"I was powerful glad to get away from the feuds, and so was Jim to get away from the swamp. We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft." (Huck Finn)
I guess any boy growing up in the South is drawn to Huck Finn. Certainly given my many experiences in and around and up and down the Mississippi, it's easy to understand why I have such an affinity and understanding of the novel. I feel like Huck, the rascal that seems to be so embedded in the action and yet can't help but to just want to sit outside, analyze, and understand the world and why people do things and why things happen in such a way. In my world it's important to be civilized and in the know. And yet so often I feel the desire, like Huck, to avoid all that "'sivilizing." In all that thinking I always come back to the desire for peace and tranquility and the desire to just be; be in the moment. And no other place is better for being in the moment than on the river.
Here in the Greater DC area we similarly have a wonderful, navigable river. She was named Patowmeck "something brought" by the Algonquian natives of the area. The area above Great Falls was referred to as Cohongarooton ("honking geese") by those same natives. Much like the Mississippi, the great Potomac River has breathed life to the area. In colonial times and during the era of our "Young Republic," farmers from the great Shenandoah Valley (America's breadbasket at the time) shipped their goods up the Shenandoah and then down the Potomac to the population centers further down the river. As the Mississippi traverses America from it's north in Minnesota to it's deep south where it meets the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana, the Potomac runs from America's colonial frontier where it's headwaters are formed in what is now West Virginia and runs between Virginia and Maryland and empties into the Chesapeake Bay. The two rivers thusly travel not only ground but the history of this country.
I love the Potomac, I love running along it's adjacent paths on a calm spring afternoon. When I am with her I think of the history that has transpired along it's path.
I also think about how it's path has traversed through my history.
Just the other day I looked up to the sunny sky and felt the warmth of that sun reaching around the tree branches and breathed in the fresh air. I realized the river gave symbolism to my life similar to how that Mississippi River affected Huck's life.
You see Sandee loves the river as well, perhaps even more than I. It has provided a story board for our lives in those few moments we get to share together.
For me life stops when I'm on the river with Sandee. Conversation is as slow and easy as the gentle currents we float upon. The air we breath when we walk along it's course is clean and unfettered from that which we breath in our "real" life. The river is a safe haven for us to be "in the moment" or rather "out of the moment" that that "sivilized" society is living just around the bend and over them yonder hills! On the river our "odyssey" is not to get somewhere but rather to not get anywhere in particular other than to continue the journey together.
In the end I find the ending of Huck Finn somewhat anti-climatic. For all of the pursuit of freedom the ending is unresolved for Huck and he may still get "sivilized." For Jim, he had his freedom all along. It was outside parties (Tom Sawyer) that failed to reveal this for their own enjoyments. In the end the beauty and meaning of the novel is not a beginning or an ending but the journey.
It's funny, now that I think about it my favorite times of a vacation or big event are always the time leading up to and during that first night when the experiences lay ahead of me. For it's the journey that is the fun part, it's the journey that yields the reverence not the denouement.
Sometimes now I fear that I am rapidly approaching the denouement of this part of my life and I just look back and smile at the journey just as I did the other day running along my Potowmeck and feeling like Huck navigating his way to Jackson's Island at the onset of the story.
"And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time, in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind." (Huck Finn)