Early Sunday Morning

Sunday mornings are the best time to be on the Pocomoke if it’s solitude you’re seeking. Traffic noise is a minimum, barely audible in some cuts and lagoons very close to town. Even the turtles sleep in on Sundays. For me, the Pocomoke River is a hallowed sanctuary, near the buzzard roost cypress where the river is wide and cathedral-like, and in the shallow, sheltered shoreline dip where someone has a fish trap set, where it’s more like a chapel.

I left the dock on a paddleboard shortly after 6. I was on a board I had never used, but will likely become mine if its owner buys himself a new board and I follow through on the promise I made to buy his old one so that he could more easily make a case at home for the $2000 SUP. It’s much lighter than the Old Town boards I typically paddle, and of different material, fiberglass-sheathed foam. The first thing I noticed as I paddled north into a series of tiny riffles on the river, was that as they struck the bow they made a noise like shaking sand in a Mason jar.

It took some time to accustom myself to the feel of the long glass platform under my feet. In sailing parlance, it’s more tender than anything else I’ve paddled while upright, but I found that I could easily affect the direction as I headed upstream by shifting my weight (slightly – I’m not that good at it). So I had to swing the paddle from port to starboard less often.

About half-a-mile from the dock I heard the bell ring for the drawbridge and knew that within a minute or two a bass boat would be flying up the river to whatever spot its occupants held sacred. So I was prepared. As the boat approached, it swung wide but failed to slow, and put out a wake whose whitecaps melted into the river before they got to me but left residual rollers. I turned the board into the waves and continued to stroke.

The angle of the sun was such that I was facing a corduroy-like procession of sun-shadow, sun-shadow, sun-shadow rolling toward me. Watching the light on the water change was strangely the same feeling of disequilibrium as trying to walk a straight line after too many gin and tonics. I managed to stay vertical, but had to cease paddling until everything passed under the board.

Just as I was sweeping on the left to return to Snow Hill a small bird flew from a cypress knee to the shoreline. It looked like a bittern upon landing, but was probably a little green heron. They’re not rare, but in a good year I might only spot one half-a-dozen times. I knew that the highlight of the day had, in that few seconds before the bird hopped out of sight, come and gone. But it was worth it.

-Ron Pilling