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Hand-Drawn Map

Updated: Feb 5, 2018

by David Michael Kirby

Und wenn dich das Irdische vergaß, zu der stillen Erde sag: Ich rinne. Zu dem raschen Wasser sprich: Ich bin.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name, whisper to the silent earth: I’m flowing. To the flashing water say: I am. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke “Sonnets to Orpheus” XXIX (excerpt) translation by Stephen Mitchell

Another long workday followed the Mount Olga sunset hike. I’m still surprised how long it takes to choose my photos, edit each one, then upload them to social media. (There was no nap like yesterday, either.) I finished earlier than the day before, but it was still late afternoon. I had no idea what to do.

It was hot and cloudy, hazy and humid with a chance of rain forecast. The apartment was warm and though I’m usually a homebody, I had a rare case of cabin fever. I made a cup of coffee and pored over my options, a stack of local tours created by the proprietor of the West Dover Inn, given to me my first day here. My intuition said waterfall, and I considered hiking to Hamilton Falls in Jamaica, but the driving time combined with the length of the hike dissuaded me. That’s when the hand-drawn map with directions to a secret swimming hole caught my eye.


I double-checked the mileage written on the map with Google, packed my swimming trunks and a towel, then headed for the hills. For most of the drive, I had no cell service. Even the Sirius satellite radio was intermittent. But it was worth it.

Even if you know where you’re going and what to look for, it’s easy to miss. I passed by the entrance and had to go half a mile up the road to turn around. The path off the road is invisible unless you’re looking at it head on, but it’s a well-worn track to the pool at the bottom of the falls. I hoped to be alone, but three others were already there. (If I’m being honest, their car on the side of the road helped me find the trail.) I took photos and video, chatting with Pasquale who was introducing this secret spot to his friends, a couple visiting from western New York. He told me this is definitely a local haunt; he only learned about it shopping at D&K’s Jamaica Grocery. He encouraged me to walk up a slippery path beside the falls to a spot where the river breaks into three falls flowing into a whirlpool before churning through a natural sluice that becomes the larger falls emptying into the pool below.

I made the climb and can confirm it’s more slippery than I expected. I shot more photos and video before disappearing behind a tree to change into my swimsuit. By the time I returned to the pool below, Pasquale and his friends were gone. I had the swimming hole to myself.

I waded across the stony shallows, into the clear, bracing water before taking the plunge. It felt amazing! The shock of cold wore off quickly and I began paddling about lazily. The water is so clear it’s difficult to judge depth. I swam around, listening to the roar of the falls and various calling birds.

When I tired of swimming, I sat in a small pool, the river flowing around me in a constant gentle massage. The sun broke through the clouds, illuminating the treetops and filling the swimming hole with a glorious green-gold glow. This was meditation at its finest, a communion with nature I didn’t know my soul was thirsting for. A gift.

I remained there, in the water, for over an hour. Once the light shifted and the glow faded, I made ready to leave, giving silent thanks for the benediction I received here. I also promised myself I’d return before my Vermontime assignment concludes at the end of the month.

Ich rinne. I’m flowing. Ich bin. I am.


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