Friday, February 24, 2012

Crossing Over Water

I cross over the wetlands on the Cottonwood Trail almost every time I run there. In this post from the proverbial archives, I try to understand why.
Most everyone knows I love the Cottonwood Trail, a small trail system that winds through the flood plain of the Lawson’s Fork Creek with a trailhead less than a mile from my house. I have often blamed the trail and its owner the Spartanburg Area Conservancy (SPACE) for my moving to Spartanburg because I ran on it during a weekend visit to town to interview for a job.  Now nine years later I have run on the trail hundreds of times in all weather and every season, in deep untracked snow, sloppy mud, and dry dust. Right now wild roses bloom, and the creek flows deep. I have enjoyed seeing the system expand. I also now serve on the SPACE board, in part because of my commitment to the trail.

But one part of the trail system is one of my favorite third places—the wetlands area, now crossed by a boardwalk that allows visitors to rest in the middle of one of the most interesting environments in Spartanburg. I’ve seen owls, deer, songbirds of many sorts, turtles and other amphibious critters on my crossings of the wetlands. Mounds and tufts of green pop up from the water, which rises and lowers according to the season and the particular drought conditions. Those wild roses climb toward the sun, and skeletal trees stripped of bark and limbs are scattered among the living flora. The place has even been the site of scarecrow weddings, courtesy of Hub-Bub artists-in-residence a few years ago.
from SPACE website
But beyond the scenery, I have a thing for crossing over water. All the usual feelings—elemental, cleansing, flow—these all play into my crossings. But there’s a pull, indescribable, I reckon, even for one who tries to describe all things. I don’t always feel that tugging toward water, but a few places around have left me physically and psychically moved.
A few years ago I had a job in Inman, and my route to work crossed over the headwaters of the Lawson’s Fork, just before the various streams coalesce into one, the spot where maps first identify it as the Lawson’s Fork. The road descends into the floodplain, crosses the waters and rises again. There I feel a pull distinct from gravity, one that drew me both into the waters and downstream somehow at the same time. I, like the water, coalesced into stream, and the sensation felt healing.
Another of my favorite Lawson’s Fork crossings is over the abandoned bridge at Glendale. Our SPACE board meetings are held at Wofford’s Goodall Environmental Studies Center, and late for my first meeting, I parked on the south side of the bridge and walked over to save the time of driving the longer way around.
The bridge passes over the calm pond created by the mill dam, over which water spills in cascades, proceeding on its eastward run over the Glendale Shoals that paddlers play in throughout the spring, and where my children have played over the years we’ve visited the Shoals. I have always loved the place where water fall over drops, whether natural or human-made like this one. There’s a solidity that reminds me of the substantial part of water, combined with the constant moving which reminds me of the ephemeral element of water, where you can’t put you foot in the same river twice, the philosopher tells us. The Shoals are a dynamic place, shifting with the rising and lowering of the creek levels.
All these crossings of the Lawson’s Fork keep me feeling a part of the flow of waters of the Earth, even just this small volume a universe itself. Every crossing is new, a ritual re-enactment of every other crossing if I let it, new water and ancient passage, changing course and matter.

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