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The Hermitage: Drain Ditch 789

Here at the Hermitage we live just up a small slope from Drain Ditch 789, which once was more enchantingly named the Little Maple River. Sometimes in dry summer the river is reduced to what might be called here a "crick", but when spring thaw and the rains come, if we stand at the open back door about three hundred feet away, we can hear the river's roaring voice. In those times when the river is highest it carries trees, treasures, and sometimes secrets in its brown churning current downstream to meet other rivers, until they all flow into the big lake... Lake Michigan.

Our friendly neighbor, who lives upstream about a half-mile, loses his footbridge to the flood every spring. The bridge, in one solid piece, is dislodged from the river bank by the churning force of frothing water and like a toy is bounced heavily down-stream toward the Hermitage. Here it rushes to lodge itself tightly into one of the highly-eroded banks of the river near a slight debris-collecting bend, where the river has begun its project of carving itself from a straight-line drain ditch to a meandering river again. After giving us a ring to ask our permission, our persevering neighbor, accompanied by a friend or two in his pickup, drives bumpily down our lane, whereupon they all jump from the truck and, using a wench, gamely wrangle the heavy wooden construction out and up the twenty-foot cliff and into the bed of the truck. Once home, he "hefts and tightens the (hardly-battered) bridge up a bit" and then repeats the process the following spring. He perpetually underestimates the power of the water running through our land.

The river has its seasons, and moods. It is a fierce destructive force to be reckoned with, and and it is a calm and welcoming friend to the great blue herons, wood ducks, frogs, turtles, snakes, and many other living things that depend on it for their subsistence.

Spring rituals are good. They build respect for the land, hold us solidly to it, and to each other... and this particular ritual that we practice with our neighbor each year reminds us that Drain Ditch 789 is really the Mighty Little Maple River.


to be continued.... (next up: The Hermitage: Thin Places)


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