Kindling Neighborly Connections between People and Nature.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Straight To The Point (Tioga Point) June 29th, 2020

My route.
I did something today that I've been wanting to do since I moved to Athens two weeks ago. I sauntered the Susquehanna and Chemung Rivers via kayak; launching into the Susquehanna at the Front Street Bridge, following the current southwards from there on down to Tioga Point, and then paddling north along the Chemung River from Tioga Point to the Route 199 Bridge. It was an amazing experience. I had the joy of encountering a great variety of wild neighbors along the way. There were white-tailed deer, a fox and her pup, vireos, flycatchers, eagles, ducks, and swallows!

Sycamore cove.
At one point I found a little cove off of the main current of the Susquehanna where I could rest in my boat on the water without going anywhere. There I paused for five minutes or so, noticing the unique perspective provided by my kayak. A pair of great-crested flycatchers sallied for insects on the wing just a few feet over my head while a white-tailed deer grazed on choice vegetation which included some silver maple leaves and even a couple of leaves from a knotweed plant. It is amazing to be so close in proximity to a wild deer to be able to identify the vegetation that it's eating without the aid of binoculars. Sideways tail flicks that communicate "all is well" by this deer at a distance of just twenty feet says to me that these wild neighbors either don’t care about or are oblivious to relatively still floating objects, however close to shore.
Gnarly sycamores resemble a grape orchard.

Upon re-entering the Susquehanna's southward current, I noticed that there was one spot where the forces of the river's flow had caused a patch of gnarly sycamores to resemble a grape orchard. These river orchards of lush vegetation and nutrient-rich waters are fertile indeed! Teeming with life! The banks are so full of life because the river is too.

Bank swallow.
Yes the river itself has a life of its own, forever oscillating between riffles and pools. It's easier to hear the songs and calls of birds while navigating the relatively calm and quiet pools, and the swallows seemed to enjoy low flights over the riffle sections. It makes sense. Insects like mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies prefer the well-oxygenated riffle sections of our rivers and so where do the swallows go to find the best tasty flying insects? The riffles! It's impossible to talk about one neighbor without discussing the place as a whole. The river and its surrounding forests is community; each animal interdependent upon the other; plants and trees engaged in competition as well as in mutual support of the riverbank. There are stratified habitat zones here, beginning with river cobbles or mud at the water's edge, transitioning to a zone of low-growing vegetation, and then into a layer of sturdy trees that are dominated by strong and beautiful silver maples.

I cannot get over these silver maples which in their context are made all the more beautiful as wave after wave of shimmering light dances upon trunk and branches, a gentle wind whispers through silvery leaves, and I hear the Spirit of God speaking into my heart, "these are your partners in sharing the love of Jesus. Make peace with this land and its wild inhabitants, and with the people of Athens. Be a neighbor and share what it means to be a neighbor for Jesus." What great joyful work is being prepared here! How amazing to be here, in this moment! How ecstatic yet deeply peaceful and serene to find myself drawn into a true moment of sauntering; senses in tune with this wild space, heart in tune with the Source of Divine Creativity! Onward I go, every moment, one of sacred and indescribable beauty. The low-dipping wind-whipping flight of a tightly clustered flock of bank swallows at Tioga Point is a sight to behold. Farther up the Chemung river, water striders were so prolific in one spot that it looked like a million tiny raindrops touching the surface as thousands of insects securely suspended atop the water moved about under the sun's dazzling light.

Today I am thankful for the beauty of this place, I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to traverse the route that I did, and I'm thankful for the unique perspective of the riparian community provided by my kayak.

Tioga Point

White-tailed deer along the Chemung River.
Harris Island

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