On the Edge of the Missouri River :: Jottings From The Road

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Night bends like no other thing.  I stand at the river and watch the darkness pulse across the breaks, dulling the hard edge of shadows, inking the high places indigo, the deep blue of evening arcing through sturdy lengths of cottonwood grove; everything waits for the slow heave of the moon.IMG_2203 IMG_2218

We are camped along the rollicking width of the Missouri River tonight in a glorious cottonwood forest.  There is wild rose all around and though I can not yet see them, their perfect perfume hangs thickly in the air and pools around my senses.  Settling into bed is bliss.  The Airstream is terribly comfortable (we have a high quality mattress in the walnut bed frame that is chiropractic and amazing and small — we are almost forced to spoon, which I adore:  Airstream = cozy loving.).  It will be hard to get up in the morning.  Now I’ll shut off the lights, hold Robert’s hand in the dark and watch the moon rise through the window above the bed, and all other celestial bodies with it.

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I woke up this morning around 5AM to see the sun blazing up over the cut bank of the river, through the forest and into the back window of the trailer.  I imagined to myself that somewhere, a veil had been torn away from the entrance to the Holy of Holies and I was laying beneath the beautiful and shining face of God.  I was transported by the strength of the light, as I often am in the summer months.  I wonder, how much greater is the shining glory of God than the face of the sun which is, at times, more beauty that I can endure.

I thought to myself, as I lay there in the sunrise, that I needed to get up out of bed and find a way to photograph the sun in the forest but I couldn’t make myself roll out from underneath the blankets, so peaceful was the world, so handsome was Robert where he lay sleeping, so aware was I of my clattering human heart making gentle rings of joyful waves like a raindrop into infinite blue waters.  I watched the world outside of the Airstream window for a while before blinking and nodding my way back into sleep.IMG_2332

The cottonwood forest is filled with so much grace.  This grove is filled with especially graceful trees.  I can feel and see that they are of the same family, sired by the same grandfather tree — the resemblance of each tree to each other is uncanny.  Trees don’t grow like humans, instead of having a certain nose or wide set eyes, I see the way the trees here are similar in upwardness; they grow lanky, tall and straight, branching off into arcing crowns that sweep out in smooth, unbroken curves so that the edge of the forest seems to be bending towards me as I stand beneath the canopy; reaching for me, hoping to deposit silver stars in the pockets of my denim shirt.  I think they are reaching down to shake my hands, their branches are the tail of a crisp salute.  At ease, trees!  At ease!   Oh, you beautiful, stalwart companions. 

It’s truly a magnificent forest.  A handsome family of trees, if I ever saw one.  From where I stand I cannot see a single blighted, dead or rotting tree.  The undergrowth is lush, tender and bountiful.  I’m glad we landed here overnight.  I feel energized and soothed by this environment.

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The birdsong is beautiful, a delightful chorus.  It has a slightly foreign sound to it.  I tell Robert it’s like being suddenly surrounded by Canadian accents when I travel home to Saskatoon.  It’s a sound that I fit into but have been away from long enough that suddenly hearing it again is a homecoming carefully seasoned with a peppering of strangeness.  I know this bird chorus, it’s a blend from a river that passes through grasslands, it’s an arrangement of bird noises similar to what I hear on my home river in Saskatchewan and I’m suddenly aware of how good it feels to be more North, more homeward.  Roots have snuck out of the heart that rests inside my chest.  I can feel them magnetically pulling me closer to the border, inching like caterpillars towards the Great Northern Plains and the wide open sky of that place.  I am headed home.  Home.IMG_2284 IMG_2297 IMG_2315 IMG_2330




  1. What an incredible green!! That hue of the sun-bright cottonwood leaves is my very favorite color.
    I loved reading this! You’ve made me ponder on the glory of God, and that’s a good thing! Happy you are safely back!

    • I am home. Just for an itty bitty short while. And it’s good. Our property is such a sanctuary, I miss it a lot when we are away.

      Always SO glad you are here. XX

  2. I hope you had a great trip home. There is no other place more inviting. And as always thank you for transporting me.

  3. Your photos and words are beautiful, coming from that deep space of love for wild adventure and love of the land. Inspiring and awesome, Jillian. You brighten my day. : )

  4. Catherine Chandler says:

    Sweet, sweet love. Of home, of human, of heart.

  5. The saturated beauty of your surroundings- sigh, so delightful!! And, that beautiful pour for yourself- this is joy!! I cannot wait to hear about Home. 🙂 xoxo

  6. Beautiful words – stunning photos. Set up my whole day with peace. Thank you.

  7. How utterly tranquil….that sky…those fields…the night…those trees….your reflections. I am always closest I feel to God when I am outside. Thank you for a lovely way to begin my day.

  8. Elizabeth Waggoner says:

    SO glad you have had safe and soul-full travels. The early summer green of the beautiful cottonwood arch is amazing. Welcome home, Jillian, and safe travels to come. Nice to see you again, even for an itty bitty minute! 🙂

  9. you pack loveliness with you wherever you go… no wonder the trees salute you! joyful, all of this!

  10. I’m so glad you could go. Glad you had extra time with your man, glad you could travel to one of your heart’s homes.

  11. Oh wow what colors! they are so FULL ON! I suppose everything blooming at the moment is, full on living for the moment.
    Thanks for popping in here to post them. Always such a pleasure to see and read! Hope you had an amazing time on your travels and those to come too..

  12. nathalie says:

    Thank you for the gorgeous photographs and sharing some of your traveling, and those colors!!!!

  13. Love those trees among other things….love your flower eyes..so funny xx

  14. Do you know that cottonwoods are the very trees who pulled me, one day, inside the oneness of the world? I am not surprised that they spoke to you so gently.

    In fact, I think God’s face and the beauty of the world bathed in sunlight (or moonlight, or the magic hour in between) are one: it is the deep and wide love that is pulsing inside you all the time. You are all of this, too, so your small body and your burning heart feel unable to contain it all.

    I know that feeling :o)

  15. april and max mancha says:

    My son saw your beautiful pictures and was delighted. He loved the green and cottonwood trees. I feel nature is my church. That is where i find god. ( and in the arms of my kids :D) Tranquillity

  16. holy of holies, indeed….a cathedral of trees, a choir of celestial bodies, all beings [human and animal] singing praises.

    love all of this. very much so.



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