The best light on the trip back to the river town where I grew up came before the storm. Vivid, intense, deepened-y.
Deepened-y: In the back seat of a car busting toward a thunderstorm, this is when you think thoughts you hadn’t thought in several lifespans. Except you don’t say deepend-y out loud. Not when it is your ex-husband driving the car. Remember, he was the one who used to scold against saying such crazy things out loud. Over time you learned to speak the opposite of out loud: in quiet.
Such caution can steer you in a new direction, though; once you learn it can hurt to speak such thoughts out loud, you start to hear others who speak in that same in quiet shush.
And at the end of this back-home-road-trip a brother waited to walk our river with me. In the five-a.m.-light of his cab, I handed him the Indian rock I found several weeks ago. The moment he fit it in his hand, he sorta gasped in that quiet way.
The rock is an artifact, a tool fashioned centuries before another form of civilization had ruined the culture belonging to the person whose hand had shaped this rock to scrape hide and peel bark. I feel his hand, my brother murmured, running his fingers along the chieseled rock. Right here is where his thumb used to fit.
In the backseat of the truck, his dog, Indie, stirred and yelped. Outside the truck, a cottontail rabbit perked his ears. A meadowlark whistled his sunrise chirp. Morning was set to begin.
Do you know there are secret hiding spots in a 1970 Blazer? This is where he put the rock, afraid someone would steal it. We weren’t exactly in the safest place along the river. Our walk would take us five miles: downstream to the first waterfalls Lewis & Clark once began their famous twenty-mile portage, across the Ninth Street Bridge, through Gibson Park where knife fights and meth dealings are born in the thickets of trees and bushes lining the river bank, up river to the First Avenue Bridge and back to where we parked. And along the way, we got caught in a hellacious storm.
The wind made it impossible to continue; we could not breathe into the wind. And so we found shelter in the doorway of an old brewery along the riverbank, across from that infamous brewery lane. If we tucked ourselves in just right, we could avoid most of the stinging rain.
From the distance we watched a man slip through the bushes and shrubs lining the shore. A Blackfoot dressed in a down-filled winter coat, Wrangler jeans and boots was fighting the torrential rain and wind, headed our way.
My brother slipped his hand in his pocket, wrapped his fingers around his knife. We scooted to our left to make room for this new uncertainty. Indie growled, the Blackfoot growled back but then smiled, showing us his three teeth. He tucked himself into our cramped shelter.
No harm, no harm, he reassured, gesturing back to the dense thicket of shrubs and the flash-flooded land between here and there, the river just took my camp.