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Personal Essay: Thoughts on the Dungeness River

Written by Travis Knight

After the barefoot bushwhack along the river, the great field neighboring our camp emerges through the tunnel of thick brush. Everyone settles themselves and sits in the sun, reading, and I feel so at home, not just with the natural world around me, but with this band of men. My pants are still wet from the pinching coldness of the mighty Dungeness River, so I walk around a bend out of sight from the others and strip to my boxers, Mount Constance stands steady, still, and always keeping watch just off to the south.

Mount Constance, constant and always watching.

Once my pant legs are ringed out and no longer heavy with river, I lay them out to be cooked clean by the sun and open my book. I am nearing the end of Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, and I feel just like Wang Lung, now old with age, walking out to his land “to feel the good earth under his feet and take off his shoes and his stockings and feeling his skin.” And here I am, my inner thighs and calves whiter than the dead straw that speckles this small meadow, soaking in the land and waning the pale melancholy that makes up my skin.

Soaking it all in.

Concentration comes in contact with distraction, and the pages put forth before me are now entering and leaving my mind instantly. There is so much unraveling in the peacefulness around me that it proves difficult to not hear the landscape’s lull. So I lay, still and quiet and listening. The river storms by beyond the thick brush, birds’ songs are carried by the breeze, and the rustling meadow whispers lightly as the wind passes through it, strumming its strings. The heat is overbearing, and the white meat that seldom sees sun rays is now getting cooked golden brown. Over there is shade, so I stroll over, settle down, and start to write.

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