The River Gorge

The rocky cliffs and forests of the river valley embrace the lone traveler in the Mississippi River gorge. Old poplar trees, leaning cottonwood, red twigged dogwood, chickadee, downy woodpeckers, crows and eagles provide assurances of the constancy of the natural world. Flocks of robins winter in this micro-climate.

I cross over the frozen inlet where the culvert empties street run-off. The culvert is a huge, aluminum cave, a silent gaping mouth in winter. In spring it roars with street run-off and emits the odor of sewer gas. I stay clear of the still-open water just under the culvert. As I walk, the ice creaks and groans. The other tracks in the snow and ice tell the story of previous travelers; the ice is solid enough to hold. I reach the other bank.  My dog dances ahead, returning in an exuberant gallop to check on me. She gets twice the exercise I do. I have heard it said that for dogs running is like dancing, pure joy. I can’t help but laugh at this doggy display of intense black eyes with tongue hanging out, her lithe black and white body airborne for a moment before she turns on a dime to disappear into the woods ahead.

I approach the river bank of the main channel. The river is open in the middle. A silhouette of trees on the bluffs across the river envelopes the valley. Trapped air pockets pop and ricochet sound under the ice. It is an unusually warm day for mid-January in Minnesota. I am hot from the walk so I take off my hat and scarf and wool coat. I sit in the sun on a fallen tree. This icy river, this land is big enough to hold me. In the near silence, I am made small.

All posts copyright Patricia Stachelski 2012