Last Friday, a glorious autumn day, impossible to stay inside. A much-needed excuse to escape from the office, with vague promises to myself to catch up on work later. Safely tucked away, an info tidbit about a nearby riverboat cruise. A quick phone call to the Northfield Mountain Visitor Center confirmed the schedule. FirstLight Power, required by federal regulations to offer recreational and environmental programs, operates the Quinnetukut II, a 44-seat riverboat. On weekends during warm weather months, the boat cruises a 6 mile stretch of the Connecticut River in Massachusetts, through the French King Gorge, between Northfield and Turner’s Falls.
Under sunny skies, with only a handful of passengers, a friendly skipper and tour guide, we cruised the river for two heavenly hours. The water was calm, the sun warm, the air mild. With summer motorboats put away for the season, and only a few paddle-craft and small fishing boats out, we had the river to ourselves, traveling a water-path used formerly by traders, trappers and loggers. Along the shoreline, summer camps buttoned up for the winter, great blue herons wading in the reeds, a bald eagle perched high on a branch in a dead tree. Large mute swans swimming in the shallows, their beauty and grace belying an invasive threat to local ecosystems. On the way home in the car, on the radio, a reading of a poem by Wendell Berry.
THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry