Hello again, Everyone. Hello Notepad. Hello Troy. It has been a while, what seems like a long while. I’ve pulled this notepad out of the desk drawer after something like a long, difficult trip, and I’m still processing it. I’ll likely be processing it for months to come on these white slates, with Allyson, with friends, in my mind when I lay awake at night. I have been away Everyone. I’ve been hard at work, Notepad. But, we are finally returning, Troy.
I spent much of the week in Eastern Oregon, at Wallowa Lake United Methodist Camp. My mom planned a trip as a Christmas present to my dad last year and asked me to chose a place and set it up. I thought it would be a nice time to reconnect with family after another camp summer had wrapped up. I did not realize how much I would long for this time when it finally came around. I limped to this week, exhausted, numbed by the work required in this last month. I met my Dad and Adam, getting off the MAX in Portland at the Chinatown stop. I hugged them both, eager to take this journey together.
I find a large part of my identity wrapped up in being a traveler, so taking trips feels very much in my blood. Something I was born with, something instinctual. I’ve had Iron and Wine’s album Kiss Each Other Clean in my head this week. It begins with the song, “Walking Far From Home.” In it, I hear the story of a traveler who saw many things along his journey. It is chocked full of images, things beautiful and terrible, inspiring and scary. All of these images add up to something, but I don’t know exactly what. They seem heavy, like a string of events that lead to something huge, some kind of revolution. It sounds biblical and also like something that could begin tomorrow. It sounds like a prophesy.
We arrived at Wallowa Lake late in the afternoon and had dinner in Joseph. This is the land of the Nez Perce. This is the land that Chief Joseph held sacred more than 100 years ago. I can see natives crossing the planes, ascending the mountains. It feels like this land knows a great deal, that it holds a silent wisdom. Everything is so large and visible–the lake, the mountains, the plains–they rise and stretch far beyond you when you stand in front of them. On the second full day of the trip, we took a tram up the side of Mount Howard and hiked it’s summit. I was small and tiny compared to all this, but I felt a sense of purpose just in traversing it. To witness it, to stow it away in memory, to walk somewhere else and carry it–these things seem important to me.
I have seen so much in this past month, things that, no doubt, will usher in some kind of future change. I’ve seen people come and go. People have been taken away in hand cuffs. People have been dismissed, people have been brought on. I have seen people at their lowest, not wanting to carry on. I have seen people find new reason to continue. I have seen tears, heard angry rants, rounds of laughter. I’ve stood in the storm and the calm. It seems a year’s worth of hardship and joy have been crammed into a few weeks. I am traversing it. It stretches far beyond me in many directions, and I don’t know what it all means. I walk through it, bearing witness, searching for the right way to live in it.
One day, the camp director, David, took my dad, Adam, and me fly fishing. None of us had ever fly fished before, but that didn’t stop it from being a great experience for all of us. Fly fishing marries one of the most practical things in life–getting food–with this beautiful art like a dance when you begin to learn it. It was good for my soul to stand in a mountain stream surrounded by yellowy dry hills, cragged with deep red flaky boulders. To put my mind simply on casting the line, on throwing it smoothly, making it curve as it sets the fly on the water like the October caddis floating above us. I needed to give my mind a rest from its anxiousness. It needed to lie down and sleep, but it did not know how to settle down. I needed to turn things over to my body, to my instincts.
It will be some time settling down from what has passed this past month. I find myself having a difficult time turning thoughts off when I lay down. I’ve found this mode that served me well in the most intense times, but it is not a sustainable mode. It is one that must be put to rest. For me to look back on this and process it, for me to begin writing and following a vision for the future, I need to find comfort again with quiet, with recreation, with the song and the journey.
This week I felt a bit like a patient, coming out of some sort of procedure. I felt weak and slow. I am recovering as we all do following challenging moments in our lives. I have images in my mind from these weeks where I did not write. Things that were said to me that will stay for some time. I will go back to them and questions them, they will speak to me over and over. I travel through this and look at it, replaying it with my memory. Changes are coming in my life, that is certain. I have heard the voices. They are loud. Things will not be as we thought they were. We may look back on the things we see now and find them defining something much bigger, something we couldn’t totally see at the time. I am working to ground myself in the things I love, the people who support me, the moments that are so vivid that even your body makes memories of them, like casting the line and feeling it curve into a beautiful arch above your head.
The last line of “Walking Far From Home,” goes “…it came like a call from the Lord.” I try hard not to inflate my importance in all of this, but this song compels me to pay close attention to what we see on our journey, great and terrible. I hope this journey has left me with a powerful song, I hope wrapped up in all this is a call to something greater from something greater. I will go walking into it, looking to bear witness, praying the change will be for the good.