Saturday, March 7, 2015

Saturday Musings, 7 March 2015

Good morning,

I have returned from my adventures in California.  The week's accumulation of excitement kept my brain dancing far into the night, with the nerves in my legs tapping the time.  Kansas City seems flat and tame after the ocean, after San Francisco, after the shops of Palo Alto and Los Altos.  I listen to the roar of the furnace and shake my head.  It hardly seems like home.

As I flew over the lower Rockies yesterday, memories of other trips flooded through me.  Escape to the East Coast after college graduation; a train trip to Washington during high school; the drive to Santa Fe at the end of a summer of sorrow between my second and third year of law school.  I have often found myself going somewhere, looking for something; anonymity, perhaps -- four strange walls within which to re-invent myself.  I thought about the fatality accident which I saw on the road west of San Jose, and another memory rose to haunt me.

The last week of October 1982, I flew to Montana to rekindle a lost love.  My two-stage route landed me first in Butte, where I waited for a Big Sky puddle-hopper to take me to Helena.

A man wearing a grey leather jacket gestured to me from an open door.  Helena? At first, I thought he had mistaken me for someone and I shook my head.  The lady at the counter said, Yeah, she's going, and they both stared at me, assessing the safety of letting me on a small plane.  I shrugged and shouldered my tote next to my pocketbook and walked over towards the doorway.

The man and I boarded the little plane together.  He turned left to take his place in the co-pilot's seat and I turned right, surveying the eight empty seats.  I heard a voice behind  me and realized that another passenger had come into the plane, a nondescript man wearing beige clothing.  We sat and watched as the pilot came aboard and a cabin crew member.  Everybody buckled themselves into their seats and the engines started.  I stared out the window at the ground, falling away.

We climbed over the mountains and slipped down again in the Helena airport before I could form my own safety worries.  David waited in the otherwise empty building, as the five of us strolled across the blacktop.  We gazed at each other, uncertain, unwilling to let the moment own itself.  Finally I embraced him and felt the hasty return of my offering in the tightening of his arms.

We spent a couple of days exploring Helena, reminding ourselves of our common trend of thought, laughing.  Then he decided we should go to Glacier Park for Halloween, and we packed as much food as we could fit into his small cooler.  He stashed his insulin syringes and vials of medicine in the glovebox.  We headed for the hills.

Halfway up the first tier of mountains above Helena, I saw a row of crosses on a pole beside the row. I had never seen anything like that.  Mystified, I asked what they were.  It marks the spot of a fatal accident, David explained.  The number of crosses is the number of deaths.  I twisted in my seat to stare at the shrine, receding in our wake as we continued forward.  A half-mile later, we passed a caution sign instruction us to slow to 35.  DANGEROUS CURVE.  David laughed and said, Should we believe them? just as we drew alongside a newly planted metal spike with seven crosses, a bouquet of fresh flowers not yet wilted lying at its base.

David stopped on the shoulder and I threw the door outward, unbuckling, sliding from my seat.  I struggled across the rocks of the highway's edge and stopped at the metal figure with its sad display of tiny crosses.  I ran one finger along the two crosses at the top, tracing their contours, following the metal bar to the five arranged below them.  Do you think it was a family, I whispered to David, who stood at my elbow.  His arm slid around my waist, unhesitatingly, holding me, not holding back.  We stood by the side of the road as cars flew by, drivers honking, staring.  The cold Montana wind surrounded us.

We reached Glacier Park by mid-day,   As we approached from the south, we could see into Canada, where a snowstorm danced on the frigid afternoon air.  An hour later, I stood on the edge of St. Mary's Lake trying to discern the outline of the glacier in the murky grey while David gave himself some insulin in the front seat of the car.  I felt small.  I would never feel anything but small, never, not then, not still, as the bleak air of winter settled in the park around me and David gazed on me from inside his car.

I flew back from California over the lower Rockies yesterday.  They lie tame and low, east of Phoenix, a long expanse of friendly hills.  I watched them from a window seat in a crowded Southwest Airlines plane.  The rows of people around me  huddled in jackets with ear phones, iPads, and little bags of peanuts.  I kept my eyes on the mountains until they disappeared in the shadow of the setting sun.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.