Collecting Sacred Spaces

I needed a little lighthearted entertainment on a recent evening after a stressful day at work. I scanned the listings and found it: “Peggy Sue Got Married.”

It seemed safe enough. A pleasant ’80s drama starring Kathleen Turner as a woman, buffeted by the recent break up of her marriage, attending her 25-year high school reunion. She passes out from the stress of it, then wakes as her teenage self, back in high school.

It’s one of Turner’s great performances, in a film directed by one of my favorites, Francis Ford Coppola. It’s a departure from his violent “Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now” epics.

But this is no movie review. Instead, it’s a reflection on time and space. Shortly after traveling back in time, Peggy Sue finds herself in her teenage bedroom, pondering familiar mementos of her younger self — a shoe, a turntable, an address book.

I tried to recall my teenage bedroom and realized I have no equivalent touchstones, not even that Farah Fawcett poster. I moved about in our five-bedroom house, occupying all of them at one time or another. It foreshadowed the wanderlust of my adult life. I’ve lived in six states, including Montana on three separate occasions.

Unlike Peggy Sue, my mementoes are outdoor spaces. I revisit them by choice.

Here’s the list, in chronological order of discovery.

—The unnamed arroyo behind our family home in Riverside, California. I played boyhood games here. There were quail, though the boy in me hardly noticed. Some years the winter monsoons were so severe an ephemeral stream rose below the saturated hills. It never lasted long.

—Dodger Stadium. Nuff said.

—Deep Creek. This small trout stream in the San Bernardino National Forest is where I learned to fly fish.

—Long Valley in the Eastern Sierra. I put my new skills to work here, catching rainbows running up the Owens River.

—The Big Hole near Wisdom. Fishing. Antelope. Haystacks.

—The Bitterroot River. Where I learned to row.

—The pond beyond the front door of our home in Hamilton. This was where life with the twins began.

—McMillin Mesa in Flagstaff, Arizona. I took long walks here, after school with the twins.

—Parker Canyon, Arizona. The best place on Earth to hunt the best birds on Earth — Montezuma quail.

—Curlew National Grasslands, Idaho. At Curlew my first English setter, Jack, taught me to hunt on those golden plains. 

—The Middle Fork Flathead River. The whitewater of my scariest moments. Screaming Right Rapid was my nemesis. Thanks to the pros from Mountain Photography, one of my favorite photos of the twins and I also depicts Bone Crusher Rapid.

—The North Fork Flathead River. I’ve probably caught more trout here than any other water. Average size: 6 1/2 inches, lol.

—The Sweet Grass Hills. The name. The sharp-tailed grouse. The warmth in your heart the first time you get sight of the Hills as you clear the Rockies, headed toward the plains.

—The Bench, Wyoming. A high spot overlooking the Shoshone River Valley. The panoramic view from the bench includes the Beartooth Plateau, the maw of the canyon where the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River drains the Yellowstone Plateau, Heart Mountain and the Bighorns. If you’re a hunter you might find some chukars there, too.

—The Platte River, Nebraska. Sandhill cranes crowd fields along an 80-mile reach of the river, gorging on waste corn during a stopover on their migration north. We’re talking darken-the sky-concentrations; approximately 400,000, every spring. In the desperation of spring 2020 — when we feared the still unknown horrors of COVID-19 — watching flocks of cranes just overhead, while more flew toward the river like wispy black threads strung to the horizon, was the ultimate therapeutic.

Crane song. It’s medicine enough to cure even the terror of being dumped back in high school, 25 years removed.

Rob Breeding is the editor of

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