Through The Lens: Above the Riffle Part 1
Sam often remembers that special summer of his sixteenth birthday. It resides close in his memory as if it were only yesterday. The reality is that it has been nearly seventy years since he turned that age when he first understood love. It was in the place where he grew up among the green hills of West Virginia. It was first love so young and innocently found, that time has not erased it from his thoughts, even today.
He was returning now to the place of his youth to see if perhaps the magic experienced so long ago might still be hidden in the dark green waters of the creek he grew up playing in.
After all those years, it is a difficult task for his feeble body to make it down the long dirt embankment overlooking the slow moving creek. The last time Sam made his way down this path, it was with no struggle for the youth to overcome the steep bank. Now every step is guarded and carefully planned to prevent a fall.
Reaching the brown sand of the beach alongside the water, he can see the creek and the shoreline have changed very little with the passing of time.
What has changed is the quiet woods that ran alongside the creek. They are gone and homes with families now dot the surrounding landscape. Sounds of lawnmowers and kids playing have replaced the call of the meadow lark and the cicadas late summer song.
As he looks at the rocky riffle stretching before him for nearly a hundred yards, it still looks the same as he remembered in the late summer of 1938. Alongside the creek, water maples hung over the water. Leaves would fall drifting down into the creek. The water cascaded across stones creating whirlpools behind the larger ones. Leaves floating on the surface sometimes became trapped going in endless circles in the watery snares.
The last of the blue flowers on the water weeds still played host to bees as they search for nectar in the small delicate flowers. In the shallow pools small minnows dart about searching for food while hiding from larger fish. Crayfish slowly work the green alga of the bottom in an endless search for tiny bits of food.
A dragonfly with gold eyes and laced wings flies about above the water and then descends quickly to touch the surface ever so gently, making tiny rings that quickly disappear.
As Sam sits down on the warm sand he closes his eyes and feels the air across his face. It was much as it was all those years ago. He has spent a lifetime away from this beloved hidden world of his youth. But Sam had a good long life. A wife who shared 59 years of happiness and the gift of three children. He would not change his adult life and the happiness he had been lucky enough to experience.
Sam lost his wife a few years back, and the joy of his life was no longer there when he reached to touch her arm in the dark of the night. Like most families, the kids had moved on with their own lives. He enjoyed being with them, but there was still something missing and had not been
A lifetime of memories and joy he had, but still one treasured memory from a lifetime ago remained hidden from the world. A secret so special reasonable people would not believe it to be true. Sam has come to question in his own mind if the secret was just a dream from his youth or did it really happen as he remembered.
Sam realizes his time on this earth has become short and he has a mystery to solve. He has to know if at the deep end of the riffle; is Rachel still there? He thinks to himself, “has she waited for me to return to this place of magic or is this a fool’s mission. I have to know if it is true. Was there a summer I once shared long ago with her or was it all a dream?”
The gray haired man removes his shoes and steps into the cold waters of the riffle.
A stick lying near the shore becomes his cane to help steady his walk in the flowing waters. He stops only once and glances back at the sandy beach where his shoes were sitting neatly on a rock. A smile comes to his face as he turns and continues his mission up the slow moving stream.
A playful damsel fly accompanies him on his trip and occasionally lands on his hand. He looks at the blue iridescent creature and thinks perhaps it maybe the welcome home committee. As he walks, he remembers the long hours playing in this place and the joy it gave a young boy and his dog living in the country, outside of town.
The distance to the deep end of the riffle has not changed, but the time to make his way there has much slowed. After what seems like a great length of time the weary man sits down on the large stone at the water’s edge that he remembers from his youth.
Before him lay a deep pool of water whose edges are draped by weeping willows. Their leaves were yellowing in the early fall. Around the deep pool five large rocks protrude from the water’s surface. Each stone worn smooth by time and the flow of water over the years.
Sam sits gazing out at the water for a moment before slowly reaching down into his pocket retrieving a small stone. He looks at the stone as he closed it in his hand and whispers, “Rachel”. With that he tosses the stone into the pool of still
water. The stone makes a small splash. As it does, rings on top of the water start to spread across the surface. Sam watches as the ripples head slowly toward him.
I guess the only way for you to truly understand this story is to start at the beginning. We must travel back to a place long forgotten by most.
A place where magic may still live “Above the Riffle”.