Rivergator #003: Letter to Jesse Blackwell
It's great out here! Truly something special. I have lots of thoughts, plans for work after the expedition, and even more. I can fill you in about all of this from Clarksdale, where we stay for a multi-day respite and resupply, mid-April.
Speaking of, do you want to meet me in Clarksdale? Apparently there is a great blues festival in Spring, wherein 20,000 folks flood the streets, bars, and that tiny town. It is called the Juke Joint Festival - any interest? It seems to suit you, your interests, your availability. Just a thought.
Amanda is joining the trip for a couple days around then, as fortune would have it. The time away from loved ones is hard, knowing she is alone in the home (1 BR apartment) we've made (rented). But she is well supported with enough to do, from work, friends, and her fiber arts. Have you seen her crochet! Boy, can she sew and tie knots, turning them into real things. She outfitted every window with a curtain, a bedside rug, work aprons, hand-embroidered hats, and winter booties, to boot! I miss her dearly.
Just this past weekend she celebrated her 26th - golden - birthday. Seeing video of her surprise party brought a tear to my eyes; a cohort of friends drove to Maine from The City, and our friends in town all helped make it special.
Anyway, we hit New Madrid, Missouri tomorrow. We paddled 40 miles today, from 7am - 2pm, with one 30 min stop for lunch. We are now landed on an island that only came into being 10 years ago. How novel!
It's a calm, wild, sandy beach with a young willow stand that feels like a modern condominium complex. Carefully placed patches of dead willow leaves atop flat white sand; wind quietly rushing through the green branches - an owl cooes in the background. Driftwood John keeps talking about the 'wilderness within.' I believe it. The Wild!
I found a washed up piece of Barge rope (coincidentally New Orleans Saints colors, for you fellow sportsman) I'd like to combine with my camp ax, driftwood, and some ingenuity. And from these things, I endeavor to make a found object camp stool! My lower back aches and I need to practice my posture.
It would behoove me to keep the craft mind young, nimble, especially because I won't have the good fortune to attend another Craft School workshop this year.
According to Amanda, and her good senses, I ought not go away for six weeks, and then depart for one or two-weeks at a time throughout summer. She is correct, yet again. You are not surprised.
Today we spotted a lone wood duck, perched (briefly) on the top of the Mississippi, halfway between Kentucky and Missouri. Mark River commented how sad he felt for the duck, he should have a mate at this point he says! He is probably a runt, too small for a female he says! Mark river says a lot of things, and I believe them, yet.
In addition to the wild plants, the birds are particularly of interest. The pelicans have the most graceful flight. When they soar in flocks, their wings, black-tipped, in contrast to their stark white, play tricks on the eye. It's as if they disappear, silhouettes no longer in sight. Suddenly, all return to view, emerging from thin air, quite literally. Just two or three days ago, before arriving to the Ohio River, we saw a mating vortex of pelicans in the sky. The males were picking their mates, or so it seemed. They traveled together. I like when couples and partners travel together, don't you? I think we travel with our girlfriends just wonderfully!
And the eagles. There are so many eagles. We have to stay 500 yards from their nest, which is the legal limit. I am glad there is a limit, it feels right.
I haven't had time to write, as we've been busy finding camps, paddling ad infinitum. I hope to be better about it.
Please send news on your end, I miss you, too.
In service of the Mighty Misssissippi,
PS: I am going to make those bacon cornmeal pans cakes soon, I will report favorability in the next letter.