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LMRD 809 ~ Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
"Voice of the Lower Mississippi River"
~~~Friday, Nov 13, 2020~~~

Down along the banks of the Sunflower River in downtown Clarksdale...

Grandfather Cypress Awaits Your Vision!

He's a big boy, with swooping ends that we attached for vertical enhancement...

What is the Spirit Hidden Within? The River under the River?

A friend recently recommended a book that talks about "Río Abajo Río" -- or "the River under the River." That is, the spirit of the river. That unseen force and energy that swirls underneath everything we see and experience on the surface of the river. And that is exactly what we are looking in the woody flesh of Grandfather Cypress Canoe: the wood under the wood. The canoe hidden within. The spirit of the log.

We Quapaws have been sitting quietly and listening...

I saw a great horned owl across the river -- Owl Canoe?

Craig's dog Lexy came for a visit --

Lexy Canoe?

A Buck Deer made an appearance -- Buck Deer Canoe?

My Daddy visited, and saw a beaver -- Beaver Canoe?

Magdalena Solé saw a whale -- Whale Canoe?

*Note: send us your "idea" -- or a drawing! If it's an idea, i'll draw what i think you are seeing!

Some others sent sketches:

Kathy Dulaney sketched an "Old Man River Canoe:"

"The bow of the canoe could be the face of an old man with beard and hair flowing back into the body of the canoe. The grooves of the beard and hair would flow along the sides turning into grooves similar to the trunk of a cypress tree, then smoothing out and ending with three cypress knees at the stern. A rough sketch is attached. Love the work you do with and for the river. Thank you."

Rambling Steve Gardner:

Fish Canoe? Rambling Steve Gardner saw Miz Sally and Big Steve in a Fish Canoe and sent "wishes for safe travels and smooth water!" Thanks brother Steve!

Here's what we have to work with

If you're close enough, come visit and spend some always rewarding, quiet artistic time: bring your sketch pad or notebook, grab a chair, and let your imagination run free. Note: You can grab a fresh-brewed coffee and fresh-baked bagel across the street at Big River Bagels -- now located within the Meraki Coffee Shop!

Mark River's Journal

Jean Canôt saw butterflies

Whatever you see, please share! Email idea, or scan or photograph -- please send all submissions to Allie Grant and John Ruskey We will be sending out all submissions received in newsletter next Tuesday, Nov 17th and asking for your vote. You can vote by email on that day after receiving newsletter. On Nov 18th we'll complete the vote while live BEAM-ing on Quapaw Canoe Company FB page, remaining votes to be taken then during the session from 3-4pm CST.

Judy Belue saw the Spirit of our New flag -- a "New Directions" Canoe?

(PS: We're very proud of the new Mississippi State Flag. Picutured above is our own personalized version, which we'll be flying high from our flagpole -- featuring the 17 recognized religions as reflected by the 17 fish and 17 magnolia blossoms... Below is the one voted in Nov 3rd, 2020)

Our new official state flag! Paddles Up Mississippi! We love it! Voted in Nov 3, 2020. Whooo-Whooop!

~~~Other ideas~~~

*Judy Belue saw a canoe design featuring the new Mississippi flag and a new direction.

*Mike Beck saw a crocodile canoe, like those of the Sepik River in New Guinea. "
I like how the crocodile's eyes project above the gunnel in the first one:"

*Thomas Jackson saw the "Green Man"

*Cliff Lawson saw the universal pattern of the spiral, as expressed by Jon Foreman

*Magdalena Solé saw a canoe in the shape of a whale -- "It will be powerful and wise."

*Scott Shirey shared a Chuang Tzu poem that captures the very same River under River spirit we are searching for as canoe carvers, (and a similar spirtual practice):

Chuang Tzu:
Poem of the Woodcarver

Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand
Of precious wood. When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits.
The Prince of Lu said to the master carver:
“What is your secret?”

Khing replied: “I am only a workman:
I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
On trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set
My heart at rest.
After three days fasting,
I had forgotten gain and success.

After five days
I had forgotten praise or criticism.
After seven days
I had forgotten my body
With all its limbs.

“By this time all thought of your Highness
And of the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell stand.

“Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
and begin.

“If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bell stand at all.

“What happened?
My own collected thought
Encountered the hidden potential in the wood;
From this live encounter came the work
Which you ascribe to the spirits.”

"Poem of the Woodcarver" by Chuang Tzu, from The Way of Chuang Tzu, by Thomas Merton. © New Directions, 1965.

Calling for Submissions! Help us find the Spirit in the Log!

Grandfather Cypress awaiting its form to be carved -- Clarksdale, Miss, banks of Sunflower River next to Quapaw Canoe Company

Calling all artists! And creative types! And anyone who is willing to send a doodle, a sketch, or an idea. Deadline in 2 weeks, Tues, Nov 17th.

Let your imagination go free... Design the canoe as a river canoe, a lake canoe, an ocean canoe -- or spirit canoe -- whatever you "see" is what is right!

We're taking submissions through Tuesday, Nov 17th. All ideas will be collected and then we'll vote on them live, on Wed Nov 18th, during the next BEAM session. Scan or photograph and send all submissions to Allie Grant and John Ruskey

Story thus far:

Last month we dropped the dead-standing Louisiana Bald Cypress that we have lovingly come to call "Grandfather Cypress."

Now we are studying the 20 foot trunk section. It is sitting in the field next to the Quapaw Canoe Company on the banks of the Sunflower River. We will begin carving this month. I had a vision of a Buck Deer Canoe, based on a personal animal encounter. But that is just one idea. We want to see yours!

We need your help finding the Spirit in the Log! Here are dimensions, and shape: 20' long, 4' diameter at butt, 3' at crown.

Butt end (4 feet in diameter)

Crown end (3 feet in diameter)

The dugout canoe is an 8,000 year old tradition, and full of creative possibility. Approach the log as a sculptor would a lump of clay, or a raw block of marble. What is the spirit contained within? What form is yearning to be articulated through our carving? What design best reflects the spirit of our community? Our biota? The spirit of mother earth?

In the traditio, animal spirits are often articulated, but do not limit yourself in any way! I know a dugout canoe carver (Churchill Clark) who very successfully carves human faces, and sometimes abstract shapes.

Here is a sample of canoes I have carved over they decades. The first one, "King Beaver," is the only one I carved entirely alone, and it took me 20 years to finish! All others involved a community of carvers. Grandfather Cypress will be a community project for Clarksdale, MS and Helena, AR, and anyone else who wants to come participate.