Minnesota woman to record histories along Mississippi

By Nicholas Bergin
Burlington, Iowa (AP) 9-07

The wisdom and experience gathered along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River are the nuggets of truth being sought by Nancy Scheibe, an Ely, Minn., based author and artist.

Scheibe began her journey Sept. 3. She plans to spend six weeks along the waters of the Mississippi in a kayak gathering stories from women she respectfully refers to as “Grandmothers.”

“Grandmother is a term I borrowed from the Native American culture. It’s an expression of respect. It recognizes the wisdom gained from life experiences. It has nothing to do with the fact that you might or might not have children or grandchildren,” Scheibe said.

Scheibe will travel from Minnesota to St. Louis, along with Kitty Kennedy, 52, accompanying in a support car. They plan to travel about 15 miles a day and invite women of all ages to join them on their trek.

Throughout the journey, Scheibe will hold nine gatherings including one in Fort Madison on Oct. 1, in the Riverview Park Shelter House. At each stop, Scheibe will record oral histories told by women ages 50 and older.

Participants will sit around a “sacred fire,” started with coals originally taken from a fire started in 1995 by American Indian Keeper of Fire Bruce Hardwick of Rapid River, Mich., Scheibe said.

To continue the tradition, Scheibe will take coals from the sacred fire after each gathering to use in the next fire.

With the flickering light of flames highlighting the lines of their faces, women will speak of joys, sorrows and life.

Each story will be unique and contain experiences to be passed on to future generations of women as they travel through their life’s journey, Scheibe said.

“The interesting thing with women over 50, is for most of them, if they have a story of sorrow, those stories in retrospect have turned to stories of wisdom and purpose,” Scheibe said.

In addition to gathering wisdom, Scheibe said she hopes to give older women a chance to express themselves.

“We have done a lot in our society to let women speak out. Younger women are often speaking out, but older women are not doing that so much. So, I’m trying to provide an environment for them to speak,” Scheibe said.

This will be Scheibe’s second expedition on the river. During the summer of 2004, Scheibe and Heather Jeske paddled 575 miles from the headwaters of the Mississippi to Red Wing, Minn., for her book “Water Women Wisdom; Voices From The Upper Mississippi.”

The idea for the journey began in 2004 as Scheibe was approaching her 50th birthday.

“I wanted to do something to mark my birthday different than the normal ways of celebrating a birthday,” Scheibe said.

In order to conceive a plan for her future, Scheibe reflected on her past.

As a child, Scheibe could never quite understand how the Mississippi goes from being a small crick near its source at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the mighty river it becomes further downstream.

Scheibe grew up along the Mississippi in Minneapolis, near the Minnehaha confluence.

As a young girl she played along the banks of the rivers exploring sandstone caves, playing hide and seek in the woods and discovered strange treasures like frogs, turtles and creeks that magically spring from the ground.

“That area is where I fell in love with nature and water. It’s all so cliche,” Scheibe said. But “I feel like I’m at home when I’m in the woods.”

“I wanted to understand how that little crick turned into the river I grew up on. Then I got to thinking, how many cool women must live along the river, and I wanted to collect their stories,” Scheibe said.

So, in celebration of her 50th, Scheibe decided to experience, first hand, the river’s journey and in the process record both her own trip and the words and knowledge of other women who grew up along the river’s banks.

The second journey, from Red Wing to St. Louis, will be a continuation of that first trek, Scheibe said.

Information from: The Hawk Eye, http://www.thehawkeye.com/

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