Nature has bestowed the Pacific Northwest with two last gorgeous, summer-like days. An opportunity to pay our proper respects to summer. I’ve seen the long-range forecast on my phone, viewed the ECMWF charts on Mark Nelsen’s weather blog, and read his post that states the other models are in agreement. This is a terminal diagnosis. The summer of 2017 has two days to live. Of course, by the time you read this, it will be gone. I say this not to be morose, but to share my experience of its final blaze of glory. It’s a blessing to know in advance what’s coming, to have the opportunity to fully relish these last good days.
Last night, after sunset, I walked along the shoreline at the river, navigating the basalt boulders and thinking back over all I’ve experienced here this year. Those afternoons in early May when the river was so high it overflowed its banks. The long, bright evenings near the summer solstice when my friend Jim teased me as I cleaned mud off the path. That cool, cloudy morning in July when I waited for the park to be deserted so I could put up the Baby Groot sign. The sweltering, smoky, 100+ degree afternoons in early August. The evenings when I found pure, easy enjoyment in taking pictures as the sunset became progressively more and more amazing, and those that I built rock structures on the boulders and photographed them against the twilight sky. The day of the eclipse when, after camping in my truck in the zone of totality, I came here still so moved by a shared experience with total strangers that I choked up telling one of my river friends about it. And then those heartache days of early September when the smoke of dying trees made the sun bleed all over the river’s shivering surface.
There are so many memories of this summer, and I’ll forget far more than I’ll remember.
In the moments last night as I walked among the rocks, I looked downstream at the train trestle, and across the water at the handful of houses on the opposite bank, and I thought about how, aside from those few symbols of civilization, this place looked almost exactly the same a hundred years ago. A thousand years ago. Five thousand. And there was so much comfort in that thought, in the idea that all our petty crap is temporary. That the most powerful people in the world can’t touch the beautiful sunny day, exactly like this one, that happened centuries ago, or the one that will occur centuries from now. Even if I won’t be here, there’s something deeply satisfying about knowing that this beauty is timeless, that this world is so much bigger than myself—than all our selves. I take savage delight in the terror that idea must strike into the hearts of those who value power above all else.
It’s now late afternoon, and the sun is glaring bright off the river. I’ve had a lot of interruptions today. A guy I’ve only met once who engaged me for almost an hour, speaking about his personal life as if we’d known each other for years. My good buddy Winston, who shook river water all over my stuff and gave me a big doggy kiss on the face. A new friend I invited here, who I enjoyed getting to know a little better. My buddy Geoff, who was in a mood so dark he couldn’t see the point of the paragraph above about the enduring power of this place. And finally, my friend Jim, who immediately understood that paragraph in a deep and personal way. Some days are like this. I used to stress over the lost productivity, even resent the intrusion. Now I realize it’s part of the experience. I’ve learned to let go of the need for control, of the compulsion to be productive, and embrace the opportunity for the universe to take me in a serendipitous direction. Because here’s the thing: this place is teaching me far, far more than just how to appreciate dogs.
As this summer draws to a close, I realize I’m on the verge of a powerful and much-desired change. A fresh path that will minimize the stress I’ve experienced these past six years, confirm aspects of my work I’ve intuited to be true but that others challenged me about, and empower me to guiltlessly embrace my passion. There’s a story behind all that, which I won’t go into now, but the bottom line is that this place is what convinced me things could be better. It healed, strengthened, and fueled me in a multitude of ways. It let me rediscover things I had forgotten.
So on this fine and beautiful day, I don’t have any agenda other than to be here and be mindful. I’m just soaking up every sparkle on the river, every honking goose, every gusty breeze.
I’m just being. And I’m grateful.
“One Last Hurrah,” copyright © 2017 by Lisa Nowak.
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