Yesterday I drove over Sherman Pass to Republic for a cello concert. The concert was amazing - more about that to come. But the drive...
Ten years ago, I made that drive a million times a week. Sometimes twice in one day. The memories of that summer wash over me like a rough cold wave on the Oregon coast, taking my breath away. The songs, the sights, all flash through my mind. The Forest Service campground where I spent weeks excavating. The creek bed where I waded up to my waist on survey. The brilliant smile of a beautiful boy with a soot-blackened face. Camo pants, Dollar Bets, karaoke at the Hitching Post. Sweet Home Alabama, Tim McGraw and Watching The Wind Blow By, rope swings and watermelon. Falling asleep in an exhausted pile of over-sung, over-danced, over-worked and over-funned boys and girls still wearing nomex and boots.
The memories make my heart race and my stomach flutter like it hasn't in years. Funny how a drive can transport you back in history to a different time. Every curve of the road had a different memory, a conversation, a song - this is the spot where I lose cell service, and this is the other spot where it comes back and 37 text messages from a waiting boy flood my screen.
I remember a little blonde baby and a 4 1/2 year old who ate so much watermelon that she threw it up all over my car. An 8 year old tomboy and a 7 year old fairy princess. Missing plenty of teeth but not one minute of life. I remember liberation from the tyranny of a terrible marriage. Years of pain washing off of me in the lakes of Ferry County. I remember stepping off of the blind precipice that is leaving A Religion behind, to find out if there is really A God instead. I can still feel the freefall into learning that absolute truth is defined in the burning trees and tumbling rocks of nature. I can still taste the tiniest trace of unconditional love on my lips. Love without judgement, only curiosity and the desire to Know Me. I can feel the wonder of being my own person, valued and sought out and enjoyed, finally escaping years of condemnation and failure and never, ever, ever Getting It Right. For a little while, I didn't have to. I just had to be. Honest, open, trusting, seeking, learning.
That drive was my road home. My pathway to freedom. To knowing my own soul and who I was Created To Be. That mountain pass was the crossover from incarceration to liberty. I learned to fly on that road, and not only when I was going 75 MPH, trusting in the false security of friendship with the county cops and the entire staff of the Colville National Forest. After an insular life of overprotection and sheltering, I finally found a safe place in the wild country over the hill. I fell out of the nest and into a whirlwind of freedom and grace and learning. My instructors were rough and clumsy. My classmates were unruly and uncouth. And I loved them all. Still do. I am thankful for that summer. For all of the steps leading up to it and away from it. For the memories and the baggage that it gave me. I am thankful for that time machine of a road.