Driving from Chicago to Denver this month, I happened to end up in Davenport, Iowa for a late lunch. The city sits right on the Mississippi River.
The Mississippi is not just any body of water, of course. Seeing it conjures up so much in my mind. I immediately think of Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn, our rich history, the chronicle of America’s hundreds of years of industry, struggle, life, happiness, slavery, racism, the power of nature and wisdom contained within its calm waters, the secrets of hundreds of years buried in its shallow depths.
Seeing the Mississippi River is humbling, almost religious. It is the same as looking up at a sky crowded with stars. That feeling you get, that your daily problems are infinitely small compared to the universe. The Mississippi is our guidepost here on Earth.
We have man-made structures that appear grander – I saw the Hoover Dam on television recently, and it reminded of how much we can accomplish. But the Mississippi doesn’t need that scale. Because in its quiet way, it reminds us: it was here first, it didn’t need our help, and still doesn’t. It is Nature at its most independent, powerful, threatening and nurturing. A river that snakes through the heart of our country, cradles several major and many smaller cities in its banks, provided and provides so much. And it will be here long after we are gone.