Down from the Mountaintop: From Belief to Belonging by Joshua Doležal is a coming-of-age memoir about moving from the mountains of northwestern Montana to the Midwest. (Publication date: March 1, 2014)
If there were a road back to the Montana of my childhood, it would be heavy with rain. The pavement would wind out of Missoula past the old highway cafes, westward through Arlee and Plains, beyond Thompson Falls, Trout Creek, Noxon, then a sharp turn north into the Bull River Valley, where the river is sometimes a marsh. It would be early spring, when the streams churn with the earth, when rejoicing and weeping are one torrent spilling over the banks and there is no telling the shallows from the deeps.
I imagine the road climbing out of the valley to skirt Bull Lake, where a butte rises several hundred feet about the far shore, its image snaking over the water. The surface of the lake ripples in the rain. Dark fir trees flank the highway, light moss in their boughs, dead grass lying matted against the sides of the ditch. A deer bolts from the brush, turns tail, and bounds away.
Then it comes, the long descent into Troy—the huge gravel pit above Lake Creek and the cottonwood trees rising over the town. The chain-link fence around the road graders. The trailer court. The motel and the grocery store. The wide curve along the softball fields, the high school track, and the chipped yellow goalposts. The old wooden grandstand and the railroad tracks and a train rattling through. The caboose. The thump of the tracks, then Riverside Avenue down to the one-land bridge with its wooden planks. The iron trestle crowned by an osprey's nest. The Kootenai River below. A log passing beneath the planks on the steely water.
Across the bridge a few miles out of town, the road climbs above an old farm along the river. The forest grows thick once more, the slope launching straight out of the valley. Gravel roads veer off into the streets, the main road climbing, long sightlines opening over the valley. A logged timber plot appears, then an overgrown apple orchard, and, at last, the driveway angling up a steep grade to the unfinished house with its cedar shingles and tar-papered walls and the large windows overlooking the way back to my home. No matter how many years have passed, whenever I remember those windows streaked with a gunmetal sky, a cold front of lament sweeps over me, and even the clearest day grows dark.
Down from the Mountaintop: From Belief to Belonging, by Joshua Doležal