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LMRD 709
The Ends of Our Star



Recent Press:

Overstory: A Sierra Club Podcast: Episode 4
In Episode 4 of The Overstory, writer Boyce Upholt finds adventure—and a new sense of self—during a harrowing paddling trip on the Mississippi River. We also talk with Bernie Krause about his decades-long work to audio record the natural world, and we hear from a Virginia couple fighting a fracked gas compressor station. Plus: our advice columnist, Mr. Green, explains what a "fat-berg" is.

Sierra: The National Magazine of the Sierra Club
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Je Ne Sais Quoi of Ocean Springs and Walter Anderson — The Mississippi Gulf Coast beckons.

By Delta Bohemian Extraordinaire, Billy Howell

“In order to realize the beauty of man we must realize his relation to nature.” –Walter Inglis Anderson

Go to Delta Bohemian:
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River advocate, guide and outfitter speaks of life on the Lower Mississippi

By Slim Smith
Commercial Dispatch, Starkville & Columbus, MS
January 23, 2019 10:35:41 AM

Imagine going on an adventure that would take you to one of the world's greatest, most diverse natural wonders of the world, brimming with an exotic array of plant and animal life, a remarkable ecosystem where 40 percent of America's songbirds and 60 percent of North America's migratory birds pass through, a place where white-tail deer and black bears still make their homes, a dynamic landscape that few people seem to know about.

Now, imagine that all you needed to do to begin that adventure is drive three hours to Clarksdale...

[Click link above to see the rest of story!]


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The Ends of Our Star
Journal Entries and iphone Photos by Driftwood Johnnie


Intro: a recent cold snap caused icy geometric formations to be rendered with blazing intensity deep within the muddy valley of the Sunflower, my imagination inspired, here rendered in a series of journal entries over part of a week last month, in the same way I write them, stream-of-consciousness with minimal punctuation. Do not look for any particular message or meaning in these: merely quick sketches of life around me interspersed with instantaneous palpitations of the heart...



Thursday Jan 24: Cool breezes blowing sandpaper roughness down face of Sunflower, cresting at 16, flooding over the low banks, Mother Mississippi rising upwards to crest at 41 next week, to touch the levee, an early morning walker, then a jogger, an amazing ice ballet scored in long scalene triangles in puddles and dead ends, a nip to the air through my wet hair, in my nose, tingling the ends my fingers, birds lustily singing from nearby trees, Super Chikan drives his van across 1st Street Bridge, muffled Chikan blues making his white van dance across the Sunflower, reverberating outwards as he goes, no doubt some homegrown Chikan music on one of his Chikan-tars. Last night’s clouds have given way to crystal-clear skies, Venus and Jupiter and the waning Wolf Moon, my soul feeling the waning also, a melting glacier, my Clarksdale life reached fullness years ago and now I am suffering the pains of decay, details and decisions I don’t want to make, My love gone, my empty life scraping along behind, add in a dysfunctional leaders and a dying planet and you end up with a bubbling pot of existential crisis gumbo, part of me unhappy to be in the delta, part of me unhappy on the coast, all of me groaning under the weight of the irresponsible lifestyle we live, I live, and its catastrophic consequences on our home the earth, and how to share, and how to live with that.



Friday Jan 25: icy Sunflower chill down in the 20s, parallelograms and dancing diamonds carved into calm water places in puddles and on the edges of the river, I am grieving the temporary loss of my love, we’ve accelerated to the ends of our star, like the horizontal star-shaped stalactites I’ve seen growing in roadside ditches from some radical, a leafing yellow rocket or curly dock greens cypress twigs, when caught at just the right water level or just the right cold night, sharp angled triangles grow outward in wagon wheel fashion, a dazzling array outwards from each facet catching light no matter where you stand. I’ve seen several icy fallen stars this morning, richly colored in puddles holding their water, bleached bony white with any touching the river where icy formations congealed in the chilly night and then lost their water as the river dropped and the brittle skein of geometry is left behind for passers-by like me to behold and be-witched by, at least until the sun god gathers his strength and rises above the treeline to bathe the muddy valley articulated in icy lace in his golden warmth, the rigid energizing temporarily rendered trusswork of nature’s bridges, triangulation strength crossing gaps in our imagination from dream world to daily life, a glimpse into the the basic designs of the universe, the underlying architecture momentarily made magic, to glisten in the rising sun, meltwater points, droplets, structural straight lines now transformed into rounded liquids and the organic shapes of mud, seeds, roots, leafy emergences, and all of the glorious green chaos of spring time patiently planted waiting underneath the frozen forms — I hope that is a fitting metaphor for my life --



Saturday, Jan 26: Sad day, unable to speak clearly, think logistically, make a plan and act on it, being bounced around like a ping-pong ball, my day-to-day life a pin-ball game of reactions and stimuli and needs that bombard me from all directions, going on a year my love departed and now the icicles hardening in the cavity that once held a heart, cool South wind snow showers turned train showers, I exited the bitter loneliness of town over the levee to Montezuma where the golden orange-red sunset in purple blue silhouetted forests and the infinite teal-aquamarine sky-space upon which all is composed, the river sweetly sang to me its rounded bosom of pulsing life, and I walked with Osa Negra, Blackie Bear, as Ursa Major took form and began wheeling her way around Polaris upstream, feeling reconnected and made whole—only to return later to to the barren emotional vacuum that was once a happy home.




Wed, Jan 30: sitting at the base of the big cypress at the edge of Soldier’s Field, big sycamore nearby and the family of cypress downstream below their feet wet and the river flowing through their knees, Grandma Cypress turning grey and bald but maintaining her regal dignity nonetheless, standing tall and slightly leaning towards the river with purpose and determination, her withered arms graceful and austere, the kind of beauty and poise only age can endow, and only the aged can express, much like my mother, who even though chair-bound holds her silver waterfalls of hair proud and dignified, she no longer has anything to fear or regret, nothing could occur that would surprise her, she has seen it all, the deep clefts of her jaw, her strong jowls, the bouncing arching lines of her forehead, the valleys cascading down either side of her nostrils, all exude the wisdom and dignity that only a life well-lived can endow, much in the same way as expressed in the graceful curves and lines of the Grandmother Cypress, squirrel appears on Big Sycamore, and like me finds a perch on the sunny side of the mountain, simultaneously enjoying the brilliant warmth of the sun and shelter from the bitter north wind who swirls around and inevitably finds all weak places and failures in skin, and carelessly freezes everything unprotected in flourishes of frosty feathers and diamond crystals, at my feet a mosaic of mud cracked over fallen sycamore leaves and ferns like cypress needles, dog tracks and heron tracks in the rich alluvial mantle, sprightly ice crystals splitting outwards in triangle arrangement, the original artwork of the riverbank, here today and gone tomorrow.

Text and Photos by Driftwood Johnnie, John Ruskey



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Quapaw Canoe Company
Calendar, Spring 2019
March 2019

Sat, Mar 2
Community Half-Daytrip - Sunflower River, 9am-1pm

Sat, Mar 9
Community Half-Daytrip - Mississippi River

Mon Mar 25 - Sat Mar 30
Pearl River Expedition — Naturalist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

April 2019

April 11-14
Juke Joint Festival 2019
Camping,Carving, Booksignings, Canoeing Sunflower River
And much, much more!

Sat, April 13
Community Half-Daytrip - Sunflower River, 9am-1pm

April 18 - May 18
Water, Water: A Pop Up Invitational
Walter Anderson Museum of Art

Mon April 22 - Sat 27
Horn Island Expedition — Artist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe


May 2019
Sat, May 11
Community Half-Daytrip - Mississippi River

Mon May 20 - Sat May 25
Pascagoula River Expedition — Naturalist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

June 2019

June 3rd-7th
LMRF Summer Camp
for Mississippi and Arkansas youth!

Sat, June 14
Community Half-Daytrip - Mississippi River

June 15
Buck Island Adventure
Experience the East Arkansas Mississippi River Canoe Float
9am-5pm from Helena, Ar.
In partnership with the Mississippi River State Park


Our Dream for Quapaw Canoe Company in 2019:


"To share the raw, wild, power & beauty of the big river
with patience, balance and compassion
for our clients
for the river
for all its creatures
and for our mother earth"


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The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch "Voice of the Lower Mississippi River" is published by the Quapaw Canoe Company. Photos and writing by John Ruskey, Mark River and others. Please write info@island63.com for re-publishing. Feel free to share with friends or family, but also credit appropriately. Go to www.island63.comand click on "Quapaw Dispatch" for viewing back issues of the LMRD.

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The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

is brought to you courtesy of

The Quapaw Canoe Company

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Our Projects:

Rivergator: 1Million words describing the Lower Mississippi River, overseen by the LMRF:

www.rivergator.org

Wild Miles: 71% of the Lower Miss is wild according to river rats. Will it stay that way?

www.wildmiles.org

Our Friends:

Lower Mississippi River Foundation is dedicated to promoting stewardship of the Lower and Middle Mississippi River through deep engagement.

Big Muddy Adventures: adventures on the Missouri, Mississippi, Meramec and Illinois -- covering the Grand Central Station of America's rivers from home base St. Louis.

Our Range:

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River advocate, guide and outfitter speaks of life on the Lower Mississippi

By Slim Smith
Commercial Dispatch, Starkville & Columbus, MS
January 23, 2019 10:35:41 AM

Imagine going on an adventure that would take you to one of the world's greatest, most diverse natural wonders of the world, brimming with an exotic array of plant and animal life, a remarkable ecosystem where 40 percent of America's songbirds and 60 percent of North America's migratory birds pass through, a place where white-tail deer and black bears still make their homes, a dynamic landscape that few people seem to know about.

Now, imagine that all you needed to do to begin that adventure is drive three hours to Clarksdale.


For the past 20 years, John Ruskey has been taking people on the great adventure known as the Lower Mississippi by his hand-built, canoes modeled after those used by the early French explorers of the river.

By the time the Columbus Rotary Club has concluded its regular business Tuesday, Ruskey had 30 minutes to share his story, one that began when he was a kid growing up in Colorado, who was so captivated by Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," he made it his life's work and passion.

Since he and a buddy first decided to recreate the famous journey of Huck and Jim down the Mississippi after graduating high school in Colorado in 1982, Ruskey has returned to the river. In 1998 he established Quapaw Canoe Company to provide guided canoe and kayak expeditions on the Lower Mississippi River and its muddy tributaries.

In a half-hour, Ruskey took the Rotarians on a much-abbreviated trip down the Mississippi from St. Louis through a slideshow.

It was just a taste when you consider the full story Ruskey painstakingly completed in 2017, after six trips down the great river as he described each of the 1,154 miles of the Mississippi from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico. The result, which can be found at rivergator.org, is an invaluable resource for paddlers on the Big River.

The six-year-long project, funded by the Walton Foundation, resulted in a million words supplemented by detailed maps and photos. Much like the great explorers of the past, Ruskey's detailed observations serve as a travel guide through one of the great natural wonders of North America.

Ruskey, 52, makes a living guiding canoe tours of the river -- 1,000 to 2,000 people a year, 100 days or more on the Mississippi each year.

He is a tour guide, yes, but he is also a philosopher, journalist, historian, evangelist and champion of a place he feels has been neglected and often abused.

"Water connects all of us," Ruskey told the Rotarians. "It's the thing that determines the health of our communities, our families and the world. The myth of the Mississippi as a sewage ditch or a place to build a steel plant is detrimental to its health, and our health as a result of it. We have to have industry, but let's leave the wild places wild.

"The river, as it is now, is incredibly rich, but the greatest threat is ignorance," he added. "A beauty not recognized is a beauty not protected."

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is ssmith@cdispatch.com.