The Roseman Bridge
It had been years since I had read the book or seen the movie version of Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County.* But something about the story had continued to haunt me. On a long drive this summer, Madison County, Iowa, was a slight detour on the way to a reunion with my dad in the town where he was born and raised, which is in the southwestern part of the state.
Before the season has ended, I take this slight detour from my previous messages in order to celebrate summer, and perhaps, something more...
The single rose had been wrapped and propped against the entrance to the bridge. I wondered if it had been left as a memorial.
The Roseman Bridge. A place of romance long before the book, haunted by legends. A place of pilgrimage for lovers, who carve their petitions and their sorrows deeply into the inner beams of the bridge. I made a small contribution to that vast collection; then, leaving my wife and daughter to their own explorations, I walked down to the far end of the bridge.
The road leaves the bridge, wanders on for a bit of gravel, turns into a small depression and vanishes among the hills. It was so much more hilly than I had expected, even though the film was shot on location.
I resting my elbows on the white railing. I looked down at the rippling brook. I thought of those two people who had smashed against the finity of human love.
But that had not happened here.
These were not the rainswept streets of Winterset.
It was a still summer day. The brook made small lapping sounds which blended with the deep humming of the insects below the bridge. The wildflowers were in bloom, including the chicory that Robert had picked for Francesca. I remembered torridly hot summers in Iowa, including the one in 1965 which was the setting for the book. The scent of the earth fills the still air with life; the dampness of the soil is indistinguishable from the dampness of the air.
I paused, listening.
This was a place of promise.
I would rather listen than draw moral lessons.
I have heard Francesca’s choice argued from both sides, with enlightened voices speaking for both sides of the matter.
But I don't think it’s just about her choice, although that's a good point. I don’t even think it’s about the fact that she had to make a choice, although that’s also a good point.
It's not just about what we should do.
It's not just about what we shouldn't do.
It's about what we are.
It's about that current that ripples beneath romance, beneath lust, beneath anything we say or do or think or feel or argue, beneath anything about us that has a finite end.
It is bigger than us.
We can't grasp it all, much less describe it all.
We just plain can't do it all.
But it's that part of us that cannot be denied. It's that part of us that endures a thousand sleepless nights. And it's that part of us that wakes us in the night.
It is but thinly expressed in words. It is echoed in the smoky blues of Nighthawk Cummings: in the wailing lament of the sax; in the wild threnody of "Francesca".
It is convenient to forget it.
It can be too painful---or frightening--- to remember it.
But we forget it at our peril.
The Bridges of Madison County calls us to remember it.
And, if we can throw all else to the wind, to celebrate it.
That's why we have smoky blues. If we can but face the darkness and dash, or better yet, dance through the night, and come out on the other side with all of who we are...
For it lives in that place of promise, the Roseman Bridge.
A couple arrived in a car, having traveled as far from the south as we had traveled from the northeast. The man picked up the rose and handed it to the woman. As we eased out of the parking area, the man dropped to one knee.
And that’s a lovely face of the Roseman Bridge.
I moved on, making my way toward my hometown, the jazz capitol that is Kansas City, which has more than enough smoky blues in it’s past and present for all who seek.
I ambled up and down the same gravel roads that had suffered the dust clouds of an old pick-up truck, those many years ago.
Home, yes. But first, I had one more stop to make.
My dad would be waiting, down the road in Page County, Iowa.
I post new articles twice monthly in "Author's Corner".
If you live in or near the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, and you would be interested in meeting with others for discussion or prayer, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All are welcome, regardless of identity or personal choices. Please understand that I do not have the resources to guarantee that I will be able to respond to all other correspondence.
*Warner Books Inc., New York, 1992
Rob Wright holds advanced degrees in education and performing arts, and he has been a professional teacher for over fifteen years. In his home denomination, he has served as a lay minister in liturgical, educational and ecumenical activities. He lives in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire with his spouse of twenty years and their daughter.