My sojourn in Boise has been so successful that I decided last month to continue to rent my apartment, even though I would return to Riggins when my classes were complete. To that end I have been picking up bits of used furniture at thrift and second-hand stores to replace what I brought with me. It wasn’t long before my 450 sq. ft. apartment began to be too crowded for the new furniture, the cat and me, and I made arrangements for some of it to be moved back home.
Then there were the small things to be replaced: cook tools and kitchen gadgets, pillows and bedding, clothes I didn’t want to haul back and forth. On a beautiful day last week, then, I decided to make a flying trip home to take what I could cram in the car, then quickly return.
It was a magical trip. Although there was some ice on the roadway, I drove carefully and felt safe. When I got to Cascade and on through New Meadows, I passed through the remains of frozen fog, and the landscapes were magical. As Thornton Wilder has several of his characters say in The Long Christmas Dinner, “Every least twig is covered with ice; you almost never see that!”
Every least twig was twice its size, puffed up with ice. The sky was icy blue; flecks of ice shimmered in the air, making fairy dust. Twice I stopped the car and just stared, knowing I was in the midst of a beauty I would seldom, if ever, experience again.
As I approached Riggins I could see the end-of-winter sleep on the hills and in the river. Nothing was yet in bloom or fullness; everything was still at rest. But when I stepped into my yard, I felt the restlessness of the approach to spring, the preparation to stir, wake, begin.
And then I felt the pull of my garden and the hills around. What if they began to bloom and I wasn’t there? What if I missed the first bulbs? The maple tree is already thick with early buds; what if they burst and I wasn’t there to see?
When I first moved to Riggins, everyone told me that the river would get me; that it would always pull me back. I always smiled politely, but I doubted it. I am not a river denizen; I don’t raft, kayak, float, fish, or even swim in the river. Occasionally I go for a drive up its banks or take a picnic to one of its beaches, but I never considered the river a part of my life.
Hah! I didn’t realize, until I returned to Riggins, that while there I hear the river daily, hourly. I sense its presence; I watch to see what form it is taking. When it is at flood stage, I measure its levels, along with everyone else. When it is at low stage, I marvel at all that is in it which is now uncovered. It is part of the fabric of my days, as much a part of them as the air I breathe.
So the cat and I are coming back a month short of our planned absence. It means I will have to return once a week for my classes; fortunately both are scheduled on the same day. One week I shall stay the whole time to keep some dates I have already made. So now, when I am not studying, I am preparing to return.
I know it is the right decision because I feel a lightness, a gladness of heart. There is much in this lovely Idaho Capitol City to celebrate and to enjoy. I shall miss the idea that, if I choose, I can go out every day of the week and experience fun and education. At the same time, however, there is great comfort in the act of preparing to come home.
I will return to Boise, particularly when the days grow short and the Canyon is in darkness. But it won’t be permanent and it won’t be for as long as this trip has been. I miss my “enchanted cottage,” my garden, my neighbors and friends. I miss the river.