Confessions from the Canyon

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S is the person who cooks steaks for appetizers. The person who picked me up on Hurricane Creek Road during that white-out. The person who, in January and February, every one of my cells said yes to, then later felt the pain of his chicken-shit retreat. By March, S became person whom I turned away from again and again. I even bought a self-help book on love and relationships and, when I wasn’t reading it, I shelved it backwards with my other books so that no one could glimpse the spine. I did the exercises at the end of each chapter and grew stronger in my determination to present myself clearly and never settle for less.
Yet as April winds its way toward spring, S is the person who keeps coming back. He opens the door. Kisses me on the cheek. Introduces me to his mother. Says that right here, right now, him + me + Wallowa County is just what he wants. He tells a mutual friend about the first time we met. He notices a tiny scar on my thumb that he hadn’t seen before. I watch him as though watching a stranger. I am suddenly proud of my skepticism. You want my trust? You want my heart? Give me your best shot, give me everything you have, then let me think about it. Sound selfish? I prefer the term protective.
I picture myself hiding out down in the canyon. Picture myself as strong and independent, joyfully aloof. But no matter how many times I do this, S is there, more and more expressive with each reunion, surprisingly focused and committed. Still…I do not wait for his calls. I do not make exceptions. I do not lose sleep, change my schedule, or lose sight of myself. Is this what it feels like to do something right? Or is this fear, manifested?
And so it is that S drives down into the canyon with me at the start of my second week for the Imnaha Writers’ Retreat. We’re stoked to go on a bike ride but when we get to the Imnaha Tavern it’s raining and the gumbo road is a biker’s nightmare. We decide to stop in for a round of pool and before we know it, we’re shooting doubles (best 3 out of 5) with Buzz and Greg, two locals.
Later—his idea—we perch on boulders underneath the Imnaha Bridge, out of the rain and so close to the rushing river that it’s hard to hear each other speak. S plays me The Decemberists, a band that’s been on the fringes of my life for some time but that, for whatever reason, strikes me in the heart this afternoon. He also plays me “Cowgirl in the Sand.” Don’t ruin this song for me, I think to myself, and I am terrified because our day has been magical and S keeps doing things right. By the time the chorus rolls around, I’m feeling it too, and when he puts his arms around me I can still feel my heart brace for a head-on collision, but the rest of me just gives in.

He’d been taking photos throughout the day and sends them to me later. When I look at myself, I see someone who is happy, even beautiful. Is this what S sees, too? Does he realize what he’s asking me for? I decide the answer to these questions doesn’t matter. The only thing that can matter is staying vigilant in the present moment. I am not a woman who believes that some is better than none. Not anymore. My intuition is as strong and rushing as the Imnaha River. Every night I close my eyes and hear it roaring through the canyon, water rounding the bend so sharply that it wraps the Writers’ Retreat house on three sides. I write all day. S calls most nights. I sleep and dream and listen and as day dawns the river speaks to me: Stay the course. If something gets so close that it is swept into your current, you’ll know immediately whether to take its hand or let it float out of sight. Meantime, do not be swayed.

Showing 4 comments
  • Wesley Middleton

    Powerful stuff and beautifully written. Hellz to the yes!

  • Uncle Marky

    OK Katey
    Lets address this from an old fat uncle's perspective. Love, or as I guess you are talking about some questionable state thereof, is clearly a state of mind and body that can move through various stages. Its evolution clearly will involve some great, yet consistent balance of compromise of things you might find in a perfect piece of fiction, or the reality that relationships like mine and your parents have that builds over time. That means an imperfect daily ebb and flow that will definitely mean you will sometimes get "some" and sometimes get "none." The difficulty of having lived 30+ years, having achieved a level of self confidence, proven life skills and financial independence is that you will be much less willing to adapt daily to what another adult wants and needs. Love without daily compromise in many parts of mental and physical aspects wont work Katey, so be ready for that. Compromise also means selflessness and forgiveness for many unexpected events and issues by both parties. A long-tongued,great coked out skinny Brit had it right…You cant always get what you want,sometime you get what you need…

  • Oma

    Katey, Nothing profound from me, just wanted to say that your "man" diets are about as successful as my "chocolate" diets. What's the saying, "Can't live with them and can't live without them. Not hard to see why a guy would be very taken with a girl like you. Hugs, Idella

  • bethannfranz

    "I watch him as though watching a stranger. I am suddenly proud of my skepticism. You want my trust? You want my heart? Give me your best shot, give me everything you have, then let me think about it. Sound selfish? I prefer the term protective."

    Such wisdom for one so young… Hold those thoughts, girl. Nothing less is at stake than the rest of your life.

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