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  • Writer's pictureGerald Tindal

Day 87: McKenzie River and Highway 126


The day began as all days: Previously. An early morning drive to a workshop in the high desert. Out of the Willamette Valley and over the Cascades at Santiam Pass. The route defined by the McKenzie river at least to the pass. What better way to civilize the Oregon Territory back in the day: follow rivers and their flat shoulders once off the mountains. A wagon train trail turned into a two lane highway. Unusual these days by the lack of fence along the sides. Miles of pure transition across fields of Hazelbert groves, Christmas tree farms, pastures, tall Doug Firs on the sides and in the distance. Small towns, villages, strewn along the way leaving Springfield: Leaburg, Vida, Rainbow, and McKenzie Bridge. The river and valley narrowing with houses perched on the bank to have the rapids and quiet stretches in constant view.

The pre-dawn sky folded with fog along the river and between the shoulders of mountains off in the distance. Eventually, the sun rising so boldly it was all sunshine: daybreak and beyond, pure blue sky chasing the fog away. The river bending and reflecting the sun with the highway mirroring the bends. All so gentle and embracing. And then the departure from river shores to climb the mountain with the river unseen but present. Which is when I realized…

It was the same place for us to discover your departure 87 days ago. This day driving east instead of west. This day witnessing a sunrise not the afternoon sun play out to eventually set. But the McKenzie, nevertheless. Koosah Falls, Sahalie Falls, and Clear Lake, source of the McKenzie. This was the morning with the call. Space and time divided.

The day played out as it had to and the return was in the dark. Back over the mountain pass to join the McKenzie along Highway 126. Return past the lake, the falls, and the flat river bed. Only headlights and darkness. Eventually, safely off the highway. It’s Ed’s words from his poem to you…

Old timers who fly fish the McKenzie

claim witness to slicks of grief that

pass as dark shadows on its surface

with no enduring trace in daylight.

River poets argue that rivers cleanse

and bind all in mind and matter.

In sleep, the same water source

that stirs the resentful silence of the McKenzie,

heals all—one small and uncompromised

droplet at a time.

You were with me on this trip. You will be always. We love you so much and won’t let go. Today a new day, trying so desperately to build a new life with you by the side. Inside.


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