Crossing the Mountains in Winter

Driving over the Blue mountains of eastern Oregon in winter. The highway has a foot of powder snow over it and all I can see of earth and sky is two faint red tail lights of the car in front of me. We all slow to ten, then five miles an hour and then finally we stop. Like a nose to tail pony ride that has lost its way home.

We get out of our cars and trucks and stand in the middle of the highway and talk about what to do as the snow deepens and night falls around us. We decide we will each drive ten miles an hour and keep the tail lights in front visible, with no sudden braking.

Minutes crawl by like hours, hours like days. Often the windshield is completely blanketed but I know I can’t stop so I estimate direction and keep going.

Something happens out there. We are no longer of this earth but become suspended above it in an intimate living room of white felt and urgent love. The trucker behind me knows my thoughts as well as I do. My two year old son sleeps in the back seat unaware.

Somehow, this time, after what seems like an eternity, the circus finds the park. Baker City appears from nowhere and the makeshift survival convoy converges on the truck stop diner for pie, happy relief and smiles. We knew it would be ok, really.

I write this this morning as I read of a fifty car pile up last night on that same stretch of road under similar conditions. People life-flighted to Portland and Boise, though no one killed, thank God.

Here’s to hoping — for all of us everywhere — that the circus continues to find the park.

4 responses to “Crossing the Mountains in Winter

  1. I have had this same experience, years ago, driving alone in winter, in Maine, as part of that tail-light caravan. Spooky. I didn’t know and love the poetry of William Stafford then…but I do now, and I’m glad the circus found the park once again. The darkness around us is deep.


  2. You relate that very well Burl. I feel pleased that I live in ‘old’ England. We specialise in winter rain, mist and mud. Much less scary.


  3. Thanks John.
    Btw, I trade songs with a few of your ex-pats once a month in brew pub here in Portland.
    Lots of fun. Cheers to “old” England. — Burl


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s