Walking by Joe’s Brook

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(Host) Commentator Alan Boye’s remedy for a hot, sleepless night is to take an early morning walk – and perhaps a dip as well.

(Boye) I step into the woods along Joe’s Brook Road in the gray light before dawn. It’s not even six a.m. and the muggy August air already promises a stifling day. It doesn’t matter that I am awake so early: I couldn’t sleep last night anyway…with all the heat and humidity. I could tell even before the birds began to chirp that it was going to be another one of those oppressive, heavy days. I gave up trying to sleep an hour ago, got out of bed and headed here.

The boiling brooding humidity is already filling the blue sky with fat heavy clouds. I follow the faint, familiar trail through the thick green underbrush. Not even the low hiss of the water in Joe’s Brook helps to ease the clammy feel. I turn parallel with the brook and follow the trail down a long, sloping hill. I push out of the suffocating woods and into a thick underbrush of blackberry brambles, and finally emerge onto the bare rocks at the edge of the brook.

I step to the edge of the water and look around. Not too many people know about this place. I seldom find anyone here, and I certainly don’t expect anyone will come at this hour of the day, but still I look around nervously one more time before I leave my sweaty clothes in a damp heap on the rock and step into the sparkling water.

The world changes instantly. The cold water shoots a cascade of glistening sand through my toes, and my feet press against the cold, stony roundness of slippery rocks at the bottom of the brook. I inch my way deeper into the soothing water towards a small series of rapids. I know from experience Joes Brook empties into a deep pool just below the rapids. I wade out into the brook, oblivious now to the coming light of sunrise.

Like many streams in Vermont, this brook begins high in the cool hills where cold springs pour forth remnants of last winter’s snow melt. Even when Joes Brook reaches here down in the lowlands just two miles before it dumps its waters into the murky Passumpsic – I can still feel the rough coldness of last winter’s snows on my skin. I spread my arms like some pale white angel and step out into the deep pool. No matter how often I come to this secret place, each time I swim here I learn again what means to be alive.

I slide onto my back and drift with the cool waters into the summer’s dawn.

This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.

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

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