Bridges and rivers

I wandered Madison at sunset last night, only realizing after I had walked from East Street and Vaughn all the way to Vernon that the only memory card with me was still full from the family gathering over the weekend.

I’ve been writing about the river again, and bridges. It’s a different cadence when you live in a town with one, and only one, bridge. I’ve spent the better part of the previous two years in Pittsburgh for grad school, and I can’t help building spans of my own.

This Ohio River is born in Pittsburgh, formed by the Allegheny and the Monongahela. The first home of my memories was a in village called Goheenville, Pennsylvania. It held all of maybe a dozen or so houses, and “big trips” were to the town of Kittanning, on the Allegheny River.

For ten years of our marriage, we lived in Aliquippa, PA, on the Ohio River, and our permanent home now, near Charleroi, PA, has me crossing the Monongahela River each morning for coffee and errands.

So I’ve been writing a lot lately about what it means to have lived near all three of the rivers of Pittsburgh, as well as what I mentioned on the American Queen blog, about living along the Ohio for Kurt’s work.

And I’ve also been writing about bridges. We have so many in Pittsburgh that they have street names, familiar names and occasionally nicknames. If one is crowded or shut down, we just choose another. Construction means a minor inconvenience. Closing the bridge here, even temporarily, shifts an entire way of life for many people. Even limiting the bridge for tonnage alters regular supply traffic between Indiana and Kentucky.

But the beautiful, amazing thing about a town of one bridge is how much celebration and excitement surrounds the bridge. I’ve watch it turn pink in the sunset and glint in the sunrise. Each day there are still residents who sit along the bank and watch the construction. Men who spent their lives snapping hundreds of photos of the Madison-Milton bridge in all shades of light will snap a hundred more.

And with the changing of spans, layers of story will be added to its lore and its love. I’m grateful we arrived in Madison early enough to have driven over the bridge before the demolition, before the re-routing. We get to say “We drove across the old bridge” in a way that means something, if to nobody other than us.

And when we go, which is so soon it makes my heart hurt, when we go and meet someone else who has been to Madison, Indiana, we can talk about the bridge, the one and only bridge, in a way that means something stronger than iron or steel.

Love, Marla

7 Comments on “Bridges and rivers

  1. Pingback: Madison Goodbye, Part 2 | travelingmarla

  2. Beautifully done,Marla. You’ve encapsulated a lot of the feelings (mine if no one else’s) about the bridge. Here in Madison we’re a bit reluctant to toss something to the side just because it is old or used and,to a degree,that applies to the bridge too.
    Change comes slowly to a town that loves preserving out past and,when it comes,it is sometimes met with skepticism and a sense that we’re losing something.
    You were able to feel that,I think,and translate that into this writing.

    You came here a stranger but you will leave as a member of our community and we don’t throw friends away either.
    Madison has been here for over 200 years now so I don’t think we’re going anywhere anytime soon. We’ll be here when you can get back to us

    It was truly a pleasure to meet you earlier today. 🙂

    • Thanks Walter. It was also great to meet you. I really appreciate the press from the Madison Indiana Observer and glad to see we all have so much in common in our love for this town!

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