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Missoula

It feels like that morning in Missoula.

We’d driven from Seattle with the incessant thump of the U-Haul.

Hannah, still a puppy, nestled against me and awoke to the sight of cows —

Big, unwieldy animals that did not fit her still narrow universe

And so she peed right there in my lap.

It was dark when we pulled into the little house of your college friend,

The windows’ eyes of the rustic rental opened brightly against the plum black sky.

We knew there were mountains all around, but their quiet was complete.

Alexis made us a Greek pasta that was something like spaetzle but not quite —

Buttery and homey, the little rectangles probably shipped to her from her parents in New York City.

In the morning, when we climbed out of our bags into the September day, the sun misled us.

Warm it declared, but the ground had a thin dusting of snow and our breaths, when we stepped outside with Hannah, were full bodied-visible.

We were driving our late-20 selves to Iowa:  me returning home after a decade on the west coast,

You taking a chance on the middle of the country, a mystery spot on the map.

Once we arrived in Iowa, there would still be lingering heat and humidity, mosquitos and the final green tomatoes.

But here in Missoula, it was already that kind of crisp that makes you smile and wince all at once —

So gorgeous golden in the moment, yet saturated with the inevitable darkness to come.

What if we’d stayed right there? I sometimes wonder. Stayed in that crispy, mountain town, made a home among strangers. Raised Hannah on hikes and deer antlers.

I can see the veins and arteries of that existence spreading out, surprises and repetitions among them. We still come apart, it seems inevitable. But would there have been kids? Would there have been two of them? What we each be doing for work?

So many paths that lead from these hearts, the heart sensitive to that dusting of snow, those darkened mountains. The heart empathizing with the dog who peed at the sight of the cows. The heart that knows so much more than our silly brains give it credit for.

My heart, I now see more than two decades later, was ready to stay in Missoula.

 

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