Angle to Key West: Into the Hive (12/12)

Dream Power

Spillway, mile 128 – December 12, 2012

There is nothing left for me on the river. Industry has swallowed it all. A thousand barges and tugs, loading dock after loading dock, cranes lifting buckets of raw goods, bulk freighters towering a hundred feet high.

It feels like walking down an interstate except there’s no shoulder, medians, or lanes. Everything is buses, vans, and semi-trucks. Some moving, some parked in long lines along the bank, waiting to go at any moment. Nothing is constant except the groan of diesel motors and the terror of being the only flesh and blood thing in a world of battered metal.

I remember being scared when I saw the first tug in Minneapolis. It had three barges and I thought it was gigantic. The fifteen barge tugs in the locks looked unreal, like walls of steel sliding along the river.

I saw a tug pushing forty-two barges today. That is almost seven acres of barge moving across the water. It’s an island, it’s an entire Walmart Supercenter, and it looked puny next to a bulk freighter.

I remember them from Lake Superior, the outlines of ships moving on the horizon, but the lake is deceptive, it’s the difference between staring at a bull in a distant field and finding yourself facing two horns and a few thousand pounds of muscle in a skinny alleyway. Things look bigger up close.

There’s no place to hide anymore, no place to rest. The entire river is either a channel or parked barges, metal and engines wherever you look.¬†The river is over a half-mile wide and I can barely find two-and-a-half feet to breathe.

3 responses to “Angle to Key West: Into the Hive (12/12)

  1. You might have to find a way to become a barnacle on one of the ships:) I have been following you for – well, all of this journey, I came in when you found the Outward Bound students and went back and read all your posts. Every day I watch for you, if I lived in New Orleans I would come out and bring you home for a bit. Build you up, encourage you. You have it in you, I can tell. The Gulf is calling – it will not have the pristine wonder of the Boundary Waters – but you will have more room to breathe, to be, to paddle. You are almost home! But, because I have spent weeks in the Boundary Waters and heard the life in your words there, I think you will return and find a way to have a second home where your soul can soar.

    • Some days I think back to the Boundary Waters and those fantastic young women I met and smile. It reminds me that I can always figure out a way to do this!

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