One River~One Ocean
I came of age on the Swift River, jumping off bridges and rope swings, diving off cliffs, floating down rapids, sitting in natural whirlpools, rock hopping upstream mesmerized by the smooth stones made silken and bright under the clear, cold fast moving waters.
The Swift River drops into the other river I grew up on, the Androscoggin. I would watch in confusion at the contrast of that pristine water merging with a river that served as a receptacle for anything unwanted. The Androscoggin received raw sewerage from humans, industrial run-off and effluent from the paper mills along her banks, the bi-products deemed necessary for bleached paper products including dioxin. We did what we wanted to the Androscoggin making it in the top 20 most polluted rivers in the US. It's condition, odorous foaming yellow, inspired the Clean Water Act in 1972 by Rumford's native son, Senator Edmund Muskie.
The mill was and is a way of life in the mountain valley region of western Maine. Bread and butter we say. My dad worked there before and after the war for 43 years. His father did too. Most did. It paid for my first car and college. My parents lived by cash or layaway— no debt, no credit cards.
Growing up, I noticed the air more than the water, especially when it was going to rain. The 14 stacks were open for business 24-7, except during shut-downs or strikes. When the weather changed, the rotten egg smell floated upstream, suspended in a murky overcast hue over the valley.
It was a disturbing irony for me, the wild child nature lover, last of 9 children, raised by the squirrels and trees, rivers and mountains. Yet, I lived a split life where the culture and its families honored and bowed to the paper mill industry as it allowed regular folks to make a great living. After all, every one needs paper, right? Like the bumpersticker says, “If you don't like logging, (the essential connected industry) try wiping your ass with plastic.” I do understand this sentiment.
The Androscoggin is majestic, a life vein traversing from New Hampshire's northeastern mountains all the way to the sea where it meets the Kennebec river in Brunswick in the Merrymeeting Bay. It feeds the coastal fisheries and communities living there.
It's almost humorous that we name our rivers and oceans as if they are separate, unconnected entities. All rivers and streams eventually end up in the ocean. The life cycle and expanse of water is without boundary, every body of water evaporating up into the clouds until full enough to give way to gravity, raining down on us all, sharing what ever we sent up there through our tailpipes and smoke stacks, chimneys and camp fires.
I feel compelled to be a voice for this river, to bring greater consciousness to the Androscoggin and see if anyone will join me in listening to what she has to say.
I am going to travel it's length; looking, listening, feeling, joining. I will share what is discovered along this journey home, honoring the generations that came before me and those that will follow. You are invited to join me on this journey as I document what is discovered.
To the Abnaki and all native peoples that traveled here before colonization pushed you out, thank you for taking good care of the water, land, air, mindfully harvesting what you needed for food, water, shelter. I appreciate that you floated along her life stream, migrating seasonally from the mountains to ocean in a balanced rhythm of giving and receiving.
To the generations that followed, finding your way in a rugged, beautiful land, doing your best to survive and care your family and community. To the forefathers and foremothers for your steadfast resilience, for showing us how to be and how not to be.
To those here now, for the ways we are doing the right thing with a consciousness for all of life, for the liberty of all beings and the pursuit of happiness and health, here now for every human, tree, fish, frog, bird.
To the future generations, may you be more conscious then we have been and be the voice for the unspoken many. May you see that in taking care of the land, water and air you are taking care of yourself and all of life.
Intention: Raise awareness and water consciousness on the Androscoggin River and beyond while paddling its length.
Goal: Raise $5000+ for www.MaineRivers.org, whose mission is to protect, restore and enhance the ecological health of Maine's river systems.
My launch date: June 2, Errol, NH, Headwaters of the Androscoggin
My take out: June 14, Topsham, ME
We have been receiving quite a bit of press, both in print, radio and on television.
Check out the coverage in bringing awareness to the importance of restoring our river watershed!
Because there has been such broad interest in and support in this campaign, it will continue to remain active as long as we continue to receive support. You are invited to support the mission and vision of MaineRivers.org through this fundraiser.
Jen Deraspe, founder of Nurture Through Nature retreat center is a retreat leader and Registered Maine Guide whose love for nature runs deep and wide. FMI: www.ntnretreats.com
- Marcia Uhl
- Lynn Deeves
- Judith Boruchoff
- Kristy M
- regina strongheart
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