Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thinking Place

You have a place like this, I’ll bet. It’s somewhere you go to be alone, to relax, to clear your mind, and to think. It has to be someplace different from your daily surroundings—different enough to jar you out of your stale mind-set.

It has to be someplace fairly convenient to get to.

For me, one requirement is a view. Over the years, my thinking places have been mountaintops, beaches, hillsides, high bluffs, even the top floor of a big library.

Since I moved to Jefferson City, my habit has been to linger at the Missouri River overlook on the north side of the State Capitol. That’s the place with the exuberant Fountain of the Centaurs, by Adolph A. Weinman, and the large bas relief sculpture The Signing of the Louisiana Purchase Treaty by Karl Bitter, which was created for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

These are remarkable artworks, but for me the real attraction at this site is to the north: The busy train tracks just below the bluff, skirting the river; and the Missouri River Bridge bearing traffic from highways 63 and 54, merged here to cross the Big Muddy.

On the bank across from here is a sand company, with its dredging barges often docked; vehicles crawl back and forth unloading, shifting the sand into mounds; they beep when they back up. Farther across the river is the local airport, too.

And of course, the biggest attraction is the river itself, constantly sliding from left to right, on its way down to St. Louis. It is hypnotic, calming, relentless.

So as I stand there I sometimes make a game for myself and count, like a child, the different forms of transportation: car, truck, boat, train, plane . . . and grow more serious as I think about how important this river and these conveyances have been to the development of this city—and all cities.

It is easy for me to walk up to the Capitol from where I live. The Capitol is also an easy detour before I come home from most anywhere. Day or night, even in the rain or snow; it helps settle my mood before I step through our door.

But most often, I go there to just stare at the river and get a grip on my thoughts, time . . . my life.

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