Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Own Private Idaho

I spent a significant chunk of my formative years in the mountains of Oregon and Idaho. The whisper of the wind moving through a stand of pines, the glint of sunlight off a deep blue glacial lake, the roar of a snow-fed mountain stream…all these are a part of who I am. But I last saw Idaho some nineteen long years ago, when I flew back from Australia to bury my father on a shady hillside overlooking the university town of Moscow. This summer, I journeyed back in the company of my daughters and my sister to bury my mother’s ashes there, too.

I expected the sight of my father’s grave to be wrenching, and it was. Yet I also found an unanticipated but nonetheless real peace in knowing that my mother was, finally, where she wanted to be—beside the man with whom she had shared so many incredible years of her life. That sad task complete, my sister and I then took some time to reacquaint ourselves with Idaho—and to share it with my girls.

I’d forgotten just how clear the lakes and rivers of Idaho are; how breathtakingly magnificent the mountains, how gloriously clean and fresh and oxygen-saturated the air. We drove up the St. Joe River, meandered around Coeur d’Alene and Pond Oreille lakes, even spent a couple of days down in McCall. It was more than a trip down memory lane. It was a reconnection with a time and a place that was dearer to me than I’d remembered.

Of course, much has changed in the last twenty or thirty years. Some cities like Coeur d’Alene and Boise have grown in ways one might regret. Yet Moscow has turned into a charmingly pleasant town, with gourmet restaurants, cute little coffee houses, exquisite bakeries, and a jazz band that played beside the square’s fountain during Saturday’s farmers’ market. And the land—the endless miles of forest-covered mountains and wide-open spaces—is much the same as it always has been, still hauntingly empty, still heart-stoppingly beautiful.

All of which made for a painful yet ultimately soothing and uplifting trip.


Charles Gramlich said...

I much enjoyed your discussion of this the other night at our meeting. Lovely pics.

liz fenwick said...

I find trips back to the 'past' something I dread and long for...I love how a landscape can hurt and heal...change and remain the same...all the time reflecting more about us than what's outside.


Barbara said...

We moved to Wa. state about 20 years ago and even though we were there only for several short years the landscape and tranquility are most treasured memories. I can only imagine how it feels to have grown up in a space like that. Condolences on the loss of your parents.

Steve Malley said...

A beautiful essay... now if I can just get the B-52's out of my head!

Firefly said...

The loss of a parent,is a very poignant thing to bear, regardless of ones age! From your description of the area, your mother's ashes were interred with your father, in a very beautiful part of the world!!

cs harris said...

Charles, it is amazingly beautiful country.

Liz, you said that perfectly. Thanks.

Barbara, I think I realized going back just how lucky I was.

Steve, sorry! I know, I know.

Firefly, it is hard, no matter how old we are, or how old our parents are. I suspect most people don't talk about it because somehow our society doesn't acknowledge it, so they feel almost ashamed, as if there's something wrong with them for taking it so hard.

Diane said...

i am 76 years old and my mom died six years ago. I still miss her, wish I could have made her life better, and think of her with love. So, I know it isn't easy to allow that relationship to go, and I am not convinced I should even try. My sincere sympathy on your loss.

cs harris said...

Diane, my condolences on the death of your mother. But how wonderful to have had her for 70 years! I learned after my dad's death that one of the hardest things about losing someone is the realization that we're going to have to miss them for the rest of our lives. They just leave a gaping hole.

Barbara Martin said...

I feel your loss, Candy.

I have been through Idaho many times: my favourite over Coeur d'Alene is Bonner's Ferry. Your last photo reminded me of the beauty of the area.

cs harris said...

Thank you, Barbara. It was wonderful being there again. My sister is actually buying a place in McCall and moving there, so I suspect I'll be going back more often now.

Kate Sterling said...

Beautiful imagery - in both words and photos.

Now I want to move to Idaho. I had no idea it was so gorgeous.

cs harris said...

Kate, I would LOVE to move back. Unfortunately, one of my daughters carries sickle cell trait and had scary issues with the altitude.

orannia said...

(((Candy + family)))

I've glad that your time in Idaho was...positive. And thank you for the photos - it looks like a beautiful area.

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