4/3/15 As Long As Your Intentions Are Pure

When a dirt trail replaced the rocks she felt a little more stable. The sun was setting as she, still above the treeline, walked down the trail. It was such a nice evening; the clouds there were acted as texture to the brilliant colors unfolding above and in front of her. The smell of the trail changed from pungent life to crisp cold and she increased her footsteps, wanting to be at the bottom of the trail by dark.

She had seen only a couple other climbers that day. One with a dog. She loved dogs, but right now, without her own place or the income she needed there was no way she could have one of her own. She entered the trees and the dim light of the evening was darkened considerable. She unslung her backpack and pulled out her sweater and put it on. She also grabbed her phone in order to use its flashlight. She turned it on. It buzzed. A message from an unknown number flashed on her screen. She thumbed it and read the text.

Hey, this is Alex. Nathan passed along your number. Welcome home.

I’m living in Bellingham, not sure where you’re at, but if you’re ever in the area, let me know.

A.

She thumbed out a response. She didn’t want to go back home. Anything to stay out of the house. Hopefully he’d be up for a drink or two. She wasn’t too far from Bellingham.

Days Earlier:

She sat with her phone. She’d asked Jen, her co-worker if it was weird to do this and she’s said no. Or she’s said, “as long as your intentions are pure I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

So why was she hesitating? Was it because she’d never had an actual conversation with either of them? Was it because she didn’t want to people to think she was creepy or weird? The worst that happened was they didn’t respond. She found Nathan R____ on facebook and her thumbs slid across the phone typing her message.

Hey Nathan,

I was thinking, since I’m back up North, it would be fun to connect with Ben and Alex– I always thought they were super rad and would love to kick it. Can you pass along my number to them? Thanks.

The thumbed down her number too. Outside her car Seattle was hustling and traffic was clogging the streets of downtown. Without look back at the screen she pressed the send button. She just wanted some cool friends to go hiking with, she told herself.

When she got back to her car parked at the trailhead it was completely dark.  She’d texted Alex back. Something that was truthful, but maybe a little forward. Was it too sudden to spring a couple beers on someone she’d not seen since high school? Well, either he said yes or no. She climbed into her car. Her phone buzzed. It was her mother. She confirmed that she had not broken her neck on the way down the mountain.

I’ll be home late. Visiting a friend.

She texted.

4/2/15 I Want to Fall in Love

Looking out across that landscape she felt everything she’d left behind. The community she’d been a part of. How exciting everyday had been. How she could walk down the street in L.A. and meet a dozen different artists on one block. And that wasn’t all. She’d fallen in love for the first time there and though it hadn’t lasted long she had left those memories behind also–even though those memories were a knot and a hook in her chest, she wondered if the feel of something missing would ever be fulfilled again.

She stuffed Walden back in her bag and drew out a notebook with a pen fitted in the spiral binding. She eased it out and opened the notebook to a new page. One completely unblemished with anything wrong. On the rock, on Sauk Mountain, in the Cascades, in Washington, in her notebook, she wrote these words:

 

Feb/23/2015

 

I think I want to fall in love. I can feel this as a new frontier. Something has changed in the world–my world–and I am not the person I was just months–a month ago. If not for love what have I returned for? Not my family. Their support is lacking in the extreme. Not the weather–though this one has been relatively sunny for Washington. So love. The most unlikely circumstance to fall into–but what other force in all the world could have taken me from a location I truly loved. Only love has that power to bring me back from where I was.

Who am I kidding? You have to know someone in order to fall in love.

 

She closed her notebook and watched the sun dip lower in the west. Her mother was terrified she’s slip and break her ankle or smash her arm on these excursions. With the snow hardly melted it could be treacherous. She’d bruised herself all over by climbing down Pilchuck in the dark. If there hadn’t been a woman there to help her who had an extra headlamp she figured she would have broken her phone at the very least. But this wouldn’t be like that. Sauk had very little snow.

She sat and watched the sun dip. She wished it could just stop and wait and not set because the sooner it set the sooner she would have to go back to real life–and she didn’t like real life much. It was full of responsibilities she didn’t want to deal with–or that was what her mother said, and maybe she believed that. The main thing was she’d rather not be around her parents, if she could help it. She knew how to take care of herself, though they never would admit it.

The sun almost down now, she stood and, resigned to the worst, to the brutal honesty of real life, she picked up her backpack and started down the mountain, picking out the sturdy rocks that wouldn’t shift underneath her. Only the ones that could support her weight.

4/1/15 She Took a Step Backward

The top of Mount Sauk is bald and stony and the only thing there is the sky and the sprawling mountains we called the Cascades, stretching out beneath her. Here she could feel the wind on her face and smell the freshness of the world. When she did this it felt as though everything was within her grasp if only she would reach out and take it. But despite how close she came to being independent and free her parents would reel her back. Her dad loved fishing–she supposed reeling in his daughter was second nature for him. It was as if nothing she’d accomplished held any weight with them. Learning German while living abroad as an au pair was seen by them as an irresponsible, juvenile, compulsivity. Never mind that chances to live abroad and learn about a new culture doesn’t arrive on your doorstep everyday.

But here she was, back in Washington, looking out over that maze of water and island and mountain. What other places in the world had such breadth? She didn’t know. But it didn’t matter. This wasn’t her home. She’d left that when she left L.A.

She unslung her backpack from her shoulders and placed it on the ground. She dug around in it and pulled out a small protein bar and water bottle. Then she took a seat on a rock, another one as her back rest. She positioned herself so the most about of sun could hit her, but so she was guarded a little by the wind. In the distance she could see Mount Baker. It was as white as clouds–but she knew there hadn’t been much snowfall this season. It was worrisome for the summer. What would the rivers be like with so little runoff?

She opened her book. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, and flipped to a page she figured she hadn’t read before. She’d tried reading this book a couple times, but couldn’t get through it from start to finish. But now she’d discovered a way in which to read it. She would just read a chapter or page at a time, out of order, and take what she could from it. That way she didn’t look for an overall message, just bites of wisdom. And she found them.

Her eyes scanned a line, a paragraph, the page. She read: “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Right, her dreams. She needed to pursue them. She needed to advance herself. But, for some reason she’d just taken a great step backwards. That’s what Washington felt like right now. A shoot that took her back to the beginning after she’d climbed the ladders.

Her eyes settled on a peak in the distance. She didn’t know its name. It was strangely solitary amid the rest of the Cascades. As if it stood apart from its family. As if its friends had moved away from it and left it in the east, while they all crept, inch by inch to the west.