What I discovered snorkeling in the Delaware
| September 23, 2022
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I know, I know, I know.
How crazy is it that I’ve been hip-deep (and deeper) in all things Delaware River for the past seven years and I’ve never been IN the Delaware?
On it, in various boats, sure.
Maybe a tip of the toe on the shoreline, but immersed? Never.
Until Podostemum and Erik Silldorff.
He’s an aquatic biologist I first met when he worked for the Delaware River Basin Commission. He now works for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
And he’s a firecracker of enthusiasm for all things the river!
He’s been telling me about this amazing plant that is now growing in several places in the river south of the Lehigh and that its presence is a sure indicator of things getting better. (It’s a complicated story that we’ll be running in Delaware Currents soon.)
But recently, we (my first-class freelancer, Christopher Mele, who also happens to be my husband) made plans to visit Erik and this plant at an unnamed location. In our emails, Erik was really REALLY pushing the idea of snorkeling to see this beauty up close and personal.
Neither Chris nor I had any interest in this wild idea. Neither of us can swim (I have tried but that’s another story!)
But I DID buy water shoes, figuring I’d be going in the water at least to my knees — also I couldn’t figure out how wet I was going to get so I wore a bathing suit.
Dressed for success!!
Erik’s enthusiasm was indeed infectious. He brought THREE snorkels!
So first, I put on the mask, bent over and peered at the plant.
Can I just say how amazing even this tiny peek into the river was?
The river always has a sort of silver sheen that serves as a veil. Even with the mask less than an inch below the surface, the veil was parted and the river came alive.
The current made little things — rocks, bugs, etc. — dance in the river.
And then, following Erik’s lead, I stretched out my whole body so my feet were downriver. I resisted the current by grabbing large rocks.
That current, though not incredibly strong, had the effect of wrapping my body in what seemed like a river hug. I saw more Podostemum. And I saw blue-green algae using the rough surface the plant provided to cling to the rock and wave its vibrant tresses in the current. So soft to the touch I could barely feel it.
To be embraced by this river about which I have written so much and still knew so little was just amazing and empowering.
Empowering. That’s interesting.
I had a bout with Covid this summer and I’ve been feeling sort of old. I think there’s a lot of folks out there after a bout with Covid who feel that way. Maybe not old as me, but older.
I never realized I was trying to make my peace with this “older” self: reconciling myself to a less ambitious reach.
And this river was telling me: Not so fast.
You’ll see some photos of me that Chris took. I gotta say, they were initially not my favorites because I look sort of odd.
My river taught me that I looked amazing and triumphant. And to hell with how others might judge me!!
When it was time to leave, instead of going to the riverbank and walking ALONG the river, Erik guided me under the river, slowly “walking” through the river for about 45 minutes by pulling myself from one rock to another.
Sometimes the current pulled me back a bit but it wasn’t a big deal. It was so lovely to be having this conversation with the river.
Almost a dance.
I cannot emphasize what a startling change this experience has made in my outlook. I am, of course, no younger.
I’m writing this to encourage all of you — young or old — to find a way to do a new dance. When there’s an opportunity to be taken out of your comfort zone – safely and with a good teacher — I urge you to do it.
And if you look weird or feel awkward, embrace it. The experience will embrace you back.
Celebrating the dance,