The early morning dew filled Amelia’s sneakers with water. She remembered choosing them that morning. “These are old,” she had thought to herself. “It won’t matter if they get wet.” But she had been thinking of river water – not ordinary, everyday dew. Amelia made a rueful face as she trudged down the hill in soggy sneakers.
“Hurry, ‘Melia,” called her younger brother. Luke had been a fireball of energy all morning. The upcoming river trip was a dream come true for him.
It was a dream come true for Amelia as well. Not even her soggy sneakers could dampen her mood. She had never been on the river before, but she had long hoped for an opportunity like this. She tucked a stray strand of blonde hair behind her ear, tugged at her hat to make sure it was secure, and listened to the early morning chorus of birds.
There was another sound, too -- one so subtle that it was softer and deeper than a whisper. The sound of the river. The water was nearly silent in its travel downstream, but it lent an atmosphere to the world around it.
The gravel road turned and Amelia caught a glimpse of the river. It was the same river she had seen many times before, driving across the little bridge, but with the knowledge that she would soon be floating in its power, the view struck her as it never had before.
Her brother was already at the water’s edge, conversing with the old man who would carry them in his canoe. Amelia surveyed the old man quickly. His hair was white, neatly trimmed except for his beard, which was a little bit scruffy. He wore a dark brown, wide-brimmed hat that would shade his face and neck from the sun. His khaki pants were held up by black suspenders that contrasted with his light blue t-shirt.
“Calm down, sonny,” she heard the old man say. His eyes were crinkled up with amusement, but he held one arm out as if to prevent Luke from climbing into the canoe. “You’ll tip the boat with that much excitement.”
“Can I help?” Amelia offered as she got closer.
The old man nodded. “Put a life preserver on,” he said, pointing to a pile of gear on the bank. “Then you can hand me the other oar and the sponge.”
Amelia did as she was told while the old man tightened Luke’s life preserver to meet his satisfaction.
“What’s the sponge for?” Amelia asked, handing him the oar.
“For bailing water…if need be,” the old man said, matter-of-factly. “Now you children hang on for a minute while I get the boat situated.”
Amelia turned away from the old man and stared wonderingly at the river. Her soul filled with the poetry of it. And in every direction she looked, there was not a sign of man. There was nothing to indicate the progress of the 21st century. Amelia suddenly felt suspended in time. The branches overhanging the river could have belonged to any period of history. Amelia held her breath and gazed into the water, her mind floating far away until not even she was sure where it had gone.
“Me first!” cried Luke, jarring Amelia back to the present. She turned to see Luke clambering into the boat after the old man.
“Hold your horses!” the old man yelped, with a disgruntled face expression. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not flip the canoe before we even get started.”
Luke calmed down at this rebuke and carefully followed the old man’s instructions for climbing into the boat. Amelia followed him. The canoe trembled under her foot as she stepped into the center of the boat, and she quickly lowered herself to her knees. The old man was seated at the back of the boat, Amelia in the front, and Luke in the middle. Once everybody was in, Amelia sneaked a peak back at the old man’s face. He looked pleased.
“Not bad,” he said. “Your first time climbing into a canoe and you didn’t tip it over. I’ve got the makings to two good rivermen on my hands!” Then he corrected himself, “Or a riverwoman and a riverman.”
Amelia sighed with relief and once again looked around her, certain that she was absorbing the beauty of the river into her very soul. It was everything she had dreamed of and more.