We had a share of rain this week on the coast but enough sunshine to still feel a bit spoiled. I noticed signs of Spring for the first time just a few days ago. Spring is much sneakier in the Northwest than in the South. With so many deciduous trees back South, the winter leaves forests full of bare branches, tree skeletons. Spring buds are evident immediately, and they change the landscape pretty drastically. In the Northwest it’s always green—we’re dominated by big evergreen forests. But, there are some deciduous trees here, and they began to push out their nearly neon green buds this week. Seeing that color green scattered among the darker, fuller green was like getting a letter in the mail from an old friend, seeing the envelope and recognizing the handwriting.
It has been a week of certifications for me. To begin, I returned to the fraternity of Redcross Certified Lifeguards after letting my certification lapse when leaving camp. Despite not really learning proper form until my late 20s, I’ve managed to get by because I’m a strong swimmer. My mom told me a story of when my younger sister, Tracye, and I were in swim lessons together as little kids, the lifeguard tried to teach us a lesson about leaving the lifesaving to the experts. She asked what I would do if Tracye was drowning in the deep end. I said that I would save her. The lifeguard then put Tracye out in the water and asked me to save her, so that I would see that it is too difficult for someone as young as me, that I wouldn’t be able to support her weight and mine. Then, I would let the lifeguards do their work and not become another victim. But, I jumped in and saved her anyway.
Since then, though, I learned that if you can get your breaths right, you don’t have to be a strong swimmer or even in great shape to swim the required amount for lifeguard cert and most life saving skills. Most people who aren’t just really disabled have the physical capacity to swim and probably save someone drowning. But, if you don’t know how to breathe and you don’t know how to use your body, it can get pretty bad pretty fast. Fortunately, I remembered how to breathe and how to move in the water, and I’m back to being a Professional Rescuer.
The other certification was for Level 2 Archery Instructor. For this training, I trekked up North to Vashon Island, Washington, just across the Puget Sound from Seattle. I took Highway 101 north from Rockaway and crossed the Columbia River into the Evergreen State, where signs have little outlines of George Washington’s head framing the highway numbers. Highway 101 is surely one of the most beautiful highways in the whole country. Highway 1 in California may have its number, but that argument is like talking about whether pepperoni or sausage pizza is best. They are both pretty awesome.
My Washington leg of 101 took me into a totally new landscape with lots of muddy, grassy sloughs, cut through by windy rivers. There was a consistent smell of evergreen in the air. I noticed so many green buds along the way too that made everything feel much more alive. There are cherry, apple, and other flowering trees all over the Northwest, and the complement the pine, fir, and cedar smells with this sweet scent, a lot like jasmine. I found myself inhaling deep whenever I’m outside, trying to take in as much of the air as possible.
At Point Defiance I loaded onto a Ferry that would take me to Vashon Island for the weekend. The scenery around the Puget Sound is familiar from the movies, but way more beautiful than a camera can do justice, even when it’s doing its best. I stood out on the deck of the ferry boat, and it was cold, whipping my hiking pants up against my legs, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be out there and feel the wind and hear the water.
After passing my archery test (2 for 2, baby!), I boarded the ferry again, this time to Seattle. I met up with several friends who relocated to Seattle several years ago. Sam and his wife Dana put me up in their cozy attic loft, and we met Katie and Brian for dinner. Coincidentally, another old camp friend, Jennie, was also up visiting Katie and Brian. It is such a great thing to see familiar faces in a sort of foreign land. I am in love with this place, excited about the work I’m doing, but it is hard to leave most of the people I know behind. To see these guys who I have shared so many camp experiences with on the other side of the country was cool in ways I didn’t expect. We were all travelers who went far away, but then found each other on the other side. It is a great blessing to see someone who knows you so well in a place that does not yet know you. It gives you a comfort and a confidence that doesn’t always come easy in new surroundings.
On my drive home today, I saw so many beautiful sites. Mount Rainer watches over Seattle, much like Mount Hood for Portland. I saw Mount Saint Helens and stopped at an interpretive center, marveling at the craterous mountain, knowing that just over 30 years ago, it blew about a quarter of itself way up into the sky. I crossed the Columbia River back into Oregon, and had this nice feeling of coming home. Stopping in Astoria for dinner, I heard sea lions with their goofy barks. I had a burger overlooking the Columbia widening, getting ready to spill into the Pacific. The sun was setting and clouds crept across the waning blue sky. Moments like these leave me marveling at this change that came into my life as suddenly as the Spring buds this week, bursting into color and wonderful new life. I watch the night fall on this gorgeous day. I breathe in deep, almost closing my eyes, hoping to keep even a bit of that goodness with me as long as it will stay. If you know how to breathe right, you might get even further than you think you can.