Today I was sitting outside in the stillness. Out here stillness includes birds, bugs, wind and other noises of those who live out here with us. Then there was the noise of a motor. I listened, intent. I got a picture of myself, of my excitement, my wondering what it is that’s coming along.
I grew up on the Missouri River. The painting above is made from its mud. The mud and the colors I added are what made up the river and its banks. It was quiet there too. A motor meant a barge coming up or down river or a train coming across the Clark (after Lewis and Clark whose route I grew up on) Bridge, going east or west.
The sound of a motor told me – with careful listening – how long the train was, how many cars, what it was carrying, how fast it was going. Same for the barges; how many, empty or full, carrying what, how far away. At night the searchlights swept the sides of the river. I couldn’t see around the river’s bend, but I could hear around it.
It was a life lived slowly. Time could stand there asking nothing of you. Water and earth and wind was just there. I could see fire sometimes, there was an oil refining plant miles away across both the Missouri and the Mississippi in Illinois that I could see by the fire. The two huge rivers came together in their confluence 8.7 miles from where I grew up. I could see the bluffs of the Mississippi on most days but more than sight was sound and light.
Storms came down the river. Lightening in the sky as it travelled to me. The dark of the rainclouds and the light of the sky. I loved guessing how long before the rain would hit my nose. How long before the barge would pass by. How long would I stay waiting on those banks for the next sound.
I left those banks, those bluffs long ago but the sound of a motor carries a special meaning for my heart.