Under the banner of the Gateway Arch, the tallest monument in the country, his body perfectly aligned as a human compass, he ponders.

Here ahead is east where the sun rises. Washington DC lay ahead, as well as New York, Boston, Connecticut, Rhode Island and all those other early states where settling pilgrims first set foot from across the Atlantic and where Irene caused some damage a few weeks ago. Here where he stands was a frontier. To think that all the country was in space are ended right here by the banks of the river. Then came the Louisiana Purchase that gave the country a new lease of life and a chance for the whole of the body of land for a country. Lewis and Clark stood here with boats and tools as they set forth to discover the source of the river, and what else lay out west.

It is easy to ponder what would have happened if another country began from right here which spoke only French. Even without that, all the language influences remain in the town names all around here: Edwardsville, Maryville, Fayetteville, Collinsville, Louisville, Carlinville, Belleville, Taylorville, Greenville, Catonsville, Merrillville, Vermontville, Danville, Warrenville, Romeoville, Pinckneyville, Nashville, Shelbyville, Jacksonville, Lawrenceville, Naperville, Libertyville, Higginsville, Aullville, Boonville, Wentzville, Noblesville and the very many dozen -villes dotting this area and the Mid-western landscape.

On the last frontier at Arizona, Nevada, Texas and California (which, in this position, would be behind him) was of course the other country whose language was mainly Spanish. What is exceptional, in the end, is the way the circumstances were turned to an advantage, and the luck of being able to forge one country that occupies a distinct geographical space.

Standing here, facing Mississippi, even without the positioning of the sun, the moving waters carrying debris from everywhere, left to right, point to the direction of the south. That’s where Katrina went.

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