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Ferrying the Wicomico

This is a piece I wrote while vacationing at the Whitehaven Hotel (in Whitehaven, MD). The inn overlooks the Wicomico River. Directly in front is the Whitehaven Ferry that daily ferries vehicles across the Wicomico. 



The ferry slowly slowly churns the water as it hauls its passengers over the slow moving Wicomico. Cars sit buoyed on the floating parking deck. A steel cable emerges from the murky water as the ferry approaches the landing. Disembarkment occurs with a small dip from metal ramp to asphalt incline. A flurry of activity on the calm waters of the Wicomico.

The ferry operator, an overweight and slightly balding man, steers the vessel back and forth. His cell phone held with both hands on the convexed mid-section that serves as his abdomen. Monotony, routine…boredom has removed any zeal for his highly important job.

The osprey cries out in the distance, almost like a laughter from nature at the banality of a boat carrying passengers who never go to sea but simply cross the same quarter-mile of the Wicomico again and again. The passengers on either side of the river dictate the trip frequency. Different passengers. Same river. Same ferryman.

The ordinariness of the moment comes on the coattails of an extraordinary feat of two sides of a river now connected by an ordinary ferry. Bridge connections are static but a ferry connection is dynamic. The back and forth across the Wicomico forms a bridge of metaphor. A ferry and a ferryman connect busy people with two sides of a busy river.

But for two to three minutes, in which your car is turned off and the parking brake is on, the ferry and the ferryman create a sacred pause. The birds and insects sing. The marshland emits a pungent aroma. A saltiness hangs in the air. The churning ferry and tubby ferryman connect us in more ways than one on the slow moving Wicomico.

-“Ferries,” 8/8/17

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