It’s easy to get lost in the Weaver Bottoms. The channeled backwaters of the Upper Mississippi River are unmarked, and as you are drawn on by one mysterious bend after another, by gleaming, lotus filled bays and heron sheltering islands studded with wild iris, you can become unmindful of your course. And so, as we started out from Half Moon Landing, we made sure to take note of the landmarks we passed—a spreading willow, driftwood on a sandy shore, a rowboat drawn up at the edge of a pasture, horses that came down to the shore to greet us, heads nodding, tails swishing.
A party of six in three canoes, we at first stayed close together since rain clouds from the night before still threatened to turn us back. But soon we drifted apart, following the allure of cardinal flowers along the shore, a heron winging into the next channel, a snake cutting water with the speed of an Olympic swimmer. After a while, we found ourselves in a sprawling bay, the entire expanse of which was filled with the American Lotus Lily in full bloom. Leaves two and three feet wide, flat on the water or up on two foot stems and flapping in the breeze like ladies’ hats. And butter yellow blossoms, thousands of them, each big as your head.
Soon the way opened to deeper and windier water and we drifted even further apart. Mickey and Marcia headed upriver and disappeared around the next bend, while the rest of us lingered around the lotus bed. When the time came to return to the landing, Mickey and Marcia were still out of sight. Maybe they had found a short cut back to our starting point. Or maybe they were lost. Who could tell where all these channels lead? After a while, they all begin to look alike. It might take days for the two to get back to Half Moon Landing—or maybe they were there already.
We turned back and followed our well noted landmarks from bend to bend, looking over our shoulder frequently for our wayward friends. We laughed and made bets about who would get there first—Mickey and Marcia or us—but we also wondered how long it would take for a lost couple to find their way out of the backwater maze or for the Coast Guard to go in and find them. Just as we were about to turn around the spreading willow into Half Moon Landing there came a happy shout from behind us. It was Mickey and Marcia pulling up fast. They had not found a shortcut home, but neither had they gotten lost. Unwilling to give up the day’s adventure, they had merely given in to the allure of the next bend in the channel and the next after that. Returning the way they’d come, they followed landmarks just as we had—only many more of them. They must have paddled like Voyageurs to catch up with us.
rain clouds lifting . . .
beneath the egret’s wings
lotus leaves ripple