Amtrak's Southwest Chief comes gliding past the old ATSF depot, sounding only after the locomotives clear the building. I look away for a moment or two, thinking about traveling. When I look out the window again, the sun is glinting off the stainless steel of the coaches as the last of the train cross the trestles toward Illinois. I'm reminded of the silvery sides of a fish flashing as it leaves the water. only to disappear once again beneath the murky depths.
I can't shake an image of the river from a few days ago. For those of us who take the time to look and really see, the river wears a variety of guises. Although under the surface the condition of it's waters are a bit more stable, the surface of the river sports plenty of different "looks" that are formed almost entirely by the wind and sky. On the day I'm thinking of, the river was glossy. Now often enough, parts of the water do take on a glossy look. That's not really unusual. But this day the entire river was like glass—as if the waters were waiting for some unknown event. It was spooky—all the more so because this "look" is so rare.
The air was chilled and very still. Combined with the warmish water, the air produced a ghostly whispy fog that clung to the surface and penetrated your bones. I was struck by the fact that although I was experiencing dread or tension, another person could just have easily experienced calm and serenity while viewing the same scene. Life goes on at the Mississippi, which usually means that something or somebody is dying and something or somebody else is trying to keep living. That doesn't change.
Seeking solace or refuge in nature is a time-honored tradition in this country. Modern life can sometimes come with stresses and worries. For many of us in northern Lee County, the Mississippi river is one of the most visible and accessible features of the natural landscape. We come to the river with whatever mental or emotional baggage each of us is carrying—good or bad. The Mississippi, with its constant presence and changing moods, can remind us that good things may float or swim around the bend and into our lives at any moment. With patience and practice, we can learn to let the river claim the bad things and either wash them clean or take them away.