A river, a tributary of the Delaware, runs through a 325 acre county park which I view and enjoy from my seventh story apartment. Two bridges cross the river about a mile and a half in each direction from the apartment building in which I live. A walking path of 3.4 miles edges the river, crossing the two bridges that are about equal distance from each other. From very early morning until the sun sets, young and old, thin and fat, men and women use the walking path daily. Sometimes I join those on the path, always keeping to the right as joggers and the young regularly pass me on their way to complete the circuit. My walk concludes at one bridge or the other before I turn around and head back home.
During my walk and/or from my windows, I enjoy watching other activities around and on the river. On most Sundays during the spring and summer, small sailboats ply the waters, sometimes racing with each other, other times, gliding lazily from one bridge to the other. Occasionally, someone rides the current in a kayak. While I like watching the sail boats dance along with the tide, my favorite boat activity is following the teams of young people row crew. What a sport!
From early spring until early fall, local teams use the river to practice. Although I’ve never seen a mixed team, boys and girls from local schools practice daily. They tell me that the sport is expensive, as the boats have limited life in the water. I suppose that the parents pay for the skulls, but the team members must carry the skulls from the trucks to the water and back again. Not a very glamorous way to add to the exercise that the rowing in the water provides. Not only must the rowers be strong, they must be graceful and well balanced to get in and out of the skulls, not to mention the fact than the sport cannot suffer any show-offs as the rowing must be done in unison. Only a cooperative, well- disciplined team can hope to win.
Birds abound along the river, most especially geese. In the spring, hundreds of goslings graze along the banks on sunny mornings. Then suddenly they disappear until the next morning. Fortunately, most goslings survive along our river. Just as fortunately, the geese seem to have a sense of how many of them can continue to graze on our banks, as the hundreds leave as adults. One day a falcon landed on my balcony. I crept up to the window as stealthfully as I might. It was a treat to observe those strong talons and soft feathers up close. The most exciting bird story, however, was the day that a flock of cormorants descended on the river.
The county has been dredging the river for the last several months. In the late fall, I took a walk very close to the river’s edge. I’ve seen small flocks of gulls land on the water to fish. This particular day, I assume because of the dredging, the water smelled a little fishy. Out of the blue, a huge flock of cormorants covered a large portion of the river near me. Until then, I’d seen individual cormorants in Florida, or on the Jersey shore. Never had I seen a flock, either near the ocean, or this far in-land. Transfixed, I stayed close to the water’s edge until by some signal, the entire flock rose into the air and flew away. Perhaps they will come back some day, a day when the river smells just a little fishy.