Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Sun Is Back (Or I am.)

So there I was, sitting in Port Angeles, WA, on a bus pointed at Sea-Tac Airport south of Seattle.

Was this for me? Again?

I had been to Ecuador twice before, had gotten residency twice before, and both times I had decided not to stay. Because I hadn't realized that I was already dead.

I do now. I think.

Over the last 15 months since I left Ecuador the second time, after I had returned to the U.S., to Washington state, I have disappointed myself, and life has disappointed me.

I had plans, but many of them were not executable due to the circumstances of life as we know it these days, or if they were executable, were only partly executable.

And the rest of my plans, though I was able to carry them out, went missing because, well, ah — I just didn't feel like playing out the whole script.

Some things were administrative: buy a car, select a city to live in, find an apartment, settle in, get to know the place, become another anonymous resident.

Most of the items on my mental to-do list were more decidedly soulful — experiences worth pursuing for their own sake. In other words, making a lot of backpacking trips.


The administrative details kept tripping me. I was aiming at living in Wenatchee. Wenatchee wasn't waiting to receive me into its loving grace. Too expensive.

Although I'm not poor, my income ain't what it was. Walla Walla was too small and isolated. Yakima offered too little, especially the barren landscapes outside the city limits. The Tri-Cities of Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick are in a constant vibrant hum. Lots to do there, well-supplied by retailers. No shortage of cultural events and clubs and so on, but again, more barren landscapes outside the city limits and nowhere to go for miles and miles.

Yeah, so then there was Port Angeles, population 19,000. Not great either, but Olympic National Park is on one side and the ocean is on the other (you can see Canada straight across, 20 miles or so, right there). And cheap.

And gray and wet all winter. But cheap. And close to wilderness.

So that's where I stayed, waiting. Waiting for winter to get over so I could do in the summer of 2015 what I'd wanted to do in the summer of 2014 but couldn't, due to driving around, checking out various cities, hunting for apartments and failing to find a decent and affordable one. What I wanted to do was major backpacking, now that my retirement income had doubled and I could kick back and give backpacking my full attention and just do it.

And then, after waiting months and months and months through the winter, spring came, and then summer, and a lot of Washington state caught fire.

Every place I really wanted to get to burst into flames, so I went to the second tier of places on my list, and those were on fire too, and the third tier, and I ended up going back to trails I'd hiked before, again and again, and ultimately found that I didn't care all that much any more.

I found that it was more fun sleeping in than springing out of bed for an early start to another long day on the trail. I found that I got bored while hiking. It was work.

Partly because I saw very little new territory and partly because I didn't care all that much any more. My strength came back. It takes a while, but it came back fine. I could trudge uphill all day underneath a backpack, but why? I didn't know. I didn't really care to know — I was just bored.

So what's the point then?

I finally decided that I'd passed my expiration date. I'm still good for a while yet, though my flavor might have faded a mite. I might not quite have that sharp, spicy tang any more, maybe not enough of a decline in quality to register during a casual encounter, but it's there — I know it.

I got slightly confused a few times while driving, which is a fine early hint to get out of owning a car. Check.

My new favorite hobby became napping, especially on waking early, when I put the headphones in, tuned to the morning news, and sank back into sleep for another hour or two. Check.

I had fun drinking a beer with lunch. Check.

I endlessly frittered with unimportant things, or passed days just reading. Check.

I focused on small things and decided that what I really wanted was to be irresponsible and float — not to accomplish anything in particular.

And I realized that winter was coming again, and too soon. Which meant that there would be another eight or nine months of gray skies and drizzle before I could reconsider and get out into the back country and try things yet one more time (to be sure, really sure).


Hear that? It's the warning buzzer. What it means is that it's already too late. I bailed. Got my documents together, packed, bought a bus ticket on the Dungeness Line to take me to the airport, and flew away. Twenty-three hours after getting to the airport I descended the stairs from the final plane and once again was on the ground in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Today the sun is shining, right up there among the happy clouds. The temperature is 63°F but the sun is hot. There is a slight breeze — only enough to keep the air from getting stale, no more. The sun will set at 6:17 p.m. tonight and rise tomorrow at 6:12 a.m., The sun will keep doing that sort of thing as long as and even longer than anyone cares to notice.

I have a place to stay and good food. The rest is going to take care of itself.

If the sun is happy, I'm happy too.

I think it might work this time. And if not, I don't really care any more.


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