By Thaddeus Lewandowski
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”
Upon reflection, it seems the St. Marys River has played at least some role in most of the major events of my life over the past four years. It’s hard to say whether the water’s presence has driven the plot of each event, but in every case the St. Marys has offered a most attractive setting.
A friend of mine, after leaving the area of the upper Great Lakes, said his new home was “way too dry” and that he missed the River in particular. I was too obtuse to really understand what he was referencing; at that time I still had the River to enjoy on a daily basis. His words make sense only after having moved away myself.
On an opening day of duck season not too long ago, I was awoken at 2 am by a small group of friends including the one mentioned above by frantic knocking upon my door. They only agreed to leave when I promised to meet them down the street for an epic breakfast before heading out to get a prime spot along the river at dawn. I gathered my gear and met them for a meal that didn’t disappoint before heading off for what was to be my first duck hunting experience.
Half an hour later, it was still 3 hours before the season officially opened, and the icy ankle deep water I was standing in competed with the breezy 26 degree air temperature for which factor would cause me to dislike duck hunting more. Looking to the heavens in an attempt to solicit understanding about why people participate in such a sport, I saw the constellation Orion for the first time that season, along with a multitude of other stars. Their glimmer reflected off of the still surface of the St. Marys in a way that couldn’t be imitated by the red and green lights of the buoys floating in the water. What I had first thought to be absolutely miserable became a most powerful and resonant image.
About six months later, I received a phone call from a buddy who was graduating from college and couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with anxiety of starting a new chapter of his life. We decided to go for a drive but didn’t say much once in the car. I think we were both a little hypnotized by thoughts of change and were silent under the influence of introspection. Without really having a plan or destination, I turned in the direction of the River. It was snowy, and the roads were covered with ice, making the boundaries of the parking lot along the shore where we were to stop difficult to discern. My senses came back after a while and I admitted that I must have taken a wrong turn and that we should turn around. My buddy blinked once or twice, took a closer look out the window of the passenger seat and said, “Uh, yeah dude, you should turn around….WE ARE ON THE RIVER.” Thank goodness for the thick ice brought about by late springs.
Around the time of my own graduation, I had an interview for a graduate position that would take me to an international university. It was a big decision in my life, and after the interview I too had thoughts of an uncertain future, so I went for a walk at Bellevue Park to think. It was one of the first pleasant days that spring and shore birds seemed particularly zealous along the bank of the River as I sipped coffee and mulled my future. Their noises paired with gentle waves along the rocky shore provided a soundtrack for a decision that will undoubtedly affect the rest of my life.
Each story has a different cast of characters that give the memories a rich and vibrant tone, regardless of how mundane or emotionally charged the events were as they unfolded. However, the River cannot be separated from these memories and I am fortunate to have several more. As time passes, I feel very lucky to have experienced a personal “River of History” and it is hard to imagine what will come next without some input from the St. Marys.