River delta

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(Host) Commentator Alan Boye says that some walks take more concentration than others.

(Boye) I’m walking the soggy land of the Missiquoi River delta. The trail I’m following parallels the Missiquoi as it empties into Lake Champlain. The path crosses a wide grassy meadow near a boat ramp and then plunges into the deep woods. I side-step a large puddle in the path.

A colored flash of orange and black feathers swoops through the air. I briefly study a near by tree until I see the Baltimore Oriole, but then forget that it’s even there. I’m grumpy and distracted by being self-possessed. My mind is overly busy with its own swampy murk.

The river has reappeared at the side of the trail. A gray teepee of gnawed sticks straddles the bank. I barely note the nearly perfect beaver lodge. I walk further into the marshy woods. It’s getting harder to tell whether I am walking on land, or on water. From the opposite bank a red-wing black bird flashes his shoulder patches at me and then calls out: do-WEE-dle, do-WEE-dle.

My boots are covered with muck. I slosh through another muddy area in the dark woods. My mental funk too has bogged me down. I’m wondering how to get out of this mental rut. I try to avoid the wettest spots. I step into thick mud and my boot slides out with a sucking sound. I stop and stand still a moment. The sluggish Missiquoi River is on my right. The river is about as wide as a city street and there is no current. Suddenly I notice to left side of the trail there is water as well. A swampy mix of trees and vines and water is everywhere. The trail I am following is a narrow wet band of mud surrounded by water.

One thing I know I can do to help myself, is to become more aware of what I am doing in the present moment, instead of getting wrapped up in past regrets, or in hopes for a happy future.

In order to keep going I have to devote all of my attention to where I put my feet. I carefully jump from muddy hillock to muddy hillock. A moment ago it was hard to tell whether I was walking on land, or on water. Now it is easy to tell: it is all water!

I stop. The Missiquoi river delta is still and calm. I take a deep breath in thanks and then turn around, determined to pay closer attention to what is right in front of me.

This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.

Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College. He spoke our studio at the Fairbanks Museum in Saint Johnsbury.

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