Remembering Bess: An Early Morning Hike

“Around the Mountain Trail” at Bogus Basin Ski Area, 15 miles outside of Boise, Idaho, at 6100′ elevation. It was a perfect morning to write about the trail, still fresh from morning dew, perky buttercups, moss-covered trees, chirping birds. Instead I was awash in memories of my dear, beloved friend, Bess Harter, who passed away three years ago after more than a decade of valiantly battling pernicious, ugly breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain. We skied here during high school where a hotshot skier almost crashed into her during night skiing. We shared many skiing adventures around the Pacific Northwest, often driven at the crack of dawn by her gentle giant father, Gerald. I loved spending the night at their farmhouse surrounded by pea fields and the quiet of the rolling hills. I remember being scolded for talking too much with her in eighth grade algebra, unusual but Bess engendered that in me. We could talk for hours into the night, something serious or funny or profound to say. That spring, unbeknownst to each other we had almost matching pink dresses made (mine had lace on the collars) for our graduation dinner dance. Bess named her friends after fruits and vegetables, e.g., Rhubarb, Prune, Banana. I considered her my best friend as did many others. Although we didn’t see each other much after college, we reconnected about five years before she died. She was often in such pain but still she wanted to read my stories. When I visited we chatted for hours about our children (how she loved Naomi and Daniel), her gardening, her heart- shaped rocks. She gathered and held on tight to her friends. She smiled with brightness, even in the depths of despair, so today this lovely early summer hike is for her.

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