Since then, I have been paddling on my own or with friends in short trips, working my way down the River from that point. On Monday, I reached the Sound, sort-of. I say sort-of, because the tide was so strong against me a few miles from the Sound that I couldn’t make it. I walked the remaining miles to my car, and am counting that. Now I am putting away my paddling gear for the winter. Next summer, I hope to cover some of the remaining miles up north.
I don’t know that I achieved any great wisdom from my time on the River this summer and fall. But I loved seeing the way the River changes as it goes from a rural area to more urban areas, from free-flowing to damned, from fresh water to brackish to salt.
What struck me most forcefully as I got into southern Connecticut was the power of the ocean. The River itself is pretty powerful! But in southern Connecticut, incoming ocean tides can effectively dam the River. In those last few miles, the incoming tide literally reverses the flow. The spot that stopped me was three miles from the Sound, and the incoming tide was so forceful that I could barely make forward progress and worried that the waves would swamp me. That despite the fact that the entire Connecticut River was piling up behind me! That was when I got out.
In a perverse way, I enjoyed my encounter with nature’s power. It reminds me that I am not always in charge, that human beings are not always in charge. Sometimes I, we, simply have to accept the limits imposed on us by God’s creation. The brutal storms of this fall have taught the same lesson in a considerably more savage way. I hope that we can all learn from them and become more intentional about working with nature’s forces, not always trying to dominate and control them.