For a year and a month, the creek ran wild, the culvert and road gone, flushed downstream, nearly taking our neighbor’s lives that stormy night, as they came around the corner, the night blackened roadway ahead gone in a blink and a roar. They plunged into the raging flooding creek, and were carried a half mile down, finally caught by a blown over tree, with air, finally, to breathe. Fawcett Creek tried to live up to its name, and then some. Perhaps it should have been called Torrent Creek, or Inundation Gulch. The next day, the road gone, we found the old route closed, the abyss ready to take us, too, if we gave it a chance.
We have turned left now, to go to town, taking the back way, through five corners, three farms, the school and the store. Potholes grew wider, the road narrower, as we competed with the milk trucks and all of our neighbors for the old road.
Engineers came and went, and then, slowly, the ruins of the culvert and the old fill across the creek disappeared. Piling and cement forms stacked up, and then a new roadway, and then, week by week, a new bridge. Its slow curves began to rise, tempting us with a promise of connection. They had to wait for the salmon runs to end, before building in the creek bed, so late summer days meant pile driving thuds echoing off the hills. It was noise we could love, knowing the bridge was taking shape, rising and spreading its full length.
Finally, yesterday, the orange warning signs and the flashing “road closed” light disappeared, the bridge open at last. The new sign boldly proclaims the name of the creek. Yet, no trumpets blared, no ribbons were cut. Word quickly spreads, and we all slowly cross the bridge, a quiet celebration. Yet, with connection made again, news enough to enjoy.
Today, we turn right to go to town, starting again with old habits. On the way home, we revert, and come the old way, wondering how we could forget the bridge is open. We will miss the traffic by the school in the morning, and driving by the store, the local contractors parked there for coffee and news. But the potholes and the meeting of the milk trucks on the narrow corners of the old road will not be missed.
Our neighbors on the other side of the creek have said they’ve enjoyed the quiet, yet I’ve missed waving to them on my way home. For the last year and a month, I only see them in town, once in a while. Now, I can look again, by the highway, for the occasional eagle by the river, and the glint of sunlight on the rapids by the rest area. Now, I go back to the old patterns, the old ruts of daily life, yet enjoying the pleasures of the new bridge, solid, purposeful, and safe.