Message in a Bottle #3
The other day, I went walking over the exposed bits of a dried up riverbed. The Mississippi River bed.
Have you ever done that before?
It had been so dry here in Minnesota, as I know it has in a lot of places in the world.
In the higher places where the ground had been exposed the longest, once saturated mud had become a cracked land, baked by the sun’s relentlessly brutal cheer. A thick sheet of algae blanketed substantial swaths of rock, bleached white in most places. And in the dips and deep trenches of the river, there remained pockets of stagnant water, yet teeming with tiny life, aquatic insects, juvenile crayfish, and snails just to name a few…
But there was plenty of death too, the barren floor a literal graveyard of bivalve shells and the picked-clean bones of fish.
I’ve been feeling rather sad about the steady drying of the rivers, the slow taming of their seemingly untamable depth. I picture the earth’s dry and cracked lips, utterly parched, begging for even a drop of water. As most tend to think, droughts always seem like such a tragedy to me, even though they’re not only natural, but also an essential part to many environments. Without them wetlands would be just that, wet lands without any plants and consequently no safe breeding grounds for waterfowl. The dry weather allows the ground to firm up again for stronger root holds and rejuvenates the soil with new oxygen.
Try adding that to your adjectives for droughts.
Another thing about this particular drought? I knew, as my shoes crunched over that water deprived land, I was experiencing an otherwise hidden wonder, almost always locked away under violent currents.
I began to imagine the river bed filled again, and myself in an old fashion diving suit with weighted boots to keep me on the bottom. The murky water well over my head now, I was in a different world, a secretive world full of mysteries even the most knowledgeable potamologist could ever find out. Because in the river, creatures are cunning by nature, maybe more than any other part of the earth and if something doesn’t want to be found, what makes anyone think it will be?
I pictured all the riverine plants thriving and flowing gracefully in the current; not flopped over and dried out. I looked up to see the harsh sun now refracted through the surface and diminishing to a mere fraction of its brilliance by the time it reached the enigmatic bottom. I could nearly reach out and touch ruby-finned carp lumbering by, looking even more vibrant in their natural world. And ducked as muskellunge sped by, dagger filled mouth bared for prey.
A school of fry turned as one and caught the filtered sunlight with a flash before disappearing into the protective shadow of a downed tree.
And more incredible still, were the river monsters my imagination had to fill in the blanks for, those mysterious things that facts haven’t defined yet.
But I saw them because, in that moment, I was a part of that world, and they weren’t hiding from me.
I could have lived down there forever, like Captain Nemo, only leaving to return to my submarine, with which I could traverse new waterways or even find my way all the way to the sea.
Funny… how such a barren place could spark a delightful downpour of imagination.
I realize, sometimes we can feel like we're in a drought. For some of us it's that parched feelling, cracked lips begging for even a drop of creativity. For some it’s love, or hope, or even a little bit of happiness.
But maybe it’s good to look around sometimes and see the landscape as different; not wrong. There’s always something to see. To discover. To experience.
And then to know that, no matter how long it takes, the rains will come again.
Fair winds and following seas