On the Delaware

We trudged down to the bank, a short distance from our lodging, and found a perfectly quiet, though not frozen, Delaware river. It was one of those still winter days when vision takes on a crystalline quality, and the houses on the Jersey side transmitted their images to our eyes with conspicuous limpidity.

Downstream on the Pennsy side a lone fisherman stood a few feet out in the water, casting a massive, furry jig with a rod that looked to be at least seven or eight feet long. I wondered what he was going for in the dormant waters. Were there muskies out cruising for kamikaze sparrows in the channel?

Walking in the other direction so as not to disturb him, we came across the body of a blue heron lying dead and decapitated in the snow. Strewn feathers mingled with animal tracks that we could not identify. Beyond that, a dense bamboo stand and no trespassing signs barred our way.

In a few months the shad would be running, but at that moment it seemed the wheel of time had stopped, balanced atop the hill of late winter. The river could have been anywhere, any time. America could have been a different kind of place under another sort of regime: lean and collectivist, with accordions, brandy, metaphysics, and gendered dances; or ran by squirearchy through a series of insufferable town meetings.

We drove northwest, out of the valley and over salt flecked roads dotted with gray barns and ag stores until we arrived home.