The sweat might be dripping down my neck and my bare ankles burning from all of the hops and nettle I stepped through to reach the river’s sand-and-pebble shore, but, in this summer’s heat, I am happy. I find the greatest peace at the most extreme of temperatures. At 20 below and 100 above, all but the hardiest of creatures are still and quiet, and, whether muffled in layers of clothing or in waves of heat, I feel alone and at home.
Unless, of course, it is a long Sunday afternoon, and droves of pool-less, beach-less citizens suddenly appear. As much as I like my peace, it is good to be reminded how very much I am part of a larger community. My boys play in the water with the children they meet, even if they and their families only speak Spanish. Kayaking hipsters wave hello to us. “Country” folk share fishing stories. Bored teenagers of every shape and size and color appear in motley groups, trying to escape the watchful eyes of adults. (They look a little annoyed when they see me, but my dog wins them over). The river, so imperfect, is so very American.