Hello to you. Thanks so very much for taking time to check out our status and ride along awhile with us.
Tonight we are standing (okay sitting pantsless on a hotel bed) at a crossroads. We have wrapped up the majority of our Missoula tasks. Tomorrow morning we meet the movers at the storage unit and watch them load our possessions on a truck and drive off. Just after that is the grand reunion. We’ll pick up the cats and then we too will thrust ourselves toward the edge of the continent. It is a two-day journey and if the kitties were not pissed off at us for abandoning them, a multi-day car ride ought to seal that deal.
I thought there would be a lot more sturm and drang about these last 48 hours. I cried a lot when we hit the road the first time. There was so much uncertainty and excitement in those first few weeks traveling. Everything we saw and did carried a hazy shadow of our life in Missoula. Every little shop was compared to the known. The employment prospects and housing markets all had to line up next to Missoula and be judged like pageant contestants, in relationship to one another.
By the time we secured ourselves a house, vacationed a little and saw our folks, our road weary minds and bodies had, I guess you might say re-wired. We are super excited to stop spinning our wheels (in some cases literally) and just be where we go now. When we left before it was a difficult cutting of the chord with a place that both embraced and spurned us. Now, this time, it feels more like an overdue breakup. Not and ugly one, just the kind where you will genuinely be friends forever but you simply cannot live together anymore.
This morning we visited Sparkle Laundry for what I hope is our last laundromat visit for a long time. As a side note here, we have seen a lot of laundry facilities over the last six weeks and Sparkle Laundry on Higggins in Missoula really is the best. We had a quick bite among the hipsters at Clyde Coffee and as always it was delicious. All through our errands and emails and arrangements though, the engine keeps running. We are being simultaneously pulled onward and held fast. There is a pressure and a grind to the moment. The tides pull us west while our roots struggle to find purchase in the Big Sky.
On our whirlwind action packed stop-over we have seen only very few of our friends. At times this has been easier on us and simultaneously so much harder than we might have thought. Cody and I would like to say thank you so much to Jay Kettering and Gwen McKenna who took time to finally have the infamous missing birthday Turtle pie with us the night before last. Their welcoming and familiar home, the always engaging conversation and the opportunity to commune with great people in such a relaxed time and place truly meant the world to us. I do wish we could have seen absolutely everyone and there are a few very dear friends whose absence is and will continue to be harsh and cutting.
We spent time with our youngest son Dakota today. It was beautiful and fun and so very, very hard. He moved back to Missoula moments before we left and now we are the ones fleeing the Big Sky. As we were saying goodbye this afternoon I immediately felt my heart drop into my stomach. I studied his face trying to memorize every line. As I looked up at him I saw a four-year-old learning to swim, a six-year-old learning to ride a bike, a twelve-year-old playing the trumpet, a fourteen-year-old breaking his arm, a sixteen-year-old getting a driver’s license, and an eighteen-year-old leaving home. I could not quite get a real strong focus on the twenty-five-year-old right in front of me.
I have a terrible fear each time I say goodbye directly to one of my boys’ faces that it is the last time. So far that has not been true, and for that I am very grateful. One day it will be, and I sincerely hope that there are many, many more opportunities to cry over departures before that day comes. As we were leaving I told Dakota (as I have told Hayden many times before) “You have to stay in touch.” I tell them both that I know they have three minutes everyday when they are not doing anything else and they can text me . . . the moments while they are in the bathroom. I regularly get text messages from Hayden that just say “pooping.”
Great. I know he’s okay and regular – colon cancer can be hereditary so this is an excellent check in. I ask them to respond when I text, just a single letter, any one letter, simply let me know they got my message and are alive. As Cody and I said goodbye to our baby and ran out one last time to the storage unit, I got a text message. It was from Dakota. It read “a single letter.” I smiled through the tears, well done Stinkerbell. I wanted to respond with a poo emoji but I sent an octopus instead.
The internet will not be up in our new place until the middle of next week and I am sure there will be plenty to talk about at that time. I hope there are fewer tears but you never really can tell, can you? The Montana poet Jim Harrison has written a brilliant poem called The Bear. In the poem, a man’s freezer breakdown melting the contents, several pounds of squid. A bear comes along and eats the found treasure and the poet supposes what the bear’s dreams must be like now that he has tasted the foreign ocean.
As we embark on the final leg of our travels, and the first steps of our grandest adventure I think that Cody and I are like that bear. We have tasted the sea but can only imagine what wonders are in store for us when we finally rest at its shore.
We’ll write when we can. Thanks again for staying with us.
The Bear by Jim Harrison
When my propane ran out
when I was gone and the food
thawed in the freezer I grieved
over the five pounds of melted squid,
but then a big gaunt bear arrived
and feasted on the garbage, a few tentacles
left in the grass, purplish white worms.
O bear, now that you’ve tasted the ocean
I hope your dreamlife contains the whales
I’ve seen, that one in the Humboldt current
basking on the surface who seemed to watch
the seabirds wheeling around her head.