The Seventh Line
A place where a great river lives;
Where most of our crawfish used to come from;
Where commercial fishermen make a living;
A place of memories for a lot of people;
A home for ghost stories;
A place of great living complexity;
That is the seventh line of “Atchafalaya Is”. I find it hard to write what I mean by that thought. Oh, it is easy enough to imagine the idea, and to know intuitively what is meant, but putting it into words is kind of like trying to wrap the Atchafalaya River in a one-line description. Any single line could be accurate, but not sufficient. A “simple” list of the things that are alive and combine to make up the complex ecosystem that is the Basin would not do it. There needs to be some way to include not only this list of items, but to also say all of them at one time and have that meaning come through with a feeling of rightness. Not an easy thing, that. Not only does the logic of a list have to find its slot, but a certain spirit concept that binds the items together asks to be included.
If you pick one place in the Basin and stand still in that place for a while, and let your awareness spread out from yourself in a wider and wider circle, you may begin to experience the feeling that I meant when I wrote the seventh line. Standing there, you can name any number of things alive that you see around you, your knowledge bounded only by your perceptiveness. Things move, and you probably notice them first. With a heritage of predation, and sometimes prey, we notice things that change in place – maybe they can feed us, or promote their own survival by making us a part of them. Either way, we note movement and it calls attention. But then there are all the things that do not move, or do so in ways that do not draw attention. Add them to the complexity. We may not notice some things that are too big see, like the forest, or the river going up and down, on out of sight. Add them. A big branch breaks from high in a dead tree and reveals life as it is lived far above. And one that broke and fell last year lies on the ground and, cracked and rotten, lends its own version of paradise to organisms not known to many of us. Add them too. At one time you could have added the people factor to the gumbo of life in the Basin, but not so much any more. We are more like spectators now, rather than participants in the harmony.
Take the air and water and wood and dirt and mix all of that up in one big bundle and call it home to the great living complexity I speak of in the seventh line. Add the spirit that we humans feel from the totality of all of that, and you can know that the place you stand, this swamp, with the awareness of the life all around you, is indeed a very special, and complex, place.
The river is at 14.5 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, falling a little in the next few days. The Ohio and Mississippi are both falling hard but that might not last. It looks like we have reason to expect some high water this spring. Good.
Rise and Shine, Jim