Heavy branches hang over the edges
of this stone bed river
in central Arkansas.
A light mist sits above water
slightly tinged by heavy rains
that fell the day before.
Diffused by the fog,
the dark greens of these hardwood hills
fade into grays and blues.
My son and I step out into the shallows,
feel the brace of cold
rising up from the ankles to our knees.
Dark clouds block the sun
and its healing warmth
but the river calls us further in.
Here, just above the bridge,
the Caddo splits into three streams,
slight rapids running the seams of rocks.
We have studied from the bank;
I am almost sure we can glide over
the two smooth ledges
and avoid the strainer formed
where old branches are snagged
against the base of the bridge.
We step out into the stream
where the chute forms,
current pushing hard against our legs.
“Remember,” I remind him
above the noise of the current,
“Feet first, butt up, head back.”
The key in making these shallow runs
is to stay as flat as you can,
keep a cushion of water between you
and the things that hurt.
He laughs as I lean back
and release myself into the flow,
letting the river carry me
but still steering as much as I can.
He laughs but follows me into the chute.
Below the riffles,
we rise from the water,
stepping carefully across slick stones,
laughing like children
playing in God’s own back yard.