It takes a long time for the street lamps to turn off now. In the morning the only sound is the thrum of the interstate off the valley walls or the geese flying away. The interstate cuts through the land and rises east; in less than an hour I could be at the pass for a view of the sunrise and red-stained clouds, the land opening up beneath. And further east, the country market where they sell boxes of fruit and homemade jam, and up the rickety steps antiques, where a drummer from an 80s grunge band has a stall and I’ll pick through his CDs and flannels. I could drive to my friend Brad’s cabin clear across the state, taking the scenic route past towns with names like Reardan or Ford, where everything seems out of place and unlikely it’s so remote, though it looks like it couldn’t be anywhere else but here. Hours later I’m pulling up Brad’s gravel road, past the beaten-down trailers with blue tarps and firewood, pickup trucks, rusted parts beyond repair, weathered flags, three-legged dogs. For a couple nights we’ll visit just to catch up, cook, and keep the fire going. We’ll go into town to get out but it’s not much of a town, which is fine. We’ll walk his property with our coffees back to the county road (which isn’t much of a road) past the wild turkeys, maybe see a moose, listen for the carrion crow. Brad’s good with trees and points out the differences but I can’t remember their names. We’ll talk about mountains we’d like to climb or ones we have already, people we both knew, our kids. Brad will send me home with a snack and I’ll retrace my route through the small towns south, past post offices and abandoned bars, west on the interstate home.
The clouds are pink-gold with the wintry faint sun and it’s well worth an early morning walk despite the chill. An artist could make it look real with pastels or watercolors the way a writer could a scene or a character with words. Or a singer could sing in a way that even if you didn’t know the words the feeling could move you, mark the moment as yours. It could make you feel connected for a time with something that’s true. And that’s all I want to do.