by Carolyn Trower

Whenever I’m in Hannibal and have extra time, I go to Riverview Park to the Lookout. There’s usually a good breeze there and the trees keep it shady so the humidity is kept at bay. Leaning on the wall and gazing at the swirling waters of the Mississippi, I feel flickers of sunshine on my face. The trees are swaying and the leaves showing their undersides; a sure sign of rain my mother always said. We don’t need any more rain for a time, the river is swollen from the latest deluge.
My thoughts get sidetracked by three buzzards gliding above the current. Two of them wheel high and disappear over the treetops before reappearing to circle up with the third one and glide out of sight. Is there a poor creature laying below, a repast waiting for them on the unseen shore? Will they land and feast or continue to circle above and ride the wind?
The river ripples with wind-driven waves across its surface. The grey water moves first one way, then another; treachery and danger beneath the silken grey-green water. The islands that Mark Twain wrote about appear like lush green stones as if strewn about by a benevolent giant.
I thought of the early settlers maneuvering flatboats down the mighty river, crossing from shore to shore and tossed about by the swirls and eddies. I can understand the need to move on, to seek a better life in less crowded territory; and I am amazed at the courage they displayed every day to reach their goal. That courage is part of the fabric of America; a thread woven with the determination and stamina of thousands before them. Do we have that same sense of destiny today? Do we have the same drive and faith that propelled so many Americans toward uncharted territory and a new way of life? I hope our “American character” is not lost in the pages of the history books.
A rapid chattering made me turn from the river to the trees. A small grey squirrel scratches the ground. He is almost as grey as the tree bark and seems to be searching in the leaf debris for some elusive tidbit. He looks up at me. I stop and he comes closer. I turn to get my camera – and he is gone.
My attention focused once again on the river, I notice a large branch in the water close to the shore of one of the wooded islands. The branch holds its own as the water makes a V as it hurries around the obstacle.
There is birdsong and insect chatter, but also dogs barking and more and more people headed toward this point. My solitude disrupted, I gaze once more at the river and the skyline before getting into my car and leaving.