Caught in an Eddy by Mark River

Introduction by Slim Gravy

Caught in an Eddy - Mark River of Quapaw Canoe Company

Caught in an Eddy – Mark River of Quapaw Canoe Company

Caught in an Eddy by Mark River

Introduction by Slim Gravy in italics

There are a few folks in the lives of most who are always a welcome sight to see and whose words, demeanor and affectation always bless. My friend, Mark River Peoples, along with his friend and mentor, John Ruskey, are two such fellas. River, as he is called among those fortunate enough to know him, like Ruskey, is a self-effacing, chill, seemingly always peaceful, conservator of all waters and the MS River along with its riparian paradise–a pastoral, bucolic existence rooted in a pre-technological, prelapsarian Twainesque world, where the downsides of man’s “progress” are thankfully minimized and marginalized.

Still in Recovery, I am zealous to consume literature that helps in my understanding the life issues I struggle with, and how I can best relate to the world and others around me, while being the best me I can be—peaceful, others-centered, and not consumed by things I have no control over. River’s blog post below, “Caught in an Eddy,” is just such literature and I am richer for having digested it and thankful for his prescient vulnerability in sharing it!

Mark River is chief guide and youth leader for the Quapaw Canoe Company.  He is also southern coordinator for the 1Mississippi River Citizen Program connecting people who care about rivers with people who make decisions about them.  Go to Lower Mississippi River Dispatch for more of Mark River’s blogs!

As the Mighty Quapaws often invoke, “May the River be with you!” Cheers! slim gravy

Caught in an Eddy by Mark River

My daily life as a steward of the Mississippi River rewards my knowledge of wild natural things while being moved by the healing powers that exist in water. The sound, feel, smell, and taste all have medicinal properties within themselves. Its movements are smooth and fluid. The sounds over a shoal are soothing. The feel of the two eddies of displacement that’s created with every paddle stroke. The sensation of rejuvenation running through my hair on a hot humid Delta day is the perfect sweetener for my River ginger tea. 

Everyone has things in life that’ve been pushed to the memory bank as if they will disappear. These events, like microplastics, never go away, but dampen your spirit and soul as you wander through this life. The River has given me the healing needed to finally process these events, and let it flow. Eddies are formed when natural and artificial structures manipulate the flow of water downstream, creating a pool of reciprocating water going upstream. The rule is: stay out of the eddy downstream, and stay in the eddy upstream. I’ve watched them over and over and try to apply them to life.

When I was 13 my Mother Iveara Peoples died of brain cancer from complications with pneumonia. That was the most traumatic event ever. The thought of never seeing her again still affects me today. This left me with a lifetime of achievements and no one to celebrate with, as well as empty relationships, and a buck-like mentality of survival, never trusting anything or anyone, and making sure you’re not seen too often or bad things will happen. Through research I’ve found that I suffer from “unresolved grief”- which has given me clarity to what I have to face for the rest of my life. 

When examining an eddy on the River, at high water, you see powerful water eroding and carving muddy cliff banks, exposing roots, and collapsing helpless, healthy trees into the channel. Sometimes in its vortex, root-balls, dead-fall, wood-planks, plastics, and victims of mayhem, all circling in a tight ball of debris, are all swirling around, waiting for the water to drop. Meanwhile low water eddies are relaxing.  Shallow pools form, which are excellent for swimming and cooling off.  Flocks of birds relax at its point, gorging themselves on the bounty of fish resting in the eddy. When the water is really low, they expose large gravel beds full of petrified wood, lithofied mud, and fossilized beds of chert and limestone. 

In life you can get caught in an eddy anytime, continuing the same thing, with the same outcome. You could be with the wrong group of people – limiting yourself to the same result.  You could be listening to people not having your best interest at hand. You could be not following your dreams, and circling the eddy, over and over again. Lately, I’ve learned to use the eddy to my advantage.  Sometimes you have to paddle upstream to reach your destination, then cruise downstream home to receive your reward.  

Don’t be afraid of your past or you will never see your future! Go to the Mississippi River and experience the healing powers of water. 

—Mark River

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch “Voice of the Lower Mississippi River” is published by the Quapaw Canoe Company. Photos and writing by John Ruskey, Mark River and others. Please write [email protected] for re-publishing. Feel free to share with friends or family, but also credit appropriately. Go to and click on “Quapaw Dispatch” for viewing back issues of the LMRD.

To learn more about being a good river steward or to book a river trip with Quapaw Canoe Company, go to:

Middle Mississippi, Fountain Bluff (photo: John Ruskey)

Middle Mississippi, Fountain Bluff (photo: John Ruskey)

Middle Mississippi, Fountain Bluff (photo: John Ruskey)

Middle Mississippi, Fountain Bluff (photo: John Ruskey)

Caught in an Eddy by Mark River of Quapaw Canoe Company

Caught in an Eddy – Mark River of Quapaw Canoe Company

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