Imagine, for a moment. Imagine wandering past the lakes at the St. Vrain state park, passing the edge of the park and wandering along to the river. The St. Vrain river, which flows much more gently this far downstream than it does in the Lyons play park. It’s hot. I feel faint, almost, sweating so heavily that my clothes are sticking to me and the now hot water in my backpack does absolutely nothing to refresh me. Yet, still I walk.
After leaving the park and crossing a ditch, I end up on a bike path to nowhere. It’s deserted. The path goes under 3 bridges- cars and trucks zooming along above me. Cars and trucks, drowning out every sound… except…. Bank swallows. They swoop and dive and call and there are so many of them it seems as though it’s a cloud above me. A cloud that sings and calls and dives. A cloud of eyes, watching. The cars zoom overhead and no one knows I… am… here. I am here.
Except the birds. They know.
I wander along the river, imagining my canoe slipping into the water, disappearing downstream, slipping past farmland and cottonwoods and landowners that very likely would not be happy with me if they knew I was imagining camping on the edge of their land as I float downstream into the unknown.
Cheatgrass gets stuck in my shoes, poking and prodding me, but I do not retreat back to the paved bike path. I am drawn to the river, cheatgrass and all. It’s perfect for my canoe. I sometimes imagine slipping into a river and following it all the way to the ocean. This river. I imagine my canoe slipping into Boulder Creek, only a mile from my house, and living, unnoticed, along the highways and farms and cities, hiding in the willow thickets, with the swallows to guide me.
I decide to walk back. I return to the bike path only to realize that I’ve barely gone anywhere- it’s only a 5 minute walk back to where I started! To the left of the bike path, I see birds in a nearly empty reservoir. I see Canada geese and snowy egrets. Snowy egrets!!!! I feel like I’m at my grandma’s house in Texas as a teenager, watching egrets fly with their huge white wingspan, I had never seen anything like them, back then. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen them…. Maybe in Texas as a teenager.
I wander back to the bridge and I look up at the trucks passing over me. No one can hear me. No one knows I’m there. Except for the swallows. They know. I start to sing. Loud. I sing the song that has haunted me for years and years. Here I am. I went down to the river to pray. Studying about those good old ways and who shall wear that thorny crown, good Lord! Show me the way!
Don’t you want to come down? Down to the river to pray!
Here under the bridge I sing to the swallows, and I wade into the river, finally cooling off, and finally feeling…. that this is where I belong!!!! Singing to the swallows, standing in the river, smiling at nothing and everything all at once.
I notice the tracks in the mud next to me. There are raccoon and coyote, skunk and heron, fox and… otter? I think so! Maybe my friend the otter is listening to me sing at the top of my lungs too! There is something missing in that mud, though. There is something very significant missing. I see no human footprints except my own. I see no domestic dog prints. All I see is wildness in the mud and on this river, and I wonder if anyone has been here before me.
I’m sure someone has. I’m sure someone else loves finding the secret homes of swallows under the bridge. I am sure that someone else has had the same idea of sliding their canoe into the river here. But right now, the idea feels like it is fully my own.
This is where I belong. This. Is. Where. I. Belong.