Last night I went to the Mississippi River with a group of women. I think of this river as the country’s aorta, the largest river pumping life from the top to the bottom of the country.
It’s been a big part of my life, too. I remember as a child stepping over the headwaters at Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota. For the years that I lived in Minneapolis, I spent hours and days of time on its banks, watching the water flow, the barges float along, the crows gather in gaggles, and the trees change from season to season. My kids learned to spell the river’s name because every time we drove over a bridge, we’d sing it. You couldn’t stop until you’d reached the other side so the final “I” was always a stretched-out note: M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-IIIIIIIIIIIIII….
But last night, it was almost dark by the time we arrived at the park along the river. The sky was a rich vermillion, and the still-green trees stood surrounded by a flattened mat of hay-colored grass, long-past parched.
We laid out our blankets and ate our picnic. We had spent the previous hour singing songs to one of the women’s dead mother. She died suddenly—shockingly—when my friend was just seventeen-years-old. Yesterday marked thirty years. So we honored this woman. And we talked, as this group always does, of what matters most in our lives: of love and loss and heartache and hope and sex and good food and men and children and plans for the future and fear and doubt and ultimately, we spoke of trust. That life is doing what it ought to be and us along with it.
The sun was well below the horizon and darkness was around us when we noticed them. You could only see them when a car drove by and the light shone across the park’s dead grass. Hundreds of white moths, fluttering and flying just inches above the ground. When the car’s lights disappeared, so did the moths. Even as I watched them, I couldn’t quite believe it. I had never seen these delightful little creatures in this way before.
I woke this morning remembering them dancing, marveling at all that goes on around us, and sometimes when we don’t even notice.