Salt Creek is dirty. Everyone knows that. As I laboriously handled the paddle, having never manned a canoe before, I was significantly more concerned about appearing capable at the task than about absorbing my surroundings and arriving at some ground-shattering conclusion.

I have become numb. As we wade through a cocktail of empty soda cups, mysterious bundles, and lifeless birds, I know not how to construct the persona of the alarmed environmentalist. We duck to avoid the menacing branches aimed from above, and find solace in sensing, at least for a moment, that we all sit in this space of guilt and exertion.

What have I done to contribute to the thick, dark slosh that has become the essence of this creek? Or rather, what haven’t I done to assuage this?

On my way to the classroom on this vibrant winter afternoon, I nonchalantly strolled past the extended hand of a homeless human. “I don’t have any cash,” I blurted thoughtlessly. And like him, a dozen others stood about, placing their hopes on the brittle, passing characters that deny them eye contact.

To be in this canoe, then, and observe first-hand the effects of neglect of a part of our history, of a part of our natural space, is hardly a novel idea. We have been relentlessly trained to overlook. I am relieved to have to address the direction of this vessel, and to rest the unease on a few jokes at my expense. It would be difficult to confront the reality of this moment. I try to trivialize the muck with a lighthearted comment about my general incapacity for steering. I can’t feel a thing; or rather, I am afraid of what it would mean for me to feel.