Acquaintances become new friends. New friends become old friends. How does one cross from acquaintance to new friend? At what point does a new friend become an old friend? Is one even aware of crossing the lines? Each time we entered civilization on our trip, we encountered many acquaintances. If we stayed a length of time in a town, a few of those acquaintances becomes new friends. Over the last couple of days, some new friends have become old friends as we revisited two of our civilization stops on the Wabash River – Clinton and Attica, Indiana.
Yesterday, the last day of August, we traveled to the home of Mark and Kathi Davis just outside of Clinton, Indiana. This time we traveled by car instead of boat. The weather was warm and sunny instead of cold and rainy. We drove over the bridges of the Wabash River instead of under. We wore street clothing instead of our river clothing. We talked about memories of our trip instead of the anticipation. Even though many parts of our trip yesterday and today were different, we sat at the same table and talked for hours just as we had a few months ago. New friends became old friends.
Traveling home, we decided to take a short detour through Attica. We were able to meet with Mayor Shepherd and officially thank him again for being part of our story. Without his kindness, we would not have had a safe place, protected from the wind, to camp.
After thanking him again, we visited another friend – The Wabash River. The Wabash River has been an acquaintance for years, as we frequently drove over it on the bridges near our home. I believe the river became a new friend as we left Fort Recovery, Ohio on April 4, 2015 in our kayaks. Day after day we spent time with the river and soon knew it intimately. Today, in Attica, I realized the river had become an old friend, whom I miss terribly.
Driving to the river, we passed the McDonalds we had walked up the hill to (everything if uphill from the river), the CVS where John bought his pillow (He stills swears it’s foam and not a pillow. It certainly looked like a pillow to me.) for his kayak seat, and other familiar landmarks. I was surprised when the tears started to flow. We spent only one night in Attica, but the time there was part of our life-changing journey.
As we approached Canal Street, I saw the pavilion with the picnic tables where we had eaten lunch a few months ago. Has it really only been months? It seems more like years. Did we take the trip or was it another couple? Passing the pavilion in our vehicle instead of on foot, we continued to our camping spot. John parked the car. As I opened the door and climbed out of the car, I walked reverently as if I were walking on sacred ground. I was walking on the same ground another LaNae Abnet had walked. This other LaNae paddled from the headwaters of the Wabash to the Ohio to the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. I had watched her, but she was someone else, not me. She was my friend.
Many months ago, as we pulled our boats up from the river, we were trying to retreat from the wind. I remember turning the corner and noticing how the trees protected us. Today I rounded the corner, looked at the spot where our tent once was, and in it’s place was a fallen tree. I realized how close we are to tragedy every day. Do I thank God often enough for His protection?
The last stop was the river. I think we had both had been stalling. What do you say to an old friend you have not seen in four months? I looked at the river and longed to leave the banks and return to that familiar friend. The water was lower than it was when we had paddled through, creating a new expression on an old friend’s face. I walked down the boat ramp where we had pulled our boats out of the river one day and returned to it the next. I cried again. Will I spend time with this old friend in the future? I probably will paddle short distances closer to home, but will it be the same? Will I feel cheated when I pull the boat out at the end of the day, knowing I won’t be returning the next?
I have noticed as I drive over the river on bridges, it is no longer an acquaintance but an old friend. How does one cross from acquaintance to new friend? At what point does a new friend become an old friend? Spending time together!