Posted by: canaryinacoalmine | July 21, 2005

Shelley’s View

The below was written by Shelley. She’s an amazing writer – help me nag her to start a new blog

I wish I could remember Saturday morning – Bloody Mary’s and coffee, Cheerios and Chase, the misery of my Friday-night epiphanies a hazy blur in the face of the bright morning and the constant peaceful presence of the rushing river…

But the morning is gone for the most part, overpowered and blotted out by the long, exhausting and nightmarish afternoon. J. and I fought for strength, for sanity and humor, for our very survival, though it’s hard to make anyone understand how real it was; how close to the grave we felt; what a struggle it was to keep climbing over trees and to keep believing that we weren’t doomed.

A young couple threw us each a beer as we waved and cajoled from the safety of our inner-tubes, laughing through the misty rain and simply enjoying each other’s company. We splashed and laughed and dutifully did not discuss the years we did not talk.Instead, we discussed the scenery and told stupid jokes, our relief at being alone and having a careless good time almost tangible in the air.

“TUBERS DO NOT EXIT HERE. PRIVATE PROPERTY,” we read gratefully, all too glad to “not exit,” to not return to the emotional turmoil of the trailer.

The river rushed us along, too fast, too deep, too wide and long, but we didn’t notice. We leaned back in our brightly-colored tubes and stared at the sky and took silly pictures of each other, only gradually realizing that the scenery was far too beautiful to be safe. In this day and age, when the water stretches out to forever and the trees grow too thick to have ever seen a human hand, girls like us are in deep trouble. Our cushioned-sole-accustomed feet, air-conditioned bodies, sun-protected skin, and lotion-laden hands are not prepared to meet raw nature.

But we were to meet her, and become putty in her rough Carolina hands.

Real, backwoods, thorny, vertical, middle-of-godforsaken-nowhere nature was about to be right at our fingertips, pricking us and poking us and defying our every command until we outwardly sang our own version of Negro spiritual and inwardly cried for our mothers.

If we abandoned our inner-tubes and followed the river upstream, we rationalized; the campground was back there somewhere. The sun was shining brightly overhead – surely we could cover a couple of miles before dark. It would be easy, really. Possibly no one would even realize we had been lost.

Within an hour, the vegetation had become simply too thick to cross. Beyond the naturally thick Carolina flora, which we might have (with diligence) struggled over and through, Tropical Storm Cindy had rained down tons of broken trees, fooling us into thinking we could grip them and climb our way back to the campground. But dead trees give way, and more than once we almost toppled dangerously over the embankment.

More than once we also almost lost our flip-flops. To me, losing our shoes spelled out “the end.” We were stepping over spiders, thorns, snakes, and other untold dangers. Our flip-flops were the thin padding between really making it out of there and settling down for the night, injured in the backwoods of the North Carolina mountains – and anything (or anyone) who might inhabit it.

More than once we realized we could go no further on land, our current tree-obstacle being too large to see around, over, under or through. So we climbed back into the river and attempted to swim upstream, past the gigantic fallen tree and all of its debris, toward a place where we hoped we could walk again.

But the waters ran too fast and both times we tried it, we soon gave up and committed ourselves to land again. We might have been able to beat the current, but we would have had to sacrifice our shoes. No fucking way was I going to let us lose our shoes.

It was during one of these episodes, when we had climbed the hill as far as we dared, only to give up and return to the bank, only to give up and hop in the river, only to give up and return to the bank again, that J. spotted the kayak.

She said calmly, “Oh, there’s a kayak,” and it took a minute for it to sink in. When I saw him, a fat-ish older man in a skinny red boat, my heart leapt into my throat.

“HELP!” I yelled, and he pulled onto the bank, Jesus Christ himself in cutoffs and a white t-shirt. Brandishing Gatorade and chocolate bars, he instructed us (one at a time) in the fine art of balancing in a kayak.

While he radioed back to the campground that we had been found, J. and I held each other on the riverbank, pretending we weren’t shaking, loudly defiant when we heard him say that he found us crying.

“WE WERE NOT CRYING,” we called to him, and our laughing eyes met. It was very, very important that we were not crying. We had spent the past two hours not crying, and felt that that alone had saved us. Had we melted into dramatic tears and girlish fears, who knows whether we would have been found at all. Whether one of us might have panicked and grabbed the wrong branch, thrown our flip-flops down in frustration, or allowed the river to just take us on Home.

Whatever it was that kept us laughing, singing, and believing we would make it back before the sun set, I am eternally grateful for it. And I will never, ever, forget J’s strength on that riverbank.

For better or worse, we have grown up. I love you, J., and I thank you for being my sister last weekend. Never, ever give up. I promise you I won’t either.


  1. I would have been crying if that happened to me cuz I’m a big fat sissy.
    You guys were brought together closer by this event, I think.
    So something good came out of something bad.

    And, Shelly, I totally think you should start a blog. You are an excellent writer. And it is very therapeutic.

  2. I think I would have been confused by this post if I did not have your previous post for reference as to the events of that day. It is well written, just confusing.

  3. Please Shelley start your own blog. And please run for president in 2008 while you are at it.

  4. Shelley for president. You would beat Pedro.

  5. You heard her Shell, start your own blog.

  6. Your wish is my command. Blog on, my fellow Americans.


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