Saturday, September 24, 2005

Ubi bene, ibi patria

I have spent the week in Indiana. Learning from my previous trip, this time, I drove.

I have driven this particular route before, some 25 years ago. (More, perhaps, on why in some future posting...) This time I noted more acutely the fundamental difference in the very lay of the land when crossing to the East side of the Mississippi. Southern Illinois is just different than Missouri. Right up to the river. Now, Missouri North of the river that provided it's name is also somewhat different than the land that stretches South of the big muddy. But both sides of the great river share a common bond in terms of the hills and valleys, the bluffs and flood-plains. Not so of the Mississippi. I am told, and can verify with limited observation, that the Great River is different South of Cairo, where the third great sister, the Ohio joins the flow. Is it perhaps really more South of the great fault lines of the Central US, tagged as the New Madrid fault? (So named because this sleepy Missouri town was nearest the epicenter of the largest quakes in the lower 48. What, you thought California has quakes? Ha! They barely break the top 10 and only appear twice in the top 18.) Whatever the reason, the mighty river changes, as noted by it's poet laureate. So why should I be surprised at the change of the land along it's banks. I have always been fascinated that at least some of the state borders I have encountered that are not natural, but rather surveyor's lines, are not arbitrary, but visible, palpable, observably different places. (A long-ago trip driving South of Memphis comes to mind.)

It never (seemingly;->) fails to fascinate.

I also noticed a marked increase in over-the-road trucks East of the Mississip'', but that only makes sense if you consider the increase in population involved. But the Interstate system is also different when traveling East. East of Indianapolis, my latest destination, large metropolitan areas are often avoided altogether. (Dayton is so many miles that-a-way, informs the signage.) But even beyond the machinations of civil engineers gone-by, the difference in the local ecology come into play. East of the Mississippi, trees are a natural phenomenon. Often, while driving around my frequent Eastern time-zone client locations, my view of anything surrounding the highway is blocked by a natural green wall. Not so out west. If there is a tree that was not placed there by human intent, it is nestled up next to a stream or brook. West of my home-base, water is more and more scarce a resource. So are the natural arboretums.

Driving back I re-crossed the great divider and felt the first sense of home as I came across a ridge-line somewhere east of Kingdom City. I didn't catch the name of this particular tributary to the Mighty Missouri, but appreciated the view across the valley to the bluffs on the other side, with rolling hills beyond. Beautiful, in the afternoon sun.

Then, the true pleasure. Passing Columbia, I come down through the cut at Rocheport, as I have so many time before, to cross the bridge. It is past military twilight, just enough light left to see the fog that envelops the entire flood-plain, from bluff to bluff, a mile distant. Beautiful.

I am home.


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