Shimmering Blue Line: The St. Croix River in Pen, Brush and Music. Paintings by James Wilcox Dimmers. Essays and Music by Don Mitchell. Copyright 2010. ISBN: 978-0-615-39376-6. Price: $54.95. Copies of this book may be ordered online at www.shimmeringblueline.com.
In what may be a literary and artistic first, two men have produced a valentine to a river. The object of their affection is the St. Croix; having spent a good deal of their lives in its valley, writer Don Mitchell and artist Jim Dimmers have long considered these 164 miles of wild waters to be their muse. As a source of inspiration, they could have done worse. Their joint passions have been manifested in 41 essays from the former and 85 full color illustrations of original paintings from the latter. Touching on such topics as the underlying geology, flora and fauna, history, and a host of other interesting and informative aspects of riparian lore, this is essentially a guided tour by a couple of old time river rats.
Mitchell gives the reader a "you are there" experience; in his piece entitled "Syruping," for example, he relates the satisfaction of one's honest toil in tapping maple trees amidst the melting snows of March:
The first drips of sap from the tree . . . tell us that spring in not an illusion. The first bubbles in the big pan show that the fire will work its magic again . . . the scent of the vapor . . . the pops of the lids as we stand nearby in the kitchen, miser-like, counting our bounty of liquid gold.
Dimmers is no less adept at capturing the manifold glories of unspoiled nature. If, as the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words, then these portraits of flowers, trees, and majestic stone formations speak volumes unto themselves. Working primarily in acrylics, the vibrant hues he has selected for his myriad canvases depict the many moods of the waters of the "Sacred Cross" (English translation of Saint Croix), taking the viewer through the endless cycles of the theater of seasons.
Not content to convey their message of inspiration in merely two dimensions, these two decided to team up with a group of local musicians to produce a compact disc of instrumental works reminiscent of paddle wheelers past, bearing such tuneful titles as "Flood Stage," "Slow Water," and "Catfish Bar." Mitchell makes a reappearance as he also wields a pretty mean violin; the piano, bass, and acoustic guitar will have listeners up on their feet swaying to the "Lady's Slipper Waltz" in short order.
An up close and personal look at a corner of our Midwestern backyard that we all know is there, but too often take for granted, a copy of the Shimmering Blue Line will help anyone remember why we call this home.