Cylindrical holes carved into the bank at Fall Creek in the Willamette National Forest bustle with tiny lifeforms. Erin Tierney/The Creswell Chronicle
I spent last weekend puttering along at Fisherman’s Point in Fall Creek, a spacious campsite made full with friends, crackling firepits and the sound of clinking bottles.
When morning crept in, we crept out of our tent and sought a quiet spot to drop a line and reel one in.
We fumbled our way down the bankside and walked to the water’s edge. We plopped down the tackle box and took a look around us. With the water low enough to reveal some of the creek’s secrets, suddenly we were surrounded by a natural phenomenon.
Deep, cylindrical depressions carved into the rocky ledge by the forces of nature created little poolsides along the creek. These rock-cut basins were formed from fast running water and rock swirling in a vortex, aided by perpetual erosion.
Inside these water-carved holes were little self-contained ecosystems. They were thriving with life, particularly tadpoles. I watched them wiggle around a while – their little premature bodies swishing along – and it took me back to when I was a tadpole myself.
I grew up on the side of a sloped mountain in Pennsylvania. A section of the Appalachian Trail was situated just a couple miles up the road. Across the street was a ski area, which grew more and more robust each year, until skiers could be seen on the newly formed trails from just out our living room window.
It was a beautiful slab of property, surrounded by woods and hidden paths. I’ve always had a fondness for water, and I think that fondness was first cultivated there. A creek (or ”crick,” depending on which Pennsylvanian you’d ask) ran adjacent to our house, which I’d splash and slip in often. I’d rearrange the rocks to contort the flow, flip rocks for crayfish and follow the flow downstream into the deep woods.
Admittedly unapologetic about property lines, I spent a lot of time gallivanting on my neighbor’s property as a child. Kerzi’s property was through the woods quite a bit, downstream from my home. It was his vacation home, so he wasn’t there much. Part of me thinks I was just so very stealthy that I went undetected all those years; the other part thinks that he knew but didn’t care. Either way, he never said a word.
What always attracted me to his property was his pond, and in particular, the contents of his pond. Sometimes alone, sometimes with my brother, I’d walk around the perimeter of the water, methodically stepping as to prompt creatures to scurry out to the sidelines.
There were always armies of tadpoles swimming along the pond’s edges; I loved trying to find them in their varying developmental stages – from tiny butts and tails, to little hindlegs, to forelimbs, to full-fledged frogs.
As I sat creekside last weekend at Fisherman’s Point, I might as well have been sitting at the ledge of Kerzi’s pond. So much time has passed, so much stress on the brain, so many other things to remember, but these are the kinds of things I choose to remember.
It’s curious which memories boomerang back, which ones float to the surface after years of being filed away undetected. I haven’t been to Kerzi’s pond in over a decade, nor have I thought about it for nearly that long.
My brain tethered together these two quiet moments in my life – all I needed was a couple of pollywogs in the Willamette National Forest to wriggle my memories loose of a Pennsylvania backyard.