Friendship at 8000 Feet

Mar 19, 2023

Summit Creek, Salmon-Challis National Forest, Sun Valley, Idaho, September 2022

 

“I want to go back. You know the hike …

The one where we saw the moose and her young.”

 

Had been years since we balanced across that log,

made the hill climb up to the ridge, followed the creek

into moose meadows toward the saddle.

Taking pictures, telling stories,

me catching my breath.

 

Longed for another memory.

to add atop a well-preserved stack

built over years.

Some recorded in yearbooks, some in scrapbooks,

others in Christmas card photos.

All stored in my heart.

 

That’s how life-long friendships are.

They contain the cairns along life’s path,

signposts on the journey,

significant turns where we could have lost our way,

but didn’t.

 

I’ve catalogued ups

and downs,

anticipated reunions that defy absence.

And relished how kind age has been to both of us.

 

By the luck of the draw, matching big with little sisters,

you got my name, or was it I got yours?

What I won’t forget: You and me

singing in the back of the team bus

every verse of Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

 

Obviously, an omen.

That’s how our story began.

Teenagers in cheer skirts.

 

High school years woven together.

Sometimes sharing boyfriends.

We had no idea at 16

what conversations we’d have at 66.

 

Or how important it would be

that we knew each other’s parents.

That we shared a childhood in a small town

with familiar street names,

Webb’s Drug Store, the Milk Depot.

 

Gridiron sidelines, stands full of fans,

scoreboards, Homecoming parades

and summers teaching

rambunctious children to make lanyard key chains.

 

There were graduations and good-byes.

College and careers.

Launching adulthood.

We both left that small town behind.

 

Marriages celebrated

and ended. Only to have love blossom again.

Moves across country,

separate states, shared lives.

Children and no children, stepchildren and grandchildren.

 

Reasons to gather –

and no reasons needed

when an adventure was promised.

And adventures we’ve had!

 

We saw Yellowstone from the summit of Mt Washburn,

hiked up Baldy in the heat of summer to get a cocktail,

scared off bears in Alaska,

watched Trumpeter swans

preen on a fishing lake in Montana.

 

You two were my refuge,

grilling seared ahi in freezing temps

creating a special 50th birthday

the year I found myself single again …

bereft and alone.

 

A secret-sister language.

Knowing what’s needed when.

Welcomed me home. Tucked me in.

Got out a jigsaw puzzle.

Helped me laugh again.

 

Feel safe and loved.

 

Like yesterday,

as I came back across the log above the creek.

Feeling a smidge unsteady with miles of dust under my feet,

you crossed first … turned back.

Watching with care. Your hand outstretched,

just in case.

 

You collect things and shop at Costco.

I rarely have more than a meal or two

in a mostly empty fridge.

You’re never without three newspapers scattered.

I stack two books neatly on my bedside stand.

 

God-or-something knew on that fateful day

drawing names from a bowl

that we would be the perfect mix of

similarities and differences

 

To still be hiking together at 8000 feet

fifty years later.

 

August 2012

 

There's a Pianist in My Hands
Grief and Grace

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