Saturday, September 24, 2011

Snake River Crossing

Snake River Crossing at I-84--Idaho on the left, Oregon on the right.
September 21, 2011
Last week I was in the land of my birth as I have throughout all my life never staying, always passing through. It was evening and the late-afternoon sun was bright in the west across Oregon. I looked up the river to the south to make out my birthplace but never quite hometown of Nyssa, Oregon.

I passed over much higher once on a commercial flight head pressed against the little window watching the river, towns, and my Grandpa's dairy farm like reading a map. Another time I was in a small, government plane flying a little lower heading away from the dawn sensing a flight through the same fluffy clouds I had tried to grab onto with my fingers to slow that first, spiritual arrival to my earthly form.

On this car trip with my wife, I replayed arrivals over my early life from our family time in Idaho Falls arriving from the east or from Seattle in the rainy northwest to my "farm" grandparents on the Oregon side, or the "bowling alley" ones on the Idaho side of the Snake. The Oregon Trail ran along side us when it wasn't hidden behind the hills or covered by the asphalt of the interstate.

And I had the oddest connection from this river of the Snake to another river of ancestral lands. Driving my mom to St. Luke's Hospital in Boise to see my dad who was recovering well from his hip surgery, we approached the freeway split of I-84 and I-184 with a flashing, highway sign that said something about construction at "the Wye." That's how they spell it describing the fork in the highway. It was an odd shock to see a reference that transported me thousands of miles across the sea to the Wye of the Welsh Marches. My Welsh ancestors were born along the banks of the Wye along with Henry of Monmouth. All the water in Wye and the Snake could not wash the Welsh blood from my body nor my Oregon origins from my reality.

My maternal grandparents lie buried on a bluff above the Snake. My parents still live in the area. I go on occasion to deal with family matters, relaxing visits rarer as we arrive for health treatments of my parents, weddings of my nieces, and funerals.

As the sign says, the Valley of the Snake has been a place of historic passages. It will remain so for me.

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