October 5, 2006—The Upper Iowa River marks the halfway point in my 50th Birthday / 50 Rivers Project. This is a vow I just “made up,” but now, three and a half years later, I realize I could not have invented a project that could offer a more transformative effect on my life! I have loved every inch of water, every mosquito, every wet sandwich, every lost road—Remember? I knew nothing about canoeing when I started! But along our glorious waterways I have found my way back to living a life more in touch with the natural world. Living in a big city, being self-employed, raising a family, volunteering—all these pressures made it easier to neglect the growing, wild desire to be outside more.
Watching my mother slowly fade unexpectedly made me see that time is short—a lesson learned over and over by we humans, I know, but it took this personal event to make to make me change, to learn, and to grow.
The Upper Iowa was a red-orange glowing birthday candle of a river. We followed freeways south from Minneapolis to smaller and smaller roadways, past the rolling farms of northeast Iowa, and down to the river bed just outside the tiny, tiny town of Bluffton.
A cold night made for a steaming river but by midmorning the sun lit up the mirrored river and fall rippled in the water all around us. I brought along a new experiment—a watercolor paint box! I am trying to teach myself this most challenging of mediums, but won’t show you anything as I’m terrible at it. So here’s to 2007, to more time on the water, and more changing, learning, and growing.