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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Home to the River

Air Date: Week of

Susan Carol Hauser comments on a canoe trip she took on the Mississippi River and how it relates to her daily life.


CURWOOD: The race for any elected seat can be a whirlwind venture. But in the midst of attack ads and stump speeches about Minnesota's wilderness, you wonder if the raison d'etre of the state's open space is getting lost in all the political wrangling. At least one Minnesotan is getting the message: hectic lives need a break. And commentator Susan Carol Hauser knows just where to find one.

HAUSER: Just east of Bemidji, Minnesota, my friend Helen and I put our canoe into the Mississippi River and let ourselves into the current. In about 4 hours we will arrive at Wolf Lake. We'll paddle across the bay to the resort where we left our car and we'll climb back into the stream of our busy lives. But for this fine morning we belong to the river. Our families and our other friends are held away from us by tangles of poison ivy, hazelnut, high bush cranberry, pines, maples, oaks, and willows.

The river, too, colludes with us. Its water burbles over rocks and stones, silencing memory, and glitters in the midmorning sun. Human desire pales in comparison. Ducks and great blue herons move systematically ahead of us as though to shield us from intruders. Only the kingfishers complain. They watch us from their dead branch perches, then dart ahead of us or behind us or right past us and brazenly dive into the water, splashing like neighborhood bullies.

We don't mind. We make our own noise as we move along, speaking softly at first, then louder, until finally we are singing at high lung capacity, acting like bullies ourselves, scaring turtles off logs and sandpipers off their sandbars.

In between those Bursets of song we talk to each other. Here on the Mississippi, it seems safe to wonder if our lives will move along the way the river does to an inevitable delta. Seems right to hope for our children to ache at their sorrows. Seems possible to learn how to read water.

Back where we started, the river was shallow and its banks high. As we near Wolf Lake the water deepens and the land flattens out. Canary grass sways over our heads. Above in the blissfully clear sky, a bald eagle plies thermals. When we enter the lake and cross the bay, the current of the river goes its own way, carrying out its mission in secret. As we dig with our paddles into the windy waters, our voices fail us but our will returns. We are weary, yet refreshed. Like the river, we cannot help but find our way home.

CURWOOD: Commentator Susan Carol Hauser is author of Full Moon: Reflections on Turning Fifty, published by Papier Mache Press. She comes to us via Minnesota Public Radio's KMBJ in Bimidge.



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