The weather is slowly transforming out on the Oregon Coast. We had several rainy days–a few with downpours and strong ocean winds. I’m also seeing subtle hints of fall in some minor color changes. Driving to Portland, I noticed the alders and maples are changing to yellow. They line the lower elevations of the mountains, so you see a small line of yellow topped by blankets of green. By winter, they will turn gray and blend beneath the evergreens. For now, I see these small reminders of the Falls that I’m used to where most of the trees change color and drop their leaves. There are parts of that nostalgia I still feel, even though I can tell that Fall here will be noticeably different.
My Mom and Dad returned to visit this week, making them our first repeat visitors. In chapter two of their Oregon adventure, we would introduce them to the Columbia River Gorge, Astoria, and many other sites and restaurants we couldn’t squeeze in the first time around. On the same flight was Allyson, who had been out of town for about 10 days. Airports are one of those no-brainer great places to people watch. You see people saying goodbye, people reunited. Family, lovers, friends, children, parents, siblings, even strangers meeting. You see these fairly intense, sometimes intimately affectionate moments in someone’s life–this snapshot of some bigger story you’ll never hear. I watched as many people reunited, waiting for my wife and my parents.
You see the person’s outline, and you make your way towards them, until you both make eye contact and then your pace increases. You embrace, rock back and look each other in the eye, maybe kiss. When the moment is finished, you begin walking. You’ll pick up any checked baggage, pay your parking fees, and be off. The conversation usually begins with questions about the flight, then you talk about how life has been, then begin to decide on the next meal. It all drifts very quickly into something more mundane, something more comfortable, something you probably know well with this person or persons.
Major League Baseball postseason began this week, and I’m more invested than I have been in several years, because my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, are still in. As I grow older, I grasp more and more how sports are probably a little too important in a lot of people’s lives, and how I might be better to throw enthusiasm into other places. Still, I have this boyish excitement for baseball and especially for the Cubs. The Cubs, I think, connect me to something from my youth I can’t really explain. The team hasn’t done well since 2008, and new management has spent a lot of time rebuilding the team to not only be good, but to be good for a long time. They are finally starting to see the fruits of that labor in the 2015 team, a team that was third best in all of baseball for the season.
The Cubs have a reputation for losing. This is not that they don’t regularly field good teams–it’s that those teams haven’t put it together enough to win a World Series since 1908. Thus, for many people, they are just a punchline to a joke. I started liking the Cubs when I was too young to care about that, but I’ve been stung even in comparatively few years by several pretty monumental flops. This year feels different, though, and I don’t mean it to say that this team is destined to win. They have some series opponents who are really good and probably deserve to win even more than they do. But, this team is young and kinda crazy. Stuff doesn’t seem to get in their head the way I’ve seen with teams in the past. They may not win everything, but they aren’t going to lay down. They aren’t going lose their minds when they make an error or when one game doesn’t go their way. They’ve got me feeling less nervous when I watch. If they lose I will be fine. It has been so much fun to watch this team.
Sometimes losing gets in your head, you start to believe that’s who you are, that it’s destiny. I can even hear announcers using that language with the Cubs when they are winning during the postseason. A few nights ago, they were up on the Cardinals by three runs and their pitchers were cruising. The announcers were talking with the language of “..now, if the Cubs can pull this out…” as if they were behind. It felt to me like they were waiting to call some kind of choke. Like they wanted to say they saw it coming. I hear Cubs fans waiting for it too, believing in losing more than they believe in their favorite players. I’m tired of that feeling. I don’t care if they lose. I just want to feel like I believe in these guys. I want them to get some respect.
I took my parents to Devil’s Cauldron in Oswald West State Park. It’s a spot with beautiful views of the ocean and mountain peaks. You see jagged cliffs that drop several hundred feet straight down to where waves crash up against it. The sun was sitting, and clouds were slowly darkening. We took a path I had not been on that led to a cliff that jutted out between two taller cliffs. It was still tall in its own right, but it gave you views of so many things at once. You really grasp your smallness in a place like this. The trail looked like it led to the edge of the world. The three of us talked about how big the whole thing was. There are things we took in, though, that we weren’t going to get at with words. I laid at the edge on my stomach and looked down at the water below. We sat still together on the grassy hills, staring out at the rock flanked by the big blue mass of water. How do you explain what something like that does to you?
I spend a lot of time trying to figure this out, these days. I’m often searching for meaning, looking for moments that I’ll go back to, asking what they say about who I am and what I should be. After all, if we tell ourselves we are something enough, we may become that. We may be lead to think we are hard wired, destined to be something and nothing else. In another reality, we are many different things at once. We are friends, strangers, lovers, parents, children, siblings, losers, winners. The picture I go back to now, though, is that one at the edge of that rocky cliff, looking out with my parents, wind in our faces. Nothing is set, no one has been completely written. In this time to come, there is more to be said, to see the bigness around us, the bigness in ourselves, and believe in it like the sun our eyes follow into the large, large blue.