Saturday, June 21, 2008

one summer i lived in a trailer outside of lisbon, iowa, out in the country, surrounded by oat and clover fields, and i'd get my daughter, who must have been about two or three, for weekends, and drive her back to iowa city by way of an old town called sutliff, which had an even older bridge, maybe over a hundred years old, that creaked hard and loud as we drove across it. it was meant to give a little as you drove, someone said, but was it meant to make such a terrible sound? i thought we were going to die just about every time we crossed. often we'd get out, after we'd crossed, and walk back across it together. i remember her being old enough to talk about it and ask a lot of questions.

it had wooden planks across iron, and my daughter, much closer to the ground than i was, would get down and look through them at the cedar river rushing below. if there was a pebble around, she'd throw it through the cracks too- she was at an age where she judged shrewdly how much of a rise any particular thing would get out of her dad. it almost seemed like she herself would fit through some of those cracks, or maybe through the airy railing, but i watched her closely- and nothing like that ever happened. the funny thing was, it was always on sunday mornings- that happened to be the time i was always returning her to her mom, a time when i was already feeling enormous conflict around the general ideas of holding on, and letting go, anyway. sutliff, the town, had mainly one bar, one very rowdy bar, so i was told, but sunday morning was probably the one time that it had absolutely nothing going on at all; the town was deserted, absolutely quiet. it had maybe a few houses- and a street sign post at the junction near the bridge which had, as i well recall, two street signs: swine drive and madison avenue, on it. i was never able to find out if the locals had any appreciation of the irony of those names- though i'm sure they did- i never talked to them, sunday being quiet as it was.

the wooden slats of the bridge would rot and break off, but they would be replaced soon after, if you waited a little. in the meantime it would be slightly hazardous to the walker, especially a two-year-old, but not too bad if you were paying attention. to the drivers, the biggest hazard was that it would rattle so much you'd lose your grip on the wheel, or you'd just lose your sense of actually driving on anything solid at all. but it never put me in serious danger; the iron was true, even if the wood was a little funky.

a few years back, they were about to tear it down, i heard, but apparently the locals rallied around and saved it, got it on the historical registry- the new bridge was built, or was at least promised, but the old one wouldn't be torn down. the flood did it in, though. just got some pictures in the e-mail, which i'll post soon. it was washed on down the cedar.

that, and the history that went along with it. *water under the bridge* was an old expression they had around there, and we have it around here too: it kind of referred to conflicts, or things that you tended to have hard feelings about, but instead, you let go of them, in recognition that, what time would wash away, was better off forgiven and forgotten. i don't have that many hard feelings- though maybe a few, and at the time i had some, related to being separated, having to travel, always having to let go. so, forgiven, yes, i could do that, though forgiving myself, sometimes, was the hardest part. forgotten, though, never. as long as i'm alive, i'll remember: the pebble, the slats, the river. and the gravel dust, from the road, in the rearview mirror, when we finally got back to driving.


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