Though landlocked, Missouri is very wet. Even the name "Missouri," in the language of an indigenous tribe, means "Town of the Large Canoes." Nowadays, our state is known as "Where the Rivers Run."
With one of the largest concentration of springs in the world and hundreds of miles of floatable streams, you're never far from water in Missouri. Spring Creek, a tributary of the North Fork of the White River, curves through our property. Each morning I wake to the sight of the light touching the broad strip of creek that runs past our deck. Little Big Spring, just downstream, sends plumes of mist along the valley.
This creek originates from many springs upstream. It is usually crystal-clear since it has passed only through ranch and woodland.
One way to appreciate the valley is to wade up the middle of the stream that runs through it. In summer, it is a marvel to share the cool water with little nibbling fishes, sedate old turtles and territorial birds as you pass various plant communities. In places, the water is deep enough to immerse yourself fully or float as you look up into impossibly green Missouri trees.
We're on the edge of the Ozark Plateau, which took shape when much of the country was covered by water. Some geologists believe this area was the first part of the continent to emerge from the sea. People from the Rockies and Appalachians like to belittle our flat Ozark ridges. We reply that our mountains aren't high, but our hollows sure are deep!
My adopted valley seems to have both depth and wisdom. Extensive national forest land keeps neighbors just far enough apart here. Part of it adjoins our property. Below the surface of this region, hidden streams have carved thousands of caves out of porous limestone. When it rains, water pours out of the hillsides.
Our log house is perched on the rocky bank of Spring Creek. Only about a 15-foot strip of land separates us and the water. The creek is full of contrasts--one minute wild, the next sedate.
One day in spring, a neighbor phoned to tell us a tornado warning was in effect. He knew we do not own a television or listen to the radio. The thunder-and-lightning show was spectacular. We worried about our newly planted garden when big chunks of ice began to fall. The garden survived, but the rain carried on and on.
In the space of