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Illinois River at Flood Stage

53. Another Day on the River 

 

Awake at dawn,
I dreamed of catching a silvery bright crappie flopping on a cane pole.
Showered, shampooed, shaved, shit, then sipped coffee.
My work day started with a hike along the high bluff
above the Mississippi
with 22 teenagers,
serenaded by a dozen bird songs,
tasting wildflowers and talking tree tales.
We sat on an Ordovician limestone bench
perched atop an Ordovician limestone cliff
watching the broad muddy flood waters roll past
300 feet below.

I told them a tale, The Song of the Mountain Lion,
tying together the stratified strands of natural history
weaving ancient tribal lore
with the legends of John Muir
and my personal story of facing mortality
and finding purpose,
in the jaws of a mountain lion…
needless to say, but I will say it anyway
I live to tell the tale.

Back to the riverboat and my buddies,
with 137 passengers we floated with the flotsam and jetsam
down the flooded Illinois River into the turbulent Mississippi.
O’ Captain, my captain
a little frantic with the ever changing flow.
Though most folks say ‘they are just along for the ride’
we all wish for this extra skirt with disaster.
Though few admit it, we all seek
to ride the edge of danger,
to see the river at record flood stage and
ride the fast current downstream
avoiding the jagged edges of broken logs
that can and have broken the boards on the paddlewheel,
feeling just a little more than just alive,
truly
awake.

With the calliope whistling,
and a banjo strumming,
the engines humming,
and the good folks telling me jokes,
buying me drinks,
the adventure doesn’t get much better than this.

Even the traffic snarling bus ride to the shuttered museum
and vacant strip mall
was made bearable with the cold beer
and warm friendship of fellow riders
waiting in the stunning art nouveau lobby of the hotel.

Sushi and seaweed salad for supper,
more convivial conversation with bourbon afterwards,
before a dreamless night’s sleep,
before embarking on just another day on the same ol’ river…

…let us see what adventures we can create
on this new birthing day.

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