Tim Kaine, who WILL be our next governor in Virginia, sent those on his email list a wonderful piece that I think all here should see.   Since it is not copyrighted, I will offer the entire text below the fold.   Since the letter is complete in itself, I will offer no comments of my own.  And since the words are all his, I will offer no tip jar.

I do think it worthwhile to recommend this diary so that others will have the opportunity to read what Tim Kaine has to say.  

Dear Friend:

Happy 36th Earth Day! As we celebrate our commitment to protecting the natural beauty that defines Virginia, it’s a good time to reflect upon what drives us to fight for these special places. My motivations always go back to my kids. We love to spend time on Virginia rivers canoeing and camping together. The opportunity to share this with my kids strengthens my resolve that they should be able to share it, years from now, with theirs. Last summer, after a week-long river trip, I wrote this article:

A Week on the Shenandoah and Rappahannock Rivers

By Tim Kaine

Henry David Thoreau’s first published work described a boat trip he took with his brother John on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers in 1839. The book combines travelogue, natural history and religious and philosophic inquiry. Its strongest features are a profound love for the beauty of those New England rivers and an extended meditation on friendship, inspired by John’s death in 1842. It was John’s passing that motivated Thoreau to dust off his journal from the trip and start writing the book while living in his hand-built home at Walden Pond in 1845. The book barely sold during Thoreau’s life ? hundreds of the original one thousand copies that Thoreau paid to publish were returned to him after the public showed no interest.

Thoreau’s book, thank God, has lived. Its passages, and boat trips from my own childhood, taught me that beauty and friendship thrive on the rivers of our country. Canoeing, setting up camp, fishing in the early morning hours and roaring campfires have become an essential part of my life and now part of the life of my own children. There is no finer place to get away from the noise and rush of daily life than on the rivers crossing our Commonwealth.

Last year, I convinced a group of neighborhood dads, to come away for the week with kids to explore great Virginia rivers. Seventeen of us traveled to the New River near Blacksburg for 3 days on the New and one of its tributaries and then finished the week with three more days on the Maury and upper James. The trip gave our children a chance to bond away from the city. Dads spent quiet hours with their children in canoes as we alternately drifted and fought our way through whitewater. And, late at night, we dads who see too little of each other around the neighborhood found that river trips are as conducive to building friendship now as they were for Thoreau nearly 170 years ago.

This year, we took a growing, nearly 25, on another week-long trip on Virginia rivers. We chose the Shenandoah and Rappahannock rivers, two beautiful streams wrapped in history. The plan was much that same as last year ? spend long days exploring scenic waterways, catch some fish, and build bonds of family and friendship. The water was a little lower, the fishing a little better, and we came back again refreshed and struck by the singular beauty of our state.

We broke the week into three segments. First, we spent three days canoeing the South Fork of the Shenandoah as it carves its way through the Blue Ridge to join the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry. On day four, we broke camp and moved over to the upper Rappahannock, stopping to climb Old Rag Mountain along the way. For the last three days, we canoed on the Rap between Remington and Fredericksburg before returning to Richmond. We were never more than four hours from home, but it felt as if we were miles and years away from our daily routines.

Many sharp memories stand out: the fantastic campsite at Andy Guest State Park on the Shenandoah, the comical array of lures and jigs that we brought to coax smallmouth bass out of both rivers, the amazing underwater rock formations on the South Fork north of Luray, the pleasant Tuesday evening at Bing Crosby field in Front Royal watching college players in the wonderful Valley Baseball League, our teenagers showing us whitewater rodeo moves at Bull Falls near Harpers Ferry as the more nervous dads portaged around he toughest rapid on the trip, a mother bear and two poodle-sized cubs blocking the ridge trail up Old Rag for 15 minutes, healthy bald eagle populations on both rivers, including a nesting pair taking flight before our eyes near the confluence of the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers, the kids setting up a dinner assembly line on night with chopped vegetable and meats that we each packed into foil and threw on the fire to cook, the hole recently blown in the Embrey Dam in Fredericksburg to give fish access to ancient spawning grounds, just as Thoreau predicted would happen as he came upon similar dams near Lowell, Massachusetts so long ago.

Other memories are less sharp but even more lasting. Just as last year, the time spent with kids away from television and computers, just drifting, fishing and talking. Dads who catch pleasant minutes together in only scattered occasions over the course of the year now spending hours talking and laughing around the campfire. Our cumulative awe at the natural splendor we inherit in Virginia and the growing understanding that we have a part in maintaining it for the next generation’s dads and kids who will seek the same pleasure.

We will come back again and again, to camp by the river, to see it new each morning and hear its quiet voice long after dark has descended. Waking in the middle of the night, the river is there. Thoreau and his brother experience it this way:

Whenever we awoke in the night, still eking out our dreams with half-awakened thoughts, it was not until after an interval, when the winder breathed harder than usual, flapping the curtains of our tent, and causing its cords to vibrate, the we remembered that we lay on the banks of the Merrimack, and not in our chamber at home. With our heads so low in the grass, we heard the river whirling and sucking, and lapsing downward, kissing the shore as it went, sometimes crippling louder than others, and again its mighty current making only a slight limpid trickling sound, as if our water-pail had sprung a leak, and the water were flowing into the grass by our side. The wind, rustling the oaks and hazels, impressed us like a wakeful and inconsiderate person up at midnight, moving and putting things to rights, occasionally stirring up whole drawers full of leaves at a puff. There seemed to be a great haste and preparation throughout Nature, as for a distinguished visitor; all her aisles had to be swept in the night, by a thousand hand-maidens, and a thousand pots to be boiled for the next day’s feasting; –such a whispering bustle, as if ten thousand fairies made the fingers fly, silently sewing at the new carpet with which the earth was to be clothed, and the new drapery which was to adorn the trees. And then the wind would lull and die away and we like it fell asleep again.

Tim Kaine  

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