Angle to Key West: Memphis Skyline (11/20)

Mile 745 of Lower Mississippi, just north of Memphis – November 20, 2012

Memphis glows under a halo of light along the southern horizon. Bright windows outline office buildings. A red beacon flashes over the pyramid’s triangular shadow. Yellow lights crowd the riverfront. Behind me, the Mississippi snakes away, black and wide, disappearing into the darkness. In front, it shines with reflected light.

I paddled past sunset, as close to the city as I dared in the night, watching the sky turn from bright orange to faded purple to black. I didn’t want to just stare at a glowing sky, I wanted to see building and bridges, street lamps and cell towers, the electric flow of six-hundred-thousand people.

Sleeping on a sand island at the edge of a city’s glow is not like the quick arrival in a plane from 30,000 feet or watching buildings grow tall from an interstate at 70 miles an hour. It’s a thousand glances in the night, a chance to wonder, to anticipate, to long for the sun to rise again.

It’s like the old saying thrown around Memphis BBQ joints–slow and low, you gotta cook it slow and low.

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