I am sitting in a darkened room, the heat surrounding me, marveling at the past few months. Outside, there are clouds (or perhaps it's wildfire smoke), and I am sipping wonderfully dense black tea.

This past year has been so full of stress, anxiety, has been mind-numbing. My creativity and motivation have waned, only to be awoken time to time because of obligation or necessity. It's not all been bad, though.

Just over a month ago, we traveled to Wallowa Lake with my stepmom. We were in the midst of all-out panic, facing down the hubby's continuing unemployment and what we feared would be the worst--running out of benefits and losing our home (hubby has since started a new job, just in the nick of time). But, we had planned this adventure months ago and knew it was needed for our broken and weary souls.

After packing up the car, we headed east with a suitcase, pup, plenty of food, and bikes in tow.  The winding roads wove us through the gorge and mountains, up and over Cabbage Hill, and then North to the edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Ziggy spent a lot of time laying his head on my shoulder so he could see out the front of the car, and snuggle simultaneously. He is quite the lovebug.

As we drove through farmland, and quaint little towns, marveling at their cute houses and barns, I could feel my muscles relax, my mind open. Then....we saw the lake. My immediate thought was, "Oh my god, this is like the Tahoe of Oregon!" It completely reminded me of the lake I spent summers at as a kid near Tahoe--Fallen Leaf Lake. My heart cracked open, and I fell in love. This is what we have been dreaming of.

There were deer everywhere (which Ziggy absolutely lost his mind over), adorable cabins and villas all in Swiss regalia, and gorgeous park lands surrounding the lake. Fresh, crisp air filled our lungs. Over the next few days, we explored the local town enjoying local chocolate, food and art; hiked the mountains; flew to the top of one mountain in a gondola; and played in the lake (note: Ziggy does NOT like kayaking. He DOES love swimming! After his ball.....). We refocused and renewed our energy, hatching plans for the near future and distant dreams.

Most of my friends in Portland will never understand the part of me that longs for the wide open spaces--they are city folk and could not fathom living with that kind of space. They say, "Why would you want to live there?" "What would you DO?!" "Oh, I could never live that far away." For me, it is home. It is peace and happiness.

One night while we were there, the Northern Lights were supposed to be visible. So, we stayed up into the night, then ventured down to the lake with camera gear in hand. Dave got all his gear set up while I grabbed a blanket and found a picnic table to lie upon. As I gazed up at the sky--those incredibly bright, bold stars, some of them shooting across the sky--my heart burst open, tears flowed from my eyes, and I felt small. Not the crumbling self-confidence kind of small. The kind of small that reminds you that life is so much bigger than we often remember. I want to gaze up in wonder at those stars every night. Not just the stars--the snow-capped peaks that shoot up into the sky, challenging people to climb them. The water that rushes down in tumultuous waves, tumbling across itself to get to its destination. The moon that fills the night sky with light, because there is no competition from the ground. I want to be reminded of my small-ness on a regular basis, for I will embrace it with love and say, "Yes. Yes, I am small. I am grateful. I am filled with wonder."

[Side note: on the day we drove to Wallowa Lake, the world lost a truly beautiful soul--Kelly Clark--to cancer. She was a year older than I am. I learned about this the day after, and it helped put a lot of things that have been floating around in my brain into perspective. More on that soon, but it is relevant to this experience.]

The Northern Lights were vaguely visible, but what I cared more about was the Milky Way, and simply being present. After an hour passed, and I caught a glimpse of greenish haze climbing over the ridge, I crawled off my table and into the car where I promptly passed out (it was also freezing cold out, and I had barely come prepared for that). Dave had made a photography friend and they were comparing shots and techniques. He captured some incredible images (one of which is below) while I snoozed away in the car. 

Driving home some days later, we stopped in at the small towns and chatted with the locals about life there, job opportunities, growth, and challenges. We are hatching plans. He and I both grew up in wide open spaces. We both know the love, the wonder, the grace of those places, and one day we will step out into our yard and gaze up at those stars and be home.



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