(Editors Note: Composer – and good friend – Eve Beglarian has developed an obsession with the Mississippi River: especially the impact of the river on the development of American culture. She recently embarked on a year long odyssey traveling the length of the Mississippi River by kayak from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. This is the first in a series of journal entries about her River Project).
Yesterday each of us took a turn on Lake Itasca in the new kayak: wow, a totally different experience than the recreational kayaks I’ve used in the past. sort of like how a powerful sportscar is different from my beloved father’s honda accord: it responds to every move you make, so you better decide the moves you want to make! the paddle is really great, too: light and sized for my hands. I’m amazed at how much easier it is to move through the water: ninety minutes of paddling felt nearly effortless and I’m not at all sore today.
I paddled up to the actual headwaters and then drifted among the grasses and lilypads to see if I could feel a perceptible pull to transform lake into river. It’s a funny thing: Lake Itasca is just a northern lake like a thousand other northern lakes: for the duck family or the loon I passed as I paddled to the headwaters, this lake probably doesn’t seem charged in any particular way: but we have a whole story, we ALWAYS have stories, and I really enjoy picturing this circle of lake focussing into a line, a directed stream that will grow and amass into this incredible, powerful river. And I think of my friend RIck in Pittsburgh, and how “his” water will join this water here, and I realize it’s just simply impossible for humans NOT to lay our own narratives on nature. it’s just what we DO. to whatever degree I can, I will avoid sentimentalizing this journey, romanticizing it; but there’s absolutely nothing I can do to avoid humanizing it, and I wouldn’t want to if I could.
I have to tell you I was really moved by that loon. my mother joycie’s favorite bird. very very excellent to see her as I start out.
there was an article in the NYTimes the other day about hammocks as an alternative to tents, so at REI the other day, I picked up a “Brazilian” hammock with a mosquito cover, and I have been sleeping in it every night, with a tarp over the bottom half so I can look at the trees and stars when it’s clear but scrunch down a bit and get out of the rain whenever I need to without getting out and adjusting the tarp. It rains on and off all day and night here in Itasca: Mac pointed out that 20% precipitation means just that: not 20% chance of rain, but it’s gonna rain 20% of the time.
I LOVE this hammock and totally recommend it to any of you campers out there: forget the tent and the sleeping pads and all that! A little hammock that fits in a stuff sack the size of a softball along with a sleeping bag and a tarp for rain are all you need!
Watching the woman filling water jugs at the campsite this morning I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of years women have been carrying water. (why women, I wonder? water is seriously heavy!) but anyway, there she was like the model of the type, leaned over the source (a faucet, not a stream, but still), willowy, her hair shadowing her face, and the water so fresh and clean and new. she turned and I could see her, and she was younger than I had placed her, she had seemed so calm and implacable filling her jugs, I had figured her for a woman who had finished raising her children.