Day 11 June 12
I woke up to this view with the early morning light. What a trip to be 3 miles from the Auburn Mall and still be in a wilderness setting on the shores of this forgotten river.
The camp fire felt so nice. I stretched my muscles and bones while sitting on an old log sipping water orienting myself into a new day.
Today is a big day. When I was making plans to meet with community leaders along the riverway, I remember joking with myself like yeah I’ll be able to be in Auburn at 12:30 on Tuesday. You betcha! Honestly I really didn’t have a clue how I was going to pull that off. There’s so many factors, variables and unknowns starting 140 miles upstream 10 days prior. Feels like grace has been with me for the way it’s been flowing.
Honestly, I’ve had some doubts along the way. Like what good is this really going to do? Is it really going to affect positive environmental change? And it’s a big issue that crosses many aspects of business and work and money and culture that people hold so near and dear.
And every time doubt would hit and bring me down, a remarkable bird would show up get real close, circle over head or start a big scene as if to say -snap out of it jen. We’re with you. Don’t forget about us. We’re right here—-we’re right here. It was always a bird. Specifically the first one was an eagle above the first mill in Berlin. I had an Osprey talk to me on Gulf Island Pond, leave its perch and soar right over my worried little head. Yesterday was also cedar waxing. I wasn’t near her nest or anything which they make like a suspension cup hanging from a swamp maple. She was just fluttering above me over the canoe flailing about and making all kinds of loud noises and I’m like what what. Am I near your nest and babies? No. There was nothing -she’s just like come on let’s go. I’m like all right thanks!
This morning i got two hits! I think I needed it. it was a great blue heron which has traveled with me often in times of doubt and confusion. Birds have voices. Beautiful voices. African proverb, if you can talk you can sing. I’ve adopted the principal and sing quite a bit now. Meanwhile these birds sing all around me. And you. Remarkable songs all different. I’m gonna carry their voice forward to people that make decisions that affect their lives. Somehow it feels right to me. And I’m not some lone warrior, I’m looking for allies and there are folks way ahead of me on this let’s love the Andro season. Decades ahead of me. I am thankful for the work these visionaries have been working to bring the river and watershed back to life after a near death experience. It takes a village and it’s gonna take a grassroots effort. Legislation and corporations change when people unite and say time for positive change.
Every time I saw a tree swallow swooping and diving over these waters I smiled. They were with me all the way down the river. They always remind me of my father. He built a lot of bird houses for them and every season they came back and filled them with new families. They surrounded my childhood growing up on Garland Pond. When my father passed I swear he visited me as a tree swallow providing comfort and a knowing that he’s with me if I need support.
He was a proud millworker and loyal to it. He didn’t love working there but he defended it to the nth degree. He told me only vapor or steam came out of those smokestacks. I didn’t believe him. I wonder what he’s thinking of me on this journey. This morning I feel like I got a message.
As I was packing up to paddle to Auburn, a tree swallow came and landed and looked at me. I said Oh hello dad! Turn around so I can take a picture! He complied. I paddled closer and stood up. He stayed right there. I was probably 5 feet away. We connected for quite a while. It was a sweet moment of union, birds as bridges.
I enjoyed a meandering paddle to the next portage which is the dam just above the Great Falls in Lewiston Auburn. I had plenty of time to paddle the 3 miles and hike the mile to the lunch meeting with my gear in tow. Or towing me.
I saw some weirdness on top of the water past those twin bridges. It was slimy and had an odor. I don’t know what it was but I didn’t like it. Who did that? It looked like something from a septic. Stop that please. Nobody owns this river. It’s everybody’s river. It belongs to life itself.
I came to the public boat launch and began my journey through town. Adrenaline got me there.
I made it 90 minutes early :-) it was a miracle. I sat in a cool room on a leather couch and sipped ice water with lemon -no straw. The Grateful Dead was playing in the background on a great sound system. I was basically in heaven. A different kind of heaven from the river heaven :-)
I got to meet the mayor of Auburn, the director of the Androscoggin Land Trust, people in charge of economic development in the area, board member of Maine Rivers, and a person instrumentally involved in reducing color, odor and foam in this river through legislation that buckled down on what paper mills could put back into the river as effluent. Powerful group of forward thinking individuals.
I don’t know if I actually formally thanked them for their work but I am right now. Thank you dear leaders for caring for our river and in seeing its value in a healthy community. Seeing it as a main part of your city. A feature highlighted in your city. Makes me want to come to Auburn more. Your attitude alone. And the things you were doing to bring people to the river and to clean it up further. I invited them to contact industry upstream and see if they could do even better as they affect everyone down stream.
Thank you Shelley from Andro Land Trust for organizing this great lunch meeting! She is pictured on the far right.
As I loaded up my canoe and launched at Auburn’s own River Park, I turned around and took a look at the Great Falls with new eyes and then headed down stream. Hark! To the ocean! Well, towards it.
I felt really peaceful, excited and deeply satisfied with the work folks are doing here. It’s so promising. It has real effect. Cripes, events on the river! Wow! Seeing the river as a main feature of their city. Wow! Go Auburn!
This rapid just a little bit out of the city just about caused me to bite it :-) but I got through. It was fun.
Well a wave of tired hit me and I knew it was time to just find a spot to call it an early day. I have two days left in my journey, 2 dams, 20 something miles, 2 nights left camping solo on the river at some unsuspecting beautiful spot.
I hope you will celebrate with me on Thursday at the SEAdog in Topsham, 4-6pm.
Meanwhile I just paddled under I-95, turned a bend to see a little oasis. this is home. You would never know I’m 5 miles from downtown Auburn. This river is so rural and wild at every turn.
Clearly it’s home for secret gatherings of many critters. I wonder if I’m gonna have some company tonight. Usually they’re polite and wait till I move on.
PS, this is a paddle with a cause to raise both awareness and money for Maine rivers. sure would appreciate you offering a contribution to clean water and healthy ecosystems. Go ahead, make my day :-)