Her comment has throbbed in my head all week; all month, if I’m being an honest broker. But I have no idea why. Months ago we’d each traveled east for her mother’s funeral. And though we weren’t close, I could see right away how this once shy and shrinking girl had come into herself; had become an emboldened young woman. As I listened-in on post-funeral chit-chat, I overheard her characterize the change in a phrase: “No Shame, WY,” she’d said, and I couldn’t help smiling. I, too, had once had that same reaction to Wyoming years ago; recall inexplicably falling to my knees beside the Wind River, sobbing and utterly alone, stripped bare of self-lies and civilizing artifice, meeting myself for the first time in the valley’s monumental landscape.
Perhaps my thoughts dwelled on her comment because I longed to re-live that experience; to escape the turbulent present and let the river’s mighty flow unwind my jittery mind. A pedestrian sentiment, no doubt. For who in America wasn’t dreaming of escape these days? The twin battering rams of economics and politics had reached down and become local, dividing towns and churches and families, each side pointing accusing fingers, makers and takers coming to blows. Sandy Hook. Gun control. Budget stalemates. And even with a new pope and the Easter season upon us, I felt little grace as the latest brouhaha over gay marriage erupted. Good Friday and the slobbering pundits couldn’t let go of their latest bone; droned on about the generational divide, biblical passages, the culture wars, shifting public opinion, alternatively not wanting marriage re-defined or welcoming homosexuals to share in heterosexual marital misery. Good God almighty.
I let my mind drift to the Wind River region, to how sad I was on the way home that last time, crossing the Great Divide Basin to Rawlins, then the Medicine Bow Mountains, the descent into Laramie. And of course, that’s when it struck me. The change agent no one was mentioning. The picture we all wanted to forget. The beautiful bloodied boy crucified on a snow fence.