August 20th, 2017 (Travel Date)
One cannot see much at the hour I begin writing this post. The river town sleeps beyond the few street lights that remain on. It is a vastly different landscape than during the day, for just beyond those lights lies the street upon which Samuel Clemens was raised, historical markers and museums tell the tale of initial inspiration for stories written by the one most today still refer to as Mark Twain.
Down by the river, an uneven sloping surface defines the parking lot near the point from which the paddle boats arrive and leave. Some small craft leave and return from fishing, while larger boats leave and return for tourism. Paddle boats vary in size and frequency, the smaller going out for an hour or two, then returning, while at least one larger one continues its trek up the Mississippi from New Orleans.
As one walks down the street nearest the docks, one gains a sense of a surface as varied as the shifting currents display atop the river water; both maintain a sense of diversity, and both are just as deep. For a man whose get rich schemes early on often left him penniless, it is amazing the income his efforts to be successful still bring to his boyhood home town all these years after he left.
There is a sense of time beyond those lights in the first image. A sense of tragedy and triumph, of flood and survival. This is a story that requires a river just to be told -- a river of water, a river of growth, of age, of education; a river of a life. Samuel Clemens, mastered the river early on, before the Civil War visited this country, by becoming a river boat pilot. Navigation, you see, is an extremely important part of living a successful life.
Authors aren't just born; they are made by the lives they've lived. A walk through the street outside Clemens’ boyhood home is just as surreal an experience as I imagine eclipse totality to be. (That part of this adventure comes tomorrow.) From this location and others near by, settings for some of the greatest American literature ever written arose. It is difficult not to feel a connection to, if not admiration for, the man behind such tales, and the town that continues to support his stories.
From an overlook one morning just to the south of Hannibal, I watched one of the many trains that come through daily. The echoing sound of metal striking metal on the rails and the sound of a whistle as the train moves forward between that last town street and the docks is as much Hannibal as the river itself today.
On a hill just to the north of his boyhood home, a memorial lighthouse stands overlooking this part of the town. It's quite the tribute to a man who grew up as a boy on the streets below. As he explored those caves further to the south in his youth, and the vast waters of the Mississippi, I do not know that he ever had aspirations to be a beacon of light on that hilltop, or a source of light to the literary world. But, I am incredibly thankful that he did. We would all do well to aspire to such heights within and amongst each other, especially with such a year as 2017 is turning out to be. Many are doing just that.
As liberty continues to be refreshed through action and word, both spoken and in print, as the fight for rights continue on so many different levels and fronts, perhaps we in our differences will someday find safer waters to travel, if for nothing more than to hear those two words every river boat pilot knew well in Samuel Clemens’ day:
Image taken by Author Alan S. Garrett from Missouri, USA
2017 Total Solar Eclipse Series
August 21st, 2017, 12:32:29 PM