Saturday, March 21, 2015

Then and Now

The boys, then (c. 2002) . . .

and now.
Memory is a funny thing. What we remember is certainly not a literal retelling or reliving of experiences. Science has confirmed what we already know; memory is fluid, selective, and associated with strong emotions.

Our family has been coming to Bozeman for years. My first trip here was in 1988/89 after my husband and I got married. He'd been telling me about his cousins, Frani and Kim, for some time and I imagined two sisters living in a log cabin. It wasn't until we were planning our trip, that I realized my mistake - Kim was a man, and Frani's husband.

For a New York City girl like me, their home was truly in the middle of nowhere. And yet, I fell utterly in love with its beauty and solitude. We visited several more times as a couple, then 'invaded' with first one son, and then a few years later, our second. Over the years, our memories of this place overlapped and merged, much like successive waves on a beach, until it's hard for me to separate out what we did on which visit. Which kid a particular skiing story was about.

On several trips, we have made the trip to visit Yellowstone Park. Only a little bit of the park is open for travel in winter, but one of the most memorable places is the Gardiner river, also called the boiling river. It's where the hot springs dump into and forms a natural hot tub.

Apres a dunk in the boiling river. . . c. 2002?

On the way to Yellowstone, back in 2002, we stopped at a bend in the river to take photos. We found that people had left stone towers at the river bank, so we made our own. Yesterday, 13 years later, we stopped there to have a picnic lunch and build stone monuments again.

By the Yellowstone River, 2015

What we left by the river.

This is the poem I wrote in 2002, from the memories and details of a trip to Yellowstone. I had nearly forgotten about it until we retraced our steps yesterday.

The Devil's Slide
(for Frani and Kim)

Once, before we learned to tame rock,
lay tar paths in straight lines,
men drove cattle through this valley.

We follow the bright ribbon
south and west while it wanders
to meet the road. Our tires
clatter over loose shale.
We stop. Our breath mists
in thin, sharp air.

These mountains towered, old,
eons before hunters stalked
grazing herds across long seasons.

Light glances off glassy water,
amplified. Stones line the river.
I choose one.
It glows in my hand--
a live coal warmed by sun's breath.

Locked in stone,
dinosaur bones sleep
beneath this constant sky.

Along the shore pilgrims have piled
monuments. Some stand
solid.  Some scatter
beneath our shoes.
We make music as we walk.

The earth heaved,
shook, thrust liquid rock
up through fractured land.

I hold this small reminder
even as the road reclaims us.
Its faint imprint burned
in a callused palm.

    - LJ Cohen, 2002

To return to a place that has so many memories is a gift. To be able to create new ones is even a greater gift. Our lives have changed markedly since our first journey out here. We have experienced great joys and terrible losses, both on a personal and a family level, yet our connection and love of this place remains.

I am so grateful for the memories we continue to collect and cherish. 

Namaste, Montana!


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