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LMRD 819, Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
~~~~Voice of the Mississippi River~~~~
All paintings and photos (c) 2021 John Ruskey

Today is Mark River People's 53rd birthday! Writer, canoe builder, podcast creator, naturalist, youth leader and warrior in the Quapaw Canoe Company tribe of river-rat worker bees! Typical to his generous personality, today he shares another installment in his ongoing series of blogs:

Mark River Blog:
Creator has Answered my Prayers

I've spent a lot of time on the Mississippi River watching the water make its way downstream. Twisting, swirling, undulating, and boiling simultaneously as it heads to the Gulf of Mexico. I started to apply this in life, as I deal with the trials and tribulations of this pandemic.

The Mississippi River is the perfect ecosystem to find balance and stability in these trying times. I sit in my apartment watching the problems of our country escalate into separate ideologies, normalizing hate, altering truth, deregulating policies to exploit natural resources, and respecting conspiracy theories, while disrespecting science.

All of this as we struggle with the fight of our lives during a pandemic.

How much do we have to suffer before we realize that we have to come together as one to survive these times?

When on the River, I sit on sandy bluffs in willow forest watching the creatures of life, witnessing their mannerisms, listening to the sounds, breathing fresh air, and getting the best sleep of my life. Dreaming of a tree house 60 feet. in the willows, with a harbor tow to escape a thousand-year flood. Casting my fishing line off sandbar points and man made structures, feeling better and better with every cast. Catching and releasing, only keeping what I eat. Pelicans, seagulls, and Arctic terns showing me where the baitfish are, while triggering the release of endorphins in my mind. No society induced anxiety or depression -- just witnessing the natural world working together as one to survive.

Those times on the River replenish and energize my soul, passions, and purpose. Giving me the strength to carry on. Being discriminated against in every aspect of your life for a lifetime makes you tip toe through life, afraid to assert yourself or make any noise. Afraid to thrive knowing the powers that be are coming to stop your progress and take the spoils for themselves. The Mississippi River doesn't discriminate, so I'm at peace when I'm there.

The Creator has answered my prayers. The profound change has come. My quarantine family is well. My River family is well. The people of our wonderful country have come together for change. Our government looks more diverse and inclusive, representing the masses, not just one culture. My lifetime dreams for our country are coming true and that makes my path beautiful, even though it has been a struggle.

Let's come together as one and face this life together. Mark River

Mark River Peoples is chief guide and youth leader for the Quapaw Canoe Company. He produces and narrates an ongoing podcast called "May the River be With You." He is also southern leader of the 1Mississippi Program, which connects people who care about rivers with the people who make decisions about rivers. He is self-isolating in the canoe shop for construction of the next big canoe, and in very limited river trips with discrete groups of clients. His blog writing is inspired by his work on the Mississippi River -- and its many tributaries such as the Big Sunflower and the Arkansas Rivers.

Mark River is:

Team Builder


Canoe Builder



Youth Leader


Storyteller, Campfire Chef

Good Listener


In Tune with Nature, and the Higher Order of Things

At Peace with Himself

Peaceful Pathfinder

Good Friend

Coolest Guy on the River!


1Mississippi River Citizen Program: River Citizens are people who want to clean up and protect America’s greatest River. Whether in armchairs or wading boots, River Citizens protect the River by speaking up on its behalf and caring for it in simple ways that make a big difference. Together, we can protect the River for future generations. Take the first step today and sign up for free as a River Citizen at 1Mississippi, can the River count on you?"


New Dawn

A new dawn is breaking all around us. I know there is a lot of meaning in this moment; my daughter is my thermometer. As we were watching the inauguration Wednesday, she broke down sobbing -- with tears of relief and joy, the unique kind of relief that comes when the light breaks through the darkness, and fairness blossoms throughout the world. I was in tears also, so impactful is the light of justice.

We Quapaws are looking forward to paddling our big canoes with you in 2021, as we roll out of pandemic, and into the new world beyond -- the promised land glowing downstream, around the bend of the big shining river, our queen river that forever inspries and rejuvenates us. She is our queen, we are her worker bees.

At the same time,
I am feeling the limits of my abilities as a person (old age!), and trying to adjust my ambitions accordingly. In this regard, I am reaching out for help. Maybe one of the below opportunities will speak out to you? The door opens for all during this time of year, when the crack of time breaks and the light glows through, and we all look inside of ourselves and seek to adjust our path in closer alignment with our hearts, and in line with our vision. See below for some unique ways to find your heart, and express your vision, as you get your hands in the water, and your feet in the mud!

Opportunities to join us Mighty Quapaws:

1) Secretary: We are in great need of some office help, a secretary, to attend to all of the business on land while the wild and wooly Mighty Quapaw guides lead trips over the levee on the biggest river in North America.

2) Helena Outpost: to someone to take over the Helena operation, which has lain dormant for years. (PS: the potential that is still bubbling for an outpost in Memphis)

3) Partnership: join me in the helm of our ship for a deep and meaningful journey into the future! Great challenges. Hard work. Many risks. Incredible rewards!

Please reach out to if you have any interest in the above.

Tune in Live! Wed, January 27, 2021
4-5pm on Quapaw Canoe Company
FB Page
BEAM Session Six: “The Nature of Words”
with Allie Grant, artist, actor, writer, poet, film-maker

In the spirit of William Shakespeare’s observation that “one touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” BEAM Session Six: “The Nature of Words” explores how our interconnectedness to the world around us acts as the bedrock of truth in our understanding of ourselves and others. Mississippi Appalachian native and Mighty Quapaw, Allie Grant, shares findings from her own backyard in Chickasaw County, while offering us an emotive and experiential multi-cultural lexicon that includes unique descriptions of nature, and language for otherwise indescribable feelings of our relationship to the natural world, to integrate into the free-flowing dictionary of our daily lives. As we conclude with a special reading of a beloved tale for all ages, we discover that just as seedlings are planted upon fertile ground, our words take root and yield the crops of which our souls feed upon; that the stories we tell hold the power to provide a lifetime of nourishment, healing and community. And like the steady old turtle, we must always persevere in sharing the whole truth of oneness.

We have figured out how to run trips safely in small groups one family, one team, one couple at a time, everyone shuttle their own vehicles and do their own food. And it's been working. We have an Artist's Retreat on our dream calendar for 2021, as well as a Yoga Retreat, and a Writer's Retreat, an expedition down the Atchafalaya "River of Trees," and many runs down our beloved Wild Miles including the legendary Chickasaw Bluffs, the Muddy Waters Wilderness, Big Island, the Loess Bluffs, and the Walnut Hills stretching below Vicksburg towards Natchez and St. Francisville, out the Birdsfoot Mouth of the Mississippi, and along the Barrier Islands of the Mississippi Sound, all to help us -- all of us and all of our children -- recover from the long pandemic. It's not over yet, but we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We'll continue to practice safe protocol, and will adopt some of the lessons learned into what's coming post-pandemic.

The 2021 Spring schedule is quickly filling up. Go to our online calendar and check out the openings for river trips! Jump on board one that is public. Or gather your friends and family, and make your own dates. In the dawn of 2021, now is the time to make a date with us Mighty Quapaws, worker bees of our queen, stewards of the Lower Mississippi River!

Neal Moore:
22 rivers,
22 states,
22 months:

Next week I will be joining writer-paddler extraordinaire Neal Moore for a traverse of the Mississippi Sound Barrier Islands, in support of Neal's incredible 22 Rivers Expedition. 22 rivers in 22 states in 22 months. By the end of the year Neal will be celebrating completion as he descends the Hudson River in his final stratxch for final touchdown at America's great beacon of hope, the Statue of Liberty. Go to for the whole story.

What is else is happening with us? In preparation for Neal Moore's Barrier Island traverse, Cricket got a face lift! No structural changes, just some fesh marine nomenclature with a "Cricket playing the Fiddle" logo artwork, and a rendition of the new Mississippi State flag.

We pray and hope that all is well in your corner of the world, wherever you are. We are in slow motion here, loving the downtime, hating the craziness, the chaos and discord, our world needs us more than ever, and our river, and our communities, our children. A lot of work to be done this year!

For us, this is the beginning of the magical, mysterious time of year…. A time for peace, quiet, reflection…. Much to reflect on this year…. And to prepare for in the Ca-New Year. The lessons learned during pandemic, to apply those forward towards the salvation of our world, our dear sweet mother earth, and all her sweet children, she needs some mercy now.

Actually, it's we homo sapiens that need the mercy, we will either learn to live in harmony with the rest of creation -- or we won’t have a home into the future! Such an easy choice!

We're not through it yet, but when we look back we'll see that Pandemic was a warm up exercise to a world that will need all of us working in harmony step-by-step, and hand-in-hand -- and that challenge is global warming.

The Mississippi writer and poet Natasha Trethewey, talks about the transformative power of storytelling and of the metaphor, in her most recent book, Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir.

What stories will we tell about pandemic? And what metaphors will we use to help us live -- and grow through the pain -- of climate change?

You can't change anyone else, you can only change yourself. What have I seen (and I hope, learned) this season?

~~~the magic of the child, as exemplified by the baby Jesus, the birth of light, and renewal, and the blossoming of our lives in the new world, in the new year

~~~our shared responsibility to nurture and nourish the child, not only the child within, but all our children, so that they know not hunger, nor abuse, nor homelessness, nor any effects of climate change

~~~this includes all of our children, those children of of all creatures, of all species - we all need each other to survive in this new world, and not only to survive but to thrive, to blossom, to play, to share stories and songs, to break bread together

~~~we need healthy children of healthy forests, the saplings coming up under the shade of the mature canopy elders, as much as we need our own healthy children

~~~we need the children of healthy forests to breathe

~~~we need our own children to carry our dreams and vision forward, the dreams of diversity, democracy and balance

~~~we need the children of healthy wetlands to store and replenish our waters so that we can drink healthy water

~~~we need children of the mammals, the amphibians, the fish, and all of the many families of life that are connected to us in the Web of Life, because all play role in the big story, and the loss of one causes suffering for all.

~~~we need to let flow (and let grow) our inner child, to recognize beauty and celebrate the great joys of life, every day being a new day, a new journey, a new door, to open and re-create the magic that is the mystery of life

Spiral of Pelicans, Incoming Tide, Cat Island, 2021, John Ruskey

Natasha Trethewey: Transformative power of storytelling and of the metaphor:

"…that early image of my mother’s face above me, eclipsing the sun, as i looked up at her from beneath the waters surface. Only now, it was in the negative — a reversal of light and dark that transformed her face into pure light ringed by darkness, the light all-consuming and piercing."

"Do you know what it means to have a wound that never heals?"

"What matters is the transformative power of metaphor and the stories we tell ourselves about the arc and meaning of our lives."

Natasha Trethewey
Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir
2020, Harper Collins

Natasha Trethewey (born April 26, 1966) is an American poet who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 2012 and again in 2013. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection Native Guard, and she is a former Poet Laureate of Mississippi. Trethewey is the Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University. She previously served as the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University, where she taught from 2001 to 2017. (from Wikipedia)


BEAM#5 Exploration and Gratitude
Go to Quapaw Canoe Company FB Page
To enjoy New Years' sharings from a ragged assortment of Mighty Quapaws and their families!


BEAM Session 5: The Quapaws’ Exploration of Gratitude From Our Own Backyards to Yours!

Happiest of Happy New Years, dear BEAMers from near and far! May 2021 bring us back home to normal, but a normal that over the spiraling of years’ past we have lost. Let empathy, faith, curiosity, kindness, selflessness, community, healing, mercy and love become our normal once more- that is our inherent truth. It is our God given right to live in pure wonder of all that surrounds us, streaming into and dwelling within ourselves and within every being we encounter. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with us. Our endless thanks to our incredible partners Lower Mississippi River Foundation Mississippi Arts Commission and Walter Anderson Museum of Art for enriching our year beyond our imaginations by helping brings our dreams to life! Sending Big River blessings to you all!! Just as the Mighty River forever flows, let us all declare: 2021- we’re here and ready for you! WoooOOOOttt!! Allie Grant, Mark River, Layne Logue, Jean Canôt, John Ruskey.

To watch BEAM#5 go to:


"We are the virus"
(Comment from one of our clients in 2020)


Waning gibbous Earth taken by the GOES-16 satellite on Sept. 11 this year. Smoke from fires in the Amazon and Pantanal of Brazil dominates South America. A vast vector of smoke expands across North America and the Pacific from West Coast wildfires.Credit...Michael Benson/CIRA/NOAA

A Year of Watching Earthly Beauty Burn
NYT by Michael Benson
Dec 28, 2020

The views they provide are astonishing. The planet shines spectacularly in steady sunlight. It’s white and blue, green, ocher and tan, with complex coruscating swirls of cloud. An exquisitely thin aquamarine line defines its dayside limb, delineating its atmospheric perimeter and shading gradually to black at the migratory border between day and night. There’s something sacred to this sight. As the source of all life, as the birthplace of our species, it deserves veneration. It follows that any harm done to it — and we’re doing plenty — is a desecration.

So what are we to make of this yin-yang spectacle, with ourselves at nature’s throat in the south and nature at ours up north? Clearly a tremendous intercontinental drama is underway. Having sown the wind with greenhouse gases for centuries, we’re reaping the whirlwind, sometimes quite literally. Add pestilence to this picture of drought, fire and flood and you have a scene straight out of the Book of Revelation, with the coronavirus, as invisible to the naked eye as it is from space, playing the role of the fourth Horseman, sent by nature to counter our continuing assaults on the natural world.

Actually, our response to the pandemic already suggests the way forward. Faced with an existential crisis of a scale not seen in living memory, we deployed the planet’s best minds, funded them well and turned them loose on the problem. They in turn were able to draw on a wealth of prior knowledge about how viruses infiltrate our bodies, and three decades of hard-won experience in learning about and finally creating RNA — purpose-built synthetic copies of a natural molecule integral to our genes — devised to prompt an immune response within our cells. This paid off spectacularly. And all this was accomplished in record time — months instead of the previous standard of a decade or more.

We need to follow this immediately with another sustained global effort. Imagine what human ingenuity could produce if unleashed in comparably coordinated, well-funded fashion on the climate crisis. The good news is that, as with the new RNA vaccines, we have significant prior research to draw on. It covers carbon-neutral power production, energy conservation strategies, carbon capture and sequestration, global reforestation and an intercontinental effort to build a high voltage, DC power network 40 percent more efficient than AC and thus able to compensate for the daily fluctuations in wind and solar power systems.

In short, we need an all-hands-on-deck fusion of the Manhattan Project and the Marshall Plan, only this time funded by all of the world’s major economies and led by the largest: the United States, the European Union and China.

It’s a hallmark of the more successful viruses that they eventually stop killing their hosts, adapt and live on in symbiosis. Otherwise they risk reaching an evolutionary dead end. For myself, I’m sick of watching our home world, the birthplace of all known life, in horror and disgust at what we’re doing to it. The earth turns in steady sunlight, its temperature rising inexorably. It’s on us to reverse that fever. After all, we produced it.


David Attenborough Still Has Hope for Our Future
NYT by Etan Smallman
Dec. 25, 2020

Do you fear death?

No, not particularly. I ought to be thinking more about it because people are going to clear up after me. I’m not entirely indifferent to material objects, and I think about my poor son and daughter who are going to have clear it all up. That’s my main concern really.

Are there ways you hope we can come out of this pandemic with an improved chance of meeting our obligations to the planet?

I think that what this pandemic has done, in a very strange way, is made an awful lot of people suddenly aware of how valuable and important the natural world is to our psychic well-being. We’re busy about our ways, going on the underground railway, dashing into offices, turning on lights. I am more aware of the changes that there have been in the natural world, around London, than I have been in decades. During the summer, I went for walks in my garden twice a day, at least. It’s only a pocket-handkerchief size — it’s not a big garden — but nonetheless, there was something to be found, every time. And I was listening to birds. I’m a rotten bird watcher — I don’t know one bird from the other — but I know a bit more this year than I did last, I’ll tell you that.

Repeatedly voted both the most trusted and popular person in his home country, Attenborough may be the most traveled human in history. (For his landmark 1979 series “Life on Earth” alone, he traveled 1.5 million miles.) “If the world is, indeed, to be saved,” writes the environmental journalist and activist Simon Barnes, “then Attenborough will have had more to do with its salvation than anyone else who ever lived.”



California’s redwoods, sequoias and Joshua trees define the American West and nature’s resilience through the ages. Wildfires this year were their deadliest test.

NYT by John Branch
Dec 9, 2012

The enchantment that California’s forests provoke can be scientific or spiritual. For the state’s three famous plant species, it is probably both. The allure stems from each one’s unique blend of size, shape and age. Their heft, their height, their persistence. Their sheer audacity.

They are never found together. Yet they share an uncommon ability to silently stand there and elicit a reaction — gasps, giggles, photographs, memories. How many other trees can attract a crowd?

Resiliency is key to their magnetism. They survive where others would not. They stand their ground, with panache. Sequoias and redwoods can live thousands of years on their way to dwarfing most everything around them. Joshua trees are the most good-natured of desert plants, frozen in dance poses as they endure the harshest of environments with flair.

They have a timeless quality that can make their onlookers feel small and impermanent by comparison, the way a night sky does to stargazers. We know they will outlast us.

Since 2015, nearly two-thirds of the roughly 48,000 acres of giant sequoia groves have burned — about half of that since August. The amount of groves burned in the past five years is double what had burned in the previous century.

But it is not just the number of fires or acres they consume. Fires are burning bigger, hotter and higher than ever. A historic drought from 2012 to 2016 and huge infestations of bark beetles killed millions of trees in the mixed-conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, leaving them behind as kindling.


Thomas Moore

The Soul of Christmas

A Celtic Music Celebration


The child, hallowed in brilliance

and in the light of the star

is our creative spirit

the spark of life in us

that has no limits

we live in two universes that overlap:

one ordinary and temporal

the other mysterious and eternal

Christmas celebrates the point

at which these two worlds touch and join


The ancients often say

that we have a sky within

the star “like a diamond in the sky”

a jewel whose twinkling light

mirrors the spark of life

that we feel within ourselves

philosophers once described

this sense of life stirring within ourselves

as a scintilla: a spark

they saw the shining stars

as cosmic echoes of that spark

of life we know within ourselves

Jung said we could look into ourselves

and the see stars, sparks

and luminous fish eyes

Christmas gives us strong images

the great external universe that is the world

the great internal universe that is the soul

the great world of nature mirrors

the small universe that is the human heart

Thomas Moore
The Soul of Christmas
A Celtic Music Celebration

Thomas Moore is the author of the number one New York Times bestseller Care of the Soul. He has written twenty-four other books about bringing soul to personal life and culture, deepening spirituality, humanizing medicine, finding meaningful work, imagining sexuality with soul and doing religion in a fresh way.


Spirit Lake (c) 2021 John Ruskey


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 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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