We went canoeing on the river this weekend. I’m not an outdoorsy type, but I kind of loved it. I tried to be snobby about it in my head. I mean, it’s not the most glamorous vacation. It’s no ocean in California. It’s not a house in the Hamptons. It’s a river. And a canoe. And 2-dollar water shoes from Wal-Mart so you can walk on the rocks in the river. But it was amazing. It was peaceful for one thing. It can be kind of a party river on Fridays and Saturdays we hear, but we went on Sunday and for the first half of the day we did not see another living soul. The water is clear and very cool. There are huge Missouri bluffs all around and the trees that grow on them seem to be pressed so tightly against each other that you could walk across their leafy tops. I tried to think about my work troubles. I tried to think about how much I’d like to see my book published. I tried to worry and fret and feel blue about the unfinished things in my home, my mind – our lives. Couldn’t be done. None of those things even seemed to exist anymore.
I tried to be snobby about river people too. During the second leg of the trip, they seemed to appear out of the trees themselves, half-dressed and toting diapered toddlers and intertubes full of beer. But there wasn’t much to be snobby about. It was sweet in an old-fashioned, “we made what fun we could afford” sort of way as young families and groups of teenagers streamed out of the terrible heat into the crisp, cool water that sometimes rippled as if to shake off any filth.
I’m trying to write my first novel, and I so want to write Missouri well, because I figure if I can’t make what I know best enjoyable to read than I certainly couldn’t make Paris or New York City seem alive. Canoeing down the Current River inspired me to press on. We have things to love here too. Any life can look beautiful if you show it’s layers. Even thirty minutes after dragging our canoe on the the final sand bar (i.e., beach-like area covered with river rock), when I suddenly became aware that I had been jumping into a river all day and the filth couldn’t possibly have all washed away with the rippling – even then, I was trying to push away the thoughts I had been reaching for only eight hours before. I was smiling about the boy standing on the bluff who was so excited when we let him jump from it and splash us as we passed in our canoe. I was thinking of the ice-cold spring that comes from the cave we can no longer explore and how amazing the earth really is. I mostly just wanted back in that canoe, on the river, watching the bluffs. It was simpler there, and I miss it.