Sunday, September 14, 2008

September 14, 2008 Pumpkin Island

With mask and snorkel on, and a swim cap covering my head I kick off backwards from the moss covered last step of the weathered ladder on the front dock and take a gasp of warm air just as my back hits the river. Now, I can feel all of my skin – every square inch of it. The cold water is all around me. It’s bracing, but not unpleasant. By the time I count to 10, I’m enjoying the briskness of it all, and I kick forward, face down upstream off the steep rocky shore and scan the bottom for fish. With the snorkel, I don’t need to lift my head to breath, so I can swim unhindered, even in the slight swell that is blowing in from the coming storm from Lake Ontario. There is a light colored particulate floating all around, that seems like snow falling in the green world before my eyes. I can judge the smoothness of my stroke, by the way the white flecks either stream by, or hang still in the aquarium in front of my mask lens. On the bottom there are bunches of waving green bottom grass, and other plant life. I can see small striped fish, like guppies darting about in packs of 5 to 8, and then like jack-in-the-box, a Goby jumps from its perch on the bottom and flashes forward and out of sight. It appears that the Gobies have decimated the zebra mussel population, and as a result, the water which for the past years was crystal clear is now a bit murkier. I search but do not spot the larger, unidentified fish that usually lurks just of the upstream point of the island. More times than not, when we swim by we can see hm prowling about. No luck today.

Without the constraints of a swim lane, and the short lengths imposed by pool swimming, I feel much more energized swimming and stroke upriver looking back over my shoulder to see if Ed is following behind. Eventually, I reach my goal for the day, a dock on Ash Island just upriver from the mouth to Lover's Lane (the cozy and quiet protected waterway that bounds the south side of Pumpkin Island separating it from Ash Island) Already, I am determined to set a more ambitious swim goal for tomorrow.

Reluctantly, I turn around, and the current grabs me and rockets me along. I watch my progress along the bottom and almost effortlessly return to the dock with the river’s flow. Approaching the ladder from the water I can see a deposit of clam shells right at its base a few feet down, and suspect this is where the mink brings her dinner back before eating, then jettisons the shells before climbing under the dock and making for the entrance to her river bank burrow hidden beneath the dock.

At dinner as the sun sets we hear a duck calling out from the reeds. An odd time to be calling. Then as we watch, one, then two ducks paddle past making for the calling duck. Shortly, as the light fades, the duck calls stop, but we see a family group of four ducks swimming up river to their nighttime roust. I suspect, mom was calling in her scattered kids for the night to be sure they were safe – the group close to separating before flying south for the winter.

As the sun dips below the horizon, the moon rises and I catch a long exposure picture of the overhanging cottage on an adjoining island – its’ reflection clear as day on the night time mirror surface of the settled waterway. All the boat traffic on the river has stopped, as it is very difficult to navigate the shoals and unlit islands after dark. The storm has not materialized and we’ve had a great day. The cacophony of the calling crickets and occasional toad begins and we move inside to read and reflect upon the day’s events.

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