At the Wedding of Sky and River

August 22, 2016

There are four walkways up the bluffs near my house, ranging from easy to exhaustion. Stroke Hill is steep, but not so steep as to be overly challenging. Clifton Hill is moderate, but you’re walking alongside the traffic all the way up. Rio Vista Park is by far the prettiest, as it winds its way through a beautiful woodland.

And then there is Stiritz Lane, straight up from the river for fifty yards, bending to the right, climbing again, winding right, climbing once more and becoming a country lane which takes you to the highway. On a hot day, Stiritz Lane will flat out kill you. You will lose half your sweat on that peak, and your legs will cramp, but then there is the glade of sweet-smelling pink mimosas where you can rest, each flower hosting hummingbirds or butterflies or bees.

The view from the top: Mississippi River below, and flatland all wooded and green on the far shore then the two lanes of trees a few miles to the south that line the Missouri River. It’s quite a sight, storm and sunlight, but it becomes a stunning painting in certain light.

Like yesterday’s light, when the Navaho turquoise sky, untouched by pollution, dappled with concatenations of slight, porcelain clouds blown by pursed windlips, made me exclaim, “Oh my god.” And walkers and bikers and neighbors exclaimed over it, acted as witnesses to the wedding of Sky and River, and I was the singer and the poet.

And the creatures which draw strength from the sere sun, the fritillary and dog-eye sulfur and swallowtail and purple hairstreak and monarch butterflies, the four-inch long red-tail and the tiny blue-tail skinks, the grasshoppers with finely colored black lace wings, the legions of hopping crickets, the dragonflies: all bathed in the golden light.

The music of all those rubbing wings and legs and mouth parts was a string orchestra, like the dream of Charles Ives, the great American composer who envisioned a performance of one of his symphonies as being played by orchestras across two mountaintops.

I stood at the top of the bluff and meditated, and I was joined by a doe, which emerged from the woods behind, its white tail flicking, its large ears flapping to ward off insects.

Then a car came from the north, a blue car, a blue of Man, and the car reached me in seconds, its driver, a young woman, bent over the steering wheel and speeding as though she might launch into the river. I raised my hands and yelled, “Stop!” She didn’t stop, but she slowed to a crawl, turned down her window and said sullenly, “What?”

“You need to slow down.”

She gave me the finger and revved up the car and dropped below the bluff top, seemingly intent on running over a creature or a kid. At least I gave her a chance, a pause. We could have talked, stood silent in awe of the river.

Where does everyone think they’re going? Why rage along bluff roads and peach orchard roads and strawfield roads, like they’re your personal race tracks? Attention young people, you’re going to Death – that’s it. You started dying the second you were born. Any joy along the journey, sip it, savor it. Nothing you do, poem nor website nor school nor fame, will save you.

Luckily, the Navaho sky and the clouds didn’t give a fuck. The bride and groom were all about love. Love does not save, but it feels so deep damn good.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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