Writing in Plane Air
By Mary Dodds Schlick
Eyes glued to ground, I rise above green and rounded
treetops of southern Indiana. We're heading home.
Soon, below, the Mississippi River flows south from
northern lakes that loom so large in dreams for me.
And soon again, the Missouri, etched on my
brain by tales of one brave woman, her baby boy,
a dog, and thirty-nine men who journeyed there to
map a thoroughfare across this “unknown” land.
And now, below, I see the fabled Platte stretch westerly
across the dusty rutted route of “pilgrim feet” we sang
about in school, “whose stern impassioned stress a
thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness.”
Freedom for whom, I want to ask Ms. Poet Bates as we
above the huge expanse of “usual and accustomed places”
of Oto, Pawnee, Arapaho, Shoshone and Bannock, Paiute,
Cayuse and Umatilla, Wasco and Warm Springs families.
The Columbia River at last, we turn to head for Portland.
I crane my neck to see Trout Lake, but banking plane
sinks Mount Adams out of sight. I turn to see the summit
of Mount Hood loom like a peeping stranger in my window.
We are home; it's all downhill from here.
Mary Dodds Schlick is the author of Columbia River Basketry: Gift of the Ancestors, Gift of the Earth and Coming to Stay: A Columbia River Journey, a memoir of living on the Colville, Warm Springs and Yakama Indian Reservations.