CONFLUENCE

April 11, 2017

YESTERDAY I RODE MY BIKE through the rolling farmland north of Hillsborough. The temperature was perfect and the lush fields were bathed in the golden light of the late afternoon sun. I found myself headed to a place called the Confluence, where the East and West forks of the Eno River converge and the river builds momentum as it winds its way toward the town that settled its banks in Colonial times.

I turned my bike onto the gravel path that leads into the park and lifted it over the shiny enameled gate whose lock signifies that this place, a work in progress, is not yet open to the public. I bounced along on my skinny tires as churning and popping rocks and dinging spokes made music underneath me. I powered and slid my way up a hill where the road petered out and opened onto a wide meadow filled with lush green clover and grasses alive with buzzing insects.

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Near where the gravel ended I spotted a dirt two-track road that led toward the woods. I continued pedaling. There were remnants of a rock foundation revealing someone had farmed this land in an earlier lifetime. The two tracks lifted and fell with the terrain, and as the road met the woods they flowed unevenly into a long dip whose rims hid the entrances from view. At the center of this dip someone had positioned a copious metal bench that looked fifty feet down onto the river as it formed a grand horseshoe. The bench bore a plaque dedicating it to someone who had known and loved these lands.

I laid down on the bench and looked up at the treetops swaying back and forth, the light working magic through the leaves. Then I closed my eyes and started to become aware of the sounds around me. The wind was bringing two layers of sound together–the wind blowing through branches and leaves nearby and the larger, more distant sound of the wind flowing over the treetops and encompassing the woods as a whole. Beneath me, rising up from the river, was the sound of a gentle rapid.

Then I began to hear something else. As the sound came into focus, I recognized it as something running or trotting. It was getting closer. What is that? It sounded too large to be a common woodland creature. It was too steady and light-footed to be a human. I sat up and watched as a beautiful brown coyote trotted through the woods past me on the other side of the road. As he exited onto the road about 30 feet away from me, I whistled. He turned to acknowledge me briefly before continuing on his way.

Soon after, I got up and continued on mine, feeling rich to live in a world that offers such beauty, and thankful for the mysterious and auspicious messenger it sent my way.

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