Didn’t We Just?

Another morning and I’m sitting on a dory — a newer sensation — but this time the Tuolumne perches on a trailer around the side of the Idaho boathouse instead of on a sand and gravel mixture buffeted by water. This time I don’t have to go cook breakfast, go clean up camp, go wrangle humans.

This isn’t a river morning, but it’s my last quiet morning on a boat for a while.

Seasonality snaps back. It’s barely mid-August, but trees drop leaves and schoolchildren shuffle in warped lines. It’s almost chilly this morning.

My toenails are a Jackson Pollock of the eight-year-old persuasion: silver, red, purple, magenta.

My hands would be lying if they said they weren’t glad for rest. My back, too.

I’ve never been as sad to leave anywhere as I am to leave Boatland.

Three months. Three months here. Didn’t we just wake up giggling on a trailer next to the Owyhee River? Didn’t we just exercise our lady power with abandon on the Snake River? Didn’t my newfound river mentor just jump (HURTLE) into the back of the van and teach me how to hold anger and grief? Didn’t she just shepherd me through an old adventure partner’s suicide, opening her dory and her heart to me? Didn’t I just lie along the Main Salmon River at 85,000 cubic feet per second, unable to sleep? Didn’t a friend just give me space to cry on his boat, agreeing there are no answers but gently reminding me to hug my people? Didn’t my Idaho soul sister just open her heart and her life and her home to me? Didn’t the crew and I just thrash in our swiftwater training? Didn’t another river advocate just exemplify resilience and grace and friendship with me? Didn’t a community mainstay just show me how to be a hard-working trip leader?

Didn’t I just flip my boat?

And didn’t we just flip it back over, and didn’t we just camp at Jim Moore Place, and didn’t we just call our boss, and didn’t he just tell me I was leading my next trip, and didn’t we just?

Didn’t I just fill the Tuolumne gunwale to gunwale in Wild Sheep Rapid? Didn’t we just row out on Snake Lake with wind and wildfires? Didn’t we just drive to Corn Creek? Didn’t we just play beach games, emboldened by kind-hearted laughter and foolishness? Didn’t I just get the honor of rowing a dory again?

Didn’t I just leave the desert?
Didn’t I just get sick?
Didn’t I just get injured?
Didn’t I just think I had to quit guiding?

Didn’t I just start tracing my watery lineage, through streams and waves and tears and falls and bruises and continents and stars and support?

When did I start boating? Maybe it started when my dad floated the Middle Fork of the Salmon in the 1970s; maybe it started when my mom went rafting in Utah as a youth. Maybe it started when my Idaho boss worked for a Grand Canyon luminary; maybe it started when my Arizona boss frolicked in Gates of Lodore. Maybe it started when my role model lost her cat and found the Idaho warehouse; maybe it started when the first woman river guide I ever met gave me the oars when I was just seventeen.

I don’t know where it started or where it will end, but right now, this is Boatland, and I am here.

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