Leg 2 of the Casco Bay watershed project picked up where leg 1 left off, under a bridge on the Sebago to Sea trail as I continued my run up the Presumpscot river toward Sebago Lake.
I cruised under the bridge and headed into the woods along a dirt path, distracted by the sound of rushing cars. The hilly trail was well worn from mountain bikes, and, enjoying the ups and downs, I was just beginning to lose myself in the run when I heard the unique pop of a golf club making contact with a ball. Over the next rise, I emerged alongside the Riverside Golf course, which eventually led out onto the street. After finding my way along the busy road to the next trail entrance, I ran a fairly desolate path alongside a cyclone fence. As I re-entered the dim woods, reconnecting with the river, I padded by a young couple kissing on the river’s edge.
I meandered alongside the milky green water until I entered the
historical trolley park, with signs indicating a waterside gathering place, active from 1896 to 1920.
As with my first watershed run, described in Water Pathways, the Sebago to Sea trails lead me through wooded, suburban, and industrial zones. I’m always alert when running alone, but there are particular sites that put me on edge. Sometimes I startle when snakes, squirrels, woodpeckers, and mourning doves slither, dart, tap, and rustle in the bushes around me, but it’s the places on the edge–the transitional areas between public and wild space–that put me on alert.
Philosopher Gaston Bachelard, in his classic book, Poetics of Space, writes about the phenomenology of place, examining shells, nests, drawers, garrets, and cellars, pondering the affect of these spaces on the human imagination. I would add the underworld of bridges to Bachelard’s list, as secret places that cause a shiver in the corporeal imagination. Referencing L’Antiquaire, by Henri Bosco, Bachelard describes a “cosmic cellar” in which a character, in a dream, discovers “an immense body of water,” which causes him to shiver (23). The author describes the shiver as not human fear but “cosmic fear” that echoes the “great legend of man cast back into primitive situations” (23). Bachelard goes on to describe how this process leads to a sense of connection– dream/imagination affecting reality. Speaking of the body of water discovered in the cellar, in a dream, he writes:
From the cavern carved in the rock to the underground, from the underground to stagnant water, we have moved from a constructed to a dreamed world; we have left fiction for poetry. But reality and dream now form a whole. The house, the cellar, the deep earth, achieve totality through depth. The house has become a natural being whose fate is bound to that of mountains and of the waters that plough the land. The enormous stone plant it has become would not flourish if it did not have subterranean water at its base. And so our dreams attain boundless proportions. (23-24)
There is a didactic purpose to my watershed project: to increase my own awareness of where water is sourced (and share my discoveries) and to make visible what is concealed about our relationship with the water that sustains us. At the same time, my motivation is poetic; I’m collecting artistic source material through a process of experiencing place. In that vein, Bachelard offers me philosophical bedrock, illuminating the relationship between what is seen, felt, and imagined, and thereby helping me to read my experience of running the edges and corners of the natural world.
“I sing the body electric….
…The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward
toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the
marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health; …”
excellent, most hip…you have attacked with beauty. you hue beauty