I am camping at river mile 624.5 of the Upper Mississippi where I landed in Clayton, Iowa with plenty of evening in front of me. It was a beautiful day paddling and made more remarkable when I witnessed a juvenile Bald Eagle sweep from a riverbank woods without knowing I was there. It aimed at a spot in the water about ten yards from my kayak bow, glanced at me quickly as it dropped to the water, and swiped the top with its claws. He soared quickly upward with a fish in its feet as if he was mimicking a drawing of the way to do it. Not much later the same bird was chased from its perch by a smaller pecking bird. I’ve wondered if the fish meal was eaten before the eagle was run off.
During the lovely day, my mind was on a subject that some of you have brought to me. I have been asked about my writing. An additional common suggestion is I make a book. Of course, that others feel this about what comes from me stirs a good feeling. I very much appreciate being appreciated in this way. Questions about this writing have caused me to ask myself the same.
I have written like this only one time before nearly twenty years ago when I was forty-eight. My grandson was born and it became evident I was to raise him. After being together his first two years, I adopted him so he became my son, I his mom. Each day while he napped, I wrote a story about our family, where we took root, how things went as we spread out in northeast Iowa, and some of the things that happened to us or because of us. In the end, I had eleven chapters that brought us to his birth and that day I was sitting there writing as he slept.
I don’t know why I wrote or how it came from me. I had not written anything before besides academic papers, letters home, and a few grocery lists. It must have been a moving time that pulled the words out from a place I didn’t even know. Now here I am again.
Paddling down a powerful river alone, camping at night in new places all in the name of hope for humans to change what's in their hearts, again in much solitude. Is it alone time and lots of it that can take a human to unknown cells and molecules inside? Or is it what is outside that does it?
The surprise arrival of an infant needing a mom, or the depth of water stretched out in front for miles - both bring hours of wondering about stillness and movement, and the fight that surrounds me in both the infant and the river. Deep thinking about how things will turn out are ever-present in both. Just like the infant, I wonder every day what it will be like when I look back at this river trip, years from now, knowing its outcome.
Also with both infant and river, there is a certain powerlessness for the end with little say how it all will go. Initiating huge things but having only partial effect is like being just a crumb on a cake. There is much responsibility and little power ever experienced.
Someone asked me when I do this writing. I observed myself and realized I write only when a feeling to do it comes over me. It’s not a feeling I force or wait for, it just arrives. It’s then that I am able very quickly. I’ve used keyboard and smartphone and, today, a dollar notebook and pen.
This writing has caused me to connect with you out there at a time I’m otherwise indulging too much solitude. The connection is life-giving as we hear about things together and gain a deeper understanding of this river experience.
This river trip is more than numbers of miles paddled or speed of wind. It’s beyond the direction that wind comes. While a southern wind is worse for me than a northern, it doesn’t draw us closer or deeper to talk about that.
I have so much gratitude for you all, reading, commenting, appreciating and being moved with me. It is an unexplainable experience. Thank you for bringing it to me like this and living the river along with me.
A couple items of note:
-My grandson is twenty now, a college student, and a lovely person. His other grandma moved in and we raised him together. That’s how that turned out.
-I would enjoy responding to comments but Wix has set up commenting so it’s easiest as an anonymous guest. I’m not certain you’d receive a reply if I made one. If you want to leave your name or email, or use mine firstname.lastname@example.org, I will respond.
-Tonight my back is toward train tracks about sixteen yards behind my tent. The river is splashing on the shore about ten yards in front of my tent. The train has roared through three times since I landed, screaming its horn each time. The water sound is softer and more constant. It is bound to be an interesting night.