The river, too, is not something that can be owned. It is its own beast, wet and windy, and no matter our plans and our policies, it’s going to do what it likes.
Life along the river depends on the slow-moving, seasonal backwaters that thread through these riverside forests, now more than ever before.
I could feel at times the water, flowing beneath my feet, beneath the hull, could feel the slight resistance as the water split around the paddle: ah, yes: the river and the day came clear.
Out here—with my bed unfurled above the sand and below the stars, and listening to the wash of the water—to say I miss home would be wrong. Most of the time I feel that I’m home already.
Certainly it is more beautiful from afar than from within: from the river it is a stack of yellow lights, arranged in an array, reflecting out across the water. The reflections, I noticed, were cut by the riffles of the fast-moving water: and there, I realized, in the fast-moving river, was evidence of that otherwise forgotten past—and also the present, and also the future of this valley.
The willows budded overnight at our Birds Point camp; and today, finally, the water has warmed enough for me to take a swim. Clean and fresh—and awaiting campfire rabbit stew. Onward into springtime, with many miles to go.
I’ve known people that have chosen to live alongside rivers, in humble freedom, simply because they find it a better home. My days in this wilderness have taught me to sympathize.
There are many memoirs about expeditions down the Mississippi. None of them can be complete: Twain’s river, after all, is different than John’s; and the river traveled by La Salle and Marquette was different still; and the river paddled by Indian hunters and warriors and priests for thousands of years earlier was another place again. That’s just the truth in such an endlessly shifting place.