On Friday, my fiction writing workshop classmates and I visited the Coosa Riverkeeper. The manager of the shop sat down with us for nearly two hours and told us all about the river’s history, the challenges it faces, and what the Coosa Riverkeeper is doing to help maintain this water source and protect it from polluters (who are, mainly, big industries).
Our professor commissioned us to — as we visited 1. the organic farm down the street, 2. a stretch of the Coosa River that was adjacent to the farm, and 3. the Logan Martin Dam located further ahead — record our thoughts on and observations of everything, documenting (especially) setting and our sensory experience of it. Cool assignment, right?
I’m sharing my three journal entries below (which I’ll be presenting in class on Tuesday). Before I share them, though, I’d like to mention something that I found interesting.
I really enjoyed the event (slash field trip). It was nice — being outdoors, and socializing with people my age. I smiled and laughed a lot as I took note of my surroundings and recorded my experience. So it was very surprising to me, when I studied my finished journal entries, to realize how dark and gloomy they read. Looking back on the day, it was beautiful out, and I was happy! But immersing myself in the beauty and lightheartedness of the day also caused me to feel and remember and imagine things that were not quite as cheerful. Talk about dichotomy. 🙂
The farm, the river, and the dam
by Jace Yarbrough
1. The river
There were lights flickering on the river. It looked as if something, or someone, far underneath the water was pushing them right up to its surface.
I watched dragonflies hovering above the river — looking busy in a lazy sort of way with their bluish-purple tipped wings breaking the air. Individual blades of grass floated easily on top of the water like little, aimless kayaks. The trees cast their magic on the water, turning its natural, algae-green into a moving black shadow.
The trees cast their magic on the grass, too; creating trippy patches of dark green here and there and then leaving the rest, the untouched blades, a cheery light green. I walked forward slowly — feeling the soft smoosh of grass underfoot; reassuring, and familiar.
When I made it to the top of the hill, the river actually appeared to be more olive-colored. I felt the pleasant warmth of sunshine on my skin, and the hot burn of sunshine on my black denim jeans.
2. The farm
On the farm, a brown dog held a frisbee in his mouth. The dog wanted you to want his frisbee, but he did not want you to have it.
I noticed a canoe waiting by a tree. I imagined myself in the canoe. I imagined my German Shepherds with me in that canoe… chasing the shadows and the lights and the air bubbles out on the river.
As I ascended the hill, breezy air followed me, and in it, I caught the mixed scent of cut grass and old dirt; the dirt was a nostalgic scent, one that caused an achy, burning sensation in the back of my throat. It was the scent of old puppy dog paws; the German Shepherd’s paws. The special one. My favorite one. Before the horrible man shot him, I used to love holding, and kissing, and smelling those paws. I imagined keeping the other two safe out here, on the farm… letting them roam and explore without fences, without terrible men around, and without the strange confines of a painted, laminated, air-conditioned home.
At the hill’s peak, I saw that peeling, rotting onions had settled themselves down into the ground. A long, black hose that was nearby coiled wildly around itself, poised like a snake. Ahead on my right, there was a whirring fan humming in the green house, which wasn’t really green; the tarp surrounding it was, in fact, clear-colored, although I couldn’t see through it. Around the area, a push broom leaned against a table, and a straw hat dangled from a hook. The hat was eggplant purple, tomato red, and squash yellow. I wondered if any of those things grew here.
A plant’s dead leaves drooped their heads within a ceramic pot, and when I turned my sad eyes away from them, a scale suspended from a wooden plank in the ceiling whispered my mother’s words back to me: “You shall be weighed and found wanting.”
A high-pitched bark surprised me; the dog had allowed someone to throw his frisbee.
3. The dam
I thought you’d be more organic. Natural. A gentle and easy collection of snug and soiled logs, trying their best to stay strong.
But you were different.
Over time, I guess you’d changed. You were modern now. Sophisticated. Impossibly strong and, worst of all, impassable.
I felt like the lake, on the side of the dam that I couldn’t see; stagnant, and staring at your back. Waiting for you to turn your head and see me. Why don’t you? Do you want to? Will you ever?
Then, I felt like the river, on the side of the dam that I could see. I was rushing away from you — leaving an endless, babbling protest of profanity and blame in my wake. I was shallow, I was deep, I was smooth, I was jagged. I was surrounded, on all sides, by grey, green, and a hazy dark blue. Damn you.