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God’s Country – Part Two

June 18, 2008

For a city girl, used to the hustle and bustle and noise of thousands upon thousands of cars, the road was isolated and empty. It was a serpentine ribbon, stretching out for miles and miles in front of us, looping down through valleys and up again over the next rise–not a car in sight except for ours. Aside from the sound of the wind against the car and the hum of the road rolling out underneath us, it was quiet. No horns, no backup signals, no airplanes, no sirens, no jackhammers… nothing. There is something singularly spectacular about driving like that — no noise, no cars, no stoplights, no city. Just us and the road… and a canopy that must rival Montana’s Big Sky–deep, deep blue; stretching as far as the eye could see; perfect white, fluffy, cottony clouds chasing shadows across the hills like children playing tag or hide and seek.

By the time we reached our destination and turned off of the highway into the sleepy little town my Grandad calls home, I already felt like a new person. The girls wondered when we might go to Wal-Mart and I laughed, a long, deep, belly laugh–the kind that had them laughing with me, without really knowing why. I explained that there was no Wal-Mart here, no K-Mart, no Target. Too small, too rural, and probably too wise to let them build here. They looked horrified and I smiled at them in the rearview mirror as I assured them they wouldn’t miss it, not even a little.

As we drove, the kids commented on how old everything looked, like the houses had been there for a very long time–and they have been. I remembered our trip in November, turning up a side street and marvelling at the deer, five or six of them, just standing in someone’s front yard like they belonged there.

The downtown buildings are stately–tall, red brick structures that have been in place since the 1800’s. What used to be a hotel, a sundry, and a saloon, is now a gift shop, an art gallery, and a sporting goods store. But the character of the place, the charm, the throwback to times of the Cowboys and Indians, is still there in spades. I could picture folks walking the dusty street in front of the shops, the river pouring through the center, horses tied to the railings perhaps, as piano music flooded out of the saloon’s swinging doors.

We stopped in to say hello to my Grandad and drop off our things and then we headed to the city park to stretch our legs. The kids needed some time to run and play and my Mom and I needed to walk after sitting for so long. This city park is distinctively different than any of the parks in our fair city. It sits in the middle of a small valley, on the edge of a stream that gurgles and bubbles invitingly. It has all of the playground equipment any kid could ever want–tire swings, regular swings, giant teeter totters, and a huge metal structure that’s part fort, part spaceship, with rings to hang on, rope ladders to climb, tall metal slides, steps, and even a fire pole to slide down.

It’s the kind of play structure that our city has been replacing with short, plastic, snap-together configurations that keep their legs cool when they slide down, but seem to lack the imagination and fun of the “old fashioned” kind. The kids talked about it for the entire week preceding the trip, and they could hardly wait to get there once we arrived. Their eyes lit up like it was Christmas as we walked, and as soon as we came over the ridge, they ran down the sloping hillside as fast as their legs would carry them.

We spent well over an hour playing there, letting the last remnants of the car ride seep out of our bodies, into the sand and the cool grass, reminding our muscles what they were really supposed to be doing, soaking our feet in the crystal clear water of the stream, icy cold from the snow still melting on the mountains, skipping smooth stones across the water and watching them sink to the bottom, brown, black, quartz, and mottled. We watched giant bumblebees float from flower to flower, listened to the breeze whispering through the treetops above, and searched the sandy banks of the stream for forgotten treasure.

Though other people came and went–a new mother with her baby in a stroller, a young couple with a picnic, an older gentleman occupying a bench with his dog–it felt like we were all alone. It was so different from the park by our house, smack dab in the midst of suburban sprawl, cars driving by with loud music blaring, dogs barking, the noise of the city ringing in my ears. I wanted to lay down in the deep, green grass and spread my arms out as wide as they would go, just to remind myself that there were still places where I could do that and not touch another person. I wanted to stay there, grass tickling the bottoms of my feet, staring up at that deep blue sky, the warmth of the sun on my arms offset by the cool moistness of the earth beneath me, listening to the soft, delighted, musical laughter of the kids.

It was quiet.

It was calm.

It was perfect.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2008 7:25 am

    Steph, these have been beautiful posts. I am so glad you have shared the details of this amazing trip. What a wonderful break those days must have been! How is your grandpa doing?

  2. lyndaspix permalink
    June 18, 2008 8:09 am

    Well, I hope you’re happy, Cuzzin. You’ve gone and made me homesick all over again! 🙂

    Truly, I could see, feel and hear all those things you described in such beautiful detail. It really is as lovely as you say.

  3. seenoevilonline permalink
    June 18, 2008 9:17 am

    You have a great gift for words. I love your detail. It sounds like your family had a great time.

  4. June 20, 2008 5:52 am

    This is reminding me of my previous home in Arizona – when we moved there the population was 5000…perfect.

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  1. God’s Country - Part Four « In this house, I’m the Mama…

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