With A Twist
A shimmering moon considers its daily retreat as the sun rises over the tips of Oregon evergreens. A lifeless body hangs like a rag doll suspended in the air above a fast-moving river. A dark cocoon-like bag can’t contain the contents as limp arms dangle at each side; the legs extend forward and start to slide out of the dark plastic container like newborn larvae. The right leg, with an odd and disjointed appearance, broken and bruised, hangs lower than the left. Only the bag and stretched skin hold the naked form together. First, at the pace of a sloth, the body slips from the bag and falls toward the water’s surface. Then, as if landing from a catapult toss, the battered flesh crashes into the river’s water, which envelops and surrounds. The river, unable to hide the unexpected intruder for any significant length of time, expels the human carcass toward the surface, guiding it to settle in the rhythmic flowing motion of the river’s cadence. The neverending pulse of rock-pounding whitewater carries the body for a time before moving the flesh-bag toward the shore.
A bald eagle soars with the attentive promise of a new day inspecting the river and its banks. Ignoring human flesh, bobbing, and weaving with the whitewater, it thrusts its feathered wings back and forth with compelling finesse; the assertive bird moves westward, level with the tree-line on the water’s edge. The white-headed hunter shows little interest in a black-tailed deer. Searching for a morning drink, the deer edges toward the bank of the river’s edge. Moving its head, eyes in constant motion, protected in theory by a mixture of Douglas fir, pine, scrub oak, and madrone, the black-tail is on continuous alert for predators.
A playful, furry, otter glides in a continual fluid motion moving through the water. Discarding the finished remains of a Rogue River ringed crayfish, the carefree mammal swims upstream, passing the body with feigned indifference, in search of its next course. Battered but not beaten, scores of chinook salmon move their tail fins in search of rebirth. They make their arduous life-ending return, passing under the cold and clammy flesh of death of a different kind toward their birthing stream, hoping to restart the cycle of life. A great blue heron, the only animal on the river, paying significant attention to a dangling body, lurches upward with awkward gracefulness as it flies a short distance downstream before finding its next fishing spot, away from the bag of bones.
Upstream from the deer, atop a massive granite rock outcrop on the opposite shore, lumbers a furry thick-coated black bear. Guarded by the noise of the water crashing against the rocks, the bear climbs down and enters the water unnoticed by the black-tail, now drinking with a life-sustaining effort at the river’s edge.
With massive power and surprising grace, the enormous bear makes its way toward the deer. An osprey, from among the tops of the evergreens, screeches then crashes downward, plunging into the water then, with powerful wing-strokes, makes a triumphant exit with an exhausted chinook. Two other ospreys shriek in envy as they chase the successful hunter, hoping for a mistake and their next meal. The deer, startled by the crash of the bird, raises its head only to see a fast-approaching enemy, then bounces, springs, and catapults itself back into the dense safety of the evergreens.
The bear, agitated by the loss of fresh, warm meat, sees a less appealing but adequate meal floating nearby. Moving with purpose across the powerful force of deep, dark-green water, the bear, in seconds, reaches the body, twists its head, and grabs a lifeless shoulder. The bear pays no attention to the screeching osprey as it drags its new food source from the water. Looking around, as if it were a child caught sneaking dessert before dinner, the bear pulls the body farther ashore before stopping to inspect its find. Licking the face, moving the black hair to the side with its tongue, the bear shakes its head back and forth before growling, a low, almost inaudible sound of disgust. With its left paw, it scratches at the body, trying to peel back flesh in search of warm blood. It sniffs the naked skin of the neck, licks again, and then shakes its head, trying to cleanse its tongue of the dissatisfying taste. Not far removed from chinook appetizers, the bear lumbers back upstream, leaving the body hidden among the grass and ferns.
The pulsing whitewater of the Rogue River crashes against entrenched boulders as it works in a constant rhythm of relentless polishing. As the liquid life slides around the rocks, it gushes forward in its continuous search of the Pacific. The sun rises above the tips of the windblown evergreens, turns up her heat, and brightens the river’s banks. The sunlit cycle of hectic and peaceful beauty in Southern Oregon begins again—today with a twist.