I have been thinking a lot about my youngest son Chris for a while now.
The man-child who visited me while I was living in Alaska and who spent the entire trip doing little but sleeping and fishing.
The man-child who frequently called me in the middle of the night while on his first tour in Iraq.
I told him to call me whenever he could without concern for the time and he always took me at my word, and so I spent many nights in my pajamas with my feet propped up on my desk at the house in Tennessee and I talked with my son for hours because my son needed to talk.
About everything and about nothing.
The man-child who called me less frequently during his second tour of Iraq.
Still always in the middle of the night but we would inevitably and always get cut off in mid-sentence after only a few minutes.
The one who I home-schooled for a year during Grade 8 when he was beginning to get himself into trouble.
The one who I put under house arrest for the entire year - no choice in clothing, no visitors, no phone calls, no posters, tossed rooms, no music, no TV unless it was the Disney Channel.
The one who found my old rusty and heavy "treasure chest" during that same year and who struggled in the knee deep creek for hundreds of yards while I watched fascinated and wondering just what the heck my child had found.
He gave it to me and I will always love it.
The one who I set free again for Grade 9 and beyond because I knew by that time that he was ready.
The man-child who is now in New Brunswick, Canada.
He took some time to get to know his father again only to find out that they had very little in common.
But he needed to find that out for himself.
And now he is headed to Winnipeg Manitoba along with his step-sister and her fiance and their baby.
Supposedly to step into a construction job that is waiting for him.
There are lots of unsettling things about his plans. The fact that he has just sold his truck (the last remaining thing he owned) to help finance the move. How much he is financing the move. The fact that he is a Canadian citizen and I worry about his ability to move back to the States if/when he decides to and how difficult that may be if he stays away too long.
That he may ultimately decide not to move back at all.
How distant he sounds to me and at me when we talk on the phone.
How distant he sounds to his brother who cares very much about him but who communicates that caring in a way that Chris takes offense to.
I called him the other day to question how much of this trip he is actually paying for since he only owns the clothes on his back now. That pissed him off.
And then I told him that if he ever found himself in a position where he needed anything - at all - to call me.
That regardless of what happened I was there for him.
And that pissed him off too.
That was the last conversation that we have had and I guess I'll shut up now and let him live his life. But I will stay in touch with him even if it pisses him off..................
This past weekend LC, Jamie and I drove out to Clark to again visit the Clarks Fork River area of Shoshone National Forest.
Traveling away from the unbelievably rocky and flat terrain surrounding the community of Clark and into the canyon in back, the world around me quickly changed to high and rugged mountain land.
Last time we visited this place we hit the dead end of the highway and foolishly drove our truck down a very rutted out driveway that led down to the water.
Although we had four wheel drive the driveway was so terrible we resolved to park on the side of the road next time.
Remembering the rocky and rutted driveway we parked at the dead-end and walked down towards the water............
Every day I keep wondering when I will be able to completely put Juneau behind me.
So much of that experience continues to bother me and every day I keep fighting to put the damn thing away.
I miss Alaska. And even though I love Wyoming much of me still thinks I was meant to be in Alaska.
I miss nothing about the job and nothing about the people I encountered there (with very few exceptions to that statement), but since they were the price tags attached to my living in Juneau I want no part of it...............
Clarks Fork River is still very high, although not as high as it was only a month ago.
It is still raging and boiling and bubbling and signs are posted indicating that the rapids are Class III and higher so paddlers beware.
As we were leaving the forest we ran into an elderly man who asked us about the river.
We told him of the rapids at various places we had seen from the shore, as well as the signs we had seen.
The man asked LC if he was from the south.
That one question led to a long and very nice interaction with what turned out to be a retired FBI agent who had served in the south.
A retired southern cop and a retired southern FBI agent whose territories at times collided (even though their paths surprisingly did not cross) have much to talk about.
And so they talked and laughed and commiserated about experiences fighting crime in the south.................
Not wanting to do professionally what I have been doing for the past 25 years, I am beginning to wonder exactly what I want to be when I grow up...............
The adventure racer who died while mountain biking a few days ago ran off the road only a couple of miles from the parking lot as he and two others were returning from their training.
He rode off the road and down an embankment.
The rider behind him found him unresponsive and found him laying on the ground covered in bees.
This man was 44 years old, the proverbial picture of health and it was assumed that he had died from injuries sustained in the crash.
He died of a heart attack.
When I think about the injuries I have sustained during training - some of them serious and some of them I considered simply the price of doing business - and when I think about all the times I have not treated my body well - this death gives me pause...............
I sat for a long time with James and my Mountain Boy, and as usual found great comfort simply in the presence of both of them.
A world traveling cynical gypsy woman, an old previously-car-sick dog who has now traipsed all over the country and who just simply and unexpectedly showed up on my doorstep one day many years ago abandoned by her previous low-life owner, and a medically retired cop who is at the same time the hardest and most gentle man I have ever known.
Families come in all shapes and sizes and I am very glad we all somehow found each other.................
While LC stayed on the rock at the top of the embankment I walked down to the river with Jamie so that she could drink and play.
As usual she wanted to bite at the waves, and she playfully and happily danced around the edges of the white water along the shore doing just that.
I pulled the slack out of her leash as she tentatively delved into the fast moving water knowing that she very much wanted to bite at the waves further into the river.
I watched her closely ready to pull her back if she accidentally stepped into a hole and got in over her head.
She makes me laugh when she eagerly snaps at the waves.
Somehow the years disappear from her and as I watch I can actually see her become a young dog again.
My son Chris desperately wanted to keep her right from the get-go.
My dog loving son who one day while still living in Canada, and while he was still a little boy brought home a small dog he had found, begging and crying that he wanted to keep it.
We fed it bologna and water that night because it was all we had and then the next day found its owner.
We finally adopted a dog when we moved down to Tennessee.
A promise I had made and reluctantly kept when we moved.
As I walked into the Humane Society I remember thinking how much I did not want a dog.
That dog quickly wormed her way into our hearts but she was always Chris' dog, and then a year later Jamie showed up...................
After sitting by the water for a long time we continued further down the dirt trail that eventually leads up into the mountains.
The river got bigger as we wandered, crashing violently against the rocks.......
During a race in Virginia all teams started the race with a guided raft paddle on Class IV and V rapids.
The guide knew every inch of that river, confidently barked instructions to the team and directed us through the wild rapids without a problem.
I first kayaked on flat water at a lake in Tennessee.
Twice on flat water learning how to control the boat and wet exit practice and we were off to the Hiawassee River to paddle on moving water.
Only when we arrived at the Hiawassee a few weeks later the water level was too low and we headed to the Nantahala in North Carolina.
It was only Class II but for the first twenty minutes the shock of fast moving water was a.......shock.
Even in Summer I was wearing so many clothes to protect from the cold water I could hardly move.
But by the end of the day Class II didn't seem like such a challenge and I had had a few chances to try out my newly minted wet exit skills..................
Looking back the way we had come............
There is no rushing a river. When you go there, you go at the pace of the water and that pace ties you into a flow that is older than life on this planet. Acceptance of that pace, even for a day, changes us, reminds us of other rhythms beyond the sound of our own heartbeats...........Jeff Rennicke, River Days: Travel on Western Rivers