It’s about 9:30 and we are on day 29 of our venture south. My nose is sniffly from the cold I am fighting and my coffee mug is warm in my hands. On the left side of the river the sky is covered with light clouds and the sun is trying to poke through. On the right side the sky is threatening some rain so we have everything put away and the hatches secured. The temperature has dropped so I am assuming the dark gray whispy clouds I see to the west might bring some rain. It’s a chilly and gray morning. No one else is out on the river and the feeling I get is one of stillness and tranquility. Nothing about it is negative, in fact, my sniffly nose, the hot coffee, the blanket wrapped around my legs, and the gloomy sky are all rather fitting. I feel cozy- like I feel during an afternoon thunderstorm curled up by a window with hot tea and a book. It brings a nostalgic feeling, contemplative and quiet. Kyle is on shift and we aren’t exchanging many words. It is so incredibly calm and still that words aren’t needed. We both seem to be enjoying the solitude, not wanting to taint it with spoken words. We feel like we are in a jungle. Crazy tree roots, dark green forest, unknown bird callings. No one around. No development. Just us, floating down the glassy water, smelling the distant rain in the air. I look to the right and see a tree with no leaves. There, perched very still, is an eagle looking down at the river below. I wonder what he thinks as our little boat goes by. He must not feel threatened as he doesn’t move, just sits there observing his surroundings. I could learn from that Eagle. Learn to sit still, quiet, and observe my surroundings. Small sparrows skim the water’s surface, catching bugs in their small mouths. The water is so still that I can seem them flying on the surface.
10:30am: The rain came just as anticipated. It was delightful. The slightest amount- just a drizzle. I watched as each drop landed on the smooth water, creating a tiny ripple effect. I could hear the drops landing on my gore-tex rain jacket before being repelled off. The sky was awash in different shades of white, gray, blue, and then small areas where the sun rays were shining through. As the droplets fell into the river, I imagined them heading downstream just as we are. They say it takes 90 days for a droplet to travel from the start of the river to the Gulf. I wonder if we will arrive at the Gulf around the same time as these droplets falling from the sky. Just as gently as it arrived, the rain stopped. So gradually that I couldn’t exactly determine when the last droplet fell. We are rowing now as the wind left with the rain. Kyle and I both are enjoying the rowing since it is so calm and serene. Our new friends in their canoe are close by. We keep accidentally running into them. We have gone through two locks together and will randomly meet up floating down the river. It’s quite nice having some friends doing the same journey.
Kyle spent some time writing down his thoughts on the journey thus far, I will share them below:
**As our adventure continues and we become more accustomed to life in a small boat, I find myself beset by a new way of living. I say living because it seems the best word but when I read it, it’s a bit hollow in its meaning, presumably due to the lack of descriptive depth. I feel I have found much of what I was personally seeking when we began planning this expedition. Challenge is found in nearly every moment of my day. Gone are the banal tasks attributed to my old job. Constantly changing environment erased the majority of the repetition I felt in my old routine as well, despite my day being primarily confined to the progress of our small craft. The constant demand to meet the needs of necessity concerning food, water, shelter, have replaced any interest in the drama of the world. I find myself not interested in what’s happening outside our river highway, but more interested in what the people around me are interested in. Curiosity it seems has shrank inward to my immediate environment. I concern myself for hours on ideas and concepts that I would certainly have dismissed during the lifestyle I was living while in the planning stages of this journey. These opportunities for reflection and at times introspection are very enjoyable. Although sometimes there are questions involving the validity of my reasoning for the isolation and effort involved in such an expedition as ours. Life out here in the raw environment is not easy and I think that is what makes it addictive, because generally speaking, when things go right, you earned it and certainly notice. This leaves me with a strong sense of positive reinforcement and satisfaction not easily found in the common routine I held during our planning stage. Hard earned accomplishments are often glossed over and forgotten by those around you or even your own personal self, perhaps due to over stimulation, perhaps in the constant race to get ahead. When I now look back upon the memories of that lifestyle, I see small ways it could have been improved, but they would almost certainly be seen as strange by the people around me. But I digress, right now my lifestyle is raw and dirty. My days filled with challenge and satisfaction of small victories. My favorite parts of this journey is waking up knowing my only job is to stay happy and go sailing. Life is good.**
The rest of our day yesterday was quite satisfying. We travelled about 24 miles before finding a nice sandy spot and deciding to stop for the evening. Leading up to our camp site we explored an old sunken barge and let the river’s current carry us down stream while eating lunch.
Our friends in the canoe caught up and we spent some time drifting down stream together. They passed by our campsite later on and stopped for a few minutes. After they left Kyle and I discussed how interesting the relationship is that has developed between the four of us. We have only known each other for a total of 3 days, yet it feels much longer. Our random meetings are spent laughing and sharing life stories. There is no need for small talk or asking if we have similar interests. Something about living on the river like we are breaks down all the barriers and unknowns that might exist elsewhere. It takes a certain type of person to live so ruggedly out here on the mighty river. So the friendship that is being developed is very raw and pure, centralized on a similar journey and similar mind set. I have really enjoyed the random meetings and friendly faces. They are both musicians, and often we can hear them traveling down river long before we see them. Too far away to make out what it is they are singing or playing, but knowing that they are living just as freely as we are. It makes me smile inside. Anyway, today has been absolutely enjoyable. We travelled 36 miles today, all of which were under sail and happened in 8 hours. We could have continued on, but have stopped right outside of Fort Madison, Iowa where we will be heading tomorrow to resupply and find Internet. As I write I am sitting on a sandy beach on a small island. Our laundry is strung in all directions drying in the light breeze and setting sun. Kyle is making “hobo” dinners over the campfire: potatoes, peas, carrots, cabbages, spices, and oil in tin foil. Someone has left a picnic table on this island and it’s funny how excited I got over having a table. The river is wider up ahead and I squint as I look towards the bridge which marks the town of Fort Madison.
Stillness seems to be the theme of the past few days, and tonight is no different. For years I have dreamed of living a simpler life. A life in which my days consist of being outdoors in the element. A world that revolves around the sun’s cycle and the sky above. For the past 31 days that dream has become a reality and I can’t begin to explain how thrilled I am that we still have 100 plus days to go.
3 thoughts on “Stillness”
Enjoying your writing,How far down river do you want to be by the end Oct? mnbob
By the end of October we should be about 600 miles farther South. We are averaging about 600 miles a month. We are currently 2 days out of St. Louis, MO
I’m an old guy who travelled in Europe and North Africa in 1973. Your descriptions reminded me of how I would travel with another person or a group for awhile and also enjoying being on my own. Friendships just begin and they move forward within minutes. Lots of good times. I enjoy both of your thoughts.
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