Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reflections on Eagle's Nest Camp, Session IV 2009

Ah...inspiration, it comes and goes like the wind. I can barely write during the summer. My brain seems to swell and more parts than I would like sweat even in air conditioned places in the Piedmont of North Carolina. But inspiration finds me as it always did after time at Eagle's Nest.

I had not been to Eagle's Nest Camp, as a staff member, in 14 years. That's twice the time of my marriage. It's working on two decades ago. The changes were wonderfully minimal as I knew they would be. The rhododendron smelled of decaying and rotting wood, as only rhodo does, and I miss it already. It's a smell unique to certain places in the Southern Appalachian Mountains and if you never smelt it--sorry. It filled my nostrils in the dampness that was my lodging--Cabin Nine. I had lived in all of the other boys' cabins, but Cabin Nine, and now, I found myself there in the dampest of the damp as counselor and parent to my oldest child, George, age five and three quarters, as he is so quick to clarify by way of a mixed numeral.

Friday, I taught canoeing on the Headwaters of the French Broad River, Rosman, NC, as the middle of three generations of heads of the paddling program. Here I was a "Linney" situated in the middle of a "Waite-Kucera" mother and son teaching team. We had eight campers with us, but I am sure they had no sense that the combined paddling experience of their three instructors was upwards of 75 years and yet no one of these instructors was over the age of 50. All three of us were homegrown, taught first on a lake in the Little River Valley between Brevard and Hendersonville and then each of us sent from the lake to learn among moving waters at the Green, the Tuck, the Nantahala, the Chattooga, and many more rivers in the Southeast and beyond. I had not been in an open canoe in several years, yet the muscle memory was of a skill that will not be soon forgotten as I knew it would not be.

Throughout the week, on that same lake, "Love," I taught my son the first skills necessary to becoming a whitewater paddler. "Love" is the third pond as it is known in the trifecta of first "Faith" and then "Hope," as they were dug out years ago from the direction of Indian Village towards Hart and Everett Roads and the Little River. It is in the waters of the Little River where the waters of these lakes find rest until they move down toward the French Broad which flows and flows until finally the Atlantic, no, the Mississippi, because the French Broad is so old it cuts through the Continental Divide and flows West all the way to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. This is a sign of a river so old that it carved out the land before the mountains rose. My son learned a little of the Draw, and Pry, the Forward and the Reverse strokes, but will he come to know where the rivers meet? They meet in the hearts of those who love them. Those who think that water is a place where peace can overcome violence. Where dreams come true. Where skills are learned and harnessed. Where artistic motions can move bodies which move ancient shaped crafts across lakes and streams and ponds and rivers.

I love Eagle's Nest Camp. I hope I get to return their soon.

P.S. If you do not know David Whyte, and his book of poems, "Where Many Rivers Meet," try it.

*Photos by Cain Cox.

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