UP answering my own question. No. It absolutely does not get any better
Breakfast and then a
moment's peace beside the fire.
I can hear the early morning
screams of red tail hawks, the chirps of golden eagles searching for the
early thermals and floating on them. The sun rises higher in the sky, the
air warms, and the day glows bright blue. The hawks are thrilled to be alive
and know they can soar and I can't. Their screeches are not as shrill as
their working shrieks. These are softer, less piercing, happier. This time
of day the birds take off from the night spent alone and flap those few hard
beats that propel them up, the only effort they may perform for hours. For a
short spell, they play. In groups of two or three or more they glide in
circles wider and wider around, joyously. Then they fan out and take off one
by one to hunt and soar alone.
This day I, like the eagles, am
truly thrilled to be alive. The day speaks to my soul, and I hear and answer
back with silent song. It must be Sunday. And God answers back. I
hear his voice but not clearly. Too many things are in the way and distract.
I long for just a few minutes more to sit and relax but I am compelled to
pack up and enter the river. God is waiting for me there.
The morning thundered with
explosions of birdsong. The music overpowered me and was too beautiful,
almost too much to bear. I entered the river and made for the center, but
there I could hear no sounds at all. I came a little closer to the shore and
skimmed along an eerie zone of half silence from the river, half nature's
serenade from the shore. And the birds I could hear I could now see.
In the woods a bird that I had
never seen before appeared and chirped to me. Black on top with white
streaks, white on the bottom with a rose throat. (A rose breasted grosbeak,
I found out later.) A beautiful little bird with a sweet whistle.
A cottontail hopped close to
shore and then back again.
Streaks of red flashed across
my vision, undulating and disappearing. I heard a familiar call, the song of
the cardinal. I was let down. Only a pair of cardinals.
Only a pair of
cardinals! What a moronic thought. The cardinal is a beautiful bird. Bright
red crested males with black throats. the female is dusty red in color and
they always travel in pairs, male and female. They sing to one another
tossing a song back and forth and I had seen them a million times before and
watched their play, they were all too familiar and I was not impressed. But
I should have been and I knew it. I pitied myself for being so stupid.
But this was no day for pity, no day
for calling myself names. This was a day the Lord had made, a day for
rejoicing, a day to find the joy and beauty in the ordinary and familiar as
much as in the exotic and the new.
Two squirrels were chasing each
other up and down the trees in the woods. I drew closer as I passed but they
paid no notice. What fun!
I passed La Grange and thought
about stopping in, finding a church and going to Mass, but no. No Mass could
ever be as fulfilling as a day in this cathedral.
The sun rose high quickly and
the day grew very warm. There was the gentlest of breezes to keep me cool.
And on the breeze floated the voice of God. And I talked to him.
It was not a prayer, no more
than the whole morning was a prayer. I did not pray. I was talking to God
and He was talking to me and I heard Him and I felt Him in my heart and we
A red fox scurried down to the
edge of the water and ran along the shore. He kept pace with me and seemed
to be watching me, keeping up with me. I had never seen a fox in the wild
before. I didn't want him to ever go away. I didn't want this day to go
feeling. Just a few years longer. Just a few more hours, minutes,
moments. I hope that when I die I have those words on my lips: just a
minute more. Not out of fear of death or out of wanting to live on and
on, but because I will have been so thrilled with this life with all its
ugliness and pain which does not in the least overshadow the warmth and
glowing of peace and joy and moments like this morning on the river, and
I will ask for just a few more minutes of it. The fox knew I was there
and kept looking my way. Agile and funny little creature. And then he
My heart sang out its rapture; my soul
soared on the wings of eagles. The glory of heaven was revealed to me on
the water and I felt invincible.
It must be Sunday.
At 30 years old, Eddy Harris leaves his home in
St. Louis and
sets off into the chilly autumn for
decided to canoe down the Mississippi River and to find out what I was made of,"
he writes. And Mississippi Solo is his stunning testament. Harris, who
has authored Native Stranger, South of Haunted Dreams, and
Still Life in Harlem, has been widely acclaimed since the first release of
Mississippi Solo in 1988. It is greatly pleasing to see this important
and stimulating first work revived.
Mississippi grows from its tiny source to a wide and powerful flow, Harris gains
confidence as a canoeist, faith in his endeavor, and an understanding of his
varying identity as an African American traveling alone from north to south in
the United States.
His exact and brilliantly revealing prose shows us how each bend in this mighty
river turns itself within the paddler, how person and river are entwined--and
who is in charge.
astute ear for irony, philosophy, and wisdom, as well as truths about the river,
Harris takes the reader through locks and lakes on the northern Mississippi to
the wild and swift and meandering river south of St. Louis. Songs of joy,
troughs of loneliness, terrific storms, birdsong, paranoia, friendly captains,
wild dogs, and ghosts of slaves fill his pages. Then we face off with two
hunters, two shotguns, and Harris's single pistol... and still the river leads
him on to New Orleans. Like the river he travels, Harris cuts through to the
core of himself and his country. Triumphant! --Byron Ricks
--This text refers to the
|Mississippi Solo: A River Quest,
Hardcover, The Lyons Press, Oct. 1, 1988, ISBN 1558210016|
|Mississippi Solo: A Memoir, Paperback,
Owl Books, Sept. 15, 1998, ISBN 0805059032|