Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Mississippi Musings

I''ve been fascinated with the Mississippi River since I was a child. Growing up in the Panhandle of Texas, the only river around was the Canadian River, which even on a good day, is a slow shallow wading place. The stories from Mark Twain, a spelling bee story that helps one remember how to spell Mississippi, and of course, the songs - Ole Man River from Showboat and Mighty Mississippi by New Christi Minstrels. They've both been in my head all day-even after we left the Mississippi River area.

We first saw the Mississippi at New Orleans where it is bound by city river walls, cruise ships, and buildings. Later we've crossed it at Natchez, Vicksburg, and Memphis on cross country trips. We've taken the short river boat tours around St. Louis and Hannibal. But one year we were lucky. We'd been at a convention in Minneapolis. We got to take our time and go down the Great River Road, sometimes on the east side, sometimes on the west. One of the favorite places we found was Big River State Forest north of Oquakwa, Illinois. There is a wonderful campground right on the banks of the Mississippi. You can watch the river barges right from your front window. (Yes, we ALWAYS park facing the river here!) Last fall we got to stay there 4 or 5 nights as I was working on a photo submission and needed time to stay in one place after our Chicago visit. (Two blog entries: Life Along the River and Life Lessons from a Riverboat)

Henry's latest story is set in Oquakwa, so after the St. Louis convention we made the drive up to drive around the town and make sure he had his details accurate. We checked out our campground, but with no electricity it was not a reasonable choice in the summer. So we stayed at Delabar State Park. This morning I went out for a walk. I need my nature time.

I saw cute little gray birds in the brush piles on the edge of the playground. My binoculars had a bad case of the foggy lenses from the cool temperature in the RV to the high humidity outside. I saw some kind of wren. I read the poster about not bringing Michigan wood into Illinois due to emerald borer. Then I headed over to the boat ramp.

As I approached the ramp,I thought I could hear the engines of one of the river tugs. There was an island between me and the main river channel. I waited, hoping to see it pass where I could see the channel, but no such luck. But in that waiting time, I fully enjoyed my surroundings. Two great egrets and three or four great blue herons fished for their breakfast. Some unseen bird had the prettiest fife like song. Occasionally some big (and I mean big) fish would flop around near me. I caught a glimpse once of a scaly back. I saw a big monster dragonfly dart by and small brilliant blue dragonflies hovering over the water. I got to watch a couple of young men unload an air boat and take off for an expedition on the water.

I pondered at how greatful I was that we do get to experience this great river. And it truly is one of the great rivers of the world. I thought about what it would be like to live in one of the houses here and experience the river throughout all four seasons. I dreamed about having a boat so I could explore the islands and see the migrating water birds in the fall and spring. What would it be like to work on one of the barge tugs going up and down the river as your life's paying job? Wouldn't it be nice to actually take one of those cruises that starts at the upper end of the Mississippi and takes you all the way to New Orleans?

Life is short . . . there is more to see and do on God's beautiful world than any one person can ever do. Henry and I are lucky . . . we get to do more than most. But I can certainly dream about a lot of different things that would be fun to do! This time we only get to spend one night in this area . . . we've got to be back in Austin for a science fiction convention this weekend. But I find myself wishing we had more time here. . . .

Sitting along the Mississippi banks and soaking it all in is truly one of life's simple pleasures.

No comments: