After two weeks of painstaking arrangements, Romeo and I set out this last weekend to go on a two part journey down the length of Idaho to meet up with Mike and Kelly for another celebration of their wedding with Kelly’s extended family. I have lived in Idaho for 22 years, but because of my health, I have not been well enough to travel much farther south than Lewiston. So I was pretty excited to see more of my ruggedly beautiful state.
The first leg of the trip Romeo and I traveled with my friend Jeanne to Riggins, Idaho, where she and I both entered watercolors in the Salmon River Art Guild Show. (I am pleased to say she won two honorable mentions.) The afternoon turned sunny and mild the closer we got to Riggins and we stopped for lunch on the Salmon River at Skookumchuck picnic grounds.
The show was at the Salmon Rapids Lodge in Riggins, which is right on the confluence of the Salmon and Little Salmon Rivers. After checking in my paintings I was drawn out to the bluff and mesmerized by the sound of the rivers. I looked out to my left and saw a lone fly fisherman out in the middle of the river, a barely visible speck blending in with the vast landscape.
Suddenly I understood why my friend Clark loves fly fishing so much he’ll catch and throw back just for the experience of being out there, and why I have always been so in love with the last line of A River Runs Through It, “I am haunted by waters.” I had to find a way to get down the bluff to that water. I watched a family disappear down what seemed to be a path at the edge of the lodge’s lawn. It was extremely narrow, and nearly overgrown in places. With Romeo leading the way and stopping every few paces so I could take my time and get my footing, we made it down to the sand and rocks.
And I even put my hands in this beautiful water and felt the current.
I felt blessed and rejeuvenated beyond words that I could make it down there and back up again. Later that evening, after resting in Jeanne’s room with the screen door open to the sound of the river, and dressing for the reception, I sat with my plate of raw veggies while everyone else ate the cookies and brownies and cheeses. I looked out the glass wall of the lodge facing the rivers. My breath caught in my throat as I saw a perfect half moon rise over the bluffs. It was creamy and gorgeous against the periwinkle evening sky, set in a glowing storm ring. I could hardly take my eyes off it, though I tried to manage maintaining pleasant talk with a charming watercolorist and his wife and Jeanne. Minutes before the announcement of the awards, I took Romeo for a quick walk around the grounds under that breathtaking moonlight. On our way back in I was surprised to see Jeanne hurrying toward me. For a second I dared to think I might have won something (no such luck), but then I saw something was wrong. She thought I already knew. The woman with whom Romeo and I were to travel the rest of the way to the party had decided she was too allergic to dogs to take us. I was “stuck” in Riggins.
Now I’ll admit that to me it’s a rather beautiful place to be stuck—at least if you focus on that amazing confluence. But I didn’t have reservations at the lodge, and I hadn’t budgeted for it either. And the whole reason I even attempted the trip was to see my kids again. It was more than a little upsetting to suddenly discover this woman who shall not be named had an allergy to dog hair she never disclosed (though I certainly would have understood that if she had said so up front), and which was not apparent the 15 or so minutes Romeo and I spent with her talking about travel arrangements a week or so before. In fact she had remarked he was so quiet she hadn’t even realized he was there at our feet. Now she was sniffling and telling me she couldn’t do it, and her sisters, who we were supposed to stay with for the night in McCall, were backing her up something fierce. One of them turned to me and said, “well, can’t your family come and get you??” Talk about nerve.
There was nothing to do but call Mike and tell him I was stuck, and unless someone could come and get me, I couldn’t make it the rest of the way. I don’t remember much about the art show that evening. But I will remember how Mike borrowed his mother-in-law’s car and drove up to get me. He’s always been a night owl and he wanted to do it all in one trip so he could sleep in before the party, so I napped while he drove up, and then we drove down to Nampa in the wee hours of the morning, a total of about six hours in the car for him. Crazy situation but wonderful quality time. We kept the inside car light on and had a good long chance to visit. And he brought food. A flavorful mash of sweet potato, brown rice, black beans, vinegar and spices. It felt like home in the middle of nowhere. And so good to know my son would rescue me in a pinch, completely supported by Kelly’s family. (I would even learn the next morning that if we had known earlier, they would have planned to come and get me and see my paintings in the bargain.)
The party was simple lovely family fun. Here are Mike and Kelly posing like the trolls Kelly’s aunt put on the top of the wedding cake she made for the party. (The top was vegan.)
Kelly chose a “make your own taco” menu, and there was plenty of fixins’ for a vegan taco. The day was perfect weather: warm, sunny, no wind. I just sat in the yard and enjoyed getting to know Kelly’s friends from school days and their husbands, watch the old goose and the chickens, the cousins’ children play croquet and giggle, and meet aunts and uncles. One of the nicest things was that no one asked me about why I had a service dog, or why I don’t eat meat. I wasn’t asked to explain anything to anyone. I could just say, “Hi, I’m Mike’s Mom, it’s nice to meet you.” And smile.
The fantasy I often have is that I won’t have to explain or ask for special treatment. It was a weekend that ran the gamut between needing that to be acknowledged and not having it be a dig deal that I do. On the one hand, there was a person who could not respect my needs enough to come through as promised, or tell me up front it wouldn’t work, like I had given her the option to. On the other end of the spectrum, I was given the only guest room and made so comfortable I did not have to explain anything to anyone.
On Sunday morning, after Mike and Romeo and I took a nice walk together, Kelly’s Mom drove me up to McCall, where my friend Jeanne had offered to meet me, while Kelly’s Dad stayed to take Mike and Kelly to the airport for their flight back to Portland. On the way to McCall, we traveled through beautiful country along the Payette River.
I saw four rivers and the Camas Prairie. I put my hands in the confluence of the Salmon and the Little Salmon. I was enchanted by the moon, and taken care of by family and a good friend. And I survived the shock of being let down. I even made a couple of rough sketches of my kids Saturday night while we all relaxed around a movie after the party.
But I’m tired. And it’s good to be home.