what i will miss
i shared an uber with someone from the south on a recent trip to dc. mentioned what i no longer see in my pacific nw home. bluebonnets and lightning bugs, crape myrtle and lightning bugs, blue jays and cicadas. did i mention lightning bugs? lightning and thunder. the sunset on wide open plains. snapping turtles and horny toads. sometimes the heat. and more than anything the palpable relief from the heat. a wind through an open window. a shade tree. the damp morning coolness.
things i will miss. from here. the ocean, the mountains, and snow. the occasional, unbothered stillness of a land with so few bugs and things that bite and sting. sitting by a fire and sleeping under a blanket. orcas and islands and eagles. and mountains and oceans and snow.
every story starts with you or i. you were there at a gathering and i was awestruck and bitten. i had to leave, and you had to stay. every story ends.
the travel takes some getting used to. in addition to the regular trips to washington, i was asked to go to new orleans, one of the few major us destinations i've missed. being a texan, it never seemed that far away, but i always resented it in principle. it was disneyland for drunken swamprats as well as the city my mother and new stepfather chose for their honeymoon. we obviously weren't invited, and one of the souvenirs they brought back, a pair of ceramic venetian mardi gras wall masks, hung in every one of the the next 10 houses we lived in as we traveled the country making and abandoning childhood friends, emblematic of the military stepbrat lifestyle. i avoided the big easy because i knew i would hate it.
and i did. it wasn't fair, really. i no longer look forward to social side excursions on these voyages. i am an objectively better person than before. i booked a red eye and arrived at the airport around 6 am. i caught a lyft to the french quarter knowing my hotel room would not be ready, and walked along the riverfront to cafe du monde and did touristy things and wandered back to canal street via bourbon and it was already over 80 degrees and humid and the streets smelled of urine and vomit. they let me into my room early, and i slept til late afternoon, before joining work colleagues at brennan's for banana foster and someplace someplace for a sazerac. i bought gifts before my conference workshops, and returned on the earliest flight. i encountered nothing from what i remembered in my childhood living in this part of the world, except the stifling heat.
a week ago, i returned from northern california. my family traveled with my brother in law in his new rv to the redwoods, and because of work, i could only join them for the weekend. i drove down through oregon, where we stayed a night on the umpqua river. and i remember driving past roseburg and marveling at the vast oak savannas. at the border, we had to pull over to check for fruit and vegetables, and later i told the kids stories about trips i took 40 years ago, when our parents had us eat pounds of peaches and apples rather than throw them away at the agricultural control checkpoint.
it was cold and misty our first night along the smith river, and we listened to a mountain lion crying and screaming in the hills above us. in the morning, we walked through the grove of titans and in the afternoon, we strolled along south beach on the pacific ocean, and i remembered how dull and distressed and bleak these nw ocean towns can be. before i left, i took my son fishing, and he caught a single, beautiful cutty, which we released. at the parking lot, a man was waiting by his car when a woman drove up beside him, exited, and they embraced, oblivious or uncaring of our presence. i drove home to an empty house as fast as traffic would allow, avoiding delays and accidents where i could. i missed the old waddles sign, as i crossed the columbia.