I have always thought this river possessed some form of magic, ever since I first saw it as a young girl. After dinner on Sunday evenings my grandparents would drive the roads near its shore, gossiping about the townsfolk as I sat wide-eyed in the backseat, nose pressed against the glass, looking at ferns and waiting for the whitetail to show their dark, alert, fearful eyes. My grandfather always at the ready, preparing for the hidden creatures to make their sudden, graceful leap across the road. It was as if, on those Sundays, time stopped in the moments before sunset.
The river, rippled and full of life during the sunlit hours of the day, would steady as the sun descended the cliffs. Quiet and still the water would turn to glass, and as the day came to a close, the exquisite beauty of this valley was perfectly reflected. The sounds of the earth sank into the cool, dark depths as the sun drifted deeper into the horizon.
As I grew older I swam in this river. I would close my eyes as the cool currents, strong and powerful, but never threatening, dragged across my naked skin. I bathed in the warm sun that shone upon its shore, and watched as it set, golden and fiery behind the cliffs. I laid upon the dewy grasses on the banks of this river, the hushed laughter of teenagers carried on the fingers of a warm summer breeze. But just as the dawn breaks the magic of the night, the loss of my youth broke the spell of this place. I outgrew my hometown, so many years ago. I fled this place, this town, this river, as far and as fast as my feet could carry me and I never looked back, not once. Yet somehow, this place, it never left me.
“Someway, baby, it’s a part of me, apart from me.” This river, it is who I am.
I am back in the very place that, for as long as I can remember, I ached to be anywhere but, and I am spellbound by its beauty. This tiny Wisconsin town has stolen my heart, and this magnificent river, holds my soul.
“And at once I knew I am not magnificent.”