March 06, 2012

From Bend to San Francisco

Again, I am in Bend, Oregon. With a smile, I remember walking with Rose, eating soup with Stephen, making baby Aiden giggle as I pretend to gobble his hand, hearing Abby's contagious laugh, seeing the fuzzy deer and rabbits from Dawn's window and getting warm hugs from my favorite people in Bend.

My favorite image in Bend was not one that I captured. At night, I walk the patchy path of crunchy snow and ice from one street to another. I look up and see the criss-crossing, thin branches of a young, bare tree with a few shriveled leaves clinging and glowing in the moonlight.

I eat by myself at a narrow counter by the window. Three of the staff members stop by to check on me and I can feel their kind and somewhat pitying expressions for the woman all alone. It makes me uncomfortable. I do not feel lonely as I write in my battered and worn, green journal. I appreciate their concern, but would feel better if they had a different conclusion of my solitude. But I get it and maybe they feel more about me than I do.

I appreciate my time walking with Abby. The calm morning turns blustery and you can see the wind from the flying, sandy dirt and debris. I wipe the film of sand from my lips caught there by my lip balm. We walk along the loveliest of all rivers, the Deschutes.

I exit the wind into the airport and breeze through security. We are buckled into our seats, ready for takeoff, unknowing that the plane will not move again, at least not on this day. In line to be re-ticketed, I call my sister to check the weather for the towns I would pass through if I happened to drive back to San Francisco. At 9 p.m. snow will fall in Dorris and the same for Weed, California but Redding looks clear. I want to be home. I could get past the snow before 9 p.m. but it is not my fate to drive this time.

Instead, I board a plane for Portland, in the tenth and final row of the small plane. I trade the aisle for the window seat with the young man next to me. Better than a movie, I watch the land of central Oregon stretch out below me and I salivate as I look north and east to the remote stretches of desert and I strongly desire to explore it. That is the kind of alone-ness that energizes me, in it I feel who I am.

We fly into the clouds and above them and the ground is gone again until we near Portland. Then the clouds break up and the rolling green hills and forests appear. I can see the farthest reaching western touches of snow, the trees are dusted in white and then finally, only green. I am grateful to see the Columbia River Gorge as we fly parallel to the huge river. We land smoothly.

I spend five hours at the Portland airport, sitting in the large open area at a table next to the tall windows. Businessmen are scattered about on their laptops. One man is engaged in a video call and by his looks and hand gestures he must be talking to his kids. A large crowd of people gather just beyond security with balloons and signs and they start clapping and cheering for someone who has finally arrived. What a nice welcome, I wonder if I would ever like that.

I sit next to two off-duty flight attendants by my gate for two hours waiting to board our delayed flight. I can tell they have lots of practice waiting. I finish the book I bought at the San Francisco airport before I left, never expecting to read a whole book on my short trip to Bend. I am not sure the book was good for me. Many times I wanted to stop reading, throw it out, even burn it. It wasn't all bad. It glared at me the addiction of doing, doing, doing things, lacking passion, and bloated with shallow activity. But it wasn't all bad.

I talk to another of my sisters on the phone. It is her birthday and I wish I could be with her. I miss her nearly every moment I am not with her, I don't feel that way about too many people, maybe only her. Why is that?

The air feels very rough and I tighten my seatbelt as much as I can. We are over the runway, but we have not touched down yet. I like flying but I don't always like landing. We bounce and swerve small amounts and then brake hard but we are safely on the ground. We wait for 15 minutes just short of the gate in San Francisco. I have finally run out of patience. I am at the back of the plane and it takes a long time to empty. Paul picks me up, curbside.

At nearly 1 a.m., I walk in the door of my house exactly 12 hours after I walked into the Redmond/Bend airport. Knowing that fact turns me into a complainer. But really, I want it as an excuse to take the morning off, to gather myself and clear my mind. I need that time. If I take the time without an excuse, I fear I am weak and lazy. I roll my eyes and shake my head at myself, "Give me a break!" I tell myself, literally. Okay fine, I just might try.

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