I’ve just returned from a brief trip to a bit of my past. For ten years I lived in Plains, Montana. A tiny town of 1,065 in a county that holds 11,365. I’m pretty sure someone counted a few cows. It is a beautiful place that changes slowly, and in some ways not at all. Other than a few drive-throughs, I haven’t been there for 14 years.
My primary reason for going was to see my mother. A lady who has twice beaten cancer, only to find it sneaking back up on her. In typical stoic fashion, she is dealing with the consequence in a cheerful, “today is a good day” manner. Her attitude does much to show others the world is a better place when you do what you can, but accept the unchangeable with grace.
The trip served other purposes, too. Plains is where I met my husband. It is where dreams were born and dreams died. The Interstate Highway between Seattle metro and Plains (I-90) is littered with places that were part of bringing my husband and me together. We both traveled that road often enough. All those stopping places, Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Tokio, Four Lakes, Naughty Ladies Park (private joke based on a brief meeting with a theatrical group), Two Mile Road, St. Regis. I’m sure there are others.
The drive also consists of three passes, Snoqualmie, 4th of July, and Look Out. The last of which nearly cost me my future husband when he totaled his T-Bird on a sheet of black ice. The next morning I rescued him in Kellogg. Memories – dancing through my mind as I drove into the rising sun. I took my time, not pushing to cover miles, visiting moments long buried in the rush of life.
When I arrived a storm moved in. At first it was only wind – scary in the heart of a fire season. Breathing was not all that comfortable without air filtered through air conditioners. But then rain came, too. Not enough, but things did cool down – and the lights went out. Mini panic ensued until I (with the help of her ever watchful caregiver) was sure Mum’s oxygen was covered. It was nearly midnight when power returned – and stayed on, and her condenser was operational. The storm did, however, clear the air and the next day sported beautiful, blue Montana skies.
I took a drive to visit a hillside near a lot my husband once owned and from where I could see the property that had been my home. The road was overgrown and not really passable. Again caught in the wrong footwear, I couldn’t really hike it, either. I think, perhaps, the goodbyes I said years ago were meant to be final. At least now I know that.
I visited a friend who had lost her husband a year ago. She did not know about Doug’s illness and death. The visit became much harder than I had anticipated. She, however, is moving on and will remarry soon. I am truly happy for her.
Then there was a dear friend who has been near to both Doug and me for many years. A person who has helped us both in business and personally and seems forever faithful. Dinner was a real opportunity to unwind and enjoy conversation I had sorely missed.
I stayed in the guest house of a client and friend that has followed me wherever I went in the world. Then, there is the lady who cares for my mother with genuine love and consideration.
Yes, it was an important trip, a trip to touch that place I remembered and see if it was still there. It is. Now it is my past. I don’t belong there anymore. It has moved away by remaining the same-but changing. I will always love those hills and will find pleasure in visiting when the need or opportunity presents itself. Sometimes moving forward requires the active pursuit of sorting through the past to find the bits from which to build the future.
There is a beautiful song by Anne Murray called, You Needed Me. When I once told a friend I had found the hero of all my favorite love songs – this was one of them – still is.
“You gave me strength to stand alone again/to face the world out on my own again”
That strength is only one of his lasting gifts to me. There is a tomorrow and I intend to pursue it.