Note: This is the first installment of the Series “Roadtripping With a Raindrop,” highlighting moments from my travels along the Mississippi River, right through the heart of America. Many of these are from the “raindrop journey,” a 90-day road trip keeping pace with a raindrop as it traverses the nearly 2,500 miles of Mississippi River from the headwaters in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Some will be included in the upcoming book of tales and photographs from that adventure and some will only be shared right here. I’ll introduce you to some of the amazing people I met, take you inside some unique cultures and lifestyles and share some crazy, serendipitous adventures as well as some of the life lessons that the River offers. Don’t miss a single Moment – If you haven’t already done so, you can sign up to be notified when a new post appears in the box below. Off we go!
Moment #1 – Hazel With the Green Shoes
The acclaimed Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis has a crazy snout protruding from its back – the “Endless Bridge.” It’s a 178-foot cantilevered lobby that, along its length, frames some of the historic mill district’s most renowned views.
The real treat, however, is at the end, where an open-air deck overlooks a broad panorama of the Mississippi River as it rolls over St. Anthony Falls and under the iconic Stone Arch Bridge.
The reflective surfaces make it a photographer’s playground – and if you are lucky enough to catch an eye-popping blue sky with marshmallow clouds, it’s a good time to be thankful for the extravagance that digital photography allows. (If I had to pay for all that film and processing….yeeesh!) I play with abandon, sandwiching the views between the sky above and its twin image below. There’s music on the breeze and in the mall area below, I see canopy tops and shoppers at the Mill City Farmer’s Market, and I know that is my next stop.
If I had a kitchen, I’d be filling my arms with gorgeous produce. Since my trendy downtown loft didn’t come with cooking facilities, I content myself with people-watching and accumulating nominations for my lunch. Winning out over the Tibetan dumplings and the walleye sandwich is the intriguing sweet potato taco. I take my prize and settle on a top step, with a primo view of the colorful parade of people.
A half-dozen steps below me, a little strawberry-blonde cutie in a red dress spins around to look at me, then waves and beams up a whole-body smile. When I smile and wave back, she springs to her feet, marches up the stairs and plops down beside me. Feeling no need for preliminaries, she pokes out a tiny foot and says, “See – I didn’t wear my sandals today because I wanted to wear my green shoes.” Her Mom, who looked startled at first, is now watching us with amusement as we talk about today’s choice of shoes.
“My name is Hazel,” says my new little friend with a decisive nod, then she carefully unfolds two fingers and holds them up, “and, I am two years old!” Then, just in case I don’t quite get it, she holds up two fingers on the other hand and says emphatically, “Two!”
With that established, she scoots a little closer to me and we chat about the sweet
potato tacos, which she and her Mom have just finished sharing. Then, satisfied
that we have taken care of business, she gives me a serene little Buddha-smile
and quietly turns her attention to the procession of shoppers below us. And there we sit, just inches apart, sharing a sunny and companionable silence until her Mom calls up that it is time to go.
Moments like these are like luminous pearls that shine forever in the heart of every traveler, reminding us that innocence and open-heartedness sees no boundaries.
Shine on, little Hazel!