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Pushing Off from Coal Banks

Monday, October 5, 2009

A male harrier floats by over Virgelle, Montana, on the morning of our departure. A sign of good things to come.

Sometimes things are perfect. Sometimes they're not. Everything this dazzling June morning was perfect. I just couldn't see it.

Although I consider myself an adventurous person within certain strictly proscribed limits involving heights, deep water and sundry other triggers, I was frankly scared. As we divided up the canoes for our guided expotition down the Missouri River, along the trail of Lewis and Clark, I was freaking out. On March 31, 2009, I had taken a bad fall down our basement stairs. I was carrying Chet's bedding, which included a bunch of cozy Polarfleece blankies, down the painted wooden stairs, and I stepped on a blanket and fell down go boompity boompity boompity. I wound up in a moaning pile at the bottom of the stairs, and Chet Baker didn't even come check to see what had happened. Though if a chipmunk had farted 50 yards away, he'd have been all over it. So much for the remake of Lassie starring my thankless dog. He didn't bring me an icepack, whine or lick my face or dial 911. He didn't even rouse himself from his nap at the top of the stairs. I guess he figured I was moaning with happiness at having succeeded in going down a long flight of hard stairs on my tailbone and shoulder.

aside: This thoughtless aspect of his personality is not why there have been no posts lately featuring Chet Baker. I have not been posting about Chet Baker because my laptop is on the fritz again read:given up for dead and I can't download new photos. That is another story for another time. Please be patient, all you who visit here for the dog. I am scrambling again, my world is upside down again, but Apple and I will get it worked out. Until then you'll have to put up with mountain bluebirds and bald eagles.

There were many upshots of this accident, one of them being a bum right arm, which is only just, six months later, regaining quasi-full mobility. So what was I doing taking a 17-foot canoe down an unfamiliar river with a bum right arm? With my daughter in it?? We needed an adult in each canoe, and Bill and Liam were already assigned to another canoe. The only thing we could do was have little 13-year-old Phoebe, both of whose arms worked, sit in the stern and steer. Coming up against this inescapable reality freaked me out. Steering in the stern seems like something a guy should do, or at the very least a mom. But I had to let go and trust that she could do it.

I should have paid more attention to the signs. Phoebe, rather uncharacteristically, was game to be the sternman. And there were mountain bluebirds everywhere I looked on the landing, waving us a cheerful, don't worry-be-happy goodbye.

There were baby mountain bluebirds on the sign where we launched, for gosh sakes.

There was a father mountain bluebird keeping an eye on everyone. O bird of paradise, hang your head, for the mountain bluebird against the clear Montana sky and tan hills is our answer to you.

He dove down to get grasshoppers to stuff in his babies' bills, T.C.B.

It was time to push off.

And bid those pointless worries good-bye.

Everything would be all right, bum arm, maternal freakout, mylittlegirl in the stern and all. The bluebirds knew it, and they tried to tell me. But I'd have to find out for myself.

Just go. You'll be fine!


These pictures are fantastic! The clouds in the Bay area lack the same depth. I love seeing such thick clouds and wide-open spaces.

Sorry about your laptop.

Love the bluebird shots!

Posted by Anonymous October 5, 2009 at 2:12 PM

Can't wait to hear what happens next! I know the ending: Phoebe did fine and mom learned to let go which will serve you well in the future, but I'm anxious to find out what happens in the middle.

I've read the, "fell down go boompity boompity boompity" three times--still giggling--sorry.
I landed with a hard crack on my shoulder while attempting a crazy sledding stunt--old enough to know better. It still hurts.
Love the Montana skies.
And your mountain bluebirds.

wow--look at those bluebirds!
Hope limbs and laptops are in tiptop shape now.XXOOM.

Posted by mimi hart October 5, 2009 at 6:35 PM

Apple is taking care of me, never fear.

I remember seeing my first mountain bluebird (it was in MT!) and how the world just kind of stopped and my head spun...

I'm sorry to admit, I laughed about you and the stairs and Chet, too. I guess even the most perfect dog in the world still has one teenie tiny fault. Hope your arm is 100% better soon!

OK, well at least I am encouraged by the seemingly calm looking water in the photos. The mountain bluebirds are beautiful!!

That last bluebird shot is just too much...gorgeous!

I felt your pain as you fell down those stairs! And if you think Chet was bad, just imagine falling around a bunch of cats! They actually seem annoyed that I wake them up with my moaning in pain.

Although a mother to only children with fur, I certainly understand your worrying. I do it too and it gets tiresome when your worrying outweighs the fun you're supposed to be having. But, as one of my vets (a female) once said "your a woman, and that's what women do, worry and thinking about the worse that could happen to their loved ones"

Julie, I loved reading your blog today. My sister and I took a similar trip (Coal Banks Landing to Judith Landing) in 2007. It was one of the best things we ever did. Your pictures are wonderful. I look forward to reading more of your entries.

If you like Lewis & Clark, I invite you to check our blog too. This week we are posting on the 200th anniversary of the death of Meriwether Lewis, and I'm in the middle of a "road trip" series too; this year it was Nebraska and the Dakotas.

Posted by Anonymous October 6, 2009 at 8:56 AM

Beautiful bluebirds and envious over the small watercraft on smooth waters journey you are about to make - especially after weeks aloft on my see every desert road trip.

Every morning I wake - I have to teach my right arm how to be an arm again - rotator cuff dysfunction after years of too much carry-on.

I only hike with friends who love canyons. Not the ones that need to climb every mountain and stand on every scenic view point as the floor falls away miles below while I cling to a lone forb, anything, quite certain that someone or something is shoving me off of the side of said lovely view. If there are past-lives I shudder to think of the violent falling deaths I must have endured - it can be the only explanation for the vertigo I get above 12 feet.

Julie, I (sometimes)visit the blog for other-than-Chet posts. But he don't hurt none! Glad to hear you are feeling better.


Ahhhh, glorious Bluebirds. I'm not here for the dog.

I'm here for the farting chipmunks.

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