Some of our soldiers were jumping (as part of airborne operations) at the DZ (Drop Zone) on the west side of the river. To watch them, to be with them and their families (many of whom drove out to view the jumps), I drove west through a scenic part of the training area. Lots of hardwoods. A couple of air fields. UH-60s, C-17s, and C-130s were visible from the road. I watched them take off and land several times as part of training. I wound my way to the DZ and crossed the river. As I approached the bridge, I checked my rear view mirror to be sure no one was behind me. I rolled down my passenger-side window and snapped a couple of shots of the river with my iPhone. I don’t know why, at least not in the ultimate sense. I have crossed rivers on several continents many times and yet each time I’m a kid again at heart. I look down from the bridge and marvel at the power of the water, at the beauty of tree-lined banks, at the smells and sounds of rivers, and I feel my smallness and contingency amidst the grandness of waters.
Most people, I think, would have just driven across the bridge with no thought, not even paused to look–to see the fowl in the tops of trees scanning the waters where shad flashed silver-gray beneath the leaden sky. Trails led down to the water where anglers and kayakers had worn their way to and from the river. I felt it again: smallness. My temporariness amidst the enduring power and mystery of rivers.
A car approached from my rear. I knew I had to speed up or be laughed at for pausing at a river people cross daily en route to work. “Who is this guy? Why photograph this? Good grief,” they might scoff. I’m at a place, however, where I don’t care anymore about why I am captivated. I’m wired this way–to look about, to attend, to learn the names of fellow creatures and creations before me. As I crossed the river, the language of taxonomy washed across my mind like liquid: hickory, cottonwood, longleaf pine, dogwood, swamp oak, pin oak, bream, carp, channel cat, white perch, redeye, shoal, smallmouth, and largemouth bass, turkey vulture, red-tail hawk, mourning doves. The words of the world in the crossing of the river on a cloudy December day where I was reminded once again of the powers of water … to wash the senses and imagination with words that name the world and in so doing make it speakable.