here are some selected bits from the chapter on the Atchafalaya in John McPhee’s 1989 book, The Control of Nature:
Mac and I are now happily ensconced in the public library in Wabasha, which is another winner of a small town. We were marveling earlier at how you can never guess which of these towns is going to be a favorite: Red Wing was good, Lake City was blah, Wabasha is great. Population size, date of founding, none of these things tell you in advance where you are going to find a certain excellent mix of history and vibrancy, civic pride and personal warmth. But it’s totally obvious when you’ve found it, that’s for sure!
Today is Mary Kay’s first time kayaking on her own, and Mac and I sat down with her last night after dinner to pass on all the pointers and tidbits we could think of that she might not have internalized in her days of paddling with one of us. It made me realize that after nearly 600 miles of paddling between us, Mac and I really do know some stuff about this undertaking. Somehow having Heather and Mary Kay here is causing Mac and me to look at our relationship to the river in a new way. Talking about it this morning, Mac said it’s sort of like after you’ve been in a new relationship for a little while and you sit down to talk through what’s going on. Phase One is definitely over. Probably has been since we reached St. Paul.
And along with the limestone bluffs lining the river, a new thread has entered the journey: Highway 61! You know that Highway 61, with the famous crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for being able to play the blues, starts in Duluth, of all places? The birthplace of the unrecognizable Bob Dylan?! Cool, no? (We watched Pennebaker’s brilliant Don’t Look Back in the tent last night in his (or its) honor.) Highway 61 joins the river for real at Hastings, and will be with us to the very end.
we’ve arrived in Beulah, MI, where my aunt and cousins all gather every summer at the Red House. she took us out this morning to see the cherry trees get shaken by this big machine, and we took the opportunity to gather some leftovers. have any of you been to the fabulous Cherry Hut?!?
and of course I am thinking about Agnes Varda and her wonderful movie, The Gleaners and I. Have any of you seen her new one, The Beaches of Agnes?
Later in the day, Emma and Victoria took Mac and I out on Crystal Lake for a bit of kayaking and a swim. I was very aware of us doing this thing recreationally that will soon be our main form of transportation, a very cool shift.
okay, getting kicked out of the library, see you later…