“On the seventh day, God hovered over the water.”
It’s not the most familiar translation, but it works. And it is the interpretation that John Ruskey offered this morning, as we did the same -- hovered on the water for our morning prayer.
Today was our first re-supply, which also meant our first major exchange: in Chester, Ill., we said goodbye to Junebug, a 29-foot cedar-and-redwood canoe who lives with Big Muddy Adventures in St. Louis. Now, Grasshopper -- another 29-footer, and the girl who’s cruising the whole way -- is joined by Dennis, and his kayak, until we get to Memphis. The current crew numbers nine.
It was a day of departures, then, with two expeditioners finishing their portion of the trek; and John driving home for a few days to take care of family. So we prayed for departures, and for the departed. I thought about my father -- my first mentor and my first guide, to whom I dedicate this adventure.
The rain and clouds have continued, and I’m plagued every night by bad dreams: my tent collapsing, or water rushing through my site. But then I wake, and all is fine. Except maybe my phone: my so-called waterproof case has sand lodged inside; the battery ticks down in percentage faster than the minutes. Though there are worse things than being disconnected.
The toughest toll is on my hands, which have become chapped and cracked, the nails caked with mud. (If we paddle hard tomorrow -- through more rain, of course -- there is the tempting end goal of hot showers, even laundry, at the Trail of Tears State Park.) The paddling itself isn’t so bad, once you settle into the rhythm. I tried my hand in the back yesterday, and mostly kept us in a straight line. I was glad the barges waited until after my turn as skipper to make my appearance.
This is our wildest campsite yet: a few barges are anchored upstream, laden with coal, and surely we will hear trains pass in the night. But I pitched my tent atop coyote tracks, and the kitchen is as close to an eagle’s nest as the law will allow. Last night, as we arrived in camp, we pulled in amid a flock of several hundred pelican, who only slowly and reluctantly gave up their perch. What I'e been told is right: pelicans are the most beautiful flyers. There’s something about being on an island, even a mile from civilization that makes everything right. (For those tracking at home: after a second night on Salt Lake Island, we paddled down to Beaver Island; now we are on Rockwood Island.)