Spend a long weekend along False River in New Roads, as I recently did for the Fourth of July, and you’ll recognize False River’s two biggest pastimes: Skimming the water in a pleasure craft, or watching the procession of boats from the shaded comfort of a front-porch rocker.
I’ve enjoyed both in my stays at False River, but in my most recent visit, I stayed ashore, offering an occasional wave from beneath a ceiling fan as boats slap-slap-slapped the silvery surface of the water and skiers tagged along behind, like fanciful comet tails in the summer sun.
If we’re lucky, our summers will serve up a moment or two in which we realize that as the world goes about its business, we’re completely and contentedly still, needing nothing and wanting nothing as the rest of the planet whirls with its urgencies, both real and imagined.
The waterfront home where we stayed as guests of a generous in-law was well appointed, although there was a glorious absence of clocks.
When she arrived to live along the River Neuse in North Carolina, author Janet Lembke was told she wouldn’t truly fit in until she threw her wristwatch away and kept time by the rhythms of the river instead. “River time,” writes Lembke, “depends upon the circlings of sun and moon and the sweep of the constellations. The seasons make their rounds, directing the migrations of fish and birds, orchestrating the birth, death and resurrection of the green world.”
The house where we stayed was a place of windows, so I left my watch on the night stand each morning and measured the day by the slant of light that streamed into rooms, or brightened the porch, or warmed the deck as the sun made its rounds through the hours.
As darkness fell, the homes along the opposite bank would twinkle like a Dickens village, and the world from our patio chairs seemed self-contained and complete.
When our 10-year-old son asked about each day’s plans, I’d cheerfully respond that we had none. Left on its own, the day filled itself — with badminton, barbecues and board games, visits from neighbors and a family of ducks, the comings and goings of martins and water snakes.
We ended the holiday with backyard fireworks, the night sky brightened with blossoms of sparks that faded to black with the wink of an eye.
With age, we realize that summer itself fades almost as quickly, which is all the more reason to hold it close and savor it, even as the calendar imperceptibly works its way toward fall.