Saturday, June 6, 2015
High – 89
Low – 71
Skies – sunny
Winds – light and variable
Today was as much a part of this trip experience as a 30-mile day on the river. Today we enjoyed a river-town and its people.
We woke in a bed (3rd time since leaving on April 4), in the Mecca of Lower Mississippi paddling – the Helena office of the Quapaw Canoe Company. We needed to pick up a mail parcel in town and will stay to attend a church on Sunday. So, with our boats safely stored in back amongst legendary Rivergator canoes (www.rivergator.com), we have accepted their offer of hospitality and decided to stay a spell (I talk like that now). We’re still “camping” (ie LaNae is currently going through our food to pick out a dinner to heat up), however. there just happens to be a roof over our heads, a bed under our bodies, and air conditioning brushing our skin. Nice.
Today we woke, fixed a dehydrated breakfast, and drank cheap strong coffee before we received a visit by Maddog of Quapaw. He is a well-educated and philosophical man – perfect for a deep and interesting conversation over caffeine. As we discussed Maddog’s paintings, he told us of the Navajo rug making practice of ch’ihónít’. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially it is the inclusion of an intentional mistake into every rug woven. The purpose is to recognize that God is God and we are not. God is perfect and, therefore, our attempts to be perfect are not only futile, but an insult to God. Wow. There is certainly a lesson in this, especially when we see our mistakes and shortcomings as a reason to beat ourselves up emotionally.
After the great conversation, Maddog asked if he could run us anywhere. At the risk of exploiting his graciousness, we asked for a ride to the laundromat to clean our clothes and then to the Wal-Mart to get my watch fixed. (Long story short…, watch quit working; frustrating efforts to find and successfully replace the battery; purchased $10.88 watch so we can know what time it is).
After returning to the Quapaw office, we dumped off our finished laundry and walked the three blocks to the center of town. The delta heat rose and shimmered off of the streets and buildings causing the smell of mold to drift past us, which had gathered in the many empty and abandoned brick structures. We spoke with some folks in a side street that went nowhere, where they were using decorations and props to recreate a New Orleans ambiance for a wedding reception that would take place later in the day. We then walked into what appeared to be the only open place in town, the Delta Culture Center. This facility promotes the heart and soul of Helena – the blues. Helena was and still is the home of the King Biscuit Flour radio broadcast and the annual Blues Fest, which is held here every October. Within the center there were numerous interactive displays including one titled, “Songs From the Field”. It is a powerful display of the dark days of slavery and how the cadence of song, full of hope for a brighter future, filled the fields to ease the burden of the workers. This got LaNae to thinking and asking an interesting question: Is it possible that all souls are known in advance by God, regardless of the body they inhabit? In other words, if our parents had not been our parents, would our person; our soul, still exist in another body? God and Christianity see no color, only souls. Is it possible, therefore, that if I had not been born to my parents I would still have been born, but to other parents? Possibly even as a different race and/or ethnicity? Interesting.
We walked on back towards our home for the night, when we again passed the Gist Music Company. We had learned previously that owner had died quite a long time ago, but the store and its wares were still here – just as he left it – locked behind barred doors and windows. Here was a music store full of instruments that each hold possibility but currently have no opportunity. The town and its people are working hard to revitalize and restore the town to its original luster. This is a blues Mecca. Shouldn’t the music store be an intricate part of that revitalization? Are there grants available? Tax abatements? Is the second story part of the property and able to serve as residence to its owners? Hmmm, ponder, ponder.
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