Monday, May 25, 2009

outside of murphysboro, on a high ridge above the big muddy river, a road goes off toward the worthen cemetery, and turns left onto watt hill road where a 4-year-old had a party on sunday. that worthen cemetery road turns into a gravel road and heads down into wooded territory on the banks of the big muddy there, but is totally unmarked; i was told that it was the site of brownsville, original county seat of jackson county, and birthplace, as it turns out, of john a. logan, one of the original founders of memorial day. totally unmarked, the ruins, if they are still there, should be a historical site, but who knows? it's a beautiful area, long grasses blowing in the breeze, old barns, evidence of recent storms provided by huge stumps and fallen trees here and there. the paved road wound around until we got to the party, where it rained a little but then became a nice day. the kids played outside while ravenous mosquitoes went after everyone who had had a bite of cake. again, the wooded valleys beckoned in all directions; it's a historic area, the sand ridge being the last site of native americans in the state of illinois, and all hilly wooded river valley within a spit of the mississippi being definitely the center of civilization, for the several thousand years before the white folks came along.

memorial day weekend, and time to reflect a little, also one of the few summertime opportunities to really enjoy the pleasant weather, before it gets just too hot & humid to really stand around out there. our friends had a huge hickory that damaged their porch and roof and still stood right outside the house; we speculated about whether someone would come along soliciting good furniture-wood or what should be extraordinary opportunity in terms of good craft-wood; to our knowledge, nobody had come along at all for any of it. tell me again what you know of brownsville? i asked. has an old house on it, vacant. that land was sold recently, he said, six huge parcels, all to the same owner, probably going to be used for hunting rights. think anyone would mind if a person went poking around down there? Oh, yeah, probably.

The paved road wandered back toward brownsville and we played african music as usual, and enjoyed the green grasses and forests. in the worthen cemetery people cleared brush, as people have been doing in this area for weeks now, but memorial day being a time to take care of the cemeteries, brush off the dust, and mow the lawns, i'm sure they were preparing. it's an unwritten book, i thought, though supposedly somebody already wrote a book about the place, and the evidence they found one way or the other about how they had forges there and did metalworking. moved the county seat to murphysboro, apparently, because it was prone to flooding, as much of the valleys are. if someone wrote that book, i haven't seen it, but the whole project has to go on the shelf anyway, because i'm way too busy. at work, people are busy putting a new roof on a flat building, and making all kinds of noise; one day, came back from coffee and saw a prehistoric kind of lizard fellow, disoriented out on the breezeway bricks; i pointed him out to a student, but then let him go, since his life was already turned upside down. similarly, driving to work on sunset boulevard, er, sunset drive, we drove right over a large turtle, also disoriented, realized too late that the street he was crossing was a little too busy for his general rate. we stopped, came back, and idled in a driveway while we saved its life, and the owner of the driveway came out to see why we were there.

freedom, i think, starts with life, and the opportunity to move on; the lizard found his spot in the weeds, and the turtle went off down toward the little creek that cuts under sunset there by the green earth wetlands. john a logan and his buddies are long gone, so are the brothers and thousands of people who died fighting the civil war, which ravaged the area and rewrote the landscape in such a way that it'll never be the same. perhaps some things are best left untouched, as is the civil war graveyard out on the dog improvement lands, that we used to pass when we walked our dogs around the ponds there, and which nobody really took much care of, but everyone knew it was there, and was important. they finally fenced the place off, because it became famous, and blogs like this certainly don't help, so i'll put my two cents in here, if you're still reading this far. have respect; don't tip over the gravestones, hold the memory still and precious, and let things go their way, not upsetting the balance or making things go extinct that shouldn't have to. it's what's precious about the midwest really, that it can be, at the same time, center of the universe of a few thousand years ago, richest & most fertile & most beautiful of river valleys, land of lincoln and land of obama, yet at the same time, a place where a single gravel road to history lies unmarked, unobstructed, the hills full of arrowheads and all kinds of archaeology, yet at the same time, used only to shoot deer by locals in a single week in november, locals who both paid for the right and duly respect, in their own way, the importance of the territory, and pretty much left alone the rest of the time.

a book, i'd say, if not a couple of short stories at least.


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