It was maybe the first or second night out from Lee’s Ferry and Howie told us a story.
When not running river trips Howie teaches high school biology. I can only imagine that the experience is magical and that his students love him. Howie knows a lot about biology and river ecologies. On one trip he was with some muckity-muck, a CEO or terribly busy business man. Apparently the guy had a hard time slipping into the rhythm of the trip: He was too stressed, too worried, too preoccupied. Whatever. He was spending time with Howie and was humbled by Howie’s humor, his calm in the face of catastrophe, his equanimity with whatever life threw at him. How did Howie do it? the guy asked.
They were lunching at one of the many tributaries and springs that tumble into the canyon. Howie gave the guy a pair of swimming goggles and walked him out to a set of small cliff cataracts and asked the guy to submerge himself in the water and to look carefully toward the rock. There, hanging on against the current were colonies of little creatures – that’s the thing about Howie – he can actually tell you what they are. I can’t, but there they were, these nearly invisible little things with heads and fern like fans sticking up from their heads. This species exist only here, Howie told the man. Only here. At this one set of rapids, on this one river, one mile deep in a three hundred mile long canyon.
Whenever I get worried about stuff, Howie said, I just think of these guys down here, unknown to the whole world, just calmly waving their antennae in the water.