I wanted to see if there was another gathering of merganzers this evening, so late in the afternoon I headed down to the river. When I reached the river, I heard a dipper signing. I have heard the song on at least half of my visits to the river, so this was not out of the ordinary. As I was crossing the river trying to be quiet, I heard someone coming to the bridge that was just downstream from me. Feeling a little conspicuous, I paused, debating whether to retreat back to the shore. It took only a moment for me to realize that I would have made much commotion and likely drawn attention to myself in an attempt to get back to the shore, so I just waited and watched. During my hesitation, two bicyclists reached the bridge and were making rapid progress across it. All this time the dipper continued singing and although I was aware of it, I had not been giving it my full attention. The song caught the attention of the two bicyclists. They stopped and looked downstream in the direction of the song’s source. This led me to look more closely beyond the bridge and I saw the dipper standing on a rock in the middle of the river. While waiting for the pair to move on, I focused more on the dipper and its singing.
The dipper’s song seems very at home among the gurgling and tumbling sounds of the river flowing. It’s like the sounds of the river have coalesced and given life to one of the grey stones that make up the river bed. The living gray stone emerges from the water to sing its melody while accompanied flawlessly by the river that formed it. When the singer is finished with its melody, it melts back into the water from which it came. All that remains is the constant flow of the river. Still, one can hear the echos of the melody in the movement of the water. It’s enough to make one wonder if somewhere on the river bottom, a stone is about to be given life.
After the bicyclists had moved on, I carefully made my way across the river while listening to the dipper singing. When I reached the far bank, I decided to wait while I listened to the dipper song. A pair of walkers crossed the bridge talking quietly and the dipper sang on. The walkers did not pause in their crossing. Soon, two more bicyclists came to the bridge. They spoke loudly to each other, one commenting on how low the river looked (it is low) and the other on how much she liked the trees. Perhaps it was their loud voices or maybe just coincidence, but upon their arrival the dipper stopped singing. They were soon gone from the bridge and shortly after their departure I watched the dipper melt into the water.
I still hoped to get to the mouth of the river before it was dark, so I started down along the river bank. It was fairly difficult for me to walk quietly and quickly in the river while wearing boots, so when I reached the bridge, I went up to the trail that parallels the river just inside the trees. Near the start of the estuary, I cut through the trees back down to the river. Here I began wading in the river again. As I carefully made my way, I kept hearing what sounded like notes of the dipper’s song. I listened carefully, even cupping my ears, to see if I could discern where these notes were coming from. I could not discover any source other than the river itself. Perhaps a dipper was singing in the distance and I only a note or two at a time made it to my ears, but it seemed very much like the river was echoing the dipper’s song. Perhaps it was the dipper who had been singing the river’s song.