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LMRD 791 - Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
"Voice of the Lower Mississippi River"
Saturday, Aug 8, 2020 -- D R A G O N F L Y

~~~re-running with some new photos and typos fixed~~~

This edition features guest writer, the artist Hilary Cline. I met Hilary over a decade ago during Barefoot Film Workshops, in 2009. She and Lori Garrabrant created the lively short doc We All Live Downstream, which is available for viewing here. (click and watch on Vimeo -- features *STAR* appearances by Tater "the Music-Maker", Ellis Coleman, John McKee and Kristian Gustavson!) Pandemic brought Hilary back to Clarksdale for a visit in the early summer, for a day on the river, on which trip the circles of time became magnified through the wings of a newborn Dragonfly.

(photo credit:


by Hilary Cline

Fragile dragonfly coming to life, with her delicate and emerging arm barely holding on. The wind could have so easily blown her away! She is a whisper.

Her translucent threads are easily mistaken as the last remains of a decaying leaf. She is the tiniest of traces, a mixture of silk and ash. Before our eyes, she disappears and arrives. “She is alive”, he reassures me.

What the mind cannot register, the heart first knows. I lean in to the intimate space that nature knows.

In truth, she existed in another form in a previous chapter. How long had I been waiting in my own life? How many times had I felt my own spirit weathered and soul torn? It is odd to think that she (dragonfly) would live her life without the conscious need to be seen or heard. Later in her journey, she will come to know her voice. With two small angels sitting on her matrixed wings, she will drink in the thick sweetness. She is in and of herself, alone and dreaming. This is her fate. This is her poem.

A beautiful sadness perilously hangs before us. Suspended, we stay close to where dragonfly dwells. I am floating beside a river man; whose ears see in the dark and eyes listen. Sensing with intuition, he slowly tells her tale. He dips his brush in to moving waters and then dives deep below. With reverence, we acknowledge the life she once embodied. Somewhere underneath and in another realm, I imagined that she did not yet know of this other-world (the one we, humans, call ‘reality’). Who was she then? Who was I?

We often forget that this very mystery is our one, unfolding, ecstatic life. The simultaneity and multiplicity of being, always circling back. We are always dying, shedding and coming in to a new season. She is neither here nor there. Like dragonfly, she intimately knows life and death. In fact, she is born several times. Are we able to savor and bring forth that which is invisible? Are we able to walk along the banks of unknowing? Can we turn in to our own wounding and in to each other’s? Might we remember that our highly sensitive perception is animate? Can you imagine that you are capable of receiving another’s thought, first as an image and in an awakening dream?

With dragonfly, we wait and question in the recesses of our own silent imaginations. Shall we go on? Within each of us, there is the reflection of the moon. She is guiding us. From below the surface, our shadows dwell. It is seldom that we show one another this suffering. It is often hidden from ourselves. The enormity of that loss runs like veins to the center. Heartbeat. Abundant.

In dragonfly’s earliest days of existence, the sun sparkled downward in golden ripples and wavering folds. As we observe her vulnerable state, we must ask ourselves ...what is this uncertainty? Do you have the courage to hold this immense beauty? Are you brave enough to embody the magnitude of your own brilliance and even when it resembles death? Can you feel this sensitivity of being?

Much like the turtle who slowly crosses the road, and with its life to potentially end in an instant, we must choose. Our purpose awaits us in our heartbreak. This is the threshold. If we look to that which breaks us open, we will discover that which we care to protect. For some, the journey is across great distances. Perhaps, it is only in our own shattering that our tenderness is found. Though, there are those who have always and innately felt this uninterrupted edge. Down the river in the night, we must listen. What piece of yourself have you hidden? Can you move in to a deeper space of knowing, in to the darkness?

She (dragonfly) is not the iron claw that swiftly takes what it needs, but rather a being that slowly finds that which nourishes her. The broad stroke of one animal is the tiniest gesture of another. In dialogue, we find mutuality. She cannot force herself in to a place of knowing before being ready to arrive, nor can we be forced by another to discover what our soul will receive in its own time. Though, who are we to assume that she is not carrying her own intelligence? When we do not recognize a pathway similar to our own, can we discover the smallest of overlap? How do these vastly different animals speak? What would their message be to one another?

He points to the eagle, but wait…. that was earlier on and from another shore. My eyes searched the horizon line. Taking flight, he landed somewhere later in my mind. “Oh yes”, I see! Time, place, spirit roll back and forth . . .

Patiently, dragonfly holds on a little longer! I dream of my former self falling away, a shell that has finally made its way to the shore. River man hands me a piece of broken glass, a fossil, a chip of antique plate. These are each story, having travelled from somewhere far. “Goodbye. Goodbye”, dragonfly rejoices. These words will become her signature. This is her destiny. She knows that the ancient tree will keep her for as long as needed. A silent conversation unfolds before our eyes. It is soft as a gentle current. We drift around the edges, becoming her witness. We are a memory. Dragonfly might know of what I speak!

As we bid her farewell, we move ourselves to another blue pool. Her emerald wing will soon lift, glide, dart and dance. She will magically move through the air and with a multitude of invisible doors opening - one after the other! In her very first moments of flight, her cup will be filled. She doesn’t need to ask ‘why’! For 300 million years, her species has carried hope and infinite possibilities. Again, and again, she hears women and children calling her back. Will we transform and heal this time around? Can we become as fluid as the water? Can we see that this magnificent mystery is the riddle?! She is unable to be defeated in her timeless wisdom. If only we would remember, she glimmers. Let go. Let go. Fly. Fly.

In the white sand, I look to the sky and wonder how my own body has become so constricted. A branch swings with birdsong. I ask dragonfly if I may stay there, until I reconfigure in to the next pages. The burning smell of willow swirls and rises through the branches of fire. A premonition. She thinks quietly to herself; he has lived a full life. Days later, he delivers a song. The fawn walks beside us, lifting each foot with grace. Time slows down, in to our wildness.

(dragonfly dawn, mixed media collage, by hilary cline)

Hilary Cline is an arts management and communications consultant, creative writer and collage artist living in New Orleans, LA.. She is an advocate for transformative, educational experiences that restore our powerful relationship to land, story and spirit. Through creative imagination, somatic awareness and the poetic mind, we can find solace in the natural world. For inquiries,

(photo credit:

Dragonfly Writer's Retreat

Once pandemic lifts, we will be partnering with Ms. Cline for a week-long Dragonfly Writer's Retreat (poets, writers and storytellers) sequestering on some remote Mississippi River Island (with the inspirational elements of the water, the wind, the stars, the mammals, the fishes, the insects, the amphibians, the mud, the sand, the biota, the stories and the myths). Quapaw Canoe Company will provide guiding & outfitting, as well as camp kitchen and meals.

Ms. Cline about Dragonfly Writer's Retreat: "It is my hope that this journey is a soft place for people to land, a passage through nature handled with care and reverence. The intention is to provide a safe space for finding courage, renewal and community (in the context of the pandemic). It’s possible participants will have experienced trauma, loss and great alienation. It is a tender time for many and as a nation. We will address this with sensitivity and awareness. Our canoe community and the river will provide a consoling and understanding environment to share, heal, and create."


Dragonfly Dawn
Voyageur Canoe

(The shiny "wings" reflecting light following the birth of another Dragonfly. During pandemic we have been woodshopping a new 29-foot voyageur style canoe called the "Dragonfly Dawn" -- for service in Vicksburg under Capt.Layne Logue)


("Ol' magnolia" is one a several designs being considered for the new Mississippi State Flag; this version is depicted in watercolor)


Balance, Diversity, Democracy

Quapaw Canoe Company core values are balance, diversity, and democracy, which all derive from our experience paddling big canoes on the big waters of North America. Balance is exemplified by the passage of our canoes. Everything we do is about keeping even keel. To do otherwise is dangerous to our health and well-being. Pandemic and police brutality are symptoms of the imbalance we seek to counteract in our services and work as canoe builders, guides & outfitters. Other imbalances include species loss, global warming, and loss of wild places. Diversity for us includes all peoples and all creatures great and small. We have always created equal access for all. Our staff reflects our regional demographics, around 60% Black and 40% White. Since 1998 we have made it our mission to make sure all communities found along the Lower Mississippi River enjoy equal access to the wonders of the big river, and the life changing experience of the wilderness. Our adventures practice the best qualities of Democracy. Everyone in the big canoe sets aside their differences and paddles together for the good of the whole. We believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Inherent in life is the right to breathe clean air, the right to drink clean water, the right to eat good food, and the right to live in healthy shelter, in healthy communities.


If you want to get outside, and get on the river, we have figured out how to do it safely, even amongst the challenges of the virus: one person, one family, one group at a time, no mixing & matching, and do your own food and shuttling. Cheaper that way also! See below for more info, or call trip coordinator Allie Grant 662-627-4070, guides John Ruskey 662-902-7841, or Mark River 662-902-1885, and we'll make it happen! (In Vicksburg-Natchez area call Capt. Layne Logue 601-529-7354 for other safe daytrip options).



The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch "Voice of the Lower Mississippi River" is published by the Quapaw Canoe Company, 22 years of high quality access to the wild wonder of the big river in human powered vessels. Photos and writing by John Ruskey, Mark River and others. Please write for re-publishing. Feel free to share with friends or family, but also credit appropriately. Go to and click on "Quapaw Dispatch" for viewing back issues of the LMRD.


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