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53. Another Day on the River

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, 




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.