Where we crossed it, the river is wide. Not too thick, like up north at Winnibigoshish, where it swells 11 miles wide. Where we crossed it, it was perfect. Just so. The span of three children’s attention.

Ten times a week, we crossed that bridge, and I, their steamboat pilot, called out long and low, Mississippi River. Three passengers – all in car seats, all under five – threw their rollercoaster rider hands up. They looked upstream and down, for ice floes or fishermen in battered aluminum craft. And then we were over the bridge, the river just a sluice in their vision. No more than a stray crayon mark.

From below that bridge one morning, a bald eagle rose up. Conveyed to me as if on a smooth-running belt.  Up and over my van, my precious cargo, and into the bare winter sun. Like an oxbow, a river doubling on itself, I wished to crook my arm behind me and grasp tight each child’s chubby hand. A hand on the wheel, the other entwined with theirs. For they don’t know I never saw a wild eagle in my youth; commonplace to them, a comeback for me.

But I didn’t say this aloud. Let the beat and meter of my heart suggest it. Ears tuned to rubber tires thumping the bridge deck, eyes on great bird wings threshing air. Hands held in a white van full and whole, like an eagle’s egg, nested high above the riverbed.

Kathryn Ganfield is a nature writer and essayist in the river town of St. Paul, Minnesota. Her work focuses on family, environment, and the climate in crisis. She is a 2022-2023 Loft Mentor Series Fellow in creative nonfiction and a winner of the Writing By Writers 2022 Short Short Contest. Her words have been published in Creative Nonfiction and Sleet Magazine, among others. 

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