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Why don’t I write you anymore? A reflection of my history on this river…

By Oconee Joe

Why don’t I write you more? Tell you of places, stories, and faces along the Oconee River shore. Why can’t I open the door? Take you through history, lost timelines and new mysteries, downriver for the Grand ol’ Tour…  

​​Long after the Great Appalachian-Caledonian Range had fallen down and slowly began to wash into the sea, mega-beasts and leviathans rose and fell with the ocean levels. Until the waters froze up and finally began to melt again.

​​From Farmers to fishermen, back to gatherers and hunters. Slaves and freedmen alike. Solstices, Equinoxes, and the Sun back in forth between the horizons. Women and men who knew the land, birds and beasts, plants and herbs. All who worked the river’s resources to harvest, to harness, to thrive. Sturgeon corralled and stabbed with lithic spears among the Big Shoals of the Oconee. Trade routes by water and over the ridge lines between them. Across the interlocking watershed’s of Georgia, the entire Southeastern U.S. riverways, and the connecting North Atlantic sea currents. From the Ancients in long dug out canoes to the lumber rafts and cotton barges, the paddle wheelers and steamships of a hopeful river flow and fair winds and follow seas. Many boats from all time periods of Humankind are still submerged under the waters and sands of the Oconee. Will I ever see them? Will I ever be able to tell you about them? Vast networks over the North, Central, and South American continents. Overland, some of these routes ancient in origin, connecting back to the great migration paths of Pleistocene herds and the hunters that first followed.

Why can’t I open the door? From whirlpools in spaces, and a billion different universes including our very own believed to be tens of billions of years old itself. I found myself drifting this past year. Flinging out and coalescing matter seen and unseen into the creation of our spiraling Milky Way Galaxy. A small yellow star ignited and swirled away from its nearest nebula and with it took enough girth of gravity to grab clusters of gas and dust that made bigger clusters of rocks. A nebula of eternities, gas giants to goldilocks-systems, and finally gravity-rock formations. At last a molten core of magma began to spin around an electrically-magnetic charged core.

​​While our baby red dwarf star enticed together the third clod of rocks away from other masses, a pale blue dot formed of frost and fire 4.5 Billion years ago. Gods cast down Titans as a smaller rock cooled and followed as a satellite of the bigger after the terrestrial impact with it’s parent planet. It’s gravity further helped pull, bend, and melt vast deposits of frozen waters.

​​The Moon swirled the Earth twirled and their celestial dance in the ballroom of the Solar System began.Ozone was trapped and wrapped around this wet rock. With both the Moon and the Sun’s influence, Earth continued shifting and shaking with sea levels rising then falling, freezing and melting. An everyday thunderstorm, a spark, a fire, a Divine Finger hit Play on Its Greatest Hits Album, but simple cells began to reproduce… Life was created through processes we still debate and contemplate. Alive things lived. They grew. They adapted. Alive things died. By the Trillions… most of all Life has gone extinct since this old world started spinning…

Many folks wouldn’t like those odds…. But Ol’ Joe thinks there’s still a chance for us… Because not all life has yet died out…  So the cycles of Life continued on all while the Crust of the Earth broke, and moved, sunk, and uplifted.

One time the plates of Earth’s Crust collided and formed a super continent. Pangea they call it. This collision formed a mountain range that ran longer than the Andes, and Higher than that of the Himalayas. We know them as Appalachians of today… Elsewhere in Morocco they are the Atlas Mountains, in Scotland they are the rugged Highlands and the Scandinavian Caledonians in Finland. Perhaps that is why my Scotch-Irish-Anglo Ancestors felt so at home here, in the Appalachians, when they too migrated into these North Georgia hillsides of meta-volcanic weathered rock. It is Gneiss. It is indeed nice. Whatever it may be, the rock was once granite.

Pangea too finally broke and moved and this Mountain Range did too. The Appalachians were formed and the geologic time periods of erosion created ridges, gravity pulled rock and water broke stone… soil gave away and together the mountain began to kneel down to the sea. In carving that route the Oconee River was formed during time out of memoriam.

Waters rose and fell. The animal kingdom expanded and shrank… Volcanoes spewed, Asteroids impacted… Life crept along… seeking out and finding… forgetting, and finding again all the corners of the Earth…

Pleistocene Ponderings. It has become my belief that by 50,000- 65,000 Years Ago (YA) Humans were most likely breeding on every corner of the Earth. Evidence such as the Topper Site nearby on the Savannah/Broad River Watershed, (The Oconee’s neighboring river shed, just one drainage hillside over to the East) suggests a Pre-Clovis site at least 20,000 YA…

But never get lost in the mileage of time. The When, Where, Who. Faceless Ghosts upon the waters. Generations, cultures and clans. The earliest evidence for North America being populated by humans is hard to fathom when 21 Million Acres are under water along the Continental Shelf… Including our geologic Georgia Bight… and an estimated 70 Million Acres submerged Globally. Evidence might be found at Gray’s Reef, an ancient hilltop now under 65 feet of water not far from Darien, Georgia and the Mouth of the Altamaha… the waters of the very same Oconee River that I write you from now. I do hope all is well back home… Earliest evidence in Oconee is from about 14,000 years ago. One site that confirms it locally to Athens is at the Barnett Shoals. Clovis,  Simpson, Daltons, and Transitional Paleo were found. Could they have been chasing migrations at the end of the Pleistocene? Depending on the season, might they not have been chasing a migration not just on the hoof but on the fin as well? A once a season inland fish feast. Did epic Atlantic (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus) and Shortnose Sturgeon (A. brevirostrum) once make spawns all the way up to Barnett Shoals, in Athens, Georgia? The last Atlantic Sturgeon known to have been caught there was in 1936 by Doctor Rowan Elder and Fred Hughes…

I am just the latest Weirdface Ape (H. Sapien Oconeensis). Washed by the tide onto another strangeland… In the Beginning… it was hard. Incredibly hard. To understand myself as just a moment in an infinitely flowing river. That I am still just in the same place all other Weirdface Apes have spent searchin’ and cussin’, losin’ and lovin’,  going nowhere just driftin’ through time… And when your days all start spinnin’ in circles the years become a dizzy haze and you get only maybe 64 good years on a little wet rock twirlin’ around in space. I feel it in the rain, I taste it on the air of each passing season… I see it in ants… I see it on the Six O’Clock News… My time is finite…

So much natural and human beauty to pass on before the collective memory of our times here along these waters haze and dissolve into oblivion…Everyday I fear I’m closer to that Eternal Dark. Concrete keeps creeping and clutches of orange cones continue to hatch, yet too many days I still piss away my time in these here bottomlands. The ecology, archeology, and history of The Oconee River, and all the waters connected beyond…

Why can’t I express it to you? Articulate it. My small voice caught deep in my throat. A heart frozen from the fire of life. My chances to spend with you, like falling leaves onto a swirling stream… Never to come back… Am I spending my days staring at the river from the bank? Watching as golden leaves float by… I fall in only to find myself swept so far from my day’s of youth I no longer see the child waiving back from upstream. The time when I knew no pain long gone. I have flowed on around so many bends just trying to find the calm behind any eddy line. But I still feel like I’ve just been born… In these waters, every time I feel like I am reborn. Like an Eastern Pondhawk Dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis). I climb from the muddy waters once again and molt…

Epiphany followed by doubt and fears cycle me back into darknesses of the past year. But that is another story for another day. One that involves floating down river to spend a few nights alone under a bridge or two. I can tell you that too much reflection inside one’s self, all by one’s self, is never good for the soul. We are evolved for the most part to be social creatures for best results at a productive life. Of course there is much bad in this world of ours. I’ve seen much and learned more. But I have met more people over the rapidly passing years and my mind is full of so much good that I have seen in life.

The places, stories, and faces from all walks of the Earth have come to float with me along this Oconee River. They have given me their history, their timelines and new mysteries, and keep sending me back out for another Grand ol’ Tour… But how long can I keep paddling these same ol’ waters knowing now that just because folks know your name doesn’t always lead to fortune. But a legacy and not a fortune was only what I ever wanted to make.

I don’t want the fame that brings confusion from talking loud when you ain’t got nothing to say. There’s a certain way to paint your own picture, to add the light and acknowledge all your shades. You only get one boat ride down Time’s river. And you’ll never taste the sea until you’ve already reached the delta. Let go of the upstream and realize what was left behind is never coming back. Remember that you can’t stop long to ponder all the mileage. When what’s ahead is hidden around a bend. So here we are caught floating only in the current. With the present course the only one to make. I journey on… so come along, and see that freedom flows, wherever we continue to sing the River’s song.

About Oconee Joe:

Eternal Student of the Oconee Land and Waters.

He has lived along the Oconee River for over 10,000 years. The River is his Mother, the Land his Father. You can continue to read about Oconee Joe, his guided trips, and explorations along our local river, here on Classic City News.

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