This week’s weather somehow managed to even outdo last week’s, which was no small task. The world is waking up on the coast. The rhododendrons’ tight furled-up buds are just before an overnight explosion into colorful flowers. The sunsets are later and later, providing this refreshing feeling when you end the day at work that there is a second half to the day, something more for you to experience.
Opening Day of Major League Baseball came this week, which for me might as well be a holiday. My Chicago Cubs have higher odds for winning it all this year, probably than they have in over 100 years. This team is stacked, but in baseball there are no guarantees. The Cardinals really deserved to win it all last year and they got dropped by the Cubs, who then went on to get dropped by a Mets team they swept in the regular season. The cynic evaluating these outcomes would say these teams choked. I see it more as there are lots of different types of “good,” and sometimes our choices of which types of good to reward over other types can be a little arbitrary.
I’ve been excited about Opening Day each year for quite a stretch, even when the biggest question mark about the Cubs was whether they would finish last or next to last. It’s still the return or baseball. In every opening day in my memory, it is bright and sunny outside. I have some sort of grilled food. I feel awake and fresh. I’m sure that’s not how every opening day has actually been. But, my mind associates these things together: sunshine, royal blue, perfectly grilled meat, green grass, the voice of Pat Hughes or Len Kasper. These are signals to me of a time that has come again.
Our good friend Lisa came to visit for the week along with her boyfriend Keegan. Lisa is one of those friends who went from camper to staffer to friend, and who is also now a camp colleague. This was our first time meeting Keegan, and it fit in very quickly. He’s a poster child for extroverts, constantly positive, carrying the appreciation for just about everything we did, which is a great quality in a house guest. Lisa texted and asked places they should check out near Portland the day they landed. I suggested Multnomah Falls and Vista Point and then a dinner at Dick’s Kitchen. That evening I got a text that read: “WOW, welcome to Oregon! Keegan said, ‘Troy killed it.'”
I had to spend a lot of time in the office this week, prepping for the Counselor/Dean Training I just finished up, but I took Wednesday afternoon off to play. Keegan spent some of his childhood in Oregon and had fond memories of Newport, and we had not yet traveled there, so made it our destination. It’s really tough to go wrong visiting any spot on the Oregon Coast, and Newport is certainly no exception. It’s prominent features include a little harbor with a marina and a row of restaurants and shops hugging the water. Highway 101 crosses the harbor in the form a tall, beautiful bridge, buttressed by enormous arches. We snacked at the Rogue Brewery, then tekked farther south to Cape Perpetua for a hike.
While sitting with friends, overlooking the marina in the shade of a beautiful bridge or hiking the side of green mountainsides, I got that familiar feeling of wonder that my life has brought me here, that it still manages to intersect with people I know from other places, that it also continues to add new people to this network of friends I’ve been blessed to know. There are new associations building. I don’t know exactly what they’ll be, who they be with. Will it be the taste of something? The memory of the sun coming through the ocean air in the shadow of a bridge? The view from up high as a marine layer drifts in to blanket a cape dressed in evergreens? How will all these associations web themselves together? What will attach itself to me most stubbornly?
The Cubs, so far, are off to a great start. They handled the Angels with ease, and took 3/4 from the Diamondbacks. Kyle Swarber, one of their young prospects who seems on the fast track to super-stardom collided with Dexter Fowler, the center-fielder, tore his ACL and LCL and ended his season. That hurts, but this team is good enough that they had another young stud waiting to take his place. After the first game, my brother-in-law Adam (a Cardinal fan) texted me: “You’re going to win 120 games.” My baseball watching experience has taught me to have no expectations, just to hope for a good game today. That cuts down on the heart break, the Cubs are known bringing to their fans. I am, though, very happy with today.
At the end of our Wednesday outing, we caught the sunset at Seal Rock. We climbed agate rocks, poked around the tide pools, and snapped cell phone pictures of the sun disappearing behind the ocean waves. As daylight was waning, I noticed some formations on a nearby rock that seemed a little too rounded. I asked everyone if they thought it might be seals. We went back and forth convinced it wasn’t, then convinced it was, then that it wasn’t again. Finally, we stared at them long enough to notice a little bit of movement, confirming that we had indeed seen seals at Seal Rock. I shared with Lisa this refrain that I’m still reminding myself that this is now my home. It still feels a little unbelievable.
There was an evening where the sunset synced up almost perfectly with low tide. The Cubs had just started, but I felt this tug to get back out and not squander a good sunset, so I paused the game and went out to the beach. I wrote a prayer in my journal as I watched the sun once again end its day with us. I walked down to the edge of the water and let the surf come in over my feet, taking the place in as light faded. I noticed in my periphery someone emerging from the beach trail at camp, and I made my way back to see who it was.
An Outdoor School student had gotten away from his group and was sitting, watching the ocean, seeking some alone time. I talked to him for a few minutes, offering him some consolation about the problems he was having with other students. Why talked about why people act like they do, what we as human beings want out of life. He said the sound of the ocean can really be calming, can really help you think. I agreed. Before I had to usher him back to his group, a staff member came up, relieved to find his lost student. I was glad I had gone out to see the sunset. Glad that I happened to be enjoying the tides when this kid felt the need to wander out there.
I am fascinated by how people or places sometimes intersect with someone at a moment in time, can have an impact, then move on in their respective trajectories, sometimes never meeting again, sometimes returning to each other over and over. I wonder why this student thinks I was there. I understand these stories from scripture where someone encounters a traveler and can’t decide whether they are angels or not. I wonder if I will ever see this student again, if our conversation stays with him, like it did me. I hope that I might become an angel of sorts for people, encountering them along the road and offering them good news, life altering words that I just picked up along the trail, just before meeting them.
It can be unclear why we become attached to what we do, why we pick up the things we carry. Sometimes, though, we find ourselves in a certain place at a certain time and for just a few moments there is clarity.