Tuesday, May 27, marked the last of our excursions/learning walks in the Foreign Trade Zone series. With a group of eight people we went out to look at a US Silica sand mine in Ottawa, the town where the Fox River empties into the Illinois. All our walks are documented here. Surely next year there will be some new proposals about how to continue this activity. It’s too interesting — too valuable — too engaging — too much fun to give up. But we can imagine something different, better, more open, more activist, let’s see.
After the visit to Ottawa, five of us continued to the town of La Salle/Peru, where the old Illinois & Michigan Canal comes to an end. The last lock is a bit of a tourist attraction, they have some funky-dunky iron silhouette sculptures to dramatize it up for you, as well as a canal boat which I guess is pulled by a mule and a guy in a nineteenth-century costume, whatever. It was great to see the old lock, and then to walk out along the towpath beside the canal. There was some noisy industrial operation on the other side, and the path ended just before it should have, at least for anyone with a sense of poetics. But we went on through the poison ivy, across a forest floor that seems to flood quite regularly, and sure enough, there was an open spot in the curtain of trees and you could look out at the place where the I&M meets the Illinois River, the end of an historical line. We didn’t discover anything. We walked the pathways that formed us and our region and our civilization, at a moment when the best thing we could possibly do is learn how to get off that path. That’s the whole question: how to open what is to something other.