Alone on our boat: a day on the Baise

Near Agen, France, Late October 2012.

Alone on our canal boat, we plied the waterways of the Garonne Lateral Canal and the Baise River from Agen on the Garonne to Nerac on the Baise in late October of 2012 and it was a wonderful time to do so. Both are often surrounded with crowds of heavy growths of trees, small forests of oak, chestnut, ash and other shouldering in, fighting the wild roses, the ivy, the ferns for a favored spot.

Of course there were the towns along the way, stops for a wander, a footpath, beautiful stone, ancient mills, shops and restaurants honoring tradition, locality and a love of food and wine—the stuff of our dinners. Their names evoke little poem memories of our watery trail: Agen, Serignac-sur-Garonne, Buzet-sur-Baise, Vianne, Lavardac and Nerac. We slid through canal locks, past weirs, rushing water channeled to the side, and slipped away from one town and towards the next.

Along the banks fishermen of the sporting variety have carved small platforms into the earth— place for a chair, a rod rest, a solitary spot to fish and think and drowse. At other places, the red and yellow tiles of rooftops signaled a farm, a village or a town.

At the legal limit of seven miles an hour on the canal–five on the river—there was time to observe, to settle into river rhythms, to do some fisherlike thoughts myself, to more closely catch the changes of the season as autumn finally exhales after breathing in the last of summer’s greenery.

Now the yellow, auburn, red and brown leaves start to curl into themselves, fall and flutter like summer’s last butterflies, settle on the dark water and wash to an eddy. A soft, sweet mold of decomposition is in the air. The air is still warm in mid afternoon and the reflection of the sky is a bright band centered on the waterway, lined by the dark reflection of the crowded trees, and the darker shoulders of the trees themselves. Here and there a light breeze stirs small silver ripples.

A blue heron breaks from the bank and flaps over the trees. The green headed mallard takes a longer course, churning his webbed feet on the smooth water, building speed to take flight down the long, straight runway of the canal. The black and white magpie flies from branch to branch seeking company and the blue gray pigeons swirl like the coming rain.

Jazz starts our day piped from the iPad through the onboard sound system–always Dee Dee Bridgewater’s “J’ai Deux Amours” love letters to France first. The croissants have been fetched from the boulangerie, the coffee has been brewed, the lines are cast off, and we again slip from shore alone on our boat and into another watery reverie. C’est c’est bon.

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