by Mark River – 1 Mississippi Southern Outreach Assistiant

My daily life as a steward of the Mississippi River rewards my knowledge of wild natural things while being moved by the healing powers that exist in water. The sound, feel, smell, and taste all have medicinal properties within themselves. Its movements are smooth and fluid. The sounds over a shoal are soothing. The feel of the two eddies of displacement that’s created with every paddle stroke. The sensation of rejuvenation running through my hair on a hot humid Delta day is the perfect sweetener for my River ginger tea. 

Mark River instructs the next generation of River Citizens on paddling techniques.
Photo courtesy of Quapaw Canoe Company

Everyone has things in life that have been pushed to the memory bank as if they will disappear. These events, like microplastics, never go away, but dampen your spirit and soul as you wander through this life. The River has given me the healing needed to finally process these events, and let it flow. Eddies are formed when natural and artificial structures manipulate the flow of water downstream, creating a pool of reciprocating water going upstream. The rule is: stay out of the eddy downstream and stay in the eddy upstream. I’ve watched them over and over and try to apply them to life.

  When I was 13 my Mother Iveara Peoples died of brain cancer from complications with pneumonia. That was the most traumatic event ever. The thought of never seeing her again still affects me today. This left me with a lifetime of achievements and no one to celebrate with, as well as empty relationships, and a buck-like mentality of survival, never trusting anything or anyone, and making sure you’re not seen too often, or bad things will happen. Through research I’ve found that I suffer from “unresolved grief”- which has given me clarity to what I have to face for the rest of my life. 

Sometimes River eddies turn into dropping vortices. Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

  When examining an eddy on the River, at high water, you see powerful water eroding and carving muddy cliff banks, exposing roots, and collapsing helpless, healthy trees into the channel. Sometimes in its vortex, root-balls, dead-fall, wood-planks, plastics, and victims of mayhem, all circling in a tight ball of debris, are all swirling around, waiting for the water to drop. Meanwhile low water eddies are relaxing.  Shallow pools form, which are excellent for swimming and cooling off.  Flocks of birds relax at its point, gorging themselves on the bounty of fish resting in the eddy. When the water is really low, they expose large gravel beds full of petrified wood, lithified mud, and fossilized beds of chert and limestone. 

  In life you can get caught in an eddy anytime, continuing the same thing, with the same outcome. You could be with the wrong group of people – limiting yourself to the same result.  You could be listening to people not having your best interest at hand. You could be not following your dreams, and circling the eddy, over and over again. Lately, I’ve learned to use the eddy to my advantage.  Sometimes you have to paddle upstream to reach your destination, then cruise downstream home to receive your reward.

In his natural element – Mark River in the Big River holding onto one of Quapaw’s Big Canoes

Don’t be afraid of your past or you will never see your future! Go to the Mississippi River and experience the healing powers of water. 

-Mark River

Mark River is the southern coordinator for the 1 Mississippi River Citizen Program connecting people who care about rivers with people who make decisions about them. He is also chief guide and youth leader for the Quapaw Canoe Company based in Clarksdale, MS. 

Further Blogs from Mark River can be found here or on the Quapaw Dispatch.