Tuesday, August 23, 2011




Samantha, the dog I thought a “he” until just before her owner left her with me to join his friends kayaking, has disappeared. One minute, Sam’s splashing in the rocky shallows with me, the next, all I see is the cliff we climbed down to get here. I’m left with the sound of the river and hot August sun. And the diesel truck back up at the road. The hill and truck are enough of an adventure. The rapids eight kayakers just put into here don’t even register.

My whistle’s worthless. Sam!

I’m driving shuttle for people who love to ride fast rivers. I love to sit beside a river, let it go about its business. Right now, that business includes moving eight, bright boats for hopefully enough water miles that Sam will come back before I drive down to the take-out.

I read somewhere that dogs respond better to lower tones—they carry authority. I lower my voice: SAAAAAM. I look for a place to sit, find a scoop of rock chair’d by time, and watch the frothing. One thing about waiting, it makes you pay attention. A racked buck bends to drink on the other shore. A red dragonfly is followed by two blue. The summer-exposed boulders stair the river down with thick, white water. The roar around them is so loud I can’t hear any thoughts but water’s. I wonder if I envy wildness and flight. Another bit of the river’s business is to speak, I think. Its voice is constant, like God’s. As with both, I’m not always listening. Listen.


Beside the unstill waters

of the Salmon,

I have been calling

the river by its nickname.

Sam the dog isn’t here.

I am.

The river is—

with red and blue boats

with red and blue wings

with me finally glad for my stillness.

Loss makes way for being found

by a river in the full sun

of late summer,


but unready to return

to a stationary world.

P.S. Two days later, the message comes: Found: lost dog across the river. All is well.

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