We’ve had three nights back on the river, after five nights off. Camped just downstream from Greenville, Miss., we’re in my home turf. Given life in the Delta, it seems suitably ironic that my cell phone signal, which has been great throughout the trip, has hardly worked these days. Thus the infrequent updates.
But it works for the landscape we’re traveling. While it has no official designation, John calls this stretch the “Muddy Waters Wilderness.” One bridge in two hundred miles, little industry, just a scattered few summer homes. Two hundred years ago the trees were different species, and might have been hung with Spanish moss, but otherwise this looks and feels the same.
Given that we are close to home, we’ve lately had more daytrippers, more single-night campers, more deliveries to and from shore. Which breaks up the wildness, but is also important, because the more people who experience this river, the safer and healthier she will be. (Though now that the weekend is over, we’re actually down to our smallest crew: Chris, Andy, and myself, the three through paddlers, plus John guiding the way.)
At some point yesterday, somewhere near the chute into Lake Whittington, we passed the geographic halfway point of the trip. Which probably means it’s too early for me to be reflecting on what I’ve learned. Nevertheless, the few-days break at home prompted reflective thoughts.
So how am I different? What have I learned. Most of all -- probably not surprisingly -- I see more wildness. Wildness in the strange crooks of the tree branches, even in an orchard where the trunks themselves are in orderly rows. Wildness in my backyard, with its bayou -- an ancient channel of the Mississippi. As I sat there last week in the sunshine, I listened, and I could hear layer over layer of birdsong, each song slightly different; I could see the different shapes of the leaves of each trees.
Before this trip these were just birds, just trees -- now (though I don’t yet know their names) they are each apparent as different species, with different stories, something new to identify and know.