I spent Sunday kayaking the Edisto River and the tributary which drains Four Holes Swamp. I was in a tandem boat with Gregory Forman, a far more experienced kayaker. It was a beautiful day and the river was like glass for much of the afternoon. In seven hours on the water we saw several storks and herons, saw (and heard) a number of woodpeckers and other birds. There were yellow-bellied sliders (turtles, for the uninitiated) sunning on logs along the river bank. We saw trees that had recently been gnawed down by beavers and I was lucky enough to be looking in the right direction as a four-foot gar made a great, arcing leap from the water.
Mostly what we discovered was quiet and solitude, miles of trees and water without a single house or car in sight. We encountered three outboard motorboats in our day on the river, and we could hear cars on a nearby highway. Other than that, it was wilderness — or as close to wilderness as we are likely to find in this part of the country.
As much as I appreciate the convenience and other advantages of living in the city, I also understand the spiritual enrichment that comes from getting away from it all — if only for a few hours. When we work and vote and march and give money to save the environment, that word probably has a different meaning to every one of us. Yes, it’s the air we breathe and the water we drink, of course, but it is also these remote places that we rarely see, these delicate, interwoven webs of light and shadow; of earth, air and water; of flora and fauna; all existing completely independent of humans and our plans and machinations, our politics and economics.
Or that’s the way it should be. But increasingly our lives are impinging on the lives of all other living things on this planet, even down to the most basic chemistry of life. Environmental writer and philosopher Bill McKibben says homo sapiens has already altered the course of evolution on planet earth. The next step is to destroy it completely, because the systems of living and manufacturing we have created over the past two centuries are incompatible with life as it developed on earth over the past three billion years.
To glide quietly along the waters of the Edisto in upper Colleton County is to go back in time, if not three billion years, then at least a few hundred. And to see it is to understand that every plant and creature, every stone and bend in the river, every storm that blows over it and flood that pours through it, everything is in its place, doing what it is supposed to do. The only thing out of place is mankind and unless we find a new way of thinking of ourselves and thinking of the world around us, we will destroy both.
Gregory posted our expedition on Meet Up, but no one joined us. Perhaps next time some other sojourners will come along for a quiet and reverential trip along the Edisto.