Thursday, February 11, 2010

Friday My Town Shoot Out - Aquariums



Chef E says of her topic choice:

If you think about it we are all living on one big giant fish bowl, and viewing each others lives through our blogs. We also have probably been swimming and taken a few underwater photos! ... A puddle, or even just a lonely beta or goldfish will suffice. Get creative, and I am sure whatever you all post will be nice!



Remember to click on the camera on the right to see some amazing photographs!







I’ve never been a water person. I spent my childhood embraced by gentle mountains. Large bodies of water seemed foreboding, cold, even cast with a slightly dangerous gloom. Nothing like the warmth of being snuggled to the breast of the Earth’s heart. Living, green soft mountains with their cooling shade and their breathtaking views, and life everywhere.

So when we moved to Paducah and I walked along the river with the dogs, I mostly missed the mountains. I could not understand why, no matter what time of day or night, there were always some cars parked, facing the river, with lonely occupants just staring. At what? My eyes saw the same, monotonous olive drab water, flowing in the wrong direction (rivers flow east toward the ocean where I’m from), with tugboats straining to push their impossible loads upstream.

But, always, people watching. Cheerful couples who say “hey” as the dogs and I pass. Lonely men in their sixties and upward who raise an index finger from the steering wheel in greeting, without smiling from their sad eyes. Just facing the river and staring. I imagine those men as retired watermen. Glad to be done with the hard, dangerous labor of river life, but unable to escape its current, they are pulled back and they glare longing, damning, private thoughts.


That’s what I imagine.

When I would look at the river, I’d think of what was “under there”. One day while my husband and I were walking, the dogs suddenly raised their noses hysterically saying, “whoa, what is that?” A couple of guys were standing next to their red pickup, looking in the back, and they invited us to have a peek. “Whoa” was an understatement. Lying in the bed, taking up the entire length of the regular sized bed of that new red truck, was the most prehistoric monstrous looking giant catfish you ever saw. Evil eyes staring blankly, still making some feeble efforts with its dying gills to get oxygen from the downing air. And that Jurassic fiend was under the benign drab water by which we had innocently walked. I shuddered.

No, the river was no friend of mine.

Four years later, the dogs and I were walking of an early morning. It was overcast, and the river was a perfect mirror of the gray sky. The trees on the Illinois shore were deep mountain evergreen, just so nearly black, with silver gray frosting. So much richness, and depth of color in that gray. The way black and white photographs reveal more character and emotion. A tug with nine barges of coal was snuggled up to the Paducah bank in front of me, while another pushed upstream with pyramids of rose rust camel river rock. The black mounds of coal, the rose rust beige, the gunmetal gray of the water and sky. Ah, I thought. I said “morning” to the sad looking man in the car, who raised his index finger from the steering wheel and gave me a serious nod in greeting. I looked back at the river, and for the first time, I got a glimpse of what they – the river people – saw.

I’d been reading a biography of Mark Twain, who had been a captain of riverboats just down stream from where I now stood. I looked through their eyes, the men in the cars, Mark Twain, and the people who shared their souls with the river. I felt the mystery, the power, the quiet glamour of the flow. Finally, in grayscale my mountain child could see the raw beauty of my new river home.


I paused. The dogs stood frozen, sensing the sanctity of the moment. I felt the pull of that magical clarity which was anything we can’t control. Like the mountains, the river was big and silent and forceful and eloquent in its grayness. I walked on, but I raised an index finger from my grip on my dogs’ leashes, and nodded a serious, reverent greeting to the next old man in a car I passed.








hug your hounds

24 comments:

  1. Quite an impressive essay Patience. I appreciated your description of the way you felt about the safety of the mountains where you grew up and the cold open vastness and greyness of the water. Great post.
    QMM

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  2. Ah, wish I had just a little of your writing skills! Interesting how our perspective can change with the years:)

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  3. Yur words are worth a thousand pictures. Thanks for the enjoyable visit.

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  4. A beautiful and evocative piece of writing. I love it that Mark Twain is a gateway to understanding the river that you look out upon. There is an epochal feeling about this.

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  5. thanks for letting us glare into your fish bowl, aquarium of sorts!

    Yes, animals make our life so special don't they!

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  6. I did so enjoy reading that post, so beautifully expressed. Your words have really touched me.

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  7. Well stated, and beautiful - listed to River Driver by Great Big Sea if you have the chance - I think it captures the same mood.

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  8. I'm glad you've come to appreciate the river. I love and miss the mountains too, but other landscapes are not less, just different.

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  9. I agree with Gordon. Your words present an absolutely perfect shootout. A wonderful piece of writing.

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  10. Like some hapless swimmer swept away by the current of those powerful grey waters, I was just held captive by your post. What a terrific piece of writing.

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  11. Beautiful, P. Beautiful prose, beautiful insight. "...the pull of that magical clarity which was anything we can’t control." Wonderful. Your words painted a better picture than any photo. And there's no real conflict for a mountain person because the best rivers are in the mountains! Now if we could just get you in a kayak or canoe on a (quiet) river like the upper Gunpowder, it would open up a whole other perspective. :-)

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  12. Born by the Mississippi, never lived any more than 10 miles from it until I moved, pregnant with my first child, into the desert. Love the river, love the sea, love the mountains and the forests. Never adjusted (33 yrs) to the desert, constantly telling my long suffering spouse that "people just don't belong here."

    FINALLY back near the river...finding peace.

    gussie's muzzer

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  13. I grew up by the ocean and near the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. I've lived on the prairies and in the arctic. I've camped by lakes and spent time in the desert. There is beauty in each place, but I always gravitate back to water - always. I am one of those old (wo)men who stare at the ocean and raise a finger in greeting as you walk by.
    Thanks for a beautiful post.

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  14. I grew up in Paducah and a Sunday afternoon treat was when my Dad would drive us down to the river at the foot of Broadway, just to sit and look. You made me homesick but I loved your beautiful piece.

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  15. very nice--poetic and emotional.

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  16. I love the icicles, the bring me back memories of when my flat mate hung his dripping hand washed jeans in the balcony when we were students in canada.

    The next morning, there were all these cicles.

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  17. They say a picture is worth a thousands words but sometimes a thousand words can be so much more entertaining. Words also comfort.

    Beautiful post.

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  18. You have a wonderful way with words, I absolutely loved your post.
    I grew up (and still live) on an island surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the people who work on and under it so it was neat for me to see how you "landlubbers" view the water. I guess I used to look at mountains the same way, wondering what everyone else seemed to see in their jagged profiles.

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  19. Fantastic post. I found myself holding onto every word.

    Really well done, and really well written.

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  20. A lovely post, Patience. I felt I was right there with you!

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  21. you have a way with language. i love it when you write like this.

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  22. Thanks for sharing this, we really do love your writing and we feel lucky when we have the time to sit down and enjoy it.

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