The Batture

The Mississippi River batture, America’s great accidental post-millennial wilderness a century in the making, exists beyond the control of all but the most abstract authorities with the most nebulous of responsibilities and as such has been left to grow into a thick and tangled wild forest. But it is not totally wild: an anarchy of trees, shrubs, and vines, but also of driftwood, rusting steel, ropes, and other detritus both industrial and consumer, it is home to a bustling community of wildlife as well as a variety of illicit human activities. It is a side effect of a barely controlled cycle of flood and drought, a symbol of economic might and environmental folly, and proof of nature’s resilience and the human inability to understand issues of ample time and space. A narrow, unbroken strip of lost land stretching through the heart of the country, the batture is nowhere and everywhere at the same time. It has always felt like home to me, maybe because it enchanted me when I’d play here as a child, or maybe because its always been this wild, messy, forgotten-in-plain-sight treasure, seen and even visited, but rarely recognized as anything other than an edge of one thing or another; a strange world literally parallel to this one, always changing, perpetually staring down ruin, but so alive with possibility that the mown lawn of the levee only serves to highlight what, just along side, has been allowed to flourish freely. Where the wake of every ship, laden low with wealth as it ploughs through the currents, splashes up around the silt at my feet where I’m within sight and in range of a cloud of diesel exhaust, but still impossibly far away. Where, like it was a cycle or something, the water always gets to rising, then it’s time to head back over the levee again, where everything is more convenient and the machinery is more carefully obscured. Where I’ll pass the time more or less happily, watching people trace their daily maps and the birds navigate their wilderness of altitude. Where I’ll abide the cracks in the sidewalks, the edges of the lawns. It’s all batture, really.

Jeremy @restlesslens