Nearly home

Note: Sorry for the late post today. We camped at one of our favorite campgrounds last night: Icicle River just outside of Leavenworth, Washington. It is a beautiful place, but sits in a deep canyon where there is no cell phone service. The campground advertises that they have wifi hot spots, but we couldn’t get enough bandwidth from their wifi to publish the journal today. Unseen, but part of the process is updating of the date and time stamp on a lot of files caused by the fact that we transported the computer into a new time zone. We probably will not get the journal uploaded until we get home, where we have high speed internet. (That is what we have done. We are safely at home in Mount Vernon, Washington after a 6,481.2 mile trip.)

We had a short day yesterday. We drove out of Montana, across Idaho at its narrow northern part and into Washington to the Cascades. There is just one mountain pass to cross to get home. The Interstate crosses the Cascades at Snoqualmie Pass, but we left the Interstate and went north to Wenatchee and will cross on Stevens Pass. The traffic will be much lighter and we will bypass Seattle traffic on our way home.

We have reached the point in our pilgrimage where we are almost home. A big adventure has a beginning and an end and the end to this particular trip is in sight. Like every trip, we have begun to think about what is next. We have some fun and busy days ahead. In a week, we will be hosting a gathering of Susan’s sisters and their families and then we will be beginning a new job. A phone call with our landlord yesterday reminds us that we need to move into high gear with the process of shopping for a house to buy and we need to think about moving one more time. Our lease on this house ends September 30, and we will be negotiating with the landlord about exactly when we will make the move.

I’ve watched friends who have retired with a bit more grace than we have mustered. We seem to not have thought of all of the details and still have some big decisions to make in our retirement. Still, we know that being retired doesn’t mean ceasing to work and it doesn’t mean ceasing to have big decisions to make. One of the changes in our culture, as opposed to that of our grandparents, is that it is common for people to make multiple moves in retirement. In the church, we often saw folks who chose a home for their retirement that worked for a while, even decades, and then faced a move to a smaller place. Moving from a house to an apartment to a retirement community to assisted living to a care center is not all that uncommon. Every move involves downsizing and shedding some of the possessions that have been accumulated over a lifetime.

The temptation in every pilgrimage is to allow anticipation of what is to come to cloud the enjoyment of what is currently going on. Although we will be home later today, we are waking to a truly beautiful place. This part of the Cascade mountains is marked with alpine peaks and rushing water. Our campsite is right next to the Icicle River which carries runoff from the brooks and creeks in the high country where the last of winter snows are finally melting. The east side of the Cascades get a bit less rainfall than the west side, but the transition from high desert in central Washington to the lush greenery of the rainforest occurs quickly. We are in that transition zone, filled with pine, willow and cottonwood trees that are familiar to us. After we cross the pass today we will see plenty of Cedar, Douglas Fir and Hemlock soaring above the landscape. Ferns and other water-loving plants will appear as ground cover.

The entire Pacific Northwest has been experiencing unseasonably hot weather this summer. The locals report that it is different from any years in memory. The campground hosts with whom we spoke last evening are planning to head for the coast in a couple of days to get a break from the 100 degree days that have become the pattern this summer. There is still more than a month before cooler days will come. By then the river will be reduced to a trickle and the danger of wildfire will become extreme. There are already plenty of wildfires in the country to the north and east of this tiny valley.

Still, the country cools down at night in the high country. The temperatures drop into the seventies, a bit warmer than usual, but still temperate. The crickets sing and the sound of the water passing by in the creek is refreshing. This is a beautiful place and it is easy to see how people have chosen it as their home. It is a treat to be invited to visit and to enjoy the natural beauty of this place.

Every journey and every life is a balance of memory, present experience, and anticipation of the future. We are fortunate to live with an awareness of time. Part of the process of being joyful, however, is to release the past and the future so that one can focus on the present moment. Philosophers have written millions of words about simply being present in the current moment. It is a true blessing to simply enjoy this time without being over burdened by memory or anticipation. Still, we are human and we do carry with us thoughts of the past and the future. Pilgrimage is a practice of allowing every step of the journey to have its own meaning and to pay attention to the process of traveling through space as well as through time. We are familiar with the place we call home where we will arrive later today. We know some of the chores that face us. We will unload the camper. There will be laundry to do. The house will need a bit of airing out and we’ll probably make a quick trip to replenish groceries. The bugs need to be washed off of the camper and truck and the mail needs to be sorted.

But now, for a little while yet, it is not time for any of those chores. Now it is time to listen to the crickets and the river song and to doze and enjoy the place where we are. There will be plenty of time for working later. Now is a time to enjoy the gift of rest.

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