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  • Just as peaceful but less obviously tragic, this view of the rising Mississippi.

    At Portage Des Sioux, one of the many villages that perch on the banks of the great river.

    Defiant. (Indeed, directly further south on Missouri Route 94 nestles the town of Defiance on the banks of the area's second great river, the Missouri.)

    Mostly they ride out the high water. Swiftly erected sandbag barriers, hopefully sturdy enough to survive the crest without failing or being overtopped, line the main roads of many towns.

    More often than not, they hold. Only a few buildings on the outskirts, usually on lower land, are more regularly inundated.
  • Portage Des Sioux was spared from being washed away in the flood of 1951. As a mark of gratitude for the answering of their prayers, the townspeople erected a statue on the edge of the river.

    Our Lady of the Rivers.

    Here she stands.

    White and shining against the brown-blue of the water.
  • A beacon of resolution, gazing out over the river, hands together in prayer and the exhortation "Help of Christians, Pray for us" still visible above the collecting river debris.

    The red buoy you see there has been torn free of its usual position.

    It bobs above a walkway lined with the twelve stations of the Cross that takes a visitor, on drier days, to small platform offering an expansive view of the Mississippi and the bluffs on the Illinois side.

    All drowned as of the moment.
  • Whenever the river is high, I travel out to Portage. Only rarely are the surrounding roads through St. Charles County impassable. On Sunday, just one was closed.

    I like to look out at Our Lady.

    Her sturdy and unmoving grace compliments the gentle organic slap of the water against the river's edge.

    I always know that, sooner or later, the river will drop and people will be able to rejoin her.
  • During the massive flood of 1993, many homes that had accumulated on the lower outskirts of Portage Des Sioux were destroyed.

    Afterwards, the land was set aside as a nature reservation.

    I think this pleases Our Lady of the Rivers.

    It pleases me.

    I look forward to walking the trails again.
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