Roaming

by Betty

Long, long ago my home was down in the valley. In spring the water roared down the river on its way to the mighty Mississippi. In summer the water floated slowly by and we could wade across to the other side, or row a canoe up and down the river. In winter it was frozen, and sometimes we tried to clear the snow and skate. We rode sleds down the snow. In the spring and summer the bluffs were covered with wild flowers. We climbed up and down. In the fall the leaves turned color – red, yellow, orange. Wild strawberries, wild blueberries, wild raspberries were to be found under the bushes. We hiked up and we hiked down.

My family and my home were there. My dad, a banker, provided for all of us. He took us to the high school football games and to the Candy Kitchen for ice cream sundaes. My mother always had cookies and hot chocolate for our school friends. Every Saturday they took us to the library to check out the best book ever. Every month we drove to the country to visit our grandparents and cousins.

My brother, my sister and I grew up together and different. My brother was a loner who enjoyed the woods, the lakes, the animals, hunting and fishing. My sister was social and had musical talent. She practiced the piano every day. I lived for the library and the pencil and paper. We each went our way but kept in touch over the years.

At 19 I left home to roam. The young man who only said “Hi” in high school and I heard the call to roam. Home from the military, he completed college as I taught school in my home town.

Colorado – The Rocky Mountains called. Those spectacular, looming mountains covered with pine trees. Higher up the mountains were covered with snow, then disappeared into the blue sky. We hiked up the mountains with boots with cleats, ropes on occasion. The view from the top was always breathtaking. We attended the weekly Denver symphony concert in the outdoor auditorium called Red Rocks. The parking lot would be packed, the music awesome, and the flickering lights of Denver far below were spectacular. We picnicked in the city parks. We studied at the museums. We skied in the winter. I taught school while my husband worked on a graduate degree and taught photography at night.

Alaska called somehow. Off we went, no plan, no job offers, a ten year old car, and little money. But we had our dogs, their food and water and leashes, and our sleeping bags, dried food and water. It was a long trip – no traffic, no city, no gas stations or grocery stores – just undisturbed land, rivers, very few people, muddy roads, high bridges, hot springs – were along the way. “WOW!” when we saw the sign – “Entering Alaska”.

Alaska – Beautiful, quiet, compelling. We met the Alaska Eskimos, gentle, gracious people. We visited the air base parties. We skied downhill. We lived out in the wilderness with pine trees and deer for neighbors. We taught school. The living was easy, simple and good.

Tucson – The desert called and off we were. To a land we could not have imagined, flat, dry, dusty, hot and intriguing. We taught school in the Indian community and in the Spanish communities. It was a happy experience. We learned much. And we stayed over 50 years. Never more did we roam.

Alone – I do not like it. We thought we were prepared for an end. We were wrong. And I wander on alone, asking “Why?”

September, 2011

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