Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"Advice to Myself" by Louise Erdrich

I just recieved this poem in an email and thought I'd share:

Poem: "Advice to Myself" by Louise Erdrich, from Original Fire:
Selected and New Poems. (c) Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.

Advice to Myself

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity

Black River Paddle

To me the Black River is breathtakingly beautiful. In the spring the prothonotary warblers sing and dart there across the river. Paddling its waters allows you a chance to go back in time to a place where you only hear birds and the drip from your paddle. If you'd like to try it yourself contact Salt Marsh Kayak and Robert himself can take you on this 13 mile day trip.

Twisted Old Ents

How can you float past these big old monsters and not think of Tolkein and his Ents?

Three Sisters

Like Wallace Kaufman and his daughter, we have never found BLK 69 one of the oldest trees east of the Rockies. I have been down the 13 miles of the Black with Robert three times now and I never fail to be awe struck by the cypress groves. They sit silent like frozen wizards waiting for us to pass so they can resume their mysterious activities. They stand tall and gnarled and often covered in moss and dragonflies.


There has been very little rain this spring and water levels are low. Robert and I had to get out and slog through the shallow section of the Black. I loved it! The bottom is white sand and the water while tea stained is very clear. It felt great on this hot spring day.

Bald Cypress

The Black river fascinates me. It seems an an untamed wilderness. While there are a few houses along its shores we rarely see anybody on the Black. Mostly we encounter gorgeous birds a snake here and there, a beaver once and a bear, and tons of dragonflies. Here you can see the scale of some of the immense bald cypress that populate the Black.

Black River History

The Black river has a section we call the Narrows. A forest literally grows out of the river which becomes navigable only by canoe or kayak. I love an article written by Wallace Kaufman in 92 in American Forests. Here is an excerpt:

"As soon as Scots-Irish settlers moved into Carolina's coastal plain in the early 1700s, they began to log the Black's bottomland forests. Nineteenth-century steamboats hauled off the big stands of gum, live oak, and longleaf pine. In 1885 during a five-day study of the river's navigation possibilities, Captain W.H. Bixby of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported seeing rafts carrying "about 620,000 feet of timber and about 10,000 barrels of rosin." To build bridges and docks, loggers took bald cypress out of the seasonally flooded swamps beside the river, but they left the largest trees because the bell-bottomed giants had been hollowed by dry rot.The last steamer left the Black River in 1926. The sandbars returned, the land was too wet to clear, and trees once more arched across the river. Local people assumed the remaining cypresses were no more than a few hundred years old.

Today, as the cypresses probably did then, the old silver-barked trees tower over the rest of the forest. The lower branches are often broken, and those on top are flattened as if they,d met an invisible ceiling. Some trunks are cracked open from crown to buttress. Every one of the cypresses seems to have been hit by lightning or survived a Civil War artillery barrage. This kind of "overmature" old-growth makes some foresters talk of silviculture, but as our worries about the global climate grow, these once useless trees have taken on an important role in helping us measure the seriousness of today's environmental problems.
In 1986 scientists from the University of Arkansas found one big cypress that time had not hollowed. Its annual growth rings revealed it to be the oldest tree east of the Rocky Mountains, having taken root some time before 364 A.D.

All around us rose the silver-gray and moss patched trunks of bald cypress trees. We were looking for one in particular. It would be four feet thick above its buttresses and have a slight lean and two distinctive burls. It would be labeled with a small aluminum tag inscribed, "BLK 69." It was the tree the scientists had discovered in 1986 the oldest known living tree east of the Rocky Mountains. Other trees either along the Black River or in other cypress swamps--may in fact turn out to be older, but BLK 69 is the one that has won new respect for this almost-unknown forest.

We found many larger trees, but when I struck the trunks with my paddle or even my fist, they echoed like a drum. I asked several local people how to find BLK 69. Each of them had read about it in the newspaper, but no one was sure how to find it. Fishermen who string their shad nets and herring lines across the mouths of creeks and coves say the tree is in an area called "Three Sisters," a system of old channels and ponds on the west side of the river. But channels that are distinct at one water level disappear at another. Getting in and out, even in a canoe, can be a little like squeezing down the passages of a cave. Even old-timers going in to fish, hunt or gather mistletoe sometimes got lost."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Black River

The Black River is one of my favorite places to kayak. It is called black water because it is dark with tanin that has soaked into the water from the surrounding trees.

Heading Out

What a great day for a trip down the Black River here Sampson County in NC. We make a quick stop at Kelly Bear's for some Coke and nabs....