Gentle Reader: My recent participation in the Facebook Page for Fans of U.S. Route 83 has caused me to reflect on the important touchstone that stretch of road has been for me and its vital role as corridor from North Dakota to Texas.
For virtually all of my life U.S. Highway 83 has been my pathway into respite and recreation then back to civilization. I’ve watched it grow from a rolling 2-lane, barely paved road to a straightened and widened 4-lane with turn lanes at congested junctions and even bypasses around city centers. It is the place where I get a pulse on north south commerce and fresh shrimp trucked to my city from near its southern terminus. I’ve watched the growth of energy development with electrical transmission lines crossing the highway and now wind farms and countless turbines are within easy view. Coal plants, oil wells and water diversion. From my house, I can hear the high-pitched hum of tires on its pavement.
More importantly, Highway 83 is the place where I connect to my roots. Family homesteads and family graves are within a few miles in North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. From it, I keep watch over fields and flocks and migratory birds in the Central Flyway, planting and harvest. I watch the sloughs for how much rain we’ve had or haven’t. I see the seasons and the years come and go and I simply watch life. Grandpa Scott never called it Highway 83. It was just the Main Artery. Indeed.
Over this past summer, I’ve composed several haiku on and about Highway 83. Come take a ride with me:
Churning charcoal clouds
Spill red rain on dusty buttes
Tail lights ribbon ahead
The long shadows stretch
From fields and trees and fence posts
Sun pools in the West
Kept by mile markers for each
Life’s blood through the corridor
Spans the continent
Gentle Reader: The table is set. Tom is bathing in the sink and will be cooked on the Weber rotisserie grill—regardless of the ambient temperature (yes, the snow shovel is close by). A few things have been prepared in advance like Drunken Cranberry Fruit Conserve (port and rum) and Parmesan Thyme Crackers.
Today’s advance work includes Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Lime Crema, prep for Potato and Parsnip Mash, and Jumbo Mushrooms Stuffed with Dressing. Tomorrow morning it’s Swiss Chard and Chevre Chipotle Spread. I’m in my glory and Tom will make his debut about 4:30pm.
Most importantly, we will have a family gathering to enjoy the assembled food and each other. We celebrate a life swimming in blessings and friends and family with whom we are united in spirit. We send you our boundless love. This is a time we remember Our Source and loved ones who have taught us how to be thank-full!
Gentle Reader: I was just about to toss the last two fading, pistachio-green, spider mums plucked from wedding bouquets when I recalled the entire wedding panorama as a whirlwind of activity and vignettes of poignant moments. While I have many mementos to recapture those moments, these mums rewound time– past that week –back to her going off to college, recovering from a brain tumor, getting her driver’s license, school projects, brownie scouts, tricycles, first steps, and a first tooth.
She was married in that same prairie place where I discovered her first tooth, where I carried her through my pregnancy while taking care of the trees and the land. Now she and her husband plant a Wedding Tree and take care of that North Dakota land . . . and their marriage.
During cool days in June we ask if summer will ever arrive. During cool days in July we are thankful for a respite from the heat. During cool days in August, we feel fall in the air.
© Bonnie Staiger, Published: Parkinson Foundation Report, Summer 2003
Strong and rough
Building a cabin
“Hold my hand, Daddy
The curb is high
And I’m afraid of falling.”
Under his nails
Never quite clean . . .
No matter the occasion
“Hold my hand, Dad
The world is rough
And I’m afraid of falling.”
Kind and gentle
Showing the way
Caressing my cheek . . .
Never mind his calluses and nicks
“Hold my hand, Bonnie Rae
Getting old is tough
And I’m afraid of falling.”
Shaking and palsied
Wet from drops of drool
Showing the signs of
A lifetime of work . . . now resting
“Hold his hand, God
The way is smooth at last
And no more falling.”
Gentle Reader: Last week’s sad news has turned partly sunny. Feeling the need to take my own words to heart, I reaffirmed the challenge to find Kathy, my next door neighbor and childhood friend from age 6. I had tried to find her 5 years ago and failed. But with more advanced internet White Pages and a fifteen-year-old phone number, I found her.
We spent a good 25 minutes on the phone getting caught up on our headlines from the past 15 years and a few classmates and family. Her recent headline: just 3 weeks ago she donated one of her kidneys to her husband, Bill. Guess that eliminates any doubt in my mind whether they were still together.
Kathy wanted to know if I was still writing poetry and to let me know that she is not able to part with the blue lace brush-roller bag I gave her (probably in junior high). Our mothers were also very close. They had tea every afternoon–alternating kitchens. Every Friday they went grocery shopping together–followed by tea, of course. Meanwhile in the summertime, Kathy and I were swimming at Hillside Pool. Yes, every afternoon. Mornings too.
Gentle Reader: The past few days I’ve been sad into my bones at the loss of a high school friend. Seems so trite and clichéd to remind you to stay in touch occasionally with old friends. Sure, it’s easy to dismiss this by saying, “I have nothing in common with those people.” But think about it. We spent seven, maybe ten, of our formative years growing up with them. At the very least we have many memories in common and a probably a small town somewhere. Our memories are part of who we are.
So, here’s to Sandee . . . and throwing coins for gas money in the little box taped to the dashboard of your dad’s Nash Rambler station wagon . . . oh yeah, and laughing ‘til we nearly peed our pants.