Today is the day that the first part of this trip ends and the second part begins, and it switches gears a bit. While the connection to Mother Earth has been the primary focus for the past 7 days, the next several days focus on the connection to the beauty of the human emotion. If you follow me on Google+ or Facebook, you might recall a post about a month or so ago about a close friend - one of the strongest, purest, most beautiful warrior souls I’ve ever known was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She rushed into surgery soon thereafter and she began chemotherapy the very week we were up in Pacific Northwest. Seeing as how she was with her family just across the state in Spokane, Washington to begin her battle with the ‘big evil,' I jumped on the opportunity to take the 7-hour Amtrak journey from Portland to spend a few days with her, as I haven’t seen her since my trip to Colorado last year, where she was living at the time.
So with a few hours to kill before the train I headed into downtown Portland for breakfast and a short walk before arriving at Union Station to board the train, one that took me on an incredibly stunning journey-by-rail across the states of Oregon and Washington. A particularly memorable moment was as the sun was setting on my side of the train, it was gently draping the face of the beautiful girl sitting across the aisle from me. After a bit of hesitation and looking back and forth - sun - her face - sun - her face - and before it got too creepy, I asked her if I could take a portrait. She smiled, said yes, and I was able to snap one I was happy with before the sun dropped behind the hills.
I arrived in Spokane close to midnight, where my friend’s father picked me up from the train station and drove us back to their house. She was already asleep, so I just peeked in, whispered hello for a few moments, and retired to the guest room. The next 3 days were an absolutely wonderful 72 hours spent together!! It started the next morning when I found myself in what might be the country’s largest organized garage sale - it was literally an entire neighborhood, perhaps 5 by 5 blocks, in which just about every single house was having a ‘rummage’ sale. And they do this ever year. The streets were full of people - this thing was a proper event!
After that, we headed to one of her favorite restaurants in town, PhoVan Vietnamese, before a quick drive-through tour of downtown Spokane, which included an incredibly informative educational session from my friend’s father, a Washington Water & Power veteran, of the dam and power plant that constitute the centerpiece of the city. The family then decided it would be a good idea to head up to their river house about an hour away along Priest River, Idaho, so, well, we packed up some food, grabbed the cat and dog, and off to the river house we go (I’ve always wanted to say that!). After soaking in the sunset in the backyard along the river, we went out for Mexican food, came back, popped in a movie and just chillaxed the evening away together.
The next morning, apparently they had scheduled me to get out on the 4-wheelers for a mini tour of the region. We rode through rain, hail, snow, sun, wind, and more rain for a solid 2 or 3 hours through the mountain ranges flanking Priest River and straddling the Canadian border. It was invigorating! Afterwards, we embarked on a little drive to a small town called Sandpoint for lunch before heading back into Spokane. Their entire family came over that evening, sister, brother-in-law, and nieces, for a home-cooked dinner, some drinks, and some laughs.
We spent the following day together, just me and her, just driving around, walking around, talking, catching up, and eventually grabbing a late lunch and smoothie before she dropped me off at the Spokane airport for my return flight to Los Angeles.
Those 72 hours were some of the most meaningful 72 hours I’ve spent with a friend in years. It’s when you’re put in a situation where mortality cannot be ignored that your guard is put down and all inhibitions are thrown out the window in order to embrace the beauty and valuable essence of the human animal...accept and embrace how vital it is to the survival of the healthy human psyche. It amazes me how certain situations can unearth a soft and vulnerable human side that so rarely seems to make its way to the surface in an otherwise hardened and mostly paranoid world we’ve managed to manifest over the past several generations.
The irony is, sensitive empathy is always there.
Begging for and jumping at the first opportunity to show itself.
Here I am in a family’s home that I’ve never met before in my life, and I, with a name and background being quite an oddity in these parts, was completely embraced with warmth and trust and hospitality that, sadly, is so often dismissed as a lost commodity in our ‘modern' day and age. It was all shoved aside, a minor detail in the bigger picture - the humanity that lies behind the subjective facade. To be accepted and embraced with such warmth and vigor was a beautiful thing and something I will never forget…rather, search for the first opportunity I can to pay it forward. Because of their daughter, this savory reality was realized.
In any case, there’s no doubt in my mind that she’s going to make it through and destroy the core of this awful fucking disease, I know it, she knows it, we all know it, but the fact alone that she has to go through it plays testament to the fact that life isn’t exactly…well…fair. At the same time, I can’t help but simultaneously think…perhaps it's people like her whom are challenged with this thing in order to provide hope to those that need to dig for deeper strength to destroy the vile gotcha...showing them that the power of the human spirit is truly a force to be reckoned with -
to help make a strong person stronger and a weak person strong.
With that, I’ll leave you with some images from those last few days of the trip. Thank you SO much to those who have followed along and joined me on this adventure. If you’ve missed the first several parts of this wondrous journey through the great Pacific Northwest, here they are:
And Lori, I love you! Now beat this thing and get back to Colorado where you belong!!