From sun up to sun down, I sat with my family and watched events unfolding on the banks of the Snake River. In the morning an osprey searched for food to feed the babies in her nest. She called out from her vantage point in the trees, to the prey below. Smaller birds tried to thwart her from diving in. Barely glancing the surface we watched as she pulled her first catch twenty yards ahead. We could see the fish struggle for freedom and her talons doing their busy work. As we sat sipping morning coffee, life and the river took its course unassumingly.
Conversation drifted along and there was talk of travel. Once we did something epic. We decided to take off on a road trip around the USA with kids and camper in tow. I remembered how free it was to pick a dot on the map and head in that direction. How refreshing it was to let the pull of our inner compass navigate the way. We hadn’t been on the road in six months, but the familiar sites of our much traveled route to the Snake River stirred something inside. Life on the road has become more of a practice than a dream. We are learning as we go.
On the river, fish were jumping. Dogs and kids splashed in the water. Thousands of people met at the headwaters of the Henry’s Fork and floated past the dock where our bottoms were planted. The life of the moose and her twins carried on despite the presence of swan/ shark/ alligator inflatables. She navigated her babies, the ones born in back of our cabin, across the water and through the kayaks and canoes to the safety of the hills. She patiently waited in the willows for the busy flow of river traffic to dwindle.
“Where would we go next?” was the question. Life has changed for us in subtle ways. My husband worries over vacation time, now, and cost and schedules and obligations. Such things alter the magnetism of the open road. There’s no bad day on the Snake; its surroundings familiar and easy to maneuver with children. Frankly, I had never considered the possibility of traveling without one fourth of our party of four. I have never gone camping without another adult. I have never driven myself across the country. I have never repaired my vehicle on the road. I have never found myself in an adversarial confrontation with animal or human. Although I am free from a desk job, it’s hard for me to see beyond it; to know what I don’t know. Considering the question, my best answer was this cabin.
As the last floater drifted into the sunset, there was a Caddisfly hatch. A dozen fisherman descended upon the river. It made me curious about fly hatches in general and how fisherman understand instinctively when best to show up. It seems as if years of experience sitting on the bank watching, years of tying flies, years of casting, prepare the fisherman for a golden opportunity. They watch, they listen, and they participate, only to pass their knowledge onto the next generation.
In my gut I knew the best answer was waiting for me on the road. The fisherman sitting next to me on the dock shared his stories of the Snake and the Salmon and the Colorado. He shared the wisdom and advice gained from traveling. He gently reminded me that I was prepared to do the thing I had not yet imagined myself doing. I have spent years watching the explorers in my family start fires and set up tents. I have my very own “Big Girl Tool Box” designed by a father who spent countless hours teaching me how to change a tire and jump a car battery. I’ve watched countless humans and animals in their interactions and I know my instinct is as sharp as the next guy. Like every fisherman, I have a story to pass on to my children. We could sit and watch the river, or we could follow it to the sea.