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SoLost: Flood Zen (Or: How to Canoe a Raging Mississippi...)

2011 has been a year of epic weather in the American South. First came days of monstrous tornadoes. Then came the slow burn of a gargantuan Mississippi River flood. As we turned from the tornadoes to consider that flood, the name John Ruskey kept floating to mind.

A renowned riverman based in Helena, Arkansas and Clarksdale, Mississippi, Ruskey has become something of a living legend on America's largest and most powerful river. After years guiding daring canoers down this much-feared and much-reflected-upon waterway, his name has become almost synonymous with the river. Outside magazine, in fact, made him a central focus of their 2007 30th anniversary issue. Spend two minutes on the river with him and you'll know why.

What then, we wondered, does a man who loves the Mississippi in the way John Ruskey does think of "her" at her most savage? Would he even get in the river as it was cresting and threatening communities all across the land? And, if he would, then, um, could we come too?

We needn't have asked. Of course he would. And of course we could. And, while we can't hand you one of the fabulous mulberries snapped from the top of a tree in the midst of that raging river, you can still take that ride with us...

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