, unless we want to be flipped and drown.  Instead of being horrified or frightened and collapsing under the weight of it all, it seemed best to embrace this crazy adventure and make the most of the wild and scenic river.  I had to trust that my paddling skills were way better than I'd previously thought.  Perhaps if I believed in myself, I would survive.

Entering the Maze ©Lynne Buchanan
I was paddling so hard my arms hurt and each time the river narrowed, it became even more difficult to make forward progress.  Periodically, I had to find little spots off the main river where the water was still and just breathe.  This was one of those rest spots.  The reflections were so vivid that it was difficult to see what was actually going on beneath the surface of the water.  I felt like I was entering a maze that might have no way out and paddled very slowly, to make sure I didn't get hung up on a stump or that I didn't run into any of the plentiful spiders.  

Trees Limbs Dancing on the Water ©Lynne Buchanan
Reflections are so interesting.  Sometimes they are crystal clear and logical, while other times they take on a life of their own, evoking a sense of mystery and movement that is irreducible.  The trees above were still, but the speed of the water made them seem to dance and shimmer, showing me visually the Whiteheadian interconnectedness and interdependence of being.  The reflections of the branches were simultaneously solid and fluid, while the leaves were effervescent.  

Evening Serenity on the Withlacoochee ©Lynne Buchanan
This last photograph is my favorite.  The water is still moving quickly; a fish has jumped; the golden light is gently caressing the feathery leaves; the reflections compliment the incredible beauty of the riparian landscape, which has invited me in and is holding me in its magical moment of perfect serenity even though the water is moving just as quickly as when I first entered. (In fact, when I returned the woman who owned the campground told me she'd been worried all afternoon that something would happen to me.) My senses were fully aware of every tree and branch of this spot that I had first visited on my way upriver and had returned to now more confident and attuned.  Any trepidation I had experienced earlier was gone and I was at one with my surroundings.  When this happens in nature, there is nothing more rewarding or regenerating.  I whispered thank you to all the elements and to my own senses for their ability to take it all in.