Every year, the beauty of being outdoors all day in an Oregon summer overwhelms me.
The smell of the twilight dust. The wild mint growing in a lavender haze at the edge of the fields. The brilliant sunshine that makes the grain look like gold and the sky an impossibly deep blue. The chilly gray mornings when it’s too wet to work, so I curl up with a book and sip my earl gray.
I turned 26 on July 6, unsure of how to feel about my age. In general, I have loved growing older. I don’t buy the cultural myth that younger people somehow live a better life. The older I get the less I care about my image, the more I learn to listen instead of talk, and the more courage and freedom I have to live my life the way I wish to.
However, in a weird way I feel stuck in a perpetual young adulthood I can’t escape. In Mennonite circles I am often lumped in with the youth, since I’m unmarried, and at college I hang out with the 18-21 crowd. And my face has weirdly not aged in the past ten years. If I slick my hair back and stick a round veil on the top of my head I look almost exactly as I did when I was 16. My college friends are often quite surprised when they find out how old I am.
So I’m kind of in an odd middle place, age wise. But I don’t mind so much. I’ve just had to learn to befriend people of different ages and life stages than myself.
I worked sporadically through July and August, driving a combine or tractor when the weather was nice and the equipment was working, and taking little vacations when they weren’t.
Some days my combine clogged up ten times or so in one day, and I had to find the wrench that was as long as my arm and crank the header mechanism backwards so it would regurgitate the grain.
Other days my air conditioner would quit while both spare combines were broken down, so I’d just have to deal with the oppressive heat. I learned that the trick is to drink water. Lots of it. Guzzle it down and take a bathroom break every hour. You can survive more heat than you thought you could.
My roommate Ashlie was always up for adventures on my days off. Here are a few Instagram shots of us exploring the beaches and woods.
I also spent one glorious weekend with a group of friends, camping by a small lake with a tiny island.
Also, the swimming was perfect. Warm-ish, not too deep nor too shallow, rocky bottom. It was glorious.
Note to self: swim more.
I blogged about the first half of my September trip pretty consistently.
Then I went to Pennsylvania to hang out with my friend Janessa. We day-tripped to the Delaware beaches and I got knocked over by a giant wave.
Then I visited my brother Matt in DC and got trapped in the world’s second largest library.
Some adventures, though, are delightful to experience but don’t make very interesting stories. Such was the case with my weekend in Pennsylvania, after I returned from DC.
I had planned this trip because I wanted to hang out with my friends Amanda and Jewel. Seeing them again was beautiful. But looking back on it, all we really did that weekend was talk. And eat ice cream. And talk. And drink smoothies. And talk.
I also visited my cousin Annette that weekend. I had wanted to spend more time with her but she’d just had a baby and it was a little chaotic at her place.
(I’d insert a photo here but I can’t seem to find it. Close your eyes and picture a beautiful mother holding a lovely baby in flowered baby pajamas.)
Endings and Beginnings
After our weekend in PA, Amanda and I took a road trip to Chicago. You know. Just because.
I mean, she lives in Illinois, and I found a cheap flight from Chicago to Portland, so it was really the only logical thing to do.
We stopped by Lake Michigan for a while.
I’ve always viewed large lakes as inferior oceans and never had much desire to set foot in one. However, the whole place was vast but tranquil in a way that my ocean never is, and I appreciated it.
It was a pleasant day, but not hot, so I left my swimming clothes in my backpack and padded barefoot over the warm dune to the beach. I let the water lap over my feet, and it was an oddly pleasant half-warm temperature. I waded in further, and further. The ground sloped so gradually that I was only up to my knees.
“I’m gonna swim in my clothes!” I told Amanda, who was beside me, holding her long skirt out of the water.
She smiled. “Go ahead.”
I had never swum in my clothes before, for the simple reason that I always wear skirts. But here in the wide deserted lake, no one would see if my skirt floated up in a tube around my waist. So I just plunged in, deeper and deeper. As it turns out, swimming in a skirt is easier than one would expect.
Later, I found a dry and mostly-clean outfit in my backpack, and rolled up my wet sandy clothes in a plastic bag so they wouldn’t dampen my other things. We stopped for some deep dish pizza, and then she dropped me off at the airport and we said our goodbyes. I flew home with sand still between my toes.
And then college started, my very last year, and then I’ll have to decide what I want to do with my life.
It was a great summer, overall. Nearly perfect. I didn’t fall in love, but one can’t have everything you know.