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rivers and mystery

May 20, 2011

I was thinking about the Mississippi River today, since I was born into the Upper Mississippi region [07] of USGS’s HUC system. I’ve crossed the river multiple times — on our way to points west (Albuquerque,  Oklahoma City), and northwest (the Twin Cities) — but I don’t recall ever feeling any sort of connection to it. Probably because I’ve not walked beside it, and developed a relationship with at least a small part of it.

I remember long drives south and southwest along Interstate 55 toward St. Louis, where we crossed the river and picked up Interstate 44. I’ve ridden the oddly-sideways elevator ascending the Gateway Arch multiple times. But until today I did not realize that there is an Illinois state Fish and wildlife area of 24,000 acres along  the Mississippi River, less than 70 miles NNW of St. Louis. I wonder what I could have seen there.

My parents don’t care much for wildlife or wilderness.  My mother became an avid photographer when I was a child, but all her photographs contain people. When I asked her why, she said a photograph with no people is pointless.

I rarely take photographs with people in them.  Photographs without people, for me, pull me into the landscape, where I fit seamlessly. I relive my experiences there (or imagine new ones). I belong outdoors in a way I rarely feel with other human beings.

And yet I am a human being, not a tree or a rock or an endangered Delmarva fox squirrel.

And my sense of where human beings belong in a landscape is in flux. I think I’m starting to become a landscape ecologist. I have all these nebulous ideas about how humans can coexist within our ecosystems without destroying the planet, but they haven’t coalesced yet. I can say that I think we need to change our relationships to our fellow organisms, and also change our sense of what roles we really play.

But I’m glad to be human, in ways I wasn’t when I was younger. Human beings look at the night sky and contemplate galaxies and our origins as “star stuff.” We appreciate and sometimes love creatures far unlike ourselves. We create art. We seek to understand everything around us. We want to do better than we’ve done in the past.

These days I find being a human being a hopeful thing.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. laura heron permalink
    May 25, 2011 02:50

    I thought you may have miss this on the slacktivist thread of doom, but i am a lurker and i read comments on the slacktiverse and have for years, and you are one of my favorite posters. I was surprised when you said you felt as if people ignored you, as i always enjoy your posts, and think that they contribute to the conversation really well. this lurker would miss you if you went. I would comment, but by the time i think what i want to say someone else says it 🙂

    • May 25, 2011 15:32

      I’m delighted to hear someone likes reading my comments!!

      From talking to other Slacktivite commenters, almost everyone felt (as a lurker)
      there was no need for them to say something, since other people were more
      eloquent. But as you comment more frequently, your “voice” evolves and other
      people look forward to hearing from you, because you’re insightful or funny or
      pithy or something wonderful. I’ve met so many interesting people there!

      I hope you will comment so we can learn who *you* are.

  2. Gela permalink
    May 25, 2011 15:50

    I’m following you over from Slacktivist where I have just today started to speak up a little…. I wanted to say that I really appreciated your encouragement there. 🙂

    The quoting of “star stuff” made me think of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGK84Poeynk and if you haven’t heard the song already, I think you might like it. It seems very connected to your topic in this post (and it gave me chills the first time I heard it!) 🙂

    • May 25, 2011 16:44

      Every Slacktivite, no matter how established or popular ( or unpopular come to
      that) began as a lurker. And probably a lurker who thought everyone else was
      much more eloquent. Some people are very eloquent on certain topics, and on
      other topics, they flail around like the rest of us. 🙂

      I’m looking forward to finding out what topics you are eloquent on. What view of
      the world can you share that broadens my horizons? I can’t wait to find out!

      Thanks for the link! I had not seen that video before, and I found it tremendously moving.

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