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.
There’s a saying that that I thought of often during college, whenever one of my friend group would go home or after summers, or when I would go home myself. It’s gotten a little fuzzy for me now but it was something like “When we go back to a place we see not how it has changed, but how we have.” I know someone famous said it, probably a writer, but I can’t find the origin anymore. I thought of it often because I wondered if it was true. Sometimes I would go home after being away in New Orleans, and it felt as if Milwaukie and my high school friends became a kind of measuring stick—a way to see all the new things I was and had become. Then it felt true. But other times I would come back and find that the city and the people in it really had changed, not just me, or I’d been somewhere else new and felt that I was seeing Milwaukie through an entirely different perspective that made it feel like it had changed.
Over the weekend, on a very normal dog walk with Remi and Cedar, I discovered something small and wonderful. It lifted me and changed my whole day around. Here's what happened. I hadn’t slept well Thursday night, then stayed out too late on Friday, then went with my sisters and our dear friend Lilly to a series of garage sales (one of the most exhausting activities known to man). I’d broken a temporary crown earlier in the day, at brunch, and it kept irritating my tongue and was making it difficult to eat (plus, I think we can all agree, it’s hard to have something wrong with you—it makes even simple tasks feel complicated). And I was looking down the barrel of another night out with a big group of people, and I knew I had to do something (anything) to shake myself awake and feel a little more enthusiastic about the looming night of loud bars I had in front of me. So I took the dogs for a walk, no headphones, for a change in perspective. That’s when I found them.
When we are on the water the rest of the world does not seem to exist: no normal worries, none of the usual stress. Freed from the background noise of airplanes and traffic, away from the linear grid of the city, we are unburdened by all the things with which civilization weighs us down. Even the good things fade to the background—the memory of a green and fertile garden, the soft whisper of wind through deciduous trees. What I mean to say is that the river is reductive, and in doing so, becomes expansive.
It’s been a weird week for me, which is the simplest way I can say all of the feelings that have been held in my body. I've been both deliriously happy as I celebrated the last two years of really hard work, but also for some reason teared up this morning listening to Champagne Supernova (of all the songs…???). I feel like I’m holding onto a pendulum that’s swinging wildly, and quite honestly I’m feeling resistant to labeling or putting some objective description in an attempt to make this time more manageable. The end of the school year is almost entirely wrapped, I’m applying for jobs, I’m confronting whatever it is I want to do with the rest of my life while also trying to live in the moment and feel excited for the summer. I can’t really summarize everything, and probably will only be able to with the benefit of time. So this week I’m presenting a three-part post: a few lines here and there, with a little sound experiment thrown in for good measure.