As the fog lifted from the journey I was about to take, I realized that I was alone on the river. The water divided and smoothly allowed me passage down the river.
Each chute, each ripple, each fork, each section had its own characteristic. Not just any river, the Eleven Point River. The purist river in Missouri.
It has numerous springs coming to join in the journey and in the history of the moment. If the big cottonwoods or sycamores could talk, what would they say? If you asked the rocks beneath the clear blue waters, what words would they say?
Words gave birth to the river, and words will bring it home. Actually, I wasn’t really alone after all.
As I flowed along the river in my kayak, I noticed turtles and snakes getting warm under the sun on fallen trees in the water. I felt the cold temperature of the water underneath my kayak.
It was fall weather here. I saw blue and green herons trying to get a taste of food out of the water. Muskrats diving underneath my kayak to go to their nest by the bank.
As the journey goes on, time doesn’t seem to matter. The history cries out on each corner and bluff.
If you listen closely, you can hear Native Americans crossing the river riding bareback on horses; loggers dropping cut logs into the river from the Boom Hole Bluff; logs hitting the rocks at Mary Decker Shoals where the old-timers would retrieve them out of the water; fishermen casting out their lines to catch food for their families; and small communities living, striving along the river.
You can almost here children swimming and laughing in the cold water; crayfish hiding under rocks; deer walking through the timber along the banks; sounds of hunting dogs treeing a coon or chasing a coyote; horseback riders traveling along the Ozark Trail; eagles soaring through the air above; turtles diving into the river after sunning themselves on the rocks or fallen trees; and the sound of the river itself while it flows over rocks and on down the trail. Flowing through life and living as one.
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Greer Spring flows out 220,000,000 gallons literally racing down a mile stretch to join the river. How colder the water feels underneath my kayak as I pass by where it enters into the river.
How thunderous the sound of all that water coming to join the pure river to journey along with it.
As I turn in at the end of this wonderful journey, I feel refreshed, but sad. Reality sets in and time is remembered. The history, the companionship of wildlife, the people, and the river will always be remembered.
The experience of flowing with the Eleven Point River is engraved into my heart and soul for good. A person has improved oneself when you experience the river and yourself becoming one.
Flowing together as one. Living together, and respecting each other.
For we all journey together in this life, we may not all end up together in the end, but we need to appreciate each other along the way and make time for what really matters in our lives.
For the love of nature, families and the river will forever be with us, even to the next journey.
(Dana Sturgeon lives in southern Missouri. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)