Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: PICNIC - deadline 7-12-12 @ 9:59 AM NY Time (07/05/12)
TITLE: On the Banks of the Jordan River (Michigan)
By Cheryl von Drehle
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Now it is mid-winter, and the still flowing river is losing the battle against the encroaching ice. Summer rain offerings have provided sufficient depth to keep the middle of the river from freezing over, but as winter progresses the ice daily commands more territory from the narrowing channel.
By March the flow will be just inches wide. But on this bright bitterly cold February morning, canoes can still navigate their way downstream. A few adventurers launch their own canoes into the icy froth to test their wits and stamina. But the majority of travelers are seeking experiences rather than trials, so they engage the services of a professional to steer them safely through the winter wonderland.
Our 40 year old guide grew up on this river. He still marvels that each winter day the river cuts a new and unexpected path. What was a mild bend yesterday is today a hairpin turn around a newly formed ice floe. His yelp of surprise as the canoe careens off an ice chunk, followed by an under-breath chortle declaring “that was a close one,” provides sufficient illusion of imminent danger to turn this experience into an adventure.
But the thrill is surpassed by the sublimity of a river coursing through a white forest. There is no other space on earth that provides the sights and sounds of a winter river journey. The lyrical rush of wind through tree tops is magnified to a symphony by ice clinging to branches. Beavers, deer, and the occasional fox are annoyed by the interruption of their winter solitude: they startle, but stand their ground. And the ice, everywhere… strongmen glistening and threatening; powerful and rearranging; yet their dominance will be usurped by an early spring thaw in just six weeks.
The hour long journey feels like three as numbness creeps into well covered fingers and toes, and noses begin to drip from frostbite. But the turn around the last corner that reveals our final reward erases all discomfort. Nature has offered up stunning sights and memorable sounds, but man’s capacity to provide serendipity is a close rival. Teetering on a snowy bank perilously close to the flowing river, steam rises from a pot of hot chocolate that will accompany our winter picnic.
We have perched on a Tuscan vineyard wall, legs dangling as we picnicked on bread, pungent cheese, chianti and apples. We have dined on a red checkered tablecloth spread on the sand of an urban island, eating caviar, gherkins, tea sandwiches and cherry topped biscuits. We have delighted in family reunion picnics at the local park, church picnics in the back parking lot, community picnics served up at the town fire station, and romantic picnics for two featuring messy crab legs by the ocean shore. But simple fare cooked over a Bunsen burner on a snowy bank is uniquely satisfying.
As we feast on roasted marshmallows, peanut butter crunchy granola bars, hot chocolate and apples, I picture the heavenly banquet our Father will eternally lavish upon us. I strongly suspect a picnic will be part of that.
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