We’ve had a few days of heavy rain this week on the Oregon Coast, giving us some hope that we’ll get the precipitation we need before next summer, but for the most part our days have been dry and sunny. Fog and clouds roll in for the mornings and evenings, but the memorable parts of this week were mostly had under cool Fall afternoons in the sunshine. It is certainly feeling more and more like the type of Fall that drifts into your mind when you hear its name. Cool days that warm in the middle of the afternoon. A dry landscape that will soon be moistened by more and more rain. Get out while you still can. The rain is coming, and cold is just behind it.
I watched my beloved Chicago Cubs exits the postseason this week in pretty disappointing fashion. The Mets, who they went 7-0 against in the regular season, swept them, and there wasn’t really even a close game. The Cubs had previously beaten the best two teams in baseball this year in very convincing fashion, to just have the momentum completely halt to the worst team still left in the playoffs (and, again, a team they hadn’t lost against all season). When your team is notorious for coming up short, you have a feeling how the outside world will look at this. “Ah, they choked again. We knew they would do it, we just didn’t know when.” I thought a lot about this, and about this team. It was a team who wasn’t expected to be this good this year.
So, does it mean they choked when they lost to a team they handled in the regular season? Did the Cardinals who won more games than the Cubs in the regular season choke when they went down? Were they buckling under some kind of pressure? Did they stop believing in themselves? Is it always choking if you suddenly go cold as the team you’re playing gets hot? After the game 4 loss, lots of fans stuck around Wrigley Field. The players came back out onto the field, and they started applauding. Players threw balls into the crowd, and both seemed to be thanking the other for the ride they had just been on. I’ve begun this ritual of keeping score whenever the Cubs are in the playoffs, so I’ve kept a little folder with each play as it happens. This means I’ve kept stats on four straight losses, and the last one, I kept while listening to the game on the radio on the way to pick up my good friend Zach from the airport.
We welcomed Zach at PDX, and he seemed instantly in love with the place. He talked about how cool the airport was, and I nodded, knowing we had much cooler things to show him. We had dinner at a Portland favorite for Allyson and me, Dick’s Kitchen, a place that makes fantastic burgers and milkshakes that have a paleo diet kind of leaning. Zach can’t have gluten, so he can often feel like a sort of burden to the group choosing a restaurant. We knew, though, this would be great. On entering, I recognized the blue pin stripes of my Cubs finishing up what would be their last game of the season. A couple of sliders with elk and water buffalo meat would have to be my consolation.
When you see the weather changing, you have to appreciate what you have while you have it. You also have to prepare yourself for what is coming and know you will deal with it. If we see the fair weather as an entitlement and not a gift, we are living in a reality that is bound to let us down at some point. Weather doesn’t do what it does to suit us. Players don’t win and lose just because we are happy or sad. Still there is always something to search and find joy in as well as something to take caution from.
I took Friday to hike Saddle Mountain with Zach. It turned out to be a mostly clear and dry day, great weather to climb the 3,200 ft mountain. I’ve shared a lot of memorable hikes with Zach (click here for a classic one from our history), and this one seemed tailor made for some bro bonding. It’s a 5 mile round trip, with steep climbs and awesome views, but not a hike that’s going to murder you. We made the climb with stretches of conversations on movies, philosophy, and good memories. Then there were stretches of silence where we just took in the sights, the sounds, the smells of such an awesome place. On top of the mountain, it was just clear enough to see the big mountains of our region: Hood, Adams, St. Helens, and Rainier. The wind was strong, gusting 25 to 30 miles per hour, dropping temperatures 5-10 degrees from where we started. It made stepping to the edge for views, walking slim trail sections feel pretty harrowing.
We both live our lives in pretty sheltered environments. We have roofs over our heads, heated/air conditioned rooms, the internet, Netflix. But, hiking a mountain like that gets you in touch with this wilder part of yourself, this part that doesn’t get out each day. On top of that, you don’t get to hike each day with a good friend. It’s not always clear enough on Saddle Mountain, sometimes it’s too cold, sometimes too windy, pouring rain or even snow. Sitting together with legs dangling over more than a thousand foot drop, I knew this was not an everyday thing. You take these times and breath them in deep, because they won’t come every day.
We dropped Zach off at PDX on Saturday, giving hugs in the departure lane as other families and friends said their goodbyes and hellos. It was a beautiful, sunny Fall day. On our way home, Allyson and I stopped at the Tillamook State Forest to hike next to the Wilson River. The maples were yellow and orange and had dropped many of their leaves on the ground already. It was that perfect Fall feeling. The air was chilly, but the sun was bright. We smelled the Douglas Fir and crunched the leaves under our feet. Next to us, the river flowed. It’s much lower than normal these days, because last winter was so dry and the summer didn’t do it any favors. But, it still provides a peaceful soundtrack and great scenery.
As we walked together with no pressing things to accomplish, my mind went back to the many, many times I’ve explored some beautiful outdoor setting with this woman. How being outside with her can feel so familiar and comfortable, like childhood memories. How we can talk about anything on thesewalks together. So many things my body knows like second nature: the crunching leaves, the sounds of her voice, the rhythm of my legs–right, left, right, left. I missed that comfortable feeling so much. It felt so nice to have those feelings return. This is a Fall feeling I’ve known in my body for a long time, and it gets shaped more and more with each day. The weather changes, life changes, streaks end and begin. The Sunday rain reminds me nothing stays exactly the same. But, there is something familiar to find in even the most foreign land.