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  • I want for a walk last Monday in Sioux Passage Park by the Missouri River in St. Louis County.

    It was a speculative adventure; the cloud cover was heavy in University City before I set out and I had no great hopes of it lifting.

    But it did, progressively so. By the time I reached the river the sky was a delicious pale winter blue and sun low in the sky.

    I drove through park down to the boat ramp. There I was greeted by quite a surprise. The river level had dropped, more than I'd ever seen it do before.

    This meant that the wide channel of the river that separated the park from a river island, Pelican Island, was almost dry.

    Not quite - there was still a shallow and fast flowing channel flowing through the sand and silt, but in one part enough stones and rocks had gathered that I could hop across the channel.
  • So I made my way out onto a low water dam and hopped, filling only one shoe full of water, over to the other side.

    I wasn't alone. Dog walkers and hikers has made the same journey all day, some better prepared than me with boots rather than shoes. The dogs didn't need the stepping stones; they cheerfully splashed through the shallow waters.

    The woman in the grey jacket in the previous picture handed me her stick to help me across the last jump. One of those little acts of kindness by a stranger that warms the heart.

    For heartwarming I needed.

    It's been a rough year, and the vulgarity, childishness and distortion that have become normal in public discourse have pained me a lot. To be greeted cheerily, politely and helpfully goes a long way to balancing things out.

    A very long way.
  • Once across, I walked a little way onto Pelican Island.

    Normally reachable only by boat, there are no paths or facilities on this natural area.

    It's wild and thick with trees and creepers. Only by following a dry creek bed up onto the island could I make any real progress at all.

    Here I was alone. Everyone else was walking the sandy riverbank around the island, easier going for sure. But I like woods, the dense closeness of trees and the sense of a different sort of life crowding humans out of the picture. When we are long gone as a species, this is what will prevail - even if it takes centuries to clean up our mess.

    I lingered for a while. Forgetting all about my soggy sock and foot, I watched the sun settling into the treeline.

    Then back, taking time out to photograph the river and park from a different vantage point.
  • It was a good trip, a short unexpected adventure. I came away feeling refreshed. Frankly I am scared about what is going to happen this coming year. I see little that reassures and much that alarms. Later last week I wrote letters to both Missouri's state senators expressing my fears over healthcare. Repeal prospects as currently advertised might well affect me adversely over the coming years after I've retired and before Medicare kicks in.

    Not trivial fears at all. Much progress is looking to be undone.

    But my feelings from that walk, complimentary feelings of pleasure both from unexpected companionship and from solitude, reminded me that much I what I fear remains a fear. It also reminded me that I can always hop across any obstacle when the time is right. All I need to do is keep my eyes open, my will strong and be ready to reach out for a helping hand when needed.
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