Returning to place

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Does place pass through us, from those who came before? I suspect it must.

Yesterday was my 30th wedding anniversary. I spent the morning with energetic, bright, curious kids – none I had met before – and the afternoon and evening alone. And although I love my spouse and was disappointed that he couldn’t join me – it was one of my finest days in a long while.

The six classes of third-graders I had the fortune to meet, students at Dupont, Washington’s Chloe Clark Elementary School, filled me with gratitude. Gratitude for all they are about: moving into today’s world with curiosity and kindness, surrounded by others who care to make it the very best. Sniffling back tears, I shared with the first class how I was certain my great great great grandmother, Chloe Clarke, would be honored to have a school named after her and filled with children like them. I felt a bit like a rock star, through no work of mine. I was merely the messenger. Politely the kids soon peppered me with questions (tough ones – what if Chloe didn’t want her diary shared? and others some already knew the answer – how old would Chloe be today? 200!) and soon sharing their own stories (my great grandmother traveled to Egypt!). Nearly every hand rose when I asked them if they liked to write, and a few offered, “and read too!” I had to smile tonight when I read Principal Yoho’s email: some of the kids asked if they could write me a letter? Well, yes – I can hardly wait!

 

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After picking up coffee to go, even though I should have realized I needed no more “pick-me-up” than the kids I had just seen, I motored toward Mt. Rainier National Park. A day and night for me, without cell or wifi, to rekindle memories and just be. This time in fall’s muted beauty rather than summer’s brilliance. Late afternoon I walked Laughingwater Trail near the Ohanapecosh River’s Silver Falls, a loop I hiked so many times several decades ago. The trail to my Three Lakes cabin where Dad visited me, all those years ago.

     The next year, at nineteen, I had my best summer job ever while working at Mt. Rainier National Park….Hike, write, and read. I discovered new rivers and creeks, and a love for a new mountain. I discovered people who cared about wild land as much as I did….
…..Finally, Dad appeared in the distance, walking down the dusty trails as it dropped into the basin of my hideaway. He had hiked six and a half miles, with a sleeping bag under his arm and a small daypack on his back.
“Wouldn’t it have been easier with a backpack?” I called out to him in greeting.
He got closer. “I don’t backpack. You should know that.” And he gave a hint of a sweaty smile.
From My Titan
My Music Man

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The gift of quiet within this national park on these misty October days reassured me it was okay that the majestic Rainier wasn’t likely to pop out of the clouds during my visit. And I felt grateful. For now. Tomorrow I will return to all that surrounds us. But for this moment I am full of people and places who have come before.

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