Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Endless surfaces, no hue, only undulating sinuous ribbons of smooth, bubbly, or whirling texture. All water looks black at night. The river knows no time as it seeks the lowest level. The sunrise cruise departed at 4am to venture along the waterway. I’d traveled this route many times before but was struck by the quiet. The only noise was the loud hum and whirr of the engine as it churned the propellers.

Northern Spark 2013 festival focused on the downtown St. Paul area on Saturday – Sunday, June 8th-9th. The reveries began at sunset on Saturday but I was home sleeping. I had exhausted myself puttering in the garden and cleaning so I needed a snooze. The alarm clock rousted me at 2am and I drove down to the event. I managed to locate parking and walked over to Union Depot. There was a large presence of police officers so I felt safe being alone. Unfortunately, a lot of the activities had just finished but there were still some performances in the Depot itself. The Depot was hot in contract to the drizzly chill outside.

I sauntered to the lower train level of the depot to watch and listen to some performances. Long ago I ceased trying to intellectually examine art, especially during the wee hours of the morning. Art is about feeling. It is about emotional expression. Storytelling may or may not be involved. Logic may or may not be present. Its best to just feel the experience and not attempt to analyze what cannot be explained. It was difficult locating Lamperts Landing but I found it before the boat departed.

The Jonathan Paddleford was filled with mostly people in their 20s and 30s. A large number were drunk or high, and as a result several vomited overboard – gross. The first floor was a heated compartment with chairs and tables. The concession stand could not serve alcohol at that hour and quickly ran out of hot chocolate. The second level was unheated with a small dance floor and few chairs. I ended up sitting on the floor watching the water through the railing until we were underway. Works Progress Studio prepared a nice history booklet. Perhaps next time they will invite Native American and other storytellers to talk about the river on the second deck.

It was interesting to watch the currents and debris flow in the swift current. The river level is slightly above average due to the constant rain. My favorite section of the venture was after we went under the High Bridge and were near Lilydale Park. It was dark and silent, void of humans except for a couple groups who had bonfires near the river. I didn’t notice any animals and at least no stupid humans were attempting to navigate a small vessel at night. The lights of Minneapolis shone to the west as St. Paul glowed in the east but it was very still. The loudest noise were the repetitive metallic clank of the pistons and motor.

I really enjoyed standing up near the Pilot House. Passengers are rarely allowed up on this deck but it offered the best view of the river. The deck became less crowded as the drizzle transformed into a light rain. I forgot an umbrella but wore a heavy spring/fall jacket with a hood, and brought along earmuff, gloves, and a scarf. I knew that the river is always about ten degrees colder than the land due to evaporation. I gradually became wet enough that I had to seek the first deck but only after we had turned around to return to the dock.

About half the passengers were asleep or passed out on the first deck. After a trip to the bathroom I went to the bow of the boat to watch our approach to St. Paul. This is always my favorite location on a ship. The sky was beginning to lighten and some of the birds were singing their territorial song. More cars were moving about and a few yacht club residents were walking their dogs. We returned to the Landing at about 5:26am. I was cold, wet, and windswept but exhilarated by the ride. It would have been nice to be met by performers as we departed but the festival had come to an end. The Farmer’s Market wasn’t open so I went home and made breakfast. I quickly fell asleep on the couch with the cats.

www.northernspark.org reserve June 14th, 2014 on your calendar for the next festival.

Riverboat Dreams
© Copyright 2013 Ima B. Musing: all rights reserved.

No comments: