It seems we spend much of our lives learning how to be structured and efficient, how to worry and blaze through tasks. Then we spend the other part learning to let go of that control and appreciate, how to taste the fruits of the work required in the side part of life. April was a month accented by a phenomenal trip that refreshed me and brought me out of a sleep. The rest of April I worked without a single other day off. Now May was here and it looked to be similar. At some point my daughter would be born and I would take some time away. Until then, though, there was much to accomplish. Still, I have found myself lately more able to live into the structure and the chaos, to both accomplish and enjoy.
On Tuesday I left right after work for a doctor’s appointment, where we would look at the results of some routine bloodwork. It turns out I could use more vitamin D and I’m a bit dehydrated. Allyson had already eaten when I finished, so I drove up to The Big Wave for a quiet solo dinner. It was drizzling outside which left a fog hanging in the trees at the base of Neahkhanie Mountain. There was a chill in the air and what daylight was left was waning. I ordered the french dip and had a glass of the house pinot noir while reading. The music channel being played was 70s soft rock, which normally would have solicited eye rolls from me, but for some reason it matched up with the setting perfectly. On this gray evening, looking at the foggy trees, slowly taking in this tasty food and drink at one of my local haunts, it was like James Taylor and Jim Croce knew exactly how to compliment a mood. I felt like I could have been in several different time periods at once. I could have been in my own time, the time this music was first hitting the airwaves, or some kind of cross of the two. I like feeling like I might be able to be in more than one time while in one place.
On Wednesday I was back at the Big Wave again, and I took some friends this time. Melinda arrived at the beginning of the week to get to know camp, because she will be serving in a Director capacity while I’m on paternity leave. She and her husband, David, are both camp people who I’ve known for nearly 10 years, and they’ve become good friends. They have been wanting oysters since they got to the Oregon Coast, and I knew the Big Wave could satisfy that need. Allyson, Hope, and I met Melinda and David and they started us off with a round of oyster shooters. David said they were some of the best oyster shooters he’s ever had. We love taking people to our favorite places on the Oregon Coast–we feel like these places spoil us.
We finished up our meal just before sunset, and I had told David and Melinda I’d take them to a blow-your-mind spot to catch the sun go down. Allyson was ready to get off her feet, and Hope was ready to get back as well, so I served as personal tour guide to David and Melinda to catch sunset near Devil’s Cauldron. We made the familiar hike we takes so many visitors to off the side of Neahkhanie Mountain down to the very edge of the cliff where sheer rock faces drop hundreds of feet into the ocean. We watched the last glimpses of the sun, saw the colors change, watched the sea birds return to their nests hollowed out on the cliffs. Melinda gave me a hug and told me thanks for sharing this place with them. David and I took a selfie with the cliff and that big blue ocean in the background. There was much work to do, but experiences like this were fuel to keep at the tasks. These experiences, these connections to other people, this is really what my work is trying to make possible.
My birthday came on Thursday, and I spent most of it hammering away at that aforementioned work. I am trying very diligently to be sure I feel good about taking time off from work, that I’ve left my staff without a lot of ways they’ll have to cover me. I’ve been focused on what it will take to do that long enough that I didn’t pay too much attention to the fact it was my birthday. We had lunch in the dining hall with a group of about 150 middle schoolers. The Outdoor School staff made the announcement that it was my birthday and had me stand up so they could serenade me. After a rendition of happy birthday done only the way 150 middle schoolers can, I turned back to the table to see a cast iron skillet with a chocolate chip cookie and several candles.
By the end of the day I hardly had the energy to go out, and the rain certainly did not do anything to encourage me either. When Allyson asked what I’d like to do, I told her I was content to watch the replay of the Cubs/Phillies game that day. It was an exciting game, where the Cubs were down in the bottom of the 8th, but came back to tie. It went to extra innings and finally ended in the 13th when the Cubs scored on a throwing error. The game ended and I slumped onto the pillow of the couch and feel asleep. It was a comfortable, satisfying end to the day.
As we grow older, it’s common to wonder about the passage of time. For the past two or three years, I’ve just been considering myself 40, because I’m close enough. I don’t feel like what I imagine 40 to mean for a person. It’s also difficult to wrap my brain around the fact that the 90s, what on some days I consider my golden era, are 20 years past. Nevermind that the 70s when I was born were 40 years ago. I can hear the music and be back there or at least feel something that seems like it. I hope that the experiences I’m creating now make these same sort of memories for this time. Keeping something in your muscle memory, committing a song into your mental jukebox connects you to a period in time. It gives you this way of being in several places, this way of putting them all together. No, it won’t ever be exactly the same again. But, I don’t need it to be. I just want to remember the music. I just want to see my boys play. I just want the work to make something special possible.