Drifting the Tualatin River

Be forewarned, this river’s pace is slower
than molasses. If you’re into thrills,
the upper Clackamas is close at hand.
Here, you’ll meditate on sunlight sprinkling
sparkles on the surface, dappling maple,
ash, and willow leaves along the banks.
Here, you’ll see a great blue heron posing
in the shallows, a pair of cormorants perched
on a snag—hear a kingfisher’s raucous cry.
I settle in, pretend it’s 1950,
keep a watch for landmarks from the time
I knew the river like my own back yard.
The railroad trestle was a source of high
anxiety—wide gaps between the ties,
no escape if a train chugged round the bend.
I’d balance on a rail to prove I could.
Now, as I look up, I wonder how
I managed to survive. My childhood—
splendid days spent lounging on the log
lodged at the mouth of the Oswego Lake
canal by a spring flood, bamboo pole in hand,
keeping an eye on my float while watching fry
and minnows pick at the log’s green velvet belly,
and crawdads creep about, waving their claws.
The two-lane bridge on Stafford Road, the old
log cabin tucked in its grove of cedar trees.
The covered bridge on Borland where I fished.
I knew the river’s history, how the channel
changed when glacial floods swept through, and how
pioneer steamboats replaced Kalapuya canoes.
I burst with pride when The Saturday Evening Post,
in a glorious two-page color spread, proclaimed
my valley one of America’s most beautiful spots—
here, near where I lived—here, where I played!
I knew, even then, this would be my home for life,
a place whose measured pace reflects my own.

[Published in the Stafford Hamlet Monthly Newsletter.]