Angle to Key West: Mississippi Treadmill (10/12)

South of Guttenberg, Iowa – October 12, 2012

The world resets itself again and again between every set of giant doors. Sandbar beaches and wooded islands wait after each dam with the same white sand and trees. A dozen miles later, they fade into marshes, sink into the water until there is nothing left but grass and a thousand birds in a slow migration south. Beyond the last blade, the river pools like an inland sea in front of the next lock and I paddle over waves that crash on the deck.

Then the gates open, the water drops underneath me, and I stare out at sandbar beaches again.

Days blend in my mind, smashed together and indistinct. I can barely remember where I camped a night ago, what island blocked the wind, what small town glowed on a nearby bank. It’s beautiful, but nothing stands out, nothing is more or less than anything else. There are no peaks to watch rise on the horizon, no canyons to climb out of. It all feels flattened, photocopied, and I wonder if I am still moving or if the river has transformed into a skipping record.

Islands, marsh, lake. Islands, marsh, lake. Islands, marsh, lake.

I’d believe I’d been here before if the lock numbers didn’t change, but they keep counting up, one or two a day, islands, marsh, lake, toward 27.

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