After visiting the creek, April 24, 2007

Today, I began to build a dam. This is a long-time tradition for me; it marks the beginning of my summer. I have lived in Houghton for most of my life. Only a few years in Texas have broken the monotony (just enough for me to consider myself a Texan). Ever since returning from the Lone Star State, though, I’ve made a dam in the Houghton Creek every summer.

I can walk down the creek bed now, and point out the ruins of each, running over a mile up and down the surface of the running waters. I’ve often re-used each site several times, because there are a few places in the creek where a good dam in the right place can make pools that come up to my waist.

It’s not even May, yet, and the weather has only just turned warm. The creek water was still frigid from the winter melt, and the rocks, undisturbed for more than a season, were slick with creek scum. The basics of a creek dam are simple: you block the flow with rocks. The point isn’t to be thurough, because water will always get through no matter how hard you try to stop it. You go for height and width instead, slowing the water as much as you can so that it builds on one side. I’ve become good at it over the years. I started with the ruins of a very old dam, so old that I’m not sure if I build the original. The water sat happily a few inches above my ankles when I started, and had risen half a foot within ten minutes. It’s astounding how fast the depth grows now that I’m strong enough to move the big rocks into place.

Before long, a local of Lambein, the creek-side girl’s dorm, wandered over and asked how I was doing, and if it was cold. Yes, it was cold, I told her, and that the water was lapping around my knees now, staining my shorts wet.

She nodded politely, clearly not as enthused as myself. She told me that she hoped a flood wouldn’t wash it away, which seemed to me an odd thing to say.

I told her that I try to always build my dams to last rain-waters, so that instead of breaking apart the water pressure will only wash more rocks against the structure, making it stronger.

She nodded, not-terribly impressed with my cleverness.

I felt the first drops of water moments later, and her question suddenly made sense. As usual, as I had been concentrating on the water around my feet, other people had watched the sky cloud over. The girl was already gone, fleeing the incoming rain, and I followed suit, a little saddened that, despite my claims, I hadn’t had the time to rain-proof my creation. I left with sore feet from the rocks, red skin from the cold, and smelling of small insect larvae.

I was thinking on Saturday, that I’ve started to think about things differently, and I hypothesized that I’m starting to become an adult. Maybe, maybe not. If I have, it’s an odd sort that still enjoys the play of children. And here I am, reflecting on it later in a professional blog.

There’s something terribly meaningful going on here, but I’m not sure I fully understand it. I’ve sensed it for a while, now, without being able to put my finger on it.

If it’s nice tomorrow, I’ll go back and see what is left of the rocks I played with today. I’d like to make it again, this time well enough to withstand pressure that comes with the rain.

Maybe this is what they call “adulthood.”


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