Day Twenty-Four … Just Us Guys

Late Wednesday evening, I was on the last leg of a very long day from Longview, Washington to Clark Fork, Idaho.  I was the only car on the secondary highway east of Sandpoint and it was dark.  I was pooped.  Then I heard the sound.  It seemed to come from inside me, and then all around me.  A low groan, not human.  It was a spaceship!  Momentarily I would be abducted into the bowels of the beast, where skinny little grey guys would start doing unspeakable experiments on my innocent body.  The noise got louder and then stabilized … to my right.  I looked over there and all I saw was black.  Suddenly, a string of lights rose up and a train blasted past me in the opposite direction.  Whew!  No internal organ inspection today.  The tracks had been way below the level of the highway and hidden by trees, but then they climbed up, revealing the terrors.  I got to the motel shaken but still in possession of all my limbs and digits.

I slept the sleep of the dead and knew that coffee would be the solution to my traumas.  The gentleman at the front desk said there was a café just down the street, so off I went.  I walked through the door of the Cabinet Mountain Bar and Grill wearing my “I’m The Crazy Uncle Everyone Warned You About” T-shirt and yellow short shorts.  Three guys in outdoor work clothes looked up from their table.  “So you’re an uncle.  Nice shirt.”  “Yeah, it’s pretty cool.  My sister-in-law and brother-in-law gave it to me.”  A little smile in return.  They returned to their conversation and I perused the menu.  I read about sports in Bonner County and news about kids who had entered 4H competitions.  One girl had raised a goat for meat and now it was hard to let him go.  I enjoyed the read, as well as my ham and eggs, hash browns and brown toast.

My friends across the way were engaging in topics of which I knew nothing.  “That offroad forklift handled the whole thing but geez it was expensive – 10000 bucks.”  And one fellow talked about how long it took to fill his swimming pool.  And then Person A at Table 1 started razzing Person D at Table 2.  D gave it back to A in spades.  And so the fun unfolded.  Our waitress bipped from table to table, smiling.  I had great fun.  Just normal people leading their lives.  The fact that I hadn’t had many of their experiences was irrelevant.  After my meal had mysteriously disappeared we all had a good talk, including how best to get from Clark Fork to Cranbrook, BC.  We blathered on about stereotypes.  I mentioned a trip I took through Southern Ontario and New York, where I assumed Canadian drivers would mosey along with me at the speed limit while as soon as I crossed into the States, Americans would tailgate me mercilessly.  So much for assumptions.  The reality proved to be just about the opposite.  I think the guys enjoyed my story.

Long later, after I had worked my way through Idaho, BC and Alberta, I was sitting in the kitchen of Ray Doram in Lethbridge.  Joy had gone to work.  Ray spun a tale about his dad Joe.  When Ray was 5 or so, he was looking up at the stars with dad.  “You know, son, the stars look even better when you see them through the sleeve of a coat.”  “Oh.”  “Let’s try it.”  And as young Ray gazed up through the tunnel of fabric at the silver dots, dear dad poured a pitcher of water down the hole!  Ray and I doubled over, him with a great memory, me with newbie astonishment.

So it was a day.  Plenty more to come.

Day Twelve … I Can’t Remember

Before I launch into Day Twelve, I’d like an appetizer – the evening of Day 11.   I was in McBride, BC and I was hungry.  The friendly front desk clerk pointed me to the Gigglin’ Grizzly Pub down the highway.  Inside, there was a huge painting of a bear over the bar.  He looked pretty hungry and I was hoping he was looking forward to nachos, not me.

My waitress was a blossom of energy, just so happy with all her customers.  I was hoping that she’d hang around me some so we could talk but she favoured the local fellows.  One guy sure looked like a cowboy to me – a rough white shirt, shiny belt buckle, jeans and a black ten-gallon hat.  Everybody was having fun.

I sat back from the bar so I could see SportsCentre on TSN – I love the plays of the day.  A mug of locally brewed beer and a Deerly Beloved pizza (ham and pineapple) and I was all set.  I sat at a huge wooden table in a cozy black leather chair.  Ahhh.

I left the pub around 11:00.  If I turned right out of the parking lot, I could have retraced my steps back to the motel, but that isn’t as much fun so I turned left.  I figured McBride was a small place so it wouldn’t be a problem.  I just followed street lights.  That would keep me in town.  It also took me into a cul-de-sac.  I laughed.  As the song says, “There’s a motel for me. Somewhere a motel for me.”  Okay, Bruce – no more singing.  Maybe twenty minutes later, I found my way home.

Now … really Day Twelve.  I was checking out when the front desk clerk and I started talking.  Andrew is a Buddhist.  Me too.  He’s been on silent meditation retreats.  Me too.  We chatted for half an hour.  And here I sit, trying to remember what he said.  I can’t.  What I do remember is telling myself during our conversation to make note of things so I could write you about it in the blog.  But that just takes me away from the here and now, so the heck with it.  Well, having said that, can I think of anything that Andrew said? … … Still no.  Here’s a quote that I love, and it fits:

People won’t remember what you say
They won’t remember what you do
But they’ll always remember how they felt when they were with you

I felt great.

Then it was a long and winding road from McBride to Kamloops, punctuated with a series of slowly climbing motor homes.  Since I had agreed to meet my old friend Lynne at 4:00 pm, I started getting nervous.  I like being on time.  As I continued on my journey at well below the speed limit, I gradually … let go.  A tremendous sense of peace washed over me.  “Bruce, you are free.”  Indeed.  I even let go of seeing Lynne, although I dearly wanted to.  It had been 29 years.  Lynne’s assistant had told me on the phone that she had a family gathering after seeing me, so maybe she would already be gone.  It’s okay.  All of life is okay, even my pains and illnesses.

As it turned out, I was well late but Lynne and I still had two hours to talk about old times and new times.  Precious moments all.  I can’t remember what we said.

My evening and overnight was spent in the home of Luana and Larry Chamness near Barriere, BC.  They live in a log cabin without running water.  And that wasn’t important.  Sitting with them in the backyard under their giant cedar trees was.  We talked and talked about life, family, Jody and the universe.  But I can’t remember the details.  All I knew was that I was home.

“Home is where the heart is.”  My heart is travelling these days and home keeps emerging around the next bend.