The first glimpse of ocean is a spiritual moment, every time.
We made it as far as Bend, Oregon, last night before calling it quits and settling into a motel that was unquestionably clean, but quite questionably decorated… We walked this morning to a small diner for COFFEE (and ok, breakfast) and then hit the mountain roads to the coast and arrived at our Newport campground around lunchtime.
After offloading the motorcycle from its trailer, we got camp set up with semi-military precision (Jon being the “military ” half of that equation, and me being the “semi”)… And then we took out the bike!
Newport’s bridge is iconic to this area like the Golden Gate is to San Francisco, and I’ve always loved driving across it. But oh my gosh! It’s amazing how different the crossing is on a bike!
In a car or truck your view is constricted and framed, but on the bike you have the full 360 view at once—not to mention the unimpeded soundtrack and the full smell of ocean air. The marina of sailboats, the channel out to sea, the gulls, the returning fishing boats, the overarching green bridge structure—its all so much “closer” when you’re on a motorcycle. I tried to take a photo, but realized the photo has the same limitations as a windshield—only a fraction fits in the frame. So I have to leave this one to words.
I love experiencing something familiar in an entirely new way. Reframing an experience by losing the frame.
“The world is not in your books and maps. It’s OUT THERE.” ~Gandalf, to Bilbo Baggins
I’m grateful for books and maps when I’m not traveling… But given the choice, I prefer travel! Of course, my travels won’t involve a dragon (unless it’s the dragon-kite we flew on the beach last year), so I don’t need to muster as much courage as Bilbo did…
Hopefully we’re also better prepared than Mr. Baggins, who had to make do without his left-behind pocket handkerchief. We, at least, had time for a packing-list.
Still, what’s a journey without an obstacle? Ours was not a fire-breathing dragon, but a diesel-spewing fuel line just outside of Burns, Oregon. Jon climbed up and disappeared under the hood, emerging with some of his creative not-quite-cussword vocabulary… and the part we’d need replaced.
Just as we were about to (laboriously) unload the motorcycle from its trailer, prayer-for-an-assist got answered in the person of a Sheriff, who gave Jon a lift to town—and then proceeded to take him from shop to shop in search of the part we needed. At High Desert Diesel (bless their hearts!) they took the part off a truck that was in their shop for repair (and would be there anyway till after the new part came in).
The High Desert guy drove Jon back out to where I was standing guard on the truck (well, ok—sitting guard, in my camping chair. With a book. And a sandwich) and Jon had it fired up in about three minutes flat!
One of the things I love about a road trip is the lovely, lengthy conversation it often becomes. With so much time unfilled by other stimuli, we TALK. About work, about stories from our past, about pipe dreams, about goofy abstracts. We made up verses for a new song. We talked about things we saw, and things those things reminded us of…
I sat for hours with the open road-atlas on my lap, tracing our route landmark by landmark as we talked. I know, I know—my phone could have told us where to go… But you know what? Like Bilbo, I DO love a map. Especially combined with SEEING the world that’s “in” it.
My dad used to say that the enjoyment of travel was divided into three parts: 1) planning & anticipating; 2) the trip itself; and 3) re-living the memories. I always suspected he got his greatest amount of enjoyment from that first category—the man was a planner! He put together a six-month road trip through Europe in 1984 with every night pre-planned and reserved, all arranged by letter in that pre-internet era… So he knew trip-planning!
I’ve been feeling some of the same thrill this week as we prep and pack for our week on the Oregon Coast, leaving tomorrow. Jon has the truck half-loaded with camping gear and scuba gear, and our packing-list is growing even as we cross things off.
The weather report for the whole week looks gorgeous—sunny and in the 60s, when we could have expected Oregon rain—and we’re talking eagerly about poking through tide pools, climbing the lighthouse, eating clam chowder, visiting the aquarium, motorcycling along the coastal highway (we’re driving the truck and trailering a bike), flying a kite on the beach, scuba diving along the shoreline, maybe even taking out a fishing charter…
We always get asked if we’re “taking the house” on vacation with us—a reasonable question, since we live in an RV, but no. We have reservations at a lovely campground right by the shore, and we’re perfectly comfortable in a tent. Besides, I think it would feel like “cheating”—less of an adventure—if we didn’t leave home when we left home. (True, we wouldn’t have to pack if we hauled the home… But it’s a big rig, and so much more than we need for the week!)
Yesterday morning Facebook popped up one of its suggested “one-year-ago” memories to re-post: a photo of us on the coast last summer. Perfectly timed to amp up my excitement!
We just stopped at Walmart for a cooler and sandwich-fixin’s, and came home to pack our suitcase. I must be a girl—I took more than my half!
I’m still a little haunted. On my psychiatrist’s chart, that condition is spelled out “P-T-S-D,” but I think “haunted” is a better descriptor of the experience.
As much as I’ve tried to process it, my brain still doesn’t entirely know what to do with some of the sights, sounds, and experience my memory contains. I’m speaking specifically of the morning my second husband committed suicide, shooting himself in the head while I stood face to face with him. That stuff-in-my-head bubbles up uncomfortably with some triggers, and surfaces in nightmares. I don’t do well with seeing people shot on television; Jon has become expert at changing the channel with just a breath of notice. And he’s great at the gentle wake-up when I’m whimpering in my sleep.
Jon has his own PTSD trigger, thanks to his combat role in Desert Storm. Let’s just say he’s not a fan of fireworks—especially the whistling rockets that sound “just like incoming SCUD missiles.” Our RV Park is situated right next door to a semi-pro baseball stadium, where they set off fireworks regularly after games. We have notes on the calendar about fireworks-nights, just so they don’t catch Jon off guard. Four nights this week. I think he was only half joking when he asked Monday if he could return fire.
Fireworks don’t usually cause me trouble, so I was surprised Sunday night when they caught me off guard—I had already fallen asleep, and woke panicked to what I thought was gunfire.
The next morning I tried an exorcism-by-ink. Not tattoo-ink this time, but writing. I wrote out absolutely every detail I could remember from that Sunday morning, from when I woke up until when my mom arrived (having driven 300 miles in record time) a few hours later. I wrote about every sight, sound, even smell I could dredge out of my memory, and put it all on paper. I wrote out every piece of conversation with the 911 dispatcher, emergency responders, and detectives. I wrote about my living room, after it had been released from its “crime scene” status—the man removed by EMTs and the gun removed by police, but every other bit of “evidence” still remaining. I re-lived the whole thing on purpose and wrote thousands of words. It felt therapeutic. I guess time will tell whether it helped.
Last night I faced the fireworks in sort of the same way. The city’s holiday display is usually staged in a park upriver from us, but this year’s flooding rendered the usual spot too soggy, so the Fourth of July fireworks were moved to the fairgrounds right next to the ballpark and our RV park. I climbed up on our RV roof when I heard them start, and washed the whole show, rockets blooming beneath the nearly-full moon.
It was beautiful. And while I was looking at the whole picture, I wasn’t bothered by the resemblance to gunfire-noise. I’m hoping my therapy-writing will serve the same purpose. Big picture: I was face to face with Keoni when he fired that bullet, but I wasn’t hit. He broke my heart that morning—but hearts have amazing capacity for healing, and my life today is filled with love and joy. Today when one of his sayings flitted through my mind, I felt amused instead of uncomfortable or angry. Maybe that writing is doing its work.
My 13-year-old daughter asked me last week if I’ve seen “Wonder Woman.” When I shook my head, she grasped my arm and leaned toward me earnestly. “It’s beautiful. You have to see it.” Accordingly, we made plans to see it together yesterday. She’s right—the movie is beautifully done, and though I’m more a “Pirates of the Caribbean” kind of girl, I enjoyed the artistic accomplishments of the film, as well as my artistic daughter’s appreciation of it.
The really precious time, though, was after the movie, when we came out from the chilly air-conditioned theater to sit on a padded bench in the sunshine. We both put up our sandaled feet (with matching turquoise toenails–we tend to share an aesthetic) on the table in front of us and leaned back into the cushions—she rested her head on my shoulder and we held hands while we listened to the music piped out over the “entertainment square” and chatted until her ride arrived.
I suppose a “silver lining” of not having custody is that we don’t have the usual parent-teen conflicts going on, and the time we do spend together is usually spent in meaningful conversation. Last week we talked about her art, her friendships, the social dynamics of junior high, her thoughts about eighth grade, her current reading, and some “woman things” that I can hardly believe I’m discussing with my little girl… (Well, she may a young one—but she IS a woman now…)
My mother has promised to take each of the kids on a special Spring Break trip during high school. My son Christian knew exactly what he wanted to do, so they went sea kayaking in Mexico last year. Elena Grace, though, hasn’t come up with a plan for her trip, so yesterday we were brainstorming some of the adventurous things she likes to do. Turns out zip-lining is high on her list, so I texted my mother to see how she feels about that. (She’s not wild about heights, but she’s plenty adventurous—she kayaks and river-rafts and fly-fishes and scuba dives and travels around the world, and she just bought herself an RV for further adventuring!) I got a text back from her with a thumbs-up.
Today the kids are heading north for the first of a couple summer adventures with “Grandy,” as they call my mom. This first one will be taking out a crab boat in the Washington coast’s Deception Pass, and later they’re staying in a Montana cabin and going kayaking. Elena Grace says she’s been looking forward to the trip, but at the same time hasn’t gotten up sufficient interest or energy to pack for it. (“Wait, you’re leaving tomorrow, aren’t you?” … “Well, yes…”)
She thought for a moment and then observed, “I’ve been really lazy this last month since school let out. I’m kind of enjoying it, and kind of feel guilty about it at the same time. I’m just hanging out with my phone or my friends, or going swimming some days. And I know I’ll have fun on the trip, but I’m not in that mode yet.”
Another moment of thought, and she added: “You know that thing about how moving things keep moving, and things that aren’t moving stay still?”
Yup, that’s Newton’s First Law of Physics. “Inertia,” I supplied—and she seized on the word.
“Exactly. I’m feeling inertia. I haven’t been in motion, so it’s hard to get in motion.”
It’s an apt observation, and true of more things in life than just summer vacation. (It’s probably why my husband brings me coffee in bed before I even get up—I have a serious inertia-issue before my caffeine kicks in!)
She texted late last night to say she still hadn’t gotten around to packing. “Inertia?” I asked. “Laundry!” she replied, with an emoticon-grimace. Ah well, she’ll get it done—she inherited her mother’s propensity for procrastination (along with the associated ability to get things done in a last-minute flurry). She’s my own little Wonder Woman.
Sitting in a “town hall meeting” of Home Depot employees last week, several of us broached the subject of training with our store manager, Jeremy. The Home Depot offers some incredibly structured online training modules (I’m especially grateful for the interactive “Cashier’s College” that helped me weather my first days at the register!) but several of us felt our on-the-ground training had been rather haphazard. Invited to critique our experiences as employees, we gave voice to what we saw as gaps in the training process.
Jeremy is a master at the positive spin, and he proved as much in the town hall meeting. While he acknowledged the concern and validated our experiences, he also spun our critique into a pep-talk of a learning-moment. “Well, it IS a do-it-yourself store,” he said with a laugh, after acknowledging our concerns, and sharing the challenges inherent in employee training—“and sometimes that do-it-yourself culture will apply to learning too.” He talked like a teacher, speaking of Pushed Learning (like the online modules that are “served up” to the learner) contrasted with Pulled Learning (when you seek out the new knowledge for yourself).
Essentially he was inviting us to consider whether we’re content with limiting ourselves to what gets served up on a platter, or whether we want to take charge of our own experience. I came away feeling inspired to demonstrate that I AM invested in my own learning.
It was a timely pep-talk for me, because I’m embarking on a whole new learning-journey with my move from cashiering to the Service Desk. While I’m excited about the move, I’m all too aware that it’s a steep learning curve. There’s a whole new (complex) computer system and a load of new procedures and services for me to master before I’ll be effective there.
All in all, it’s the perfect time for me to feel inspired.
I applied some of the same attitude to last weekend’s three-day motorcycle class. The classroom segments were definitely “pushed learning,” but the range practice required more. No one is guaranteed a completion card just by taking the course—in fact, several students failed the skills testing—but I can happily report that my completion card will be in the mail this week, and I can officially add the motorcycle endorsement to my license when it arrives.
In order to accomplish that, I had to get past the step-by-step verbal instructions being shouted to us and feel the bike. Stopping. Swerving. Weaving. Cornering. (This is a venue where the “learning curves” are literal curves!) Continue reading “Learning Curves”→
One of the interesting things about working at Home Depot is that our customers have a definite expectation that anyone in an orange apron will be able to answer any of their questions. And the reason our customers have that expectation is because we are encouraged not to answer with “I don’t know.” When I don’t know (which is often) I’m consulting my Home Depot app, or tracking down someone from a specific department who can answer.
I may be “just” a cashier, but I get asked about pouring cement, assembling drip-line sprinklers, installing flooring, and pretty much everything else you can think of. I’ve been working a lot of hours in the Garden center, which means I’m getting asked about plant varieties and mulches and fertilizers. It’s an educational job, in the sense that I’m learning more and more as I go. With regard to plants, that has included making a habit of glancing at the tags while I ring them up. Oh, so that’s what a hydrangea looks like. Now I know.
But (just like with freelance writing, where I often don’t have a clue what I’m writing about until after I’ve researched) Google is very much my friend. Is that thing a perennial? Let me find out…
So I was in the Garden section again Sunday morning, enjoying the quiet opening-hour before customers really start showing up, walking among the plants to learn some more names, and thinking of my dad. It was my first Father’s Day without him, and I was thinking about him and his garden. He was a plant physiologist and an avid gardener, a guy who carried photos of his lilies next to photos of his grandkids. Working in Garden I’ve wished I could channel his encyclopedic knowledge of the plant kingdom. Continue reading “A Visit (And a Visitation)”→