Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Emergency Room, High Water, Forest
Palouse Country, Central Idaho
Yesterday my daughter cut her foot on a chain link fence. The cut was bad. She had to be taken to the emergency room. She had many stitches and a small tendon removed because it was too damaged to be repaired. She had much fussing over; but she came home from the emergency room happy.
This morning, she insisted on going to school. As I dropped her off with her crutches and overloaded backpack, I felt a strong twang of mom-guilt. I would be leaving in a couple hours for Idaho and would not see her until Friday. But my husband had assured me I needed to go.
H. patted me on the arm and said, "Don't worry, Mama. No fretting."
"That's what you told me yesterday when you insisted on wearing your flipflops to school, " I protested. "And look what happened to your foot."
"No fretting," she said.
I let go.
After that I took a walk by the river. I was going to Idaho, this time with other people because a space had opened up in someone else's car--a space originally reserved for a man who had just lost his grown daughter.
The river boils and rages through town in May. I watched it from the footbridge, thinking about daughters. Last summer mine jumped into the river from this bridge when the water was low--allowed to do so by the father of the friend she was with; and within sight of the sign warning that serious injury or death could result from jumping.
I lectured her that day, and vowed never to let her go anywhere again with that parent.
This morning I watched the river slam into pilings. I watched it bend and tug at young cottonwoods that today are far into its current, but in normal flow stand on the shore. I wondered how long it would take for someone to die in the river. If H. jumped in now, how long would it take her to get to shore? Last summer it took seconds. Today, she might not make it.
I walked. I drank in the green on the mountains and felt the spray of the river on my face and inhaled the cool air rising from the alder trees. I walked and willed my feet to absorb power from the earth. Power I could not use to protect anyone but myself--and maybe not even for that.
As we drove through Idaho today, we came to the heart of a forested landscape larger than most countries in Europe. We talked about mountains and rivers and forests--what made this plateau so hilly; what made the river bend that way. Tomorrow we will sit at tables and discuss such matters and what humans can--or should--do with places like these.
But when it's all said and done, there's a man back home who won't be there tomorrow because of the daughter he lost. There's a girl nursing her thrills with a hole in her foot. A small part of her is missing. The earth's power will not be hers.