I spent a lot of this past week on the road, tripping across the state, sleeping in strange beds, living out of a backpack and a sleeping bag. It was not so rainy this week as last week. The sun made an appearance nearly every day, and I saw signs of our heavy weekend rain in nearly every body of water I encountered. I have this special feeling driving next to a river, especially on some sort of trip. It feels like we are both on a journey. I am generally jealous of the river, though–it is much better, much more seasoned at travel than I am.
At the start of the week, Allyson and I were ready for a break from camp food, so we leashed Digby up and walked to the taco truck at Barview. We took the trail next to Smith Lake, salal bushes and tall grass on each side. It was cool, but sunny. We each got our usual (I normally do 3 fish tacos). On our journey back, we took the alternate route to Barview County Park taking the beach back to camp. Digby sprinted ahead, stopping to sniff something and pee on it, then sprinting again upon realizing we were ahead of him. The ocean has been strong these past few weeks, and we’ve marveled at how big the waves are and how high the tides are rising. These beach walks are becoming more and more part of a normal day for us.
Still, it’s strange to for me to say that “normal,” is walking a few steps from my home or office where the Pacific Ocean washes over the Oregon shore. “Normal,” is now the West Coast, rocky cliffs and formations against the sea, high tide a
nd low tides, the thoughts of earthquakes and tsunamis, the sweet smell of spruce and fir sap whenever I open the door or get out of the car. This is something that only used to be “normal,” in dreams. Now it’s every day. But, I guess this is life in general. It seems strange that I’m almost 40–I don’t feel like I should be. It feels strange that I’m trusted to be in charge of the things I’m in charge of. We feel this way about whatever stage in life we’re in. When I got to be a high school senior, I sure didn’t think it should be time. I’m sure all my friends and family with kids sometimes still feel like they should be kids themselves. I guess even when we are living dreams come to life, it’s hard not to still wonder if they are just dreams.
My week on the road began making a trip to YMCA Camp Collins near Gresham for some American Camping Association workshops. Douglas Firs towered over this camp next to the Sandy River, and though I got a lot out of my two days of workshops and standards courses, I really wanted be outside exploring the forest. There were several moments that had that school boy feeling of staring out the window to see the fall yellows and conifer green. Another group was training on the camp’s climbing tower. When I went to bed Wednesday night, I set my alarm for 6am to give myself time to get out and walk before breakfast. It woke me, and I reset it for 7am. Then I reset it for 7:30am. I didn’t go walking. I would try again the next morning to about the same success. As bad as I wanted to get out and explore, it evidently didn’t trump sleeping in.
I left Camp Collins Thursday afternoon to go to one of our sister Methodist camps, Suttle Lake, located in the Deshutes National Forest on (you guessed it) Suttle Lake. On the way, I would pass Mount Hood, and I had hopes of exploring it for the first time. As the elevation grew though, it became clear that the only parts of Mount Hood I see would be the clouds surrounding it. Visibility got more and more limited, and by the time I reached the Timberline Lodge exit I had decided to postpone any Mount Hood exploration for a clearer day.
The landscape changed almost immediately after coming down from Mount Hood. It went from moss covered conifers to flat mesas, Ponderosa Pines, and Sagebrush. This was territory I had never seen. Highway 26 passed through the Warm Springs Reservation, and the mesa gave way to sloping canyon that the highway winded down into. I met up with the Deshutes River, and the sun began to put on a show in the sky with purples, pinks, reds, and oranges. This was another dream moment. On a trip alone in new territory, when the sun goes down and leaves you with so many colors, you c
an’t help but reflect and feel like something happening here could be bigger than the sum of its parts.
At Suttle Lake, we spent a lot of time in discussion, planning, figuring out how we can all help each other. In our spare moments, we got outside and walked under towering Douglas Firs and Ponderosa Pines. On walks like these, I get quiet and my senses open up. I find myself breathing in deeper. I saw Black Butte, Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Three Fingered Jack. There were so many majestic, tall things rising up all around me. There are times I ask myself how I got here. I wonder if Sacajawea or Lewis and Clark or Kit Carson ever asked themselves these kind of philosophical questions. There are so many different ways life takes us places we weren’t sure were in the cards for us. It starts one day when you leave your back yard to see what’s on the other side of the woods. Then one years down the road, you find yourself on the other end of the country, still being drawn to the woods, still wanting to see what’s on the other side.
I spend so much time in my life asking myself if I am doing what I should. Am I right to stay? Am I right to leave? Is this what I should be doing with my life? I want so desperately to feel like I haven’t squandered the time I’ve been given. So, I try hard to follow things I’m in love with. It felt that way, driving home from Suttle Lake, back to the coast, back to Allyson. Coming out of the Cascades it began to rain, and it would rain the whole way home. We were both making our way back to the ocean, our home for now. The questions were still there: “how did I get here?” “am I right for this?” But, at least for the time, the questions faded behind this want to know all these lovely things around me more deeply. To prove myself worthy of my citizenship.