The Musketaquid, or Grass-ground River, though probably as old as the Nile or Euphrates, did not begin to have a place in civilized history, until the fame of its grassy meadows and its fish attracted settlers out of England in 1635, when it received the other but kindred name of CONCORD from the first plantation on its banks, which appears to have been commenced in a spirit of peace and harmony. It will be Grass-ground River as long as grass grows and water runs here; it will be Concord River only while men lead peaceable lives on its banks.
-- HDT, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
While in Concord, I had hopes of meeting a friend from the Blogosphere who lives near there, Suasco Al, aka Trashpaddler. In his spare time, he patrols the rivers he loves, and picks up what trash he can. Over the years he has removed thousands of pieces of litter from the waters, quietly and without a lot of fuss. (You can follow his exploits at Trashpaddler.com)
He’s one of my real-life heroes, and keeps me inspired to improve my environment, in ways however small. Dixit et fecit, indeed !
He sometimes travels far afield, and so I wasn’t at all sure we would be able to connect.
We emailed before my trip, and it so happened that he would paddling right in his own home waters, on the Sudbury and Concord Rivers, with Erik, a blogging friend of his from Rhode Island. (That blog is ekilson.blogspot.com) They would be scouting that stretch of water in preparation for a paddle trip that Erik was leading the following week.
In his email, Al gave me a rough estimate of when they might be passing by the Lowell Bridge, so Friday after noon, Jackie and I took our lunch at the Calf Pasture.
We sat on a bench with a fine view of Egg Rock, where the Assabet and the Sudbury rivers meet to form the Concord River. It was the site of important councils between the Native people and the first settlers.
Rivers come together, people come together.
It is a natural meeting-place.
We tidied up a little patch of waterline, in anticipation of their arrival. Didn't want them to land upon a trashy shore ! Jackie was happy to find lance-leaved violet growing along the soggy banks of the river.
Being without internet access back at our B&B, I had to resort to using my new and hardly-ever-used cellphone, and calling the number that Al had given me in our last email. Well, I’m a convert now as to their usefulness.
Standing on the bank of the river, with the water lapping at my feet, I dialed the number and pushed SEND.
Al promptly answered – from his kayak !
“Excuse me a moment, my hat just blew off.”
He was some distance upriver on the Sudbury, and said they would soon be passing by Egg Rock.
Ahoy ! Here they are ! paddling against the wind.
Erik comes in for a soft landing.
It was great to meet them at the very spot where the rivers also come together. To meet friends from the internet, from hundreds of miles apart, and to affirm that we live in more than just 2 dimensions.
We chatted a while, as the guys stretched their legs ashore.
Al and I talked trash.
I marvel at his methods of stowing things on the boat.
He sorts things into recyclables, non-recyclables, and trash.
This is just the overflow:
We even got to see him spring into action, as a beer bottle floated past us, down the middle of the river. It soon joined the other trash that Al had pulled from the river that day. His year-to-date count is approaching 3,000 items.
Erik lined us up for a group photo, which he posted on his blog –
yes, for a brief moment in time, we were
The Four Musketaquideers.
(Without apologies, I share Thoreau’s weakness for dreadful puns.)
Then it was time for them to continue on their journey, and we on ours.
We stood on Lowell Bridge to wave goodbye.
It was a beautiful day to be anywhere near the river.
And the river, a little more beautiful than before,
thanks to people like Al and Erik.
Great to meet you, guys !
And congratulations, Al, on winning a well-deserved
River Stewardship Award at the 2011 Riverfest the following week.
Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious
as to have friends at a distance;
they make the latitudes and longitudes.
--HDT letter to Lidian Emerson, May 22, 1843