Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Splashy Affair

     Summer is event season. Fund raisers, graduations, reunions and the Queen Bee of them all, weddings. There's a whole sector of the economy centered on staging these gatherings. Caterers and florists, musicians and photographers, purveyors of tents, chairs, tables and the indispensable
Porta-Potty. All this creates growth, jobs and long-term debt for the unfortunate host. People will say, "It was one hell of a party," especially when the bills come due.
     The goal is the "magical event". Something so perfect guests will remember it two or three days later. These deep thoughts came while experiencing my own magical event. I was floating on my back beneath the Rexleigh Covered Bridge deep in a session of Battenkill therapy and wondering: if bliss is free why do people go to so much trouble and expense?

     All you need is for it to be late summer. Time for the river to (sort of) warm-up and time to realize that the season isn't going to last forever. It has to be a hot day, one filled with an appropriate mix of accomplishment (1000 bales!) and frustration (flat tire on a wagon). You need to wrap things up an hour or so before sunset, sweaty and filthy with hay chaff but not so totally worked that collapse is the only option. Then you just have to go before there's time to think about how tired you are.
     You can choose your Mecca on the way. Rexleigh and Eagleville are popular while the Georgi has a nice sandy beach and deep swift current on the far shore. Upstream a bit is the Co. 64 / Railroad bridge spot. The Spring Hole has pretty much been ruined by road construction. Sad, I used to like it there. Skellie Road works too. I have fond memories of Ernie walking down to talk farming while we chilled in the river above his place. The Greenwich Beach could be an option but who wants to swim in a prison yard? Does anybody like chain link fences?

     Now you're in the right place at the right time. Standing in clear water as the day and its heat gradually fade. Just one thing left to do. Dive in and swim. Except it's not always easy. The river is cold, the initial immersion a breath sucking shock. I've known people who talked all day about going for a swim and then couldn't bring themselves to do it once they were there. My advice: channel Patti Smith singing Gloria, "I took the big plunge and ohhh she was so good...ohh she was so fine."
     This is the magic hour. The Sun puts on its goodbye show, turning the sky all orange and pink. Birds sing, fish jump. Kids laugh and splash and you take joy in their joy, ever grateful they're not yours and you don't have to worry about paying for their college education.

     I used to go for long dirt road runs which made the subsequent swim that much sweeter. Other times it was looping bike rides out into the hills always drawn back to the water like a comet that grazes the edge of space before being called in by the Sun's gravity. Now my swims are more often laced with some streamside botanizing, a little birdwatching or sifting thru the diversity of smoothed stones on the river bottom.
     If you've got someone else to drive, stop at Argyle Brewing on the way over. That after swim beer will be the best you ever tasted. Or maybe a post-swim, wandering backroads drive thru misty hills will get you back to the Ice Cream Man in time for an almond joy kiddie cone.
     Remember that rollicking good-timey song that goes "In Heaven there is no beer, that's why we drink it here"? I don't know if there's a Battenkill in Heaven but I do know this day, this season, this life won't last forever. Taste the magic while you can.