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Light on the river

Lately, I've only managed to get out for short walks in the strip of woods between the Conrail tracks and the big bend in the Susquehanna, usually to get Ellie, our dog, out for some exercise. The days, although longer as we advance towards next month's equinox and the summer beyond, have mostly been cheerless and gray. Still, the river beckons me.

Mid morning today, a break in the clouds let the sun shine through. Ellie sat in front of the old Stickley library table I was writing at, looking at me expectantly. She needed a little more fresh air and stretching than her early morning few minutes in the side yard.  I sighed, got up and walked out to the coat hall, snapped her leash and harness on, pulled on hiking boots and donned a coat and hat. Slung my sketch bag over a shoulder before shuffling out the door.

A few aggravating minutes of admonishing the always overenthused Ellie not to pull on the leash and we were topping the railroad berm. The wooded bluff across the river was dark and brooding, backlit by diffuse sunlight, weakening as the holes in the cloud cover closed. A long, dark reflection dominated the stretch of water I could see through the trees, but shifting dapples of brilliance sparkled here and there.

The Susquehanna is ranked third among the ten rivers most endangered by pollution in the United States. Inadequately regulated fracking and poorly managed agricultural and sewage runoff have prompted the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to warn against swimming and fishing the river, whose poisoned flow empties into the Chesapeake. With the Trump administration's attack on the EPA, which appears to have majority support from the Republican controlled Congress, calls to activism are gathering momentum from those of us who see and feel the seriousness of such threats.

These disturbing thoughts were on my mind as I paused in the quiet, dark woods to dash off a quick sketch. After a few minutes, I realized that I'd lost track of the dog. I called her and packed up while I waited for her to emerge from the tangle. Clipped her leash back on and followed the trail back out and across the tracks.

Back inside the house, I doffed my coat. I had to get to work, but I decided that a few more minutes to write a letter to a congressman would be time well spent. Some of my friends are putting pen to paper and sending their concerns out daily. I should join them. Every voice counts.

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