Love Letters to Water

Mar 5, 2019 | Members, Recreation

See Wisconsin’s waters through the eyes (and words) of River Alliance members and friends. For this year’s Big Share day of giving, we’re featuring your “Love Letters to Water” submissions.
— Dedicated to the rivers, lakes, and streams you love.

Enjoy the letters below & DONATE TODAY to protect Wisconsin’s waters.
All gifts MATCHED dollar for dollar, for The Big Share!

The Vernon Marsh, and the Fox River running through it, were the backdrop of my youth. There I learned how to explore, how to be independent, how to live in the elements. I caught fish, crawfish, turtles and snakes with my friends. I skied on the dikes overlooking the marsh with my family during winter. I watched my brother fall through thin ice and somehow drag himself out of the water to safety one November day. I am eternally grateful to the folks who created the marsh, and to my parents for allowing my unsupervised adventures there.
– Nick Wilkes

My brother works overtime
for the state
(border security)
still, he finds time to
torment me,
has tipped me out of rafts,
has stolen sunglasses, books, a phone –
if I retrieve them,
they are ruined.
he once tried to kill me,
pinned me under a dock
in the soft mud –
but –
he lifts me up
on languid summer days
to float on my back,
drifting, watching
bald eagles
and cumulus clouds
against a cobalt sky
I will fight
this cancer
that seeks purchase
in his marrow,
I have no medicine
but words.

(For the Menominee River)
Jill Melchoir

Favorite spot is the old iron bridge on the Yahara River in Dane County between lakes Waubesa and Kegonsa. The Thrun’s, as most farm families of the early 20th Century, smoked and pickled fish. My dad recalled how, after the evening milking, they’d load an old boat in a horse-drawn wagon, fishing with kerosene lantern late into the night. I began fishing there about 1959. Pa talked farming with the old guy who lived there. I played with his old collie Laddie. They talked about tobacco and other crops, as well about the last deer was seen. We used cane poles for bullhead and sunfish.
– Thomas A. Thrun

The Lake Winnebago and pool lakes system, so much to do and so much to see! From kayaking and sailing in the summer, to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on the frozen lakes, watching the eagles and ospreys, woodpeckers, herons and cranes, all give us reason to treasure our waterfront property. We have cleared invasives, constructed shoreline anti-erosion barriers and planted natives, all aimed at helping our part of this system to continue to be the wonderful resource it is. 
– Valerie Stabenow

To the West Fork of the Kickapoo:

We noticed immediately that you were swift north-to-south, but we didn’t know how fast you could move up and down and east-to-west. Then came eleven inches of rain. You grew massive. You foamed, you whirled, you blew out fences. But between the swells, you run clear. You’re deep pools and riffles. You’re sustenance and home to myriad creatures who bring drama even when you don’t—eels that nip, trout that jump, otters that romp. Better a flashy river than a sluggish one. Better a lively habitat than a stagnant channel to make us stop and take notice.
– Tamara Dean

“Let’s paddle the Badfish,” I said, “It’s so close and we’ve never been on it.” And so we did. The water was a bit high that spring day, rushing noisily over rocks under the bridge. The current caught our canoe and swept us around the first bend, past damp grassy meadows and shrubby shoreline, past high banks topped with big old oaks, under an ancient, low-slung farm bridge where we had to duck. Riffles and pools, gravel bars splitting the creek. Songbirds everywhere, a red tail hawk soaring overhead, a heron fishing in the shallows. We were entranced.
– Lynne Diebel

Spectacle on Great Bass Lake

Paddling in the kayak, I approach the shallow bay.
My stroke creates a ripple through the water lilies.

Hypnotized, watching
on lily pad ballroom floor
dragonflies hip hop.
– Susan Twiggs

Dear Michigan Rapids of the mighty Peshtigo River, I stumbled upon you while exploring a new area of Wisconsin, a secluded corner of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Armstrong Creek. Your fairy forests, moss-speckled stones, toadstool totems, and river otter runs stole my heart. I have dreams of your water’s passage, of swaying in your cedar bows next to your chickadees and nuthatches. Thank you for your grace, your presence, and especially your beauty. I shall bring generations to your shores and give offerings in your honor.
– Joshua Dodge

I slept so well last night…and you were so quiet, until the first rays appeared and the cranes set off Nature’s alarm. I rolled over and there you were, right next to me, right where I wanted you to be, the reason I want to be here again, ready to discover you again. The curves…places where we’ve come together, old places becoming new places again. Ready now, knowing you are ready, I slip from the shore and, we settle into the rhythm, you and me, together, old places, new again, new again, new again. Ohhhhhh, I’m back with the river…
– Lindsay Wood Davis

Black River,
Driftless periphery, fringe between
ancient basalt furnace blast with true grit granite
and hardwood conifers whose soft hills
yield sandstone outcrop rock.
A taste of north in the central west, home to wolves and elk
and Ho-Chunk, beech, birch, white pine and spruce,
even an orange moose.
From a little lake in the Chequamegon-Nicolet
to the big muddy above La Crosse, along the way
secret slips inside canyons and ravines or trips down tributary creeks,
then finally a floodplain maze. Riotous waters to quiet ease,
I sleep beneath the stars on my sandbar oasis
blissfully free.
– Timothy Bauer

One of my first intimate experiences with Wisconsin was going “up north” to Lee Lake. My now fiance shared with me his love for the lake and how his family cherished the lake. I began to fall in love with the lake, him, and his family. I felt sense of belonging in this special place. The lake now means family to me and it is a place I want my future children to love and cherish.
– Hannah Fisher

Koshkonong Creek. During the past 20-years our monitoring team has been working in the waters of this creek. We submit data to WAV ( WI Water Action Volunteers) from May until Oct. Sometimes it’s cold like 37-degrees, too hot, raining, or flooding, and then those mosquitoes trying to get us. We continue all these years and have learned to love the little Creek and its personality.
Janice Redford

I gaze upon your deep red hue with an envy, a sadness, excitement, and fear. There is a gravity that guides me closer. Your touch, all at once, has an ancientness – like I’m the first one to ever be there, and a familiarity-like I’ve been here before. You’ve had terrible trials and tribulations, and a part of you will never be, ever again. But you carry on, as if unscathed.

My heart is racing. There is a current flowing between us, and at times I struggle to keep my feet grounded. But I can’t fight it-I will go with the flow and explore all you have to show me.

You are the Wisconsin River, I am a fly fisherman: and the smallmouth are biting.
Matt Oehmichen

My husband and I traveled to northern Wisconsin back in 2012 to canoe the Brule River. What a beautiful place. The waters were so clear that you could see fish swimming below us. My favorite part of the trip was where the Brule met Lake Superior. There was this expansive opening with birch trees and blue sky in the foreground. This must be what heaven looks like.
– Lori

The Wisconsin River flows between the shores of Juneau and Adams County, offering many easy entrance places for canoes and kayaks that I enjoyed for many years. Launch from your campsite at Buckhorn State Park or from one of the county parks, and enjoy paddling while seeing kingfishers, eagles, roiling carp, and many water birds. I try to return every year to see and smell the beautiful American water lotus. I applaud the work of the Petenwell-Castle Rock Stewards in reducing the algae buildup in this river.
– Elaine Stecker-Kochanski

Our Lake home is called “Early Dawn”.
“Why?” You ask.
In mid-summer on a clear day,
Early rays of sunlight puddle at the boathouse door,
Reflecting off of Mamie Lake halfway across the island,
Through the windows,
Shimmering on the southern and western interior walls of my bedroom,
As a glow of orange ascends/surges in the east.
It’s time to rise.
I crawl from bed.
Down at the boathouse,
The flop of a bass stirs the water;
Waves gently wash. A ground squirrel darts from darkness.
And I begin a new day;
Born of beauty and life.
– Robert H. Wills