There isn’t a mellower bridge anywhere than the Stone Bridge on the Minneapolis waterfront.
The Stone Bridge was my third bridge of the day. The first was the Washington Street Bridge, the site of several suicides, including poet John Berryman. The Washington Street bridge is a creepy bridge to cross. When I drove across it, I thought of falling. I changed lanes to avoid being near the edge.
Everything there had changed. First I tried to park by the little house where my college roommate used to live and where I spent so many hours listening to Bette Midler and Todd Rundgren. It wasn’t there any more. Instead there was a parking ramp… next to a condo. The little bookstore inside the building under the bridge where I had bought my copy of Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz’s letters for a Spanish lit course wasn’t there anymore either. On the West Bank side of the bridge, dozens of shoes hang in a tree. Don’t suicides remove their shoes before jumping? How many suicides has this bridge claimed? Is there a pair of shoes in the tree for every soul lost on the bridge?
I had intended to cross the bridge on foot, but now I backed slowly away from the edge, thinking of falling, airplanes falling, bodies falling, the exhaustion that comes after a funeral, exhaustion too profound even for grieving, then, thinking of finality, I crossed the bridge on the inner enclosed part.
After inspecting the metallic pedestrian bridges over Washington Avenue on the East Bank–the last time I was here they were wood–and looking at the metal curiosity that is the Weissman Art Museum, once again I approached the edge of the Washington Street bridge for the return trip. I could hear the lamp posts creaking in the wind. Then I heard other voices, the Welsh voices that had taught me how to climb on Mount Snowdon, holding onto the side of the mountain with four points, and moving one limb at a time, seeking handhold, toehold, handhold, inching slowly across, aware of danger, aware of more than danger. My consciousness expanded to take in the horizon, the clouds, the invisible earth beyond all of it. Then I crossed the bridge next to the edge, looking over the side, aware of it all, photographing it all.
Returning to Seven Corners, where I had left my car, I walked briefly out onto the Plymouth Street bridge to see the location of the bridge that fell, the bridge on 35W that crosses the Mississippi east of downtown. The vivid sunset did not make up for the discomfort of the bridge, just as the poem inscribed on the lintels of the Irene Hixon Whitney bridge that I would see a few days later does not make up for the unpleasantness of that bridge. The sunset would be better enjoyed from the nearby Stone Bridge.
I found parking near a building with neon signs announcing “soap factory”. It was indeed once a soap factory and is now an art gallery.
It’s even better after dark.
Then on to the bridge itself.
(Everything here is clickable.)
Everyone is crossing the bridge–bicycles, dogs, joggers, old couples.
On the right, upstream, is St. Anthony Falls.
To the right of St. Anthony Falls is Nicollet Island, and a sluiceway used by a power company.
But the best view of the bridge is from underneath, reached by descending a wooden stairway.
Funny, isn’t it, how this is the place where everyone congregates, the place everyone speaks of with warmth in their voices. Not the shiny places built of metal by famous architects, but the solid utilitarian structures made of stone and wood. Oh, today you were at the Stone Bridge, they will say fondly, remembering the earth and the trees and the water.