Sheltered by the River

Have you ever hiked by a river in winter? The cold and haze lay all around like a shroud. The ice grips the flow, seemingly. But here and there the water’s movement breaks through. The hiss and murmer assertively claim life. The ducks congregate. The promise of greater melt-waters comforts the heart. The chill is, after all, only transitory. The snow-laden evergreens wait for spring like indomitable sentinels. The hollow of the water-course shelters from any harsh winds.

River Ducks

A walk by the river in winter
My Father and I undertake.
The bush is all glaze from the ice-storm,
Affording a needed wind-break.
The City with all its white panic
Seems much farther off than in fact.
The Country calls us to adventure,
With lunch and hot drinks duly packed.

We’ve done this before, but in springtime
With wildflowers and vine in the bloom.
But this day holds different promise,
Somewhere in the gray and the gloom.
The trees are bereft of their songsters
Save only one brave chickadee,
Who scolds from his perch in the low brush,
My Father and I cannot see.

Approaching a bend in the river
My Father, with much softer gait,
Binoculars pulled for a sighting,
And signaling me just to wait,
Steps out to the clearing at shoreline,
Where ice has been broken away,
By storm sewer’s much warmer waters,
And ducks are out there, and at play.

The first that I see are just landing,
With synchronized drop, skimming wake,
And greeted by others assembled.
What strange, raucous music they make!
The mallards, mergansers and pin-tails
My Father and I are now laughing
In spite of ourselves, at the bank.

He watches their moods and their movements,
Their matchings and sparrings and play,
Their discourse and dunkings and flappings.
My Father’s their student today.
And with insight gained from the outing
Will turn to the woodcarver’s skill,
And fashion remarkable likeness
Of feather and pose, wing and bill.

Now this is the best kind of hunting.
To live and let live is the way.
And trophies we’ll have of the visit,
And memories of this good day.
I may be a teen in a tempest
With thoughts much too awkward to tell;
But here with the ducks and my Father,
I know that he knows me quite well.


Doug Blair, Waterloo, ON


3 thoughts on “Sheltered by the River

  1. You paint a beautiful picture here Doug and I’m reminded of fishing outings with my Dad. It was quality time one on one i’ll never forget. He caught the “fishing fever” from me and to His dying day never stopped thanking me for it. I think that for him it was a way to be in serene, peaceful surroundings even in the midst of hectic city life. We were meat-fisherman but we were very poor, we shared generously with our neighbors when the harvest was abundant. Some people I worked with and my neighbors gave me the name of “fish-man”, some didn’t even know my real name. I practice catch and release now, but I recognize it as total hypocrisy because I love seafood…maybe it’s the blood on the hands thing…I dunno’. I am an advocate for P.E.T.A. (people eating tasty animals). But it is really nice to get out in nature…”be still” and for Pete’s sake, not kill anything once in a while. Though as I prepare to fix breakfast this morning (bacon and eggs) I am reminded that someone had to butcher and prep a pig to yield the bacon I purchased at the supermarket with clean hands.-A.G.

  2. Thanks for this comment. Fishing with your Dad. Incomparable male bonding and relaxation. Quiet. Together. Waiting and hoping. Shouting perhaps as the rod bends. Laughing at the mishaps. Loving, or perhaps getting hooked on, “the Dominion” (in our case Dominion of Canada).

  3. It was one of the very few times I got to see that side of my Father and what could have been. In temporary Safe haven from the influences of unseen “dominions and principalities.”

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