Rivers, Eagles, and Rain

Twelve days of paddling. 192 miles. The entire upper St. Croix River system swept by in the current and we removed 383 pounds of litter from the river.


Our team doubled in size as friends, Grant Armour and Ashley Pethan, joined us for sections of the journey. With 4 days remaining on this waterway, the river is widening and deepening while motorboats are now common. Proximity to large cities is notable through amounts of litter on the banks and the sounds of vehicles and radios through the night. The deep darkness of night still allows the stars to shine bright, although the southwestern horizon displays the telltale glow of the city lights that we are approaching.


The St. Croix river has many currents. Some sweep by quickly, others slow. Some move upstream in the eddies, yet others sit still. Each droplet of water on its own journey, on its own time. We are so similar. The river reminds us to go with the flow, to accept that no path is linear, not even that of a river. There will be moments of quick progress and moments to reflect. In all those eddies, swift currents, slow bends, and upwellings, the river is constantly striving toward its destiny, succeeding in completing its circle of life as it wends its way to the ocean to be evaporated and return again as rain.

Rain fell all evening and again sprinkled us with a steady drizzle all morning. In a persistent rain everything in nature is wet, yet nothing complains. A bald eagle stands stoic and unaffected atop the dead branches of a cottonwood tree. This eagle, likely a female due to its immense size and lack of flightiness, reminds us to be hardy.

*(Note that while that large eagle was not particularly flighty, she still didn’t allow us to capture a decent photo.)*

Teaching that while we all experience discomforts like being wet on a rainy day, we can handle it without danger. It is nothing to complain about or even make note of. Rather be hardy and enjoy the opportunity to strengthen our resolve. So go for a swim, rinse your clothes in the river, and enjoy the feeling of embracing the rain fully because you are hardy enough to handle it. Then put on those wet clothes and keep paddling onward to camp, you’ll be glad you met that hardy eagle in the end.

Without these rains, we would not have these rivers for long. They would dry up and no longer provide life to the land as they do now. The rain is something to celebrate and accept with resolve, hardiness, even joy.

In the rain, the river appears to dance with concentric circles which radiate outward, but send a more subtle ring toward the center. Similarly, drops of rain plunge below the surface of the river only to be followed by a droplet of water being sent skyward in response. A continual dance of movement, outward and inward, below and above. It appears that the river is joyful for the tickle of the rain. It appears playful. The joining of elements that have fulfilled their destiny and returned to start again.

Perhaps these raindrops become mentors to the young river, guiding it in a good way. We are made mostly of water, is it also possible that we may learn to do the same?

Radiating our ‘go with the flow’ mentality. Our hardiness. Our joy. Radiate these qualities outward and inward, below and above, to all those whom we meet in this life.


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