Paddle for the People, all Creation
Happy Ca-New Year from the Mighty Quapaws
River Time, LMRD #854, Sunday, Jan 2, 2022
It might have taken 22 months, but Neal Moore proved that it all connects, across the broad, bountiful belly of North America, Sea to Shining Sea…
As a New Year’s gift to friends, family, and river rats — wherever you may be on this 2nd day of the New Year 2022 — I am sharing "Paddle for the People, All Creation" — inspired by Neal Moore's vision with his 22 Rivers Expedition (2020-2021), an incredible journey of exploration and inspiration — Neal experienced endless opportunity, passion, sympathy, freedom, hard work, life struggles, tragedy and dignity flashing through the stories and eyes of the people -- and all of creation -- that he encountered along the trail of 22 rivers across 22 states in 22 months (including monarch butterflies, snapping turtles, gators, grizzlies, snowy owls, bull sharks, and a pod of dolphins!). Special thanks to Dr. Wang Ping, for helping fine tune the final rendering of the poem.
Now we Paddle for the People, for all Creation ~ by John Ruskey I am the river but I am lonely where are the people? where is creation? 1 A young man set off in a red canoe to find out, to paddle for the people — and all creation in this great nation, from sea to shining sea stroke to the east, stroke to the west leaving the waters of the big whales following inland watery trails he started up the big river Woody Guthrie sang about “Oh, it’s always we’ve rambled, this river you & I All along your green valleys I will work until I die” I see wind surfers and ocean-going freighters but where are the salmon? And those who followed the fish? The First Nation peoples traded up and down the coast and the big rivers of the west in their dugout canoes carved from western red cedar and the Mississippian people carved theirs from cinnamon cypress and did the same up and down the meandering muddy waters of the great heart of this continent, connecting big bony mountain ranges on either side, and the salty sweet Gulf of Mexico in her belly The people of the North Woods stripped giant birches of their skin and crafted the sleekest, fastest, and finest vessels ever European sailors entering the St. Lawrence Seaway were amazed at how nimble the birch bark canoes scooted over the water and now in a red canoe named Shannon, derived from that same tradition a young man starts chopping his paddle left and right back & forth, north & south, east & west stroke to the one you love the best, stroking with unrefined, but dedicated determination and rhythm, and swirls, up and down the same rivers and now we paddle for the people, now we paddle for creation 2 The loneliness of the long distance paddler, the cold nights and hot days the waking up by the first light to pack up and push off sometimes in blistering sun and deadly drought, sometimes in flood days of hard winds and hard rains, of big rivers, and shallow rocky rivers whirlpools tugging at your paddle, eddies spinning you around and around, boils erupting and discharging big rolling waves, crashing waves, haystacking waves, rogue waves very fitting indeed, to come in backwards Shannon canoe turning to look back on the last 22 months and remember the distance, and all of the portage steps and paddle strokes along the way all the long nights and lonely days, the little triumphs, the setbacks and challenges the tearful circumstances, the joys and letdowns, the agony and the ecstasy the brilliant enlightenments, the humbling winds and storms your body in pain, but your spirit endured, enchanted, enlightened, exulted you laugh out loud, all things brought to comic balance on these islands in these waters that connect us all, so close and yet so far a contrail illuminated baby yellow for a long moment, then extinguished now a faint reddish lavender bluish seems to streak the cheeks of the sky from where the sun disappeared not long ago, tears in your eye are they from the wind? are they from the cold? are they from the brilliance? are they from the high lonesomeness? Are they from the bounty? The beauty? Are they from the pain? Are they from the absurdity? You have no choice but giggle, then whoo-whoop! no one hears except the birds and fish. A bull shark bumps your canoe in the Mississippi Sound, a pod of dolphins surface and seem to smile You are lonely, but you are not alone, sun burned, and chilled to the bone a Grizzly wanders through your Rocky Mountain camp a Gator surfaces and swells the waters of Lake Pontchartrain then swishes away, a Snowy Owl watches from a Hudson River fir a loon cries, and then dives, as lady liberty rises, tears in your eyes and now we paddle for the people, and all creation 3 paddling up and out of the Chinook oyster bays at the foot of ferny evergreen coastal ranges, Oregon, Washington into the rugged bitterroot Idaho, salty wind blowing over the camas prairies, across the great divide into wild wolf spruces, and aspens and pines, box elder and willows smoky vanilla ponderosa, blushing in the sun, the backbone and basins of the west, to descend through the open antelope plains of Montana, the lonely Dakota grasslands the cliff swallows of Nebraska, the blackbirds of Iowa and paddlefish of Kansas, into the fecund forests of the muddy heart of a continent, a squirrel could leap across the country’s canopy without touching ground the sturgeon of Missouri and white pelicans of the middle miss, the egrets of Illinois and down, down, down into the gut of America, where the great green Ohio river flows in from the east and swells the muddy Mississippi to fullness, and now together joined as one they swirl southward in ever larger muddy meanders gulping great gobs of bottomland hardwood forests and endless wetlands thriving with vine-covered cottonwoods, sweet gums, oaks and sycamores, the wild turkey of Tennessee, the lightning bugs of Kentucky and bald eagles of Arkansas the flooded tupelo-gum cypress forests falling away to endless estuary marshlands the map turtles of Mississippi and the see-through river shrimp of la Louisianne, the osprey of Alabama, the foxes of Indiana, the cicadas of Ohio, and over the long loopy line of ridges of Allegheny, the snapping turtles of Pennsylvania, through Chataqua, and over the Appalachian divide, where glacier-carved valleys bounded by rolling moss-covered mountains, and dark cliffy ravines erupting with maples and hickories, oaks and ashes and white pines the snowy owl of New York, the long lonesome cry of the loon, before she dives bittersweet in your ear as lady liberty rises and raises her torch over the sparky brilliant glistening waves we’re all connected along this trail, the waters — and the land — makes us one — the only dividing line appears on maps and now we paddle for the people, for all creation 4 I don’t know what got into your mind when you dreamed up this quixotic odyssey surely a sane man would have found it an oddity, and made the same route by car but I do know the pull of the heart strings, and the yearning, and the call the river yanks deep within us, the crusty cavern of our inner beings and pulls us up and out of bed, off the couch, out of the house, and over the riverbank the flow of human blood through human veins runs broad and deep if rivers flow there, as Langston Hughes once said, then surely canoes as well humans have been carving canoes for at least 8,000 years For eight millennium we have applied carving tools and fire to logs and pushed these sculpted wonders into the water heavy on land, but light as a leaf when they float, the magic of fluid motion all things brought out of the commotion, all things brought together, brought to harmony even cold steel bridges and billowing smokestacks are made beautiful in their long sinewy reflections the river makes mad rampages, and floods homes and lands but also replenishes the wetlands and rejuvenates the forest free fertilizer for the fields of the farmer, who fears silt and sedimentation we build levees ever higher, but we find our freedom on the other side of the levee where is the ivory bill? and where is the passenger pigeon? 22 species declared extinct in 2021, the Bachman's warbler: last seen in 1988. the bridled white-eye: last seen in 1983; the flat pigtoe mussel: last seen in 1984 the green-blossom pearly mussel: Last seen in 1982. Ivory-billed woodpecker: last seen in 1944. Eight freshwater mussels, two fish, and eleven birds. the misery of accepting the loss, the call to retreat, into the wild places, for the sanctuary of the many, the long landscapes, the remote mountains and big river islands, over the muddy edges into the remaining wetlands and floodplain forests, the cougars and black bears, the otters and osprey, all need - or feed - on the fungi, the microbiota, the free-flowing plankton soup, the monarchs, the yellow, orange, black-and-white spotted kind that flutter three generations from the shores of the Great Lakes to the mountains of Mexico, will they survive the next year? Filled with fear, as their numbers flutter and fall to the floor and flop around like ashes from a fire, mass murders of their numbers, where will it all end? and now we paddle for the people, for all creation 5 One more paddle stroke for the people Paddling for the people, paddling for the town paddling for polluted communities, struggling for their lost ground paddling for pickers and planters, who try to the feed the world for the truckers and tow boat pilots, for the dock workers and stevedores, the warehousers and distributors, milkers and meatpackers, for the furniture builders and cheesemakers, the assembly lines and food lines, plastic workers, coal shovelers, uranium miners loggers and lumbermen, librarians and nurses, teachers and welders for the granaries, the roaring factories, and throbbing refineries the overcrowded prisons and hospitals, and schools, the face masks and throbbing hearts families torn apart, motherless children, kids growing up without fathers families torn apart by war, youngsters seeking a better life parents seeking freedom of thought, of prayer, of economy, of transformation, hungry children, broken families, all humans crave freedom, but what does that mean? where is that to be found? We find it over the levee, down the river, through the woods in the canyons and deserts, the grasslands, the seashores and mountain ranges of the great fertile belly of North America, Mother Earth accepts all, all Euro-Asians & Africans, all Oceana, all the Americas north & south, all those grounded, and those at sea, all the lands, and all the islands in between, the first peoples, the last peoples, all nations, colors, codes and creeds, all those descended from hunter-gatherers, and still have not found the path, you show the way, the light shining, the glowing torch held high, in the foamy effervescent milky way, in the pathway in between and through the storms, the rippling colorful creative pools deep in each other’s eyes, we all breath the same air, we all drink the same water, we all consume and share, mother earth provides, but how long she sustain all of us multiplying and consuming and burning, we are one species out of five million and counting, we have one voice, one vote, one purpose, all connected, each and every one as integral to the whole as a a drop of water to the ocean, the oilmen and amoebas, all colors turn petroleum black, the river turns all things brown, creator were pinches off a piece of mud, and breaths life into the dust lady liberty shining through the faces of all the people and places along the trail, on hog farmers and chicken farmers, maids and masons, a country made of countries, who will build your houses? and who will answer your phones? who will tend your sick? And who will keep your yards? who will write your books? And who will sing your songs? who will drive your buses? and who cook your food? who will cut your corn, and who will harvest your hay? who will raise your greens? who will teach your children? And tend to your kids? Who will nurture and nanny your infants? And where will the children play? Not tomorrow, but today? We all need that place to walk in the woods that place over the banks of the river, where busy time stops with a shiver the balance of life expressed in every paddle stroke, starboard and port, c-stroke & j-stroke the symmetry of swirling mushroom ripples revolving behind your every reach and pull as our heart soul time arrows overflow the quiver, to remember and deliver that pathway, that river, that portal to the infinite, the universe, and now lady liberty rises over the ever-reaching curved horizon to meet you and greet you, as you swing your paddle clean & bright flashing like silver, to blaze with brilliance the songs and stories of twenty-two rivers, across twenty-two states, in twenty-two months the soul song of a continent carried in a simple two-person canoe ferried along in the forever flashing, splashing, golden burning bright, swirls & flow drawing and ruddering, fluttering on the wings of a butterfly, over beaver and mussel trails power strokes up through the rapids through funnels of joyful whitewater bliss, cut into an eddy behind a rock, take a pause, a steamy breath, and start forward again, flashing like sliver salmon smiling leaping upwards with undefinable yet undeniable motivation, and purpose and now we paddle for the people, for all creation ~~~ John Ruskey Dec, 2021 Clarksdale, New York
New Yorker — Ben McGrath, Dec 13, 2021 — After Seventy-five Hundred Miles, a Long-Haul Paddler Floats Into Town. Neal Moore, a canoeist who set off from Oregon, closes in on the Statue of Liberty after twenty-two months, twenty-two rivers, and one capsizing incident—a journey inspired by the disappearance of his fellow-canoeist, Dick Conant.
New York Times — Corey Kilgannon, Dec 17, 2021 — Two Years, 22 Rivers, 7,500 Miles. Crossing America by Canoe. Paddling through the pandemic to see the country from water level “up close and personal at this interesting time.”
Commercial-Dispatch — Birney Imes, Dec 18, 2021 — Partial to Home: Connecting us all. Paddling to the Statue of Liberty: Neal Moore’s grand, bittersweet finale.
Visit Neal Moore’s 22 Rivers Website for photos, videos, podcasts, interviews, journal, maps, and stories from many sources and various writers.
I first met Neal Moore a decade ago when he was paddling down the Mississippi River as a CNN Citizen Reporter, in 2012. Neal stopped and stayed with us in Helena Arkansas, and made a neat story about the KIPP Dugout Canoe Project called Life Lessons of the Dugout Canoe…
Our Mighty Quapaw paddles up to Neal! Paddles up to his vision of humanity. Paddles up to his trusty canoe, Shannon — like all canoes, a vessel with an ancient history that survives today.
Neal Moore sheds light and sees the light, in the people he met over the last 2 years, and as he finished on Tuesday, December 14th, the brilliant low angle winter light glowing around our sweet Lady Liberty, and sparkling off the lively waters where the Hudson mixes with the Atlantic in the New York City harbor.
Paddle for the People, All Creation celebrates America, its people, its lands, its animals, birds, fish, and all layers of creation inhabiting its many biotas. (c) 2022 John Ruskey, Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Manhattan Kayak Company outfitted us for the day, and hosted a follow-up party at their Pier 84 location. Great company, great location, great offerings. I was amongst a small group of kayakers who joined Neal. An emotional and spiritual closing of circles for all, and opening of new ones forward.
The Quapaw Canoe Company is a team of river guides and river lovers who build canoes and paddle them on wilderness trips down remote wild places of the Lower Mississippi River Valley. We lead people into the vast wilderness that is created by the floodplain of the biggest river in North America -- from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico. We make explorations of the many biotas encompassed by the big river from the broad & deep main channel of the river to its back channels, to its wetlands, from its steep ravined bluffs to its oxbow lakes, its bottomland hardwood forests, its giant islands, caney breaks, expansive sandbars, and its open fields and willow woods. Each biota created by the river is favored by different species of creation (for example the interior least tern like to nest on the giant Miss River sandbars; sweet gums thrive on high ground bottomland forests while cottonwoods the lowlands closer to the water; the Swainson's warbler inhabit the caney breaks found on Lower Miss Valley islands; the entire life cycle of the viceroy butterfly is symbiotic with the black willow, and etc, and etc.). Our mission is to share and protect what remains of the wild Lower Mississippi. Our service creates unique opportunities for witnessing the wonders of wildlife in their natural habitat. Experience leads to stewardship, leads to balance, leads to a sustainable long-term relationship between us and the rest of creation.