Returning to the Sun


April day with blackbird

On a bright, chilly afternoon, I head for the hills. Though the sun is shining, it feels more March than April. This is the first time I’ve been out here since this winter’s wind-driven snow made access impossible. Now the road is clear into the Frenchman River valley, and down into the valley I walk.

There isn’t much breeze today but what there is I’m walking into. Though the view looks as wonderful as ever, my brain doesn’t fully take it in. Instead I’m thinking about the wind’s sharpness on my skin, and the layers and layers of clothes I have on, and all the responsibilities that await me at home. Still, the afternoon is beautiful.

Usually I don’t like road walking. Roads are flat, boring, and long. But this is one road I feel differently about. You walk past the trees and over a rise and down, and suddenly you are into the hills. 70 Mile Butte, on the other side of the Frenchman River that created and divides this valley, seems to be almost in front of you. The river flats, normally far away and blocked from access by rough stands of willow, are close by on your left. Layers of undulating former grazing and hunting land, now with few signs that humans ever used it, open to your right. This road leads you out into the hills and down into the valley and away from all those duties that nag. The breeze might be seeping into my bones today, but slowly the road’s peace seeps in as well.

In the distance, the roll of the hills and the shadows of coulees seem to shine. In the valley the air is blue. From a nearby ditch a sudden meadowlark spins onto a fencepost and opens his throat to sing. In front of me, a blackbird sings back.

Then I reach the valley bottom and turn to go back up the way I’ve come. As quickly as changing direction, the wind is behind me, and March with it. Off come the ear band and the warm gloves. I’m walking with open jackets, all three of them. This might actually be spring.

It doesn’t make sense to miss things you can’t have. Still, I didn’t know how much I’ve missed this. I turn my face up to the sun.

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