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Archive for May, 2020

I call nature my constant, the thread that is present in every part of my life as far back as I can remember. And there is a river or stream in each of those memories.

My parents grew up in Ohio and Maryland, fishing and boating on the Potomac and Tred-Avon Rivers. My dad remembers catching catfish, perch and bass in the Monocacy and taking them home for my grandmother to fry up in hog fat. My grandfather rode a mule that pulled the barge on the Cheasepeake & Ohio Canal that carried coal and agricultural products to Washington, DC. My grandmother’s brother was the Lock Keeper on Lock #25 and also ran a small store. My mother spent time on the lakes on their farms as well as on their boat on the Chesapeake and Tred-Avon River where the oldest continuous ferry in the US is still in operation.

Danaduckssept75

The author, Dana Skelton, feeding ducks in her family’s backyard along Conodoguinet Creek in Pennsylvania., circa 1975.  

I was born April 22, 1971 in Silver Spring, Maryland on the one year anniversary of the first Earth Day which was originally organized as a nationwide teach-in and is now celebrated in over 193 countries around the world. The town, named for the mica flecked spring, lies inside the Capital Line Beltway surrounding Washington DC and was the final home of Rachel Carson, author of A Silent Spring, a book that brought widespread attention to the adverse affects of indiscriminate pesticide use in 1962.

My very earliest memories are not of Silver Spring, but rather of growing up on Conodoguinet Creek, a tributary to the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. My dad kept a silver metal trashcan in the backyard full of corn for feeding the ducks that lived on the river. We also had an old blue metal canoe tied up to the split rail fence that separated the back yard from the river.

It swayed back-and-forth against the bank with the current. My first pet was an adopted orange barn cat named Hugger, and Hugger would jump into the canoe when it hit the bank and nestle in for a nap in the sun during the day. That same split rail fence was used to keep in our St. Bernard dog, Max, who accompanied us on family paddling trips in the canoe down the river. Staying upright in a canoe with a large dog standing in the boat and occasionally leaning over to drink was one of my first lessons in balance – in a physical sense. When we weren’t using the canoe, it was tied to the tree next to our rope swing.

DanaHuggerSept1975

Dana Skelton and Hugger, the cat, by Conodoguinet Creek. 

Our house was flooded twice in the early 70’s when the hurricanes came. The Susquehanna would rise, backing up the creeks and sending water way out of the banks. My brother and I made a jungle gym out of the furniture that was stacked in the garage away from the approaching flood water. I remember seeing the water fill the basement and start to come up the staircase. The table in my dining room didn’t make it out in time and is still discolored from the water damage 48 years ago.

I remember my dad canoeing around the house to check things out and an emergency visit from the fire department when our furnace was still running underwater. We later moved to Louisiana where I played in small creeks and roadside ditches near Lake Pontchartrain. My brother and I fished for minnows and made mud pies. I remember seeing my first snake in one of these creeks.

Later we came to Roswell where I grew up along the Chattahoochee. I got involved in river work after seeing Joe Cook’s inspirational slide show about his journey down the Chattahoochee. I volunteered for Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and began my career in environmental protection.

Today, I walk in the woods most everyday. My favorite trails are all adjacent to creeks and rivers, and I love to take photos of the flowers and animals that I see on my walks and continue to learn more about the rhythms and patterns in nature.

Dana Skelton

May 2020

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