|Deep in the woods of the Dragon Run, mystery and beauty entwine. For some forty
miles near the headwaters of Virginia’s Piankatank River, the Dragon’s
swamps, streams and marshes embrace a wilderness unparalleled on the Chesapeake.
Gossamer bells dangle from the pink stems of fetterbush, and the buttonbush
bloom like tiny supernovas, translucent spears of light shooting from their
bright white centers. Bald cypress trees loom from the water, their massive
trunks as wide as eight feet. Mistletoe clumps in the treetops, and turks cap
lilies flame like a thousand orange suns against the rich green of the wetland
forest. Otters slide through the dark water, beavers build, ospreys and eagles
soar and keen above. So removed from reality is this place, so magical and dense,
you might not be surprised to find an elf flitting among the shadbush. Or perhaps
a sprite tucked into a kayak, her bright blue eyes quick, her camera and sense
of wonder at the ready.
Teta Kain is not a photographer by profession. Nor does she get paid much,
if anything, for pursuing any of her other varied passions as an environmentalist,
birder, moth and butterfly watcher, writer, publisher, public speaker, kayak
tour leader, amateur herpetologist and botanist, sky-diver. But this is a woman
who, given the option, will run—not walk—down the stairs to her
office in pursuit of some thought or another. A woman who decided upon turning
sixty-two to use her Social Security check to buy kayaks and to pay to jump
out of perfectly good airplanes.
|This story is an excerpt from Window on the Chesapeake by Wendy Mitman
Clarke. To order this book, visit the Mariner's Museum.
Now sixty-five, her list of volunteer work for groups including the Friends
of Dragon Run, the Virginia Society of Ornithology and the Chesapeake Bay National
Estuarine Reserve is three times as long as most CEOs’ resumes. Petite
and compact, she bubbles with energy and excitement, salting it with a quintessentially
Yankee bluntness delivered in the flattest of Maine accents. The license plate
on her red Chevy Blazer—the one with the red kayak strapped to the roof—reads
She wasn’t here long before she heard about a place called Dragon Run.
“When people hear the name, they never forget it,” she says. Situated
in the middle of Virginia’s Middle Peninsula—deep in farming and
timbering country—most of the Dragon is so remote that large swaths of
it are barely touched by humans.
This is what Teta Kain wants people to know when she takes them on kayak trips
down the Dragon, or spends night after night hunched in her little kayak, prowling
through the darkness listening to the owls and peepers and racoons, photographing
frogs and spiders, turtles and minks, and other shy denizens of the marshy forest.
…“I’m not a real shoutin’ conservationist. Never have
been,” she says. …..[But] if I can show them though my slides and
programs that something is beautiful and worthy, then maybe I’ll start
a fire somewhere.”