We are renting our house for a year. The house has pretty landscaping, among which is a configuration of stones that form a stream, over which the wooden front walkway passes. We've gotten a lot of rain this fall, this decorative stream has moved a lot of water from the gutter downspouts to the lawn.
This house’s yard has several aspects that I would’ve loved as a kid, including the overhanging branches of sheltering trees that form shaded spaces large enough to hide in. I would’ve promptly turned those spaces into a “club house.” But I would’ve spent hours splashing in this stream and littering it with plastic boats and toy figurines.
My childhood home lay just three houses away from a park with a terrific stream, the “town branch.” My friends and I spent many summer days along that stream. We'd put pieces of bacon on safety pins attached to string, and we’d catch “crawdads” that way. I wish we would’ve let them go but we carried them home in a plastic container, and of course they didn’t survive. A tree had broken and fallen over the stream, but the tree had not died, and so it was a fine place on which to climb. My mother had survived typhoid fever as a girl; I’d been warned never to drink any water other than from a tap. So I was never tempted to sip from the stream as I, in imagination, crossed the West on my horse.
Another fine stream, Sand Creek, flowed upon a portion of my grandma’s property, not far from the photo that introduces this blog. I visited Sand Creek less often but thought it might even be finer than the town branch, more wild and remote. It seemed to me the perfect woodland waterway, a place where pioneers had lived. Even as an adult, when I read Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, my mind “used” Sand Creek to visualize Dillard’s Virginia stream.
I’ve written elsewhere on this blog (8/22/09) about the Kaskaskia River on which my hometown was founded. These streams eventually emptied into the Kaskaskia. I was justifiably afraid of the rapidly-flowing river and loved it from safe distances. Although you could technically drown in a stream, too, a small waterway was manageable. A stream was a little-kid-sized river; a kid didn't need more water than that, because the imagination could turn it into a mighty waterway for innumerable adventures.