the trip to ernest and back

The sky. Our world. Tied by a thousand strings to sandbags disguised as evergreens and boulders, the Clark Fork River, gravel bars and  fishermen drilling holes in frozen lakes. We had journeyed six hundred miles from the southern center of Montana to the last town in Idaho before British Columbia starts. What does it take to hold us steady, what keeps our sky from blowing away?

The details differ for each of us—what might happen in our day to threaten what we’ve known to be for sure. In my life, enough had happened in the past month that a trip to Bonners Ferry became the answer to restoring my daughter to whole. And so, we packed our back-up mittens and threw ourselves into a road trip that passed through an old Irish mining town where the best food in town is Italian (with veal raviolis  served to the tune of Oh, Danny Boy.)

Ask my daughter the route: There is where Grandpa George worked at the smelter, and that is where Grandma Great lived in the abandoned sawmill camp, and there is where the first redmitten was born. And here is where we turned that one time to follow the Blackfoot where cliffs were made for jumping, and here is where we came that other time to visit my son during his loneliest internship. There—the river with the best skipper stones; the spring with the most welcome taste. And now the mountain and its winding grade and eight-foot high snowbanks. Two does pausing on the road’s shoulder as though to let us pass.

And came the white lime sky, the weathered majesty of Rocky Mountain peaks. We were so lucky to be from this country. No, no. To be of this land, together on clear mountain roads in the middle of February with the Clark Fork crossing out path fourteen times. One way.

On the return trip, a flash of yellow caught my eye: A raft bobbing in the shallows and a fisherman casting upstream. With snow banking the river easily four feet deep, you wouldn’t want to be swept away. But no worries, as we drove past him, I turned to watch as long as I could, squinting to see he was anchored to a stand of drift on a gravel bar leading to a trail through a barren aspen grove. Leading, no doubt, to a sort of sandbag tied to a corner of  big sky.

Photo taken with my camera phone, through Ernest’s side window.

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About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website: https://toomuchaugust.wordpress.com

13 responses to “the trip to ernest and back

  1. i love every word of this. it’s so you. love the last image of you watching as long as you could – like the river, the sky. lovely.

    • redmitten

      mm- yes, taking it in for as long as i could…it’s something to “come back to” when life gets low. it replenishes. i like what you said that in your second post about how the rivers and sky do what they do as long as they can, too. way cool.

  2. (what i mean is, you watched as long as you could, and the river and sky do what they do as long as they can)

  3. Kerry

    What a place…who could resist? The sky, the river, the ‘Danny Boy’ ravioli, …..the feel for the place…like it’s built into your bones and the river runs like blood through you all. How full.
    p.s…if you ever come up this way, I’ll show you the worlds 2nd best skipping stones!

    • redmitten

      kerry- you have a way with words: the danny boy ravioli !! i love that! and i would love to come up your way. that island of yours is one of the most stirring places i’ve ever visited in my travels. do you have a stack of skipping stones stored in your house? my siblings each have a stack- skippers too good to use. and we laugh about that, because what good is a skipper stone if it doesn’t get to skip?

  4. Rose Hunter

    Aha, lime white…. Gorgeous, and I love this pic too, already commented on your photoblog, so frozen….

    “We were so lucky to be from this country. No, no. To be of this land.” So special, yes.

    • redmitten

      that lime white, white lime. limestone and red earth. i had wanted to comment on how many times large streaks of red earth would show up as we wound our way through the passes. my uncles were drillers and when i was little, we’d roam around on obscure logging roads and they’d point to the colors of the earth and say: iron; copper; gold. (i wished i had paid more attention.)

  5. Beautiful as ever, Sherry, and you always ask the most important questions that keep my mind probing. Today’s: What does it take to hold us steady, what keeps our sky from blowing away? Now that will certainly make me think for days to come! Thank you.

    • redmitten

      karla, thank you! in writing this piece i was reminded that as so much of earth is anchored to the sky to keep the sky from blowing away, the sky anchors to earth/us to keep us grounded as well. it’s mutual. 🙂

  6. I’m glad to read of this trip to restore wholeness.

    • redmitten

      kathleen- thank you. even though we returned with ernest, it was the trip to and fro that restored us. but you knew that already. if only such a trip could always heal as it did this time.

  7. Just when I really need some words, you know, the kind of words that help to heal, just when I’m plunging somewhere that I cannot see the bottom of, just, just at that moment, the moment we all find so draining, UP COMES SOME HEALING WORDS!

    Prose? Poetry? Prose-poetry? I don’t know………but these words are another book in the making. There is so much in touch with so much. inside these words.

    • redmitten

      am so glad. thank you. i feel like the less i say, the more i am letting you know how much(ly) your words touch me.

      regarding prose/poetry: i don’t know either and i enjoy considering the debate. it’s my thought that most of what i write (with or without line breaks) are words delivering a poem. at home, when i start telling stories with my story-telling family, i get teased for my version never having an ending. and that is because how something ends is not as interesting to me as what the story makes you feel.

      i appreciate what you bring when you stop by and read me.

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