MRN’s River Days of Action Lunch and Learn
What an honor to participate in this series of 40 events calling people to action around the Mississippi River. Yesterday’s Lunch and Learn, hosted by the Mississippi River Network was an exciting opportunity to reconsider what was most important about our journey down the river now two years ago. But not only what was important about the journey itself, but what remains constant and continuing, what carries on in the work I am doing with the wealth of material we gathered and the continued connections with our river communities—having such an opportunity really does re-energize and refocus the effort that has been something of a struggle during the isolation of the pandemic.
Week Seventeen | Headwaters to Gulf: a Relay Zoom Reunion Wrap-up
What an amazing convening! …On November 5th, one year from our final day of the Relay when we reached the Mouth of the Mississippi River, we had the great opportunity to reconnect with 30 people who helped us make that journey and shared their voices with us along the way.
Week Sixteen | Violet, LA to Venice, LA (the End of the World): the last 100 miles
The last 100 miles… and we made it to the mouth of the river this week, once again. But this time we were joined by Hurricane Zeta—a not so welcome storm system that swept across southeastern Louisiana, wrecking coastal communities that we have come to love through our time spent downriver last year. Due to this unfortunate timing, many of our coastal friends were unable to join us on this final virtual leg of Zoom sessions. However, James and Alora Madere did find an internet connection while in search for a loaf of bread, and basically stole the show! We quickly got off topic of our presentation as the hour—or was it two hours—wore on, but we were so glad to catch up and see them safe as well.
Week Fifteen | Convent-Lutcher, LA to New Orleans, LA: the next 100 miles
This stretch of Louisiana, through the River Parishes, into Kenner and New Orleans, was filled with strong memories for us as we sifted back through the archive, remembering the weather getting cooler, the rain moving in, and not only the rain, but the storms—including Tropical Storm Olga during our first night in Kenner. Fortunately we were housed in the Emergency Operations Center, so safe from it all we barely heard the wind blowing, but we saw the damages and devastation the next day. These memories echo today in the wake of new storms hitting even closer to home.
Week Fourteen | Morganza, LA to St. Gabriel, LA: the next 200 miles
It’s clear we are deep into Louisiana now—back home if you will—because the voices joining us at this week’s Zoom felt somehow more familiar and the virtual hugs more frequent. Also, too, there was a general banding together against the shared threat of this recently daunting hurricane season through the dialogue before and after me and Tom’s sharing out. It was a good group and gathering to be sure. But so is every week!
Week Thirteen | Tallulah/Mound, LA to Vidalia/Black Hawk, LA: the next 160 miles
It feels like just days ago when I was writing here about Hurricane Laura heading toward my home town of Lake Charles and intersecting with several of our river communities after it made land fall and turned northeasterly. But in fact, it’s been several weeks, and enough time for a new hurricane to rear its ugly head and chart its course for Lake Charles once again as well as our river friends in the very week we were traveling through this time last year.
Week Twelve | Clarksdale, MS to Lake Providence, LA: the next 90 miles
Crossing into the South was one thing, but this week we crossed the river from East to West into what is considered the “Mississippi Delta.” Stretching throughout the states of Arkansas and Mississippi and enveloping communities couched by the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers, we spent a week of last year’s journey absorbing a string of this landscape and its communities and voices—what an experience!
Week Eleven | West Memphis, AR to Helena-West Helena, AR: the next 150 miles
This week we spent time in the Arkansas Delta, making it 2/3rds of the way through the original Relay journey. Leaving Memphis into Arkansas, the terrain flattened, the accents took a turn, the Blues became a mainstay, and cotton was surely king. Crossing over at West Memphis introduced us to a sense of bridges and boundaries beyond physical structures. And the family unit so pervasive up and down the river came forward as an extended community of tradition and inheritance.
Week Ten | Tiptonville, TN to Memphis, TN: the next 150 miles
This week was entirely spent in the state of Tennessee—a deep dive into the South, as we first encountered cotton fields and gins and entered into a more complete history of the Confederacy, not to mention its present day controversies. The way many people speak of “the South” around here, starting from Cairo, IL on down, you’d think the States never settled their disputes! But then again, as we listed more deeply and connected the stories we heard, it became clear this country has a through-line of values and beliefs that’s more powerful than any divides. How to bring this to the fore in our minds and conversations again? We’re listening for this as well, and continue to listen.
Week Nine | Anna, IL to Hickman, KY: the next 140 miles
Well, it was a small crowd this week, almost like family you could say… and by “like family,” I mean actually family—just Tom, myself, and my two parents zooming in from their carport in hurricane ravaged Lake Charles, Louisiana. Oddly appropriate for today’s topics of “ransacked” landscapes and communities who “rally and persist”—the parallels between these landscapes and communities that we experienced on the river and what my parents are mired in right now, but also their great attitudes in resilience and hope for a future out of the destruction around them.