On Saturday morning, I found myself laying in bed, drifting in and out of consciousness and listening intently for footsteps upstairs. Because, you see, Rachelle's room is right above mine, and if she was walking around, it would mean that it was definitely time for me to get up. That's a difficult reality to face when it's 7 a.m. on a Saturday and you went to Putter's* three (separate) times the night before, but that's neither here nor there. Somehow, with a strength I think should be awarded some kind of medal, I got up, packed and into a car headed for Bend, OR.
The drive highlights included, but weren't limited to: a stop in Sandy, OR for Joe's Donuts--the donuts were delicious, the rancid milk Rachelle drank was not. We found lactose free yogurt in a questionable gas station in Warm Springs, which didn't make sense until we remembered that our people on the rez weren't good with lactose either--I finally connected some dots between my own miserable GI tract and my heritage, so that was positive. Then I slept the rest of the way to Bend, without any shame whatsoever.
Once we got into town we sped right on up into the Cascades, found the most desolate lake possible, and claimed a piece of it as our own. Elk Lake was stark and grey when we arrived, all smoke and mirrors. We thought maybe you could see Bachelor in the summer from where we were, but we quickly realized that fall was certainly upon us. This was reinforced later when we met my Muckle Matt in downtown Bend and told him that we were camping in the Cascades. He asked if we were on drugs, because it'll snow up there tonight no question. My Aunt Lynn came to our rescue, saying that was the kind of thing they would've done too at our age, for sure. So naturally we shrugged all warnings off and plunged ahead into the dark, cold night up at Elk Lake.
A sidenote, before I outline the perils of that journey: I'm discovering more and more how enjoyable my family is. Now that my sister and I are semi-adults (she may be full adult, I may be less than, so semi cuts it pretty close to the truth) we can engage in real conversation with my Aunts and Uncles. It's great, I love it. It's like a whole new set of friends, who are cool and wise, with great stories. It's sort of bewildering, because it's an odd combination of feeling like I'm trying to impress people who have no choice but to care about me, but also security because, well, they have no choice but to care about me. My Uncle Matt and Aunt Lynn are a lot of fun, and we had a great time with them.
When we drove back up to Elk Lake after a stint at Oktoberfest, which felt surprisingly authentic and included a lot of collective Ya-ing to the beat of an authentic oom-pah band, we encountered a sort of fog clinging to the road that was terrifying for someone with an imagination like mine. Which is to say, the rest of the night all I could think about was how there may or may not be a skeleton army in the woods. Why would I think that, you might ask. I have no good answer, but if you could think of anything more horrible than having to fight a skeleton in the dark, tell me what it would be. But first, consider this: the battle sounds would be bone on bone all the time, and if there is anything more horrible than bone on bone sounds, I never want to know. But all in all it wasn't that bad of a night, we really were plenty warm and we knew that even if we weren't, it was going to make a great story. In some ways, we were almost crossing our fingers for snow the next morning!
I was thinking later about the perverseness of that, of half hoping for the worst, because Ben was running a half marathon in some pretty brutal conditions. Rachelle and I stood huddled by a ski lift as snow flurried around the start line and nearly 120 people gathered to do this race, and I thought, these people are crazy. They ran through a blizzard on the top of Mount Bachelor! But later, when Ben said that it was definitevely the hardest race of his life but how happy he was that he did it, it hit me. I think, in a lot of ways, we're all living for the story we'll tell later--about the coldest night we ever spent, about the time we blitzed from Portland to Bend and back in 36 hours, ran into an Oktoberfest, slept in the rain on a deserted lake, and watched Ben run the hardest race of his life. If experiences are what define you, force you to grow, then we're all in the business of getting as much out of our experiences as we can. And sometimes that means doing things that seem a little crazy from the outside, but really are just a chance to stretch outside the norm, bring home a tale to tell and chalk it up to experience.
I've been making a real effort to do this lately, because it's keeping my mind busy and my heart full. I'm finding that I am best when doing, at my sharpest and clearest when I've gone and tried something new. The will to explore and travel and go beyond where we've gone before, that's something to nurture. Within limits, of course. I mean I'm taking trips to Bend. I had a friend that I went to Senegal with move to Antarctica a couple weeks ago. I said au revoir, mon ami, have a great time--I probably won't visit. We can only do so much, right?
*Putter's is rapidly becoming my new favorite watering hole. Everyone said don't go in, so naturally I was inexplicably drawn to it. What can I say? Nothing can be as good/bad as the Boot, so I think I'll be fine.