Craig Childs - House of Rain
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Field Notebook
Field Notebook

Fall, 2016

You find a cadence in breathing and motion, the way the sun glides, shadows shrinking and growing. Sitting backwards in the bow of a canoe turned around, redistributing the weight of an absent second person, I spent most of the next day on the water. The canoe carried me wherever it wished. I'd come through here with groups, leading week-long trips of sun hats and zippy-pants, and I had my eye on camp from lunch onward, calculating the landing, counting the numbers of Dutch ovens needed for dinner and dessert. It wasn't a bad thing, detrimental to mental health. I loved the work. Cooking at a metal-framed camp stove in shorts and sandals, stirring a pot, tasting a pinch, and looking across an elegantly slow and stalwart river at the bottom of a stair-step canyon is one of my favorite pasttimes.

My meals alone were chips, avocados, jerky, mangos, and a bag of cherries from a fruitstand on the way here. One summer I'd put in by myself up at Ruby Ranch. The ranch was giving away their Green River melons, sweet, red, and numerous, too many to truck all of them up to the interstate. For the next ten days to the confluence, I paddled with a canoe loaded with bright, green-skinned melons that dwindled as I lay burping on a sand island under leaning towers of rock.

I do not yearn for the beeps and buzzes of my phone, the jolting hormones they deliver peaking and falling all day long. Ex-wife, children, editor, dear friend, lover, business associate, editor again, and ex-wife wanting something else. The day depletes you. It feels as if you've been playing a drum set since waking up, a lot of movement, answering of questions.

Today, I faced whatever direction my canoe had me face. For half an hour we floated sideways down the river, not a breeze, my view panning along a crumbled canyon edge and the desert beyond on river-right. The air shifted, a quick warm breeze drifted by, and the canoe turned. The compass arrow swung. I craned my neck for this new view as sandstone rose above me, the river carved several hundred feet through the White Rim and the dark, red Organ Rock formation below. Faces of rock were streaked with watermarks, black and red bars, waterfalls from old rains. These alleries of draped patina rose high above me until they became sky. Startled by the shift in view, I said out loud, thanks.



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