I sit on the bank of a rippling creek, watching the long arms of a sycamore sway. This place feels holy to me. Of course it is beautiful, most of nature is, but its beauty is heightened by the sight of a Macy’s parking lot only a few yards away.
I’m in Joplin, at the Southern Missouri State College campus, where my husband is having dental work done. Instead of waiting, I decided to walk, to follow the small campus “nature trail”, while chattering to a friend on the cell phone. He was singing about his trip to San Francisco, where he and a tribe of Deadheads are seeing Phil Lesh perform a final concert at the Warhouse Theatre. The jealously was enough to kill me, until the trail intersected a gravel road and bright, rippling water carried my frustration away.
I followed the water along another path, till the old stone-work drainage canal gave way to a rocky creek bank. The sight took my breath away as I stood with wilderness over one shoulder and urban sprawl behind the other. Bright purple flowers peeked up from the mud. They inspired me to pull a Wal-Mart bag from the sycamore roots and start picking up trash. Such a magical place deserves a little love, and the cleaning was my exchange for the two fossil stones the water gifted me.
I met an old man down by the water. He told me he worked for the campus, though I still clutched my phone and worried he was some lunatic fishing for lake chub and telling strange girls about the creek’s mineral deposits just to disguise his terrible intentions. Whatever they were, he never acted on them. He left, carrying a bucket of chub, and left me sitting on the bank, holding a stone in both hands, and gazing about across the rippling water.