Mississippi Feature

Music!

What does your local river or stream mean to you? Rivers can be where we work, relax, play, gather our food, gain inspiration, and many other things. Our songs have immortalized these pictures of rivers for hundreds of years. Not only have songs been written about the Mississippi River, but many are about events that happen or happened on its banks.

As a huge part of so many people's lives, for so long, this seems only natural. As the Mississippi flows through our country, musical traditions change, both spatially and through time. Jazz, blues, folk, rockabilly, zydeco, rock, gospel, cajun, country and rhythm and blues all have their place along this great river.

Rivers in general, not just the Mississippi, are also used as metaphors for many things. Some see the passage of time in the way a river flows. Some see the life cycle or passage of seasons in its yearly level changes. Some see a partner in work, while others see a beast to be conquered. A river can be a stand in for a person, like a mother, who is always there, illustrated by how the river always flows. A dammed up river with much construction on its banks shows how we strive to control things around us. A polluted stream that barely flows anymore is a wonderful metaphor for a town that has declined ever since the mill went out of business.

Try going to a local river, finding a quiet spot, and just looking around. For five minutes, just write a list of things that you see, and things that you are reminded of. Then, start writing a story, poem, or song that these observations suggest to you. Make your writing rich with descriptions. You may want to try this several times, at different spots along the river. Try sitting high on a bank, right next to the water, from a building looking out the window onto the water or anywhere else that is safe, to get a variety of ideas and perspectives. You may also want to research what has been written about your river. Try comparing your writings and thoughts with that of other authors. Did one of you capture a point of view that the other did not see?

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Center for Global Environmental Education
Hamline University Graduate School of Education
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