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  • Writer's pictureJenny Dunaway


Updated: Dec 3, 2020

"Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile." William Cullen Bryant

(This is post is another excerpt from my children's book about our canoe.)

I have always loved autumn. The salt marsh is one of the most stunning, yet often overlooked sights when the long days of summer become shorter. The vivid hues of the deciduous trees are the rock stars but it is the warm hues of the marsh that provide the rhythm and bass to this symphony that is fall. The black needle rush turns from green to brown, except for the points which remain black.

Cord grass fades to a golden ochre while glasswort becomes a vibrant red. Glasswort is a succulent that holds onto moisture, very much like a cactus. It actually crunches when the boys walk on it or pull me over it. Salt marshes, like deserts, have limited species diversity. Though it is surrounded by water, fresh water is a limiting factor in the salt marsh. Estuarian water has a measurable amount of salt content. Only a few, specialized plants and animals have adapted to successfully grow and flourish in this environment. Protecting the native plants from invasives like phragmites is critical to maintaining a healthy marsh. Our marsh is still filled with native plants that will hold the ground and act as a sponge for tonight's tidal surge. (Mom always shares these tidbits of information with the boys and I suppose some of it sticks. But, just don't get her going on the evils of phragmites!)

It was overcast and the moisture in air hinted a storm was brewing when Zach, Seth, and Jake took me and Charlie Brown out in Oyster Creek to fish. Though the channel is narrow, it flows swiftly from the Rappahannock. Fishing can be pretty good, some days. This wasn't one of those days. After a

frustrating hour, they paddled back to the marsh at the head of Oyster Creek and tied me securely to a bush. Groundsels are another show-stopper in the fall. This beauty was almost as large as the cherry tree near it.

I had seen my share of storms--it was actually a nor'easter that brought me to Hennie and Mac MacGoneagal's beach at Mosquito Point. That was my first realization that I tend to get seasick in rough water. It took me several days to fully recover. They couldn't find my owner so they gave me to Mom and the boys. I spent my first year with them at Tabb's Creek and then we moved to Foxwells, down Windmill Point Road. But that's a story for another day...

Over the years, we had weathered many high tides in Oyster Creek. The boys were excited about the hurricane--it was more an anticipation of the adventure that the day-after would bring. They loved paddling me around the neighborhood yards and streets covered in a foot or more of tidal water. After supper, Mom, the boys, and Charlie Brown walked to the marsh to make sure they hadn't left anything in me and I was safe. They turned me over because it was supposed to rain, a lot.

Being upside down isn't the most dignified position but I can deal with it for one night.

"Cattail, are you going to be okay?" Charlie Brown asked as he paused and looked out over the Rapphannock.

"Sure, Charlie Brown. I'll see you tomorrow. Mikinak will be here in a little bit. Don't worry." Satisfied, they returned home to hunker down for the night. I could hear Mom's beach glass wind chimes tinkling in the wind which had picked up considerably.

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