Molly Fisk: Oregon Creek

I’m having the weirdest day. Nothing feels right. This morning, I had a break from my scheduled life and headed east out of town to see fall color in the mountains. Five miles later, I found myself behind an oil tanker truck, and thought, “This isn’t going to work.” Turned around at the next pull-out and came back. Then I headed south, thinking that at least if I was in an iffy mood I could do some grocery shopping “down the hill.” People here sometimes drive an hour to big box stores, and I haven’t done that in six months. Only a few minutes later, I realized smoke from all the California fires was thickening around my car, and decided I didn’t want to breathe it.

Then I went home, made a pitcher of iced tea, and consulted the cats. Sid and Gracie, my 17-year-olds, were quite clear that I should stay home and sit still please, affording them each half a lap. This is what they always say, unless a bird has flown into the house, which is the only thing they’ll chase any more at their advanced ages. Birds pretty much never fly into our house, however. “I can’t stay home, I’m antsy, I have to GO somewhere!!”

“I’ll see you later,” I said, and drove north this time. I dropped a few things at a friend’s house even though she wasn’t home, and then kept going, the road meandering through lots of shade, some lovely yellow aspens but mostly conifers — dark green and eighty feet tall. I was still confused, but began to feel a little more light-hearted and look around. After half an hour, I crossed the middle fork of our local, magical river, the Yuba, and saw the sign for a swimming hole I’ve sometimes jumped into on hot days. Unexpectedly, I pulled in and parked.

This is one of those places called a “day use area,” which is the least appealing name for a picnic spot I have ever heard. Who makes these things up, anyway, and why did they not hire a poet? Good grief. A small creek joins the river here and a rope swing hangs over the bank. I sat listening to the sound for a while, and then wrote a poem about it, mentioning God, which is strange, since I’m a lapsed Unitarian and don’t believe in God. He does sneak into my poems, though, now and again, the rascal.

I got stuck on one word, and made a list of options. What would you call the action of a creek? It’s a mix of sound and motion together, and possibly light. Burbles was a little too British and maybe archaic. Clatters? Chuckles? Chortles? Churns? Chowders? No, creeks don’t chowder. Tumbles? Rambles? Scampers? Waddles? Somersaults? Sidles? Sparkles?

Aha. Sparkles. I used sparkles. It was good with the “k” in creek and also in smoke, a few lines later.

This is what poets do with their time, in case you were wondering.


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  • Kristyn Appleby November 11, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    So beautiful. When I feel at loose ends I sometimes end up napping which can be comforting but rarely complete. This essay had a completeness to your discomfort which I admired. Molly – do you do long distance teaching? I’d love to learn from you.

  • Mickey M. November 11, 2017 at 11:05 am

    Lovely, Molly. This answers your (and other writers’) favorite question from fans: Where do you get your ideas? And one more question, when and where do we get to read your poem? Project in progress? Okay, we can be patient. Hugs, Molly. That was so so so superlative.

  • Karen Donaldson November 11, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Good save! Nature fixes a lot. 🙂