This week we had a bit of a cold snap on the Oregon Coast which looks pretty tame by general winter temperature standards, but is worse than it looks. We dipped into the 30s fairly regularly, which usually doesn’t cause me much concern and still doesn’t. But that wet, ocean air does make the cold feel colder. The chill can get in your bones, and it takes some work to get it out. This cold is deceptive.
Still, the sun has made some memorable appearances throughout the week that draw a person out even into shivery weather like this. On Wednesday, Hope and I were meeting, discussing some of next year’s summer staff positions. Out the window, we could tell the sun was getting close to the horizon, so we decided to move our meeting to the beach. During our first summer in 2015, we made a regular routine of watching the sunset, debriefing the day as the colors changed over the ocean. Now we were here in late December planning a summer, both in holding new positions, both feeling a little older. But, that sunset was still there, still making art across the sky. We could see snow on the tops of the coastal mountains behind Neahkhanie. The wind was biting. We continued our meeting, though, shivering, pausing every now and then to comment on what we were watching.
Things finally slowed down enough for Allyson and I to take a few days and travel. We’d been wanting to go to Bend, Oregon for some time, so we booked a room and left on Thursday. When we made our reservations, we didn’t realize we were planning to cross two Oregon mountain ranges on a day that foretasted a foot of snow in places along with freezing rain. We were determined, though, to take this time and see these places, even if we had to double our travel time or commandeer a team of sled dogs. We made it through the coastal range fairly easily, with just a few icy patches on the most shaded curves of the pass. Then we hit the Cascades.
At the base of these beautiful mountains, it was typical Oregon rainy. But, as we got deeper into the mountains, we began to see more and more snow. At first it was a dusting, but it continued to coat more and more of the terrain. We saw the Douglas Firs coated with snow powder, looking like some sort of nostalgic Christmas postcard. They towered over us like a wintry cathedral. We were both hypnotized by the beauty rising up all around us. As we moved deeper into the mountain pass, the snow grew thicker and thicker. For the first time in both of our lives, we came to a point where we were required to attach chains to our tires. I learned from the Les Scwhab youtube videos, and they are fine teachers. While I was kneeling down on the snow in a Detroit, Oregon parking area, snow and ice began to fall, and my clothes grew wet and cold. Chains attached, I jumped back into the car, and we crossed the Santiam Pass, onward to Bend.
I’ve been in this state the past few months where it is tough for me to just be present and enjoy the moment I am in. This is a problem that’s not unusual, and I’m sure I don’t have it as bad as some people in the world. Still, I find myself feeling like I should be getting something from my experiences that isn’t there. I’m in a beautiful place, and I realize it, but it doesn’t affect me the way it sometimes does. I’m hoping for something that isn’t happening, and noticing it isn’t happening does nothing to help. What it comes down to is that my brain has been recently disciplined to prepare itself for what is next and then what is coming after that next thing and after that. If I’m focusing on what’s in front of me, there is this internal nervousness that I might be unprepared for something else that is about to happen. The truth is that there are few things I can be totally prepared for. The truth is that there are too many wonderful things going on in the present moment for me to be ignoring them.
On Saturday, Allyson and I rented snow shoes and traveled to Virginia Meissner Sno Park. We trekked through snowy trails among evergreens coated in snow. It felt like we were traveling through a giant snow globe. There is something a long walk does to reset the mind, body, and spirit. A long time spent walking slows parts of a person down. The ears hear differently. The eyes begin to look at the world differently. The legs fall into a rhythm hard-wired into their DNA. We slip into a part of ourselves that is much older, much more ancient. I am longing to spend more time in this part of my body these days.
As we traveled through this part of our new home state, Allyson and I talked about how many beautiful places were just a day’s drive away. I thought about how just days ago I stood next to the ocean and now Allyson and I were moving over snow covered buttes and canyons. I will surely look back on this time getting to know this region where we live nostalgically. I feel we are laying a foundation of something deep and meaningful. I’m trying to wake a part of myself up, like I’m waking up a younger version of myself telling him he needs to get up and go outside to play. There is a foot of snow on the ground.
On the way home, we drove back through the Santiam Pass, with flurries all around. The snow pack was tighter and we were much more comfortable driving on it. We ended up not using chains on our tires on the way back. Rather we moved along at 30mph, surrounding by these towering old grandfathers, resting underneath their white blankets. We repeated over and over how beautiful it was. We told each other more than once how glad we were that we went through with the trip–that we didn’t let the weather forecast deter us. Sure, we were stuck driving slow, but sometimes being slowed down is exactly what you need.