A monologue as unstoppable as a river…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a simile from Ben McGrath…

I was serious about canoeing as a young person. The high point of my life, when I was 16 years old, was an 80-mile canoe trip around the Bowron Lakes in Northern B.C. The route was physically demanding. It involved two long portages, both near the beginning of the 10-day trip when my pack weighed 65 pounds. In those days they didn’t allow canoe carts so we also had to “walk” our canoes by carrying them above our heads.

The lakes — there are 10 of them — are extraordinarily beautiful with pristine waters, waterfalls and snow capped mountains. Even better, motorized boats are not allowed and access is controlled (you have to register about a year in advance) so you didn’t see too many people.

Captivated by canoeing at such a young age, I’ve retained my interest in it and my husband and I own a canoe that we use whenever we can, each summer. Perhaps it’s this interest that drew my attention to a Dec. 14/15 New Yorker article by Ben McGrath headlined, The Wayfarer: A solitary canoeist meets his fate.

The story of Dick Conant — a mentally-toubled ex-Navy man who spent two months living on his boat on the Hudson River — McGrath’s article described his apparent final days. Conant’s capsized boat was found by police in November 2014 but his body has never been recovered.

McGrath had met Conant some months earlier, on the Hudson,  and had interviewed him. The story of their meeting, which he recounts in the article, offers a particularly apt simile:

If you asked Conant about his experiences on the country’s waterways, he would grin sheepishly, pause, size up your listening capacity, and then let go with a monologue as unstoppable as a river.

Conant sounds like a person who had a tough time with life. Did he commit suicide or was he done in by some people who didn’t like him? We’ll likely never know. But his story would make an excellent novel.


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