Exploring new ways of seeing, new ways of being with an open heart and an open mind
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Life on the Mississippi, Redux
The mighty Mississippi begins its journey southward about sixty miles from my home. The Pine River, seen above, which runs along the northern boundary of my home is a tributary of it. The Mississippi is a part of my life story. As a child we would visit its headwaters, walk across rocks to the other side and then back again. We liked knowing we were crossing this river which held an almost mythical place in our lives. In the summer, when we attended Camp Jim (yes, Jesus Is Mine), part of our week long activities was a walk down to the river for a picnic and a few skits put on by the somewhat older campers. To this day I love crossing it as I regularly do living in this part of Minnesota.
Like so many other book lovers and river lovers I followed it through the life and stories of Mark Twain. What book-loving child didn't want to ride on that raft with Huck and Jim as they lived for a while in the freedom of the river?
I've encountered the river many times in my travels, as I've driven southward, and once had an opportunity to ride on a riverboat known as the Delta Queen, eating jambalaya, listening to a jazz band, and watching the lights come on in New Orleans as we moved down the river. It was calm and peaceful.
I've never encountered the Mississippi that is now bearing down on the delta at what looks to become record levels. Stories of flooding, of ruined homes and lives, were the things of news reports but it never touched my life directly. I felt sheltered from the storm.
When Hurricane Katrina hit all that changed. For the first time in my life I more fully understood the havoc that too much water and too little protection can wreak. Watching Justin Webb of the BBC return day after day to the body of a black man floating in the water with no one willing to retrieve it and bring it home left an indelible impression on me. It left me feeling angry and ashamed. I can only imagine what those who endured its aftermath felt and no doubt still feel.
Randy Newman's song about the Louisiana flood of 1927 brings up similar feelings. There's something so plaintive about his melody and words, not to mention his voice. He understands what living in Louisiana can mean at times, the sometimes harsh and bitter reality. Evangeline is a parish in Louisiana, and also a Longfellow poem which is where my last name came from. But, that's a story for another day.
Once again we are facing images of this river doing what rivers do. It means no harm. As with all aspects of nature one thing leads to another and suddenly everything changes. And breaches in levees is a story becoming all too commonplace.
My yard work is almost done, the wash is on the line and drying in the sun, it seems all is right with the world. But, folks in Memphis and all along the river are facing some very difficult times. I'm not sure I have the right to talk about their lives, the troubles they are facing as I sit here along the Pine River in relative tranquility. I do it, I suppose, because I need to know I will not let the troubles of those farther down the river seem too far removed from my own life. And, I do it for the man who was my neighbor downriver, whose body floated face down for six days in the waters that covered New Orleans back in August of 2005, a man I hope I will never forget as long as I live.
Here is Randy Newman and his "Louisiana 1927."
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Gave me chills. The tragedy of Katrina was the lack of humanity apparent in our society more so even than the devastation from the storm herself.ReplyDelete
Absolutely true, Corinna. I hope we learned something from Hurricane Katrina. Whether through flooding or hurricane,we need to make certain the victims of these disasters are treated respectfully and with compassion. Thank you for your comments.ReplyDelete
Such a moving post Teresa. I heard about the river flooding on our NZ news last night. Instant news keeps us all close these days. We watched in horror at the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. I love your memories of the mighty Mississippi River. I know it well too from the story of Tom Sawyer, read when young and read aloud to us in school, to stay forever in my memory. Prayers for all suffering from the spilling of the river today.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Joan, for your comments and your prayers.ReplyDelete
The Mississippi River is, of course, part of all our lives, not least on account of the challenge of spelling it correctly, but never have we been so conscious of it as in this very moving post. And it becomes even nearer when you write of it as so close to your home, of travelling alongside it and sailing on it.
But, like all water, it has its wild side. The damage that has over time been caused to life and property is very disturbing and we, like you, feel so dreadful about the fate of that one single person. For he was your neighbour, but he was also ours, and all of ours.
Jane and Lance, Yes, he was a neighbor to all of us. I think that's what is most important to remember.ReplyDelete
"Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline."ReplyDelete
the connections between us all are not lost to me, to us, even connections through names and pictures.
We're all neighbors, yes?
This is a moving post. Thank you for recognizing connectedness and community.
If you have been around the flooding it hits home hard to hear of others being beseiged by nature. I was out of my home for 4 weeks in 93, moving from sunny CA. I was told not to worrry it only happens once a century. In 2008 it came back, and after 2 weeks in a motel I returned to pack and move into town.I have written to friends in Memphis opening my home up as I did last year. I called my place the Do Drop Inn since it was a full house for a month as many friends near here were deluged with the same problem last year.Hopefully the perils down stream shall pass quickly.ReplyDelete
If only we would stand back a respectable distance and allow rivers to do what they do. I have one of those "stepping across the Mississippi" photos from the 1059s, and your post prompted me to look up the headwaters and first hundred miles or so of the river. I had no idea it had such a meandering path and so many rapids. Living in St. Paul I cross it often, too, and I'm looking forward to taking the grandkids to a nature center on the river. The Mississippi is important in so many ways, and it's good for us to feel connected to it. Great post.ReplyDelete
Neighbor! Yes, our connections to each other, to everyone is a very large part of my exploration of life and brings greater meaning to it. I know you have expressed the same. The synchronicities that we experience around this are always encouraging and affirming. Thank you for your comments. We are, indeed, all neighbors.ReplyDelete
Steve, It sounds like you've experienced something similar first hand. How great that you are able to provide shelter for people. Yes, may it pass quickly and with minimal problems.
Nancy, I agree, that the best course would be to stay away from building so close to rivers. I know they're a large draw for people, but rivers will do what they will and respect for them and all of nature would go far in helping this world and its people survive with greater awareness and their lives intact. In the past it was inevitable as the river provided livelihood and transportation and change doesn't come easy for most people. Thank you for your thoughts around this and enjoy that time at the nature center, a good place for kids of all ages, eh?
Thank you for your thoughtful and thought provoking post, Teresa, and a little Randy Newman brings it all home.ReplyDelete
As a young girl I read a book by Lois Lenski called Flood Friday. I no longer remember what state or river it was about, but, the devastation of a flood depicted in the book with folks waiting for rescue on roofs of homes and days and days in Red Cross shelters, a school in this book, stayed with me all these years.
It was with awe that I spend one day in New Orleans some years ago, and the next at with our daughter at the headwaters not too far from you. We hope and pray that these people are taken care of, rescued, brought back to a decent life at the end of this devastation.
East of Seattle is a wide valley that only has a water problem when there's a "hundred-year flood". People build in it anyway; I'm guessing they don't think they'll be living there in a hundred years!ReplyDelete
Penny, I recall Lois Lenski, as well, but not certain which books. I did a little research on Google and the book you mention takes place in Vermont, although she also had one set in Bayou country.ReplyDelete
From NO to the headwaters covers come territory! Yes, "brought back to a decent life," is key. Thanks, Penny.
Linda, Sometimes folks play the odds, but times have changed and what may have held true in the past is no longer a reliable indicator, it seems.
Good stuff Teresa!ReplyDelete
I love all that Mississippi history that I, too, grew up with. Of late years I've embraced the Missouri River because it runs right by us and I live so close now, to Three Forks. And I've always been a Lewis/Clark buff.ReplyDelete
Floods are so unhealthy too. All that mold is toxic and the smell never leaves a house. I'm soooo sensitive to mold.... one reason I hated Florida. The whole state smells like mold.
Manzi, I'm a fan of the Lewis and Clark stuff, too. I love crossing the Missouri as I head out west...
I guess that's why they call it the mighty mississip, with all that power of water behind it. Sad the lack of compassion in so many now and then.ReplyDelete
Sometimes the hundred year floods come two years in a row or more often that's for sure.
Hi Linda, There certainly is a great deal of power in rapidly moving water. The flooding seems to be happening more often.ReplyDelete
What lies down belowReplyDelete
Only God will know, flow river
To those down below.
Linda, People make decisions playing the odds and lately those odds have not been good for many. Others have land that they have lovingly taken care of and farmed for generations. The choices being made now by Higher Ups, who and what to flood in order to spare others, is galling and I'm trying not to be angry....ReplyDelete
Penny, I see my response to your comments have been deleted along with other comments and responses, so to you and all others who left comments that have disappeared in Blogger's problems, I did receive them via email and posted them and thank each of you for your comments. They are deeply appreciated.ReplyDelete
Teresa, when you are in this place, there are few writers who have equaled the eloquence of your prose. Some power chose to visit this realm and decided you had the eyes to see what needed to be seen and the words to say what should be heard. How very special you are. May I reprint this?ReplyDelete
Cletis. I am so grateful for the kindness and encouragement you give me. Thank you, dear man. And yes, I would be honored to have you reprint this.ReplyDelete
Cletis says it all. He truly does.ReplyDelete
I, too, remember crossing the river up in Itasca. It's something that really stays with a person. It's hard to imagine that such a small bit of water can cause such havoc thousands of miles away.
Thank you, Cheryl. Your thought is interesting. What starts as almost a trickle can gain such momentum.ReplyDelete