After the Storm — 5.0 — — Scenic Highway 242, McKenzie Pass, Cascade Range, Oregon, USA
“All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all….”

Rivers of rain pushed east by the jet stream are normal for this time of year in the Pacific Northwest. Also normal is a January thaw, though many think that global warming has made if far more pronounced. If it’s not too warm when the rain rivers hit the east side of the Cascade Mountains they thankfully turn to snow, at least on a good year. The snowpack stores water for the other seasons but it also covers the landscape in a coating of pure pleasure, at least if you don’t have to drive in it.

I left Darwin with storms building everywhere. Usually I pack a full load of joy with me when I travel and this time I had a lot in reserve, plenty in fact. How would I know that it wouldn’t be enough? Storms everywhere. Personally (relationships), politically (vandals and visogoths storming the capitol) and finally the weather. I drove north smack into an snow/ice storm hitting Lassen and Modoc counties. Blowing snow, black ice, traffic crawling along, I was lucky to make it across the Oregon border and found refuge at the Wild Goose Motel in Merrill. One of my favorite all-time motels, they gave me room number 2 and even returned the pillow I had left there the last time I stayed many months ago. In my room I watch cable TV and the ad nasuem rerun video feed of wannabe fascists waving guns in the hallways of Congress. This is not a time, I told myself, to be without love.

It was an unexpected and un-anticipated return to Eugene. One of my long time tenants (and friend) was breaking her lease and moving out of my Lund Drive house. I had to come back to make repairs and assessments and perhaps find new renters. Back to Oregon in January, it could put anyone in a melancholy mood.
But such was not the case this time. This time it was a joy to get back into my old house. This sturdy little cottage on a dead end gravel road a few blocks from the river Willamette. I found I still love this little house. So I decided to fix it up.

Out with the old carpets. New interior paint, new appliances, new lighting, a perfectly beautiful maple floor installed in the back bedrooms so you can slide in your stocking feet to the bathroom in the middle of the night. No melancholy here. Even the wetness of the air felt good after all those dried out months in Darwin.

Then after many long days of hard work I dug out my snowshoes, visited the thrift store to buy a set of ski poles (classics, bamboo, with leather grips, jute baskets, I might hang them on the wall when I’m through tromping around) and drove the Taco truck skyward up toward the mountains.

I just wanted to get out into the purity of the snow. Somewhere cold and clear where I could see my breath, sit alone under a fir tree draped in white, drink tea from my thermos and think about all the love I still have to give. That’s what I think about in the middle of storms. I think about life and the pure joy of it.

Idealism, you say? Well, I’ve certainly experienced enough rejection to warrant cynicism. I will gladly grant you that. But at heart I’m a stupid optimist, my sanguinity stemming mostly from being a privileged white guy, I am sure, but also because I privately sing show tunes in my head when no one’s looking: “The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye…” Didn’t I ever tell you that?

Well it’s actually raining up near McKenzie Pass. That global warming thing is not something to inspire optimism. I park the truck at the gate where the road is closed and then slog my way up the mountainside to Proxie Falls. Rain is melting the snowpack and I don’t even need the snowshoes let alone my pretty antique ski poles.

At least there is no one out here. At least I’ll get my alone time to sob a bit and then drink warm tea while the rain soaks through my many layers that are already drenched with my sweat from the inside. I suppose I could freeze to death if I stayed out here long enough. It would take quite a while though. I haven’t the patience.

It’s part of my personality. One of many character flaws. I have no patience for suicide. I just have to live life moving forward, step after step, turning occasionally to wonder if I missed anything. Actually I know I missed a lot. Another one of my character flaws, a rather oblivious nature. It’s not my best aspect.

But I temper it with a superior imagination. I can see a better world. I can see us all getting along. Filling the world with laughter in the face of disaster. Loving without judgement. Loving with acceptance and the ability to forgive the small stuff.

Back down in Eugene I arrive late at the house. I shed my soggy clothing and climb into my tiny two person hot tub (another antique). I stretch and immerse myself in the privileged hot water and then lay prone on my stomach over the edge of the tub.
Another squall of wintery rain is hitting and I let the cold water drops hit my bare back, plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk and I imagine I am getting a good deep massage from someone who loves me.

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