The summer I turned nineteen I took the bus west to Wisconsin, to work at a mom and pop resort where the owners housed us in a firetrap and fed us leavings from the guests’ plates. After the second bout of food poisoning –through which we worked between dashes to the bathroom–my friend Polly and I quit.
Before dawn we snuck into the resort kitchen, loaded up on rolls and butter and apples, and waited, laughing, in the dark for the Greyhound, then jumped on board, still laughing.We had a layover in Chicago and we took ourselves and our duffels out to dinner at The Berghoff, spending most of the little bit we had earned that summer. The waiters flirted with us and we flirted back.
We were free, we were free, we were free. Now I know you can hold a moment of freedom in your heart your whole life long. My love affair with the west began that summer in Montana. Wide-open streets, the snow-capped Rockies, how it felt to laugh and jump naked late at night into the shockingly cold water of Flathead Lake.
Canoe, by Alison Luterman
When I was young, years ago, canoeing on the green
Green River, with my young first husband,
I wriggled out of my shorts, eased over the lip
of our little boat, and became eel-woman,
naked and glistening, borne along in the current.
He paddled, I floated and spun,
and let the ripples take me.
Even an hour of that kind of freedom
can last for years and years,
can become a touchstone you return to
long after the rented canoe has been returned,
and the road trip has ended, and then the marriage,
and then the husband’s brief life, and you yourself
have become someone else entirely; still
you return in your mind to the days
you could set up a tent in the dark,
and build a small fire
from birch bark and newspaper
and sit beside it, sipping tea, savoring your muscles’ sweet ache,
as one by one the uncountable stars came out.