As you recall from the blog http://paddlepilgrim.blogspot.com one of my "headings" which addressed my reasons for paddling the Mississippi River was entitled WHY? I am glad that I did this "pre-flection" before I embarked because it gave me a "frame" through which to view and ultimately organize my experience. I guess that's the professor in me trying to rationalize and make sense of what I would be doing. My answer to WHY was threefold: Adventure, Learning, and Pilgrimage. I suspect I may organize the "book" around these headings.
As a boy growing up near the Mississippi River I was fascinated by this little stream that I could walk across at its headwaters but I could barely see across at its widest expanse. My turtle friend, Minn, (Minn of the Mississippi by H.C. Holling) was my guide down the river introducing me to the sounds, sights, smells, and feel of this watery world. The "Huck Finn" in me delighted in the variety of "characters" I met along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi. They became "river angels" who provided food, housing, transportation, encouragement, and a multitude of stories. Big cities (Minneapolis, St. Louis, Memphis) and small towns (Osceola, St. Francisville, New Madrid) came to life and became neighborhoods populated by family and friends.
As a "professor" on sabbatical, my river journey focused on "Creation Care: Environmental Ethics". Studying history I learned that the Anishinabe people (Ojibwe Indian) called the river "Mee-zee-see-bee" which means "Big River" or "Father of Waters". The wisdom of their name became apparent as I encountered the birds (326 species) and fish (241 species) who now uneasily share their polluted home with thousands of boats, barges and ships which ply the waters transporting grain, coal, and hazardous cargo (oil, benzine). Keeping the water "clean" for fish and fowl and "clear" for barges and business requires a delicate balance much like a kayaker carefully navigating the human "debris" flowing inexorably to the sea.
As a "pilgrim" my journey was in search of the One who created this garden planet and whose "heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1) With few distractions and lots of time to "listen" and "pay attention", God used the river to teach me both how powerful and regenerative the natural environment is and also how fragile and in need of wise care and stewardship. My kinship with all creation now resonates more deeply with St. Francis' "brother Sun and sister Moon". Each morning just before dawn a symphony of birds began their musical wake-up call and invited me to launch my boat in the dark and paddle toward the light. They called me to a new day, to a new beginning, a new life and to pray. Thanks be to the God revealed by Mother Earth and the Father of Waters!
If you would like to make a donation to the "cause" my pilgrimage supported, go to the blog and the Donate heading where there is more information about The Cedar Tree Institute.
I plan to keep the Paddle Pilgrim blog as an ongoing place for place for reflection. If you would like to subscribe to the blog and get notifications of "posts" there is a link at the bottom of the home page.