“I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and most interminable and, to the citizen, most dismal swamp. I enter a swamp as a sacred place,–a sanctum sanctorum. There is the strength, the marrow, of nature.”
–Henry David Thoreau
In Janisse Ray’s Drifting into Darien: A Personal And Natural History of the Altamaha River, she documents a week-long kayaking trip on “Georgia’s Little Amazon”, the most powerful river east of the Mississippi. Darien is located on the Georgia coast about 40 miles south of Savannah.
Janisse Ray is the author of three works of nonfiction, Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land, Wild Card Quilt: Taking A Chance on Home and the bestseller Ecology of A Cracker Childhood. Ray wrote a book of poetry titled A House of Branches, and served as co-editor of Between Two Rivers: Stories from the Red Hills to the Gulf.
In Drifting into Darien, Ray writes about the 120 rare or endangered species that can be found on the basin of the Altamaha. She speaks out against the Hatch Nuclear Plant on the river. A naturalist of the highest order, Ray provides a detailed history of the Altamaha, ecological changes through the decades and her own observations during her week-long ride on the river.
Her prose depicts vivid images of the environs, but this paragraph from Drifting into Darien captures Ray’s true spirit: “There are three things nobody, nobody, wants to live near, and they are mountaintop removal, a coal plant, and a nuclear plant. All three of them will kill you. They may take a while, but they will murder you dead as a doornail. Your sweet life with its milky white cups of coffee in the mornings and its perfume of four-o’clocks at nightfall will be cut short long before your time.”
Drifting into Darien is an amazing book. I agree with what Bailey White wrote about Janisse Ray: “Every endangered ecosystem should have such an eloquent spokesman.”
You can read more about her in Insured Beyond The Grave Vol. 2.