The Water, Oh the Water

On Monday, Brian and I walked the flume line up to the intake to see what adjustments were needed to optimize power in camp. The sun was shining and the warm breeze felt more like May than February. I splashed around Flume Creek in my bright yellow rain boots, helping Brian fill sandbags with silt and rocks to help fully submerse the intake head in the water. Since the snow fell about a month ago, there hasn’t been much rain. Skies have been clear and the sun has inched closer and closer to the peak of Stony Ridge. Pretty soon, the eleven o’clock sunsets of winter solstice will be a thing of the past.

The sun that woke me up on Monday morning was a little less intrusive yesterday. There were still patches of blue sky here and there, but felt like February again. By mid-afternoon it was raining. The winter residents of Jawbone Flats responded to the change in weather by disappearing into their cabins. Even the radios were silent for the most part. The whooshing sound of the Little North Fork paired up with raindrops on cabin 5’s metal roof.

Growing up relatively materially unprivileged meant that family vacations mostly consisted of the five of us piling into our minivan and driving for long distances. I remember the lengths to which Dad went to find a resting place within earshot of Lake Michigan’s waves or a gurgling creek. We learned to revel in this simple pleasure.

Last night as I dozed off in my creek side accommodations, my dog curled up close to me in a twin bed and the window open wide, I thought about the magical quality of the water here at Opal Creek. I consider myself to lean heavily away from all things spiritual and metaphysical, fancying myself pragmatic to a fault, a believer in the tangible and little else. But there is an undeniable, otherworldly quality to this place, best embodied in the water. I’d had a pretty morose conversation with Brian earlier in the evening about the inevitability of dying of cancer. As I thought about that conversation in bed, I realized that alternative or holistic approaches to disease treatment maybe had something to them after all. Because if I were diagnosed with cancer today, the first thing I would do would be to come lay down in the crystal clear, shockingly cold waters of Opal Creek and will my sickness downstream.

And for now, without any physical, life-threatening malaise to speak of, I plan to devote a good deal of my time in Opal Creek for the next two weeks in awe of the intangible, “fairy-dust” quality of this place.