- Idaho Yahoo
Peering from under his thick brown bangs, my 16-year-old son Will crossed his arms over his chest and checked the screen that showed my new Yahoo Personals account. "You are not going to date anyone you meet on the Internet," he said.
"Oh I don't know. This guy is pretty interesting. He—"
"No, Mom. NO." He unfolded his arms to lean over the desk, revealing the stylized Statue of Liberty he'd painted onto his T-shirt. She held a rifle over her head—one of his many protests against the war in Iraq.
"Well, look. This guy's in Idaho, and I'm in Virginia, so you don't need to worry."
"Good." The word sounded like a punch—right hook.
"I mean, I don't even know if I'll ever meet him."
"Good." Left hook.
"But wait," I pleaded, "check out this website. He's a photographer."
Demonstrating, I clicked through images of yellow wildflowers blooming in an otherwise stark Death Valley; red-rock canyons in Utah, composed to emphasize their sensuous curves; a golden Buddha sleeping in Laos behind a tree.
He shrugged as if to say—yeah, they're good, but who cares? You're my mom. I'm the one who should be hooking up. Not you. Then he disappeared into the yard with a flounce and a lacrosse stick, while onscreen, I considered a bicycle-taxi passing a stone Buddha on a street in Nepal. The immobility of the icon emphasized the motion around it, as did the Yahoo photographer's stills of Utah red rock, or Idaho granite, though the motion was outside the photograph: the transience, in fact, was in the observer.
My own impermanence, though tempered somewhat by my heir apparent, was a condition that had long been on my mind. But then, as people [End Page 65] often pointed out, I might be the world's most accomplished worrier, a characteristic of dubious value that ran in my family of origin. When I first moved away from my parents, for instance, if I let the phone ring five or six times before I picked up, my father would answer my "Hello?" with "If you're being held hostage, just say yes."
I'd carried this predisposition for worry with gusto. Once, on a camping vacation, I imagined that my bee sting would become gangrenous and lead to the removal of my nose. A trip to the emergency room followed. My family often tried to stave off complicated feelings about their hysteria by repeating the saying that "Worry is a thin stream of fear, which trickles through the mind and, if encouraged, cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained." In my case, at least, the word-voodoo didn't seem to do much good.
Of late, midlife and my second divorce had reinforced my fears. Just as I'd thought, things didn't last. The awareness of mortality leads some people toward bungee-jumping from bridges, parachuting from airplanes, or training to become fire fighters. For me, however, it has led to the desperate feeling I'm in the wrong place. The right place is in the wide-open West, where presumably I can see what's coming. More particularly, someplace in Idaho.
My Yahoo pal Greg knew why, and answered the question in his photographs of landscapes around the state: lupine in motion during a rainstorm, rainbows over Idaho mountain peaks, blurred water gushing in pristine Idaho rivers, and most of all, the vast Idaho sky caught during storms full of clouds, or sunsets rimming the world with red-gold.
Greg lived in a backcountry Idaho cabin and had described himself as a 45-year-old out-of-work computer guy who'd rather die than go back to what he'd been doing. By his account, he was also an expert rock climber who carried his 80-pound pack with its cameras and gear up the slopes. His first message—in which he identified himself by his Yahoo title, agnostic Buddhist seeking sentient comrade, apologized for his delay in answering my email, but explained that...