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  • Writer's pictureAmanda

The Creek Is a Portal

We had a pond at The Old House.

I guess that "pond" might be a stretch.

Our pond was about five feet in diameter. My dad dug it when we moved in.

It was a labor of love: each stone surrounding it placed by hand, each water lily planted with care.

At one point we dumped some goldfish in there. Those things got large.

The pond was a hot spot for Iowa's wilderness. We had quite the variety of visitors. I remember raccoons (trying to scoop out the fish), possum families, maybe even a couple of deer trying to sneak a drink.

Sometimes, in the early mornings before grade school, my dad would wake me up with a creature he'd caught.

One day, he and I found Rudy.

Rudy was a frog who lived on the outskirts of the pond. He'd been hiding around the cattails, and I thought he was a national treasure.

Eventually we moved. Our new house didn't have a pond, and my dad didn't build one this time. Maybe we were too old for it.

But some nights, when we were on a walk around the dog park, we'd come across a frog. We named them Rudy every time.

My cousins lived on an acreage out in the Iowan country. They were surrounded by miles of cornfields, but their house was different. They had a pond, a creek, and woods behind their home that they called "The Timber."

We'd spend hours in The Timber. We'd wear our mud boots and venture into its depths.

Sometimes we were survivors tasked with building a fort out of fallen branches. Hopefully we could survive the night.

Other times we'd be sailors, building ships to be sent out into the raging waters. This usually manifested in tiny boats haphazardly crafted from toilet paper rolls and cardboard. We'd fish them out of the pond with long sticks and tell ourselves that next time, they'd make their way across.

We'd pretend we lived in Middle Earth, and this was our continent. Then we'd be called in for dinner.

I read about Bridge to Terabithia in elementary. There are plenty of reasons to remember that book, but my favorite part was when Leslie and Jesse would cross the creek into the woods. The two of them would swing on a rope over the river, and that marked the entrance into Terabithia: a world where monsters and giants and anything they imagined could exist.

I loved that they understood the feeling of escaping into a world that felt like theirs.

I remembered my world in the pond.

My love for the creeks didn't die out. I might not have had access to The Timber or The Old House, but without consciously trying to, I still found ways back.

My high school had a forest behind it. I came up with excuses to explore. ("I need inspiration for my paintings!")

I was a counselor at a local summer camp. ("Need someone to bring the campers to the lake?")

I remember my geology professor in college taking us down to the creek. We were supposed to be examining the limestone for fossils ("Look at that ammonite!") but I was excited to be jumping from rock to rock again.

Miami University sat only ten minutes away from Hueston Woods State Park, which quickly became my favorite place to go.

My friends and I would fish, skip rocks, go on drives, and watch the leaves change with the seasons. It became a daily ritual for me. It was amazing how close it all was, and how few people seemed to take advantage of it all.

We jumped in the water in the winter time and we would consistently be amazed both by how clear the stars looked at night and how many squirrels thought it was a great idea to dart into the backroads (Don't worry, we knew how to watch out for them).

My friend Grace came to visit my senior year of college. We knew where to go.

The two of us sat on a tree that had fallen to form a bridge over the creek. I thought of Terabithia.

She talked about how much she loved living by Lake Eerie. It was where she felt at home- her pond.

And we were listening to the birds chirping and the water moving. We heard a Rudy or two croak. I noticed the little raccoon prints in the mudbank, and purple flowers sprouted between the rocks.

If Grace was a lake, I was the creek. It just made sense.

I'm not sure if I have a thesis about the creek, other than the fact that it's one of the most magical places in the world to me. You go there, and you're not in Iowa or Ohio or wherever you came from anymore.

The creek is a portal. It just makes sense.

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