One thing I have been learning about myself this summer is that I am not given to balance. I am given to extremes. Maybe this is surprising, but it’s true. I’ve known before that I am a black or white thinker, that though I can make arguments for the gray I believe very strongly that one way or another is right. I don’t always act on the belief, but if I listen to my inner voice I tend to know distinctly exactly what I think and it leaves little room for anything on the margins. But I’ve just begun to realize how this manifests in patterns of behavior, too. I am either not writing at all or writing all the time, I’m either gone every weekend going full tilt in outdoor adventures or staying close to home and finding reasons to not leave, I’m super social and building a community or seeing no one at all, I’m feasting or I’m stuck in famine, I’m watching my budget or I’m blowing it entirely. There rarely is a middle ground. I have a hard time doing a little of both, all the time.
My dad tells a story to us sometimes about a night he spent alone in the mountains outside of Baker during a terrible storm. He said he laid in a little lean-to tent and listened to trees crashing down around him with the force of the weather—thunder, lightning, ferocious wind. I think about that story every now and then because the thought of it terrifies me. To be alone in a storm without shelter, to be so out of control, is a deeply upsetting thought to me. But then, when I found myself in a storm on the mountain just like my dad, I realized that maybe I’m tougher than I give myself credit for.
Once, when we were at Lake of the Woods, I was admiring my grandma’s nest collection up on the wall and a thought occurred to me: it must feel so safe in there to a bird. A place you’ve worked hard to make your own, made to fit you especially. I said out loud, I think I’d like to sleep in a nest, you know? My dad and uncle, who were the closest to me, did not know. I was gently teased for thinking about sleeping in a nest, but that’s not really the point. The point is that I have always been drawn to place as a stand-in for safety, for peace, and for quiet comfort.
A few weeks ago, my sister, her partner and I were sitting at the table we set up on the back porch of our house. It was a warm night, we were eating white bean salad. I was sitting low, cross-legged, in a camp chair with my back to the yard, when Sam said, what does CC have?
In early June, one of my favorite adventure friends and I met for drinks to plan a weekend trip to Lake Blanca in the North Cascades. We figured the weekend right after Fourth of July would work best for both of us, with the holiday, and since it was a trip we’d been trying to do for a couple of years we were really committed to going. The 5 1/2 hour drive up on a weekend? No problem. Beating the crowds and finding a campsite? We were old pros. As last weekend got closer, we texted back and forth about how the weather looked good, and when we could get out of town, and who would bring what. It may come as a surprise to you then to find out that come Saturday night, I was sitting around a campfire at a different lake entirely, an hour and a half from Portland and couldn’t have been happier.