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  • Orion was in the front yard this morning, still bright and lingering as color showed in the Eastern sky.
    These days, the big dipper lives out in the backfield and hovers over the forest after dinner.
    I see it when I am at the sink, my face reflected on the glass, superimposed onto the celestial formation.
    When I open the window, my face disappears and the dipper swallows my eyes.

    Summer exits gracefully into the new alignments.
    The cooler mornings remind me that I am Northern.
    I live near the Passagassawakeag River that runs out into the Penobscot bay and then past the fringe of one thousand islands to the open sea.

    For many years though, I hovered at the gateway to the West, on the banks of the Mississippi.
    "Em eye ess ess eye ess ess eye pee pee eye", we chanted as children.
    The Mississippi, mighty and muddy is an earthmover and a powerful presence.

    I stood by the banks, saw the houses built on stilts, visited the locks and dams that helped move boats and water.
    I read Mark Twain.
    But I never took the boats downriver, never hopped a barge and floated away, down the mighty, muddy Mississippi, down South.

    There is a strong Puritan heritage in the North East.
    It is a protestant heritage that believes in brisk walks and oatmeal and not dwelling on things.
    It is a heritage with a hyperborean soul.

    In the St. Louis neighborhoods, close to the Mississippi, Soulard, I got a glimpse of what was down river, enough for me, as a teen, to get a whiff of another world.
    A world of gumbo and whiskey, and the hint of the Mardi Gras.

    But downriver was a world that existed for me, only in pictures, books or movies.
    It was a world where cultures and races had merged to create architecture with grace, curling iron balconies of Rococo rhythms.
    It was a world full of music and dancing with passion rather than memorized steps.
    A place where death can be danced at and magical thinking is real.
    A place with a baroque soul.

    But this is only dreams talking.
    Dreams where every boat is going somewhere else and recedes into a distance I can only imagine.

    Because when you live at the gateway to the West the world is forever stretching out to open roads.
    Open roads and downriver dreams.
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