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The Sedgeunkedunk Stream


The Sedgunkedunk is a stream located in Orrington Maine. It is the singular waterway that connects the Penobscot river, to Feilds Pond, and Brewer lake beyond. I am often curious as to the meaning of the peculiar sounding, Native American name. I once asked a Native friend of mine as to its origin, to which he replied: "White man came and dumped their junk." 


Knowing he was joking, or maybe half-joking I thought it very clever of him. I then discussed it with another friend of mine, a very creative, and forward-thinking woman, who also happened to be a native of Orrington. She said perhaps he was right, and maybe the literal translation is, "Smith's Junk", -Smith is the name of one of the Pastors of the "Smith Meeting House" located in East Orrington, as well as his estate adjunct to the Sedgeunkadunk. I thought that to be hysterical! My apologies to the respectable Smith family, I if I have offended any of them, I had the honor of delivering their newspaper as a boy, and they always tipped well.


I am very familiar with the portion of the Sedgeunkedunk that passes through East Orrington. Here it snakes along a wide sedge meadow, that is lined by series of Birch, Alder, Maple, and various, tall pine trees, that border a large descending field. This is the field of Meadow View Farm, where I spent my youth, and have later returned to live. 


This stretch of the Sedgeunkedunk is surrounded on both sides by large areas of wetland marshes. Growing here are vast amounts of sedge grass, water lily's, both white and golden, as well as numerous patches of Bulrushes,(Cat-Tails), cranberry bushes, and legion other types of wetland flora.


During the summer, I have greatly enjoyed my practice of painting the pink translucent petals of the white Water lily population, with my watercolors, while sitting in a canoe. At another location, Upon the ridge of the field, halfway up the hill I often sat painting the brilliant viridity of the undulating treeline along the banks of the field. 




 During the Fall and Winter, I have picked buckets of glistening crimson red cranberries while floating in the canoe or walking on the ice. Many hours of exultation were spent skating on the black ice of the winding, frozen stream, or the vast, open, tundra-like area of the silent, winter landscape before me.


 On one winter expedition, I tied Jag, our Norweigian Elkhound on a long length of rope, as he pulled me forward on my skates I basked in the awe-inspiring scenery. Jag plummeted ferociously ahead, running steady to the sounds of cracking ice being made beneath us. We would continue for miles like this until we'd reach the Brobdingnagian vastness of Feilds Pond. Upon the arrival of this unbearably icy, and windy domain we immediately began our return to the more hospitable region of the Sedgunkadunk. For the return trip, I would now have to pull, Jag back over the foreboding sounds of the cracking ice.



During spring, summer, and fall canoeing with the company of our enthusiastic Elkhound's was a preferred way of traversing this majestically verdant, and pristine waterway. While I immersed myself in the unique habitat, I'd let the elkhounds jump out of the canoe, to do there own exploring. One particular disturbing memory was when "Luba" the female Elkhound returned to the canoe with a duckling in her mouth.



 Trig, another male elkhound usually spent all his time relentlessly digging atop muskrat homes that populate the stream. He would alternate from barking loudly, to sniffing the intense smell of musk, and then proceeding to dig, repeating this cycle over and over until we returned home.


Once, while exploring I encountered a pair of Common River otters, swimming alongside the canoe. The elongated sinuous body streamlined into the dark ebony water beside me. I gawked at the elusive sensuality of their wet, leathery pelt. Unhindered they disappeared, flush beneath the saturnine waterway. 


Wildlife was so abundant along the Sedgeunkadunk that at any moment one would hear the loud ruffling wings of a lone Blue Herring taking flight, or the flop of a large fish jumping out of water. Upon looking in the direction of the plopping sound, all to be seen was a resonating series of circular rings echoing on top of the liquid ceiling.


One memorable outing was canoeing with my “naturalist" of a neighbor, June. As we reached the small floating island halfway down the stream, she encountered the presence of a very small spotted turtle. June picked it up, and gently rejoiced in her delicate acquisition. I new all turtles in these waterways were threatened and endangered. I also felt this one has such a magical, and unfettered life swimming in the depths of the Sedgeunkadunk, that I felt we should appreciate it and then return it to its bliss-full existence. So I asked her to put it back, with June lovingly did.




In various attempts to escape my prying curiosity, small flocks of Golden Eye Ducks, upon my approach, would immediately take flight as I  arrived in the eye-sight of their sacred habitat.  As they bounded into the air, a loud flutter of wings was heard and then a high, sweet whistling noise lasting several seconds until they relocated downstream, or upstream.


 I have always been in awe of this stunning species of duck, with their acute sense of alertness, and insistence of privacy from humans. I could never really get close enough to then document their splendor with a photograph.


Perhaps the most distinguished, pertinent, and tenacious, year-long resident of the Sedgeunkadunk is the Osprey. On the stretch of the stream that runs parallel to my parent's property this large raptor once nested.


I have witnessed Ospreys many times circling high above the stream. While scanning for fish far below, they seem to hesitate and hover mid-air while flapping their wide wings in slow motion, and then immediately, and definitively plummet, headfirst into the water to catch their prey.


Occasionally I am astonished to see a large pickerel captive in the snare of their talons, as the Osprey victoriously beats its massive wings against the water's surface until they are air bound again, and return to their nest to feed their mate, and young.


Ever too often, I am diss-concerned by seeing the failure of such a grand venture. I wonder if they will go hungry, at least for the time being, until they are triumphant again. For the Osprey to survive at these odds, they appear to me to be the ultimate example of perseverance.


Ever too often, I am diss-concerned by seeing the failure of such a grand venture. I wonder if they will go hungry, at least for the time being, until they are triumphant again. For the Osprey to survive at these odds, they appear to me to be the ultimate example of perseverance.




As a youngster, not a summer went buy that one of my siblings or myself did not encounter a snapping turtle. My Father used to capture large ones, and bring them home for us children to examine, he would teach us of their awesome strength, and danger. For this lesson, he would hold a long, study branch next to their neck, at which the ferocious prehistoric-looking turtle would snap at, and break it in half. Hear my father would say, "That could be one of your fingers If you were stupid enough to try to pick him up."

Sounds of Sedgeunkedunk

"There's music in the sighing of a reed; there's music in the gushing of a rill; there's music in all things; if men only had ears." -Byron


The sounds emanating from the habitat aside the Sedgeunkadunk change greatly with the seasons. In winter one hears the harsh rushing of the winds, the cold whispers of zephyr, or the innate, impregnable silence of the surrounding frost. Soon that reassuring silence is broken by the ruthless fracturing of ice.


When one walks upon the hardened snow, and ice a distinct crackling sound is heard with every step. I once took a video of my toy Pomeranian, Foxy, alongside the company of her wolf-like companion Jag. Foot-loose and fancy-free they both ran on top of the hardened snow, along-side a frozen, floating island that stands midway through this expanse of the Sedgunkadunk. When I play it back I am mesmerized by the sound of steady, constant crackling of snow being crushed underfoot.


On a less formidable winters day you can hear the chirp of chickadees, the up, and down notes of the Cardinal, and constantly hesitating peck and drumming of the Woodpecker, and the kawing of the local crows. A word of warning from the cautious Crow, "Never should one attempt to cross the frozen stream, there is a constant flow to the running stream, which melts the ice in the center rather quickly."


As winter comes to an end, and the ice melts in the center of the Sedgeunkadunk flocks of the bashful Golden Eye return. Again, as I cautiously approach with my camera in hand, they replay with circumspect splendor the whistling flutter of wings to avoid my presence. Ernest Hemingway refers to this sound as "the ripping of silk" in his novel "Old Man and the Sea". I love that description, as being a silk painter I have ripped many, yards of silk in my time.


On winter evenings you can hear the haunting rendition of the Bart Owls "who cooks for you?", repeated soulfully, over, and over as other types of owls, trill, and screech along. I am no expert on Owl hoots so I can not really tell you who's hooting who. 


Often I am woken up from deep sleep, to hear the unbashful, constant, and loud repetitive yipping of a pack of coyotes, announces to nature that they have made a kill.


At daybreak, in Orrington I often awake to the lovely ascending "oooOOOO hoooOOO hoooOOO" of the Morning dove, only to be interrupted by the loud jeer of a Blue jay.


 As spring evenings arrive there is one all-encompassing sound we all know. The spring peepers. Many are the night that I lay in bed, washed into to sleep by the constant "peep peep peeps" permeating through the air from the mating call of these melodious tree frogs.


In the summer all types of songbirds are heard, singing, and chirping away. There are so many, and they so well know and appreciated by so many, that it would be redundant to list them all here.


 I will focus on one outspoken citizen of the Segeunkadunk. The Red-winged Blackbird. Earnest is the sound of the cool crescendo from this thoughtful bird. My youngest sister once made a recording while standing beside the edge of the Sedgeunkadunk, a definitive noise rising above all the other chatter of summer birds, was the watery warbling that this bird imbues.


With the arrival of fall, my favorite sound to be experienced is that which one hears when startling a family of grouse, or other game birds in the bushes. The overwhelming sense of urgency that is made by their drumlike, fluttering of wings, rushes up before you, in what seems like an attempt to capture the sound of eternal struggle.