Leavenworth is a small Bavarian-themed town in Washington. My roommate and friend Cara and I chose it not because it was the closest, least inexpensive thing to Germany, to feel like tourists, or to eat mounds of cheese and chocolate, but because it was somewhere we’d never been, and we needed to exist somewhere else for a couple days.

Uncertainty is uncomfortable, and like most near-graduates, our last legs of university have been overwrought with it.

There is so much life beyond graduation day, and I know that. We know that. But without the defining factors adults cling to, the future is one big, grey, ambiguous blob of possibilities shuffled in unknown order.

I’m not afraid of it. I stop myself before I get too afraid of anything, because fear damages and blurs and misconstrues. But it is strange to be a journalist who is used to knowing the answers to who, what, when, where, how and why, and not have them this time.

So sometimes, it’s relieving to be a face. A tourist. A name on a coffee cup, and nothing more. We began to associate our college town with the churn of all who come and go, knowing that we’re on the brink of being those people, and to keep ourselves from attaching uncertainty to ourselves, we had to run away.

Sometimes it’s healthy to run away, even temporarily. I think I’ll temporarily run away my whole life. I think it’s important. It doesn’t always change circumstance, but it changes me. Things begin to look different, and in a world where perception shapes reality, the facts and the answers or lack thereof don’t matter as much as the way they’re internalized.



Cara and I started the four-hour trek mid-Friday after classes wrapped up for the week.

It was dark by the time we pulled into the driveway of the Wedge Mountain Inn in Peshastin, Washington, approximately five miles from Leavenworth and inexpensive at $80 per night for a plain but clean room.

More prominent than the glowing white rectangle with the motel’s name on it was one word: YES.

Not VACANCY, not OPEN just YES. Like an affirmation, or a reassurance. “Vacancy” and “Open” indicate that something is missing; “Yes” is complete, and positive.


People argue that summer days seem long because the sun burns more hours than it does in fall, but I disagree. Looking at the dash and finding that it’s only dinnertime two hours after darkness fell is startling. The day is gone, but not over.

After checking into the motel, we drove to Leavenworth for dinner and found a series of Bavarian-style shops and restaurants snuggled together, dressed in warm colors and frilly with balconies carved details. All the signs–even the ones for gas stations and Starbucks and Subway–were scripted. Christmas lights suffocated tree branches and hung in groups from rooftops.

We ordered food at a pub and sat outside next to the contained fire, crocheted blankets spread over our laps and coats buttoned tight to our chins. Afterward, we walked the main path and entertained ourselves in antique stores and hat shops, pointing to the places we’d go to the next day and scooting out each door just as they were closing.




Close calls…I believe close calls have a time and place, just like running away.

The first thing we did come morning was wind through the Wenatchee National Forest to find a place to hike. Most trailheads had “No Trespassing” signs dangling from chains or nailed to trees, but we found a three-pronged trail that allowed access through one. It led to train tracks and a tunnel.

The trail stopped at the tunnel, leaving few options. We could have gone through (“Okay,” Cara said. “But only if we run.”) or get back in the car and search for an alternative.

Uncommitted to either, we lingered at the head tunnel and started snapping silly photos when Cara ducked out of the frame. The wires along the walls whined, and when we looked up we saw the train coming at us.

This is how that sequence should have gone:

Screenshot_2015-11-09-16-19-07-1      Screenshot_2015-11-09-16-18-43-1     Screenshot_2015-11-09-16-20-10-1

Just kidding. But really, it could have been a problem.

The engineer laid on his horn, yelling at us as our feet hit the carpet of fallen needles and dirt outside the tunnel.

On our way back to Cara’s car, we calculated all the possible outcomes that situation could have had, depending on if and when we had decided to go through.


We weighed whether or not we would have made it out, plastered against the walls of the tunnel until the train passed by.

Quietly, I felt stupid. But I also felt relieved at the idea that our decisions don’t always meet the consequences unless God says go.




We found a different trail and the base of it looked like this.

Nothing I’ve seen compares to the northwest. I want to temporarily run away, for all of my life, but when I return I think I want to return to this.


Screenshot_2015-11-07-23-39-13-1        Screenshot_2015-11-07-23-34-34-1





Overall, Leavenworth was a solidifier.

Traveling anywhere is a reminder for me that this world is too vast for any one person to see all of it in one lifetime, to meet all the people and choose who we want in our lives and in which role, or experience everything we want to before we die. It’s humbling to realize I can’t hold the weight of that job.

I will never “arrive”–not when I’m in my cap and gown, not when I marry, not when my name is on the cover of a book and not when I blow out candles on my 83rd birthday. I have a say in how things go for me, but I’m not the only factor driving my life, and I’m certainly not the most reliable one.

Life on earth will always be like a living room with mismatching furniture: The old, and the new. Remnants of other’s memories mixed with the making of our own. An entity of character, a collaboration of our choices and circumstance.

My future will be filled, and I guess I don’t have to know what it looks like. I’ll just marvel at what I’m given, always, and the intricate orchestration it took to collide.

Lee Schatz


Last weekend was split between football, food, and bonding time with my father in celebration of UI Dad’s Weekend and working Ag Days, a celebration hosted by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences that welcomes stakeholders and ag-interested high school students across the state to campus for four days. The time I spent with my father was hands-down the highlight of the weekend, but coming in second was the opportunity I got as a communications intern to meet Lee Schatz.

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences alumnus Lee Schatz was one of the six Americans who took refuge in the Canadian embassy officers’ home after Iranians stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Sixty-six others were taken captive for 444 days while Schatz and the five American escapees stayed out of sight. They spent the majority of their time playing Scrabble while waiting for help, so much Scrabble that Schatz claimed to have memorized the backs of several Scrabble pieces.

“You can’t think of what might happen to you if you go international,” Schatz said.

Thanks to American-Canadian cooperation and an outlandish CIA operation involving a Hollywood movie scheme, the six were rescued from Tehran at the head of the Iranian hostage crisis. Their story is depicted in the Ben Affleck film Argo, which the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences showed last Thursday night in honor of Schatz’s return to campus and Ag Days 2015.

The panel following the film featured two hours’ worth of questions and answers between audience members and Schatz, some in relation to the film but most in relation to international agriculture and the specifics of Schatz’s career.

“International is not just foreign anymore. It’s not just out there,” Schatz said, gesturing to the fields surrounding the UI Soil Stewards’ Farm prior to the film Thursday, where I first introduced myself to him. “It’s urban, it’s green spaces. It’s Korea, under plastic.”

Schatz obtained an undergraduate business degree with an emphasis in economics in 1971 and a graduate degree in agricultural economics in 1974 from the University of Idaho. Since his rescue from Tehran, he has worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, helped develop a program called e-Afghan Ag that gives agricultural and protocol information to soldiers helping Afghan farmers (““A guy at 2 o’clock in the morning with a shovel on his shoulder walking down a road might not be burying an IED. He has water for his plots for 24 hours, and he has to change the plots at two o’clock in the morning.”), and as a current employee of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Country and Regional Affairs Office will retire in October with 37 years of international service. The entirety of his career led him to work in over 35 countries and live in three: India, Iraq and Iran.

I am thrilled by the access journalism gives me to meet people like Schatz, who is clearly intelligent, personable, and has a seasoned sort of fire in him born of experience.

Schatz was able to answer questions about what he did and what he does with more comfort than he could my question about how it felt to be him, 36 years ago.

How it felt to be him in 1979, when he wandered the streets of Tehran for two weeks in need of refuge. When CIA Technical Operations Officer Tony Mendez handed him a fake Canadian passport and proposed he take on the identity of a movie crew member in hopes he could successfully smuggle him, and the rest, out of the country. What it felt like going through airport security, sitting in a SwissAir plane that wouldn’t budge due to mechanical problems, and the way it felt when the wheels finally broke from the pavement.

I never got a full answer. And that’s okay.

He talked a little about Tehran, and the risks he knew came with working internationally. He told me about the Scrabble games.

Halfway through, he locked eyes with me, knowing I wanted a more detailed answer. He kind of laughed, like he couldn’t quite bring himself to do it.

He recommended going to the market, wherever country you’re in, and the night ended on that note.

I have a heart for people. I hunger for their stories. I am in love with words, and last weekend I was again reminded that these are the reasons I belong in this profession.


whidbeysandpointlibertylakeseattle 100whidbeysandpointlibertylakeseattle 096whidbeysandpointlibertylakeseattle 097whidbeysandpointlibertylakeseattle 098whidbeysandpointlibertylakeseattle 099whidbeysandpointlibertylakeseattle 100

I’ve stopped telling people they have time. I’ve stopped telling them things will get better. I’ve stopped telling myself the same thing.

I won’t be so arrogant to think I have another fifty years, another fifteen or another five. I won’t be so reckless to say that I don’t.

But I will confidently say things will change. They always do.

Time is the friend we treat poorly. If we’re not asking it to speed up, slow down, draw near or go away, we forget about it. We condemn it. We romanticize it. We misunderstand it. What we don’t do is get to know it, because we’re always trying to change it for what it is.


I seem to visit the ocean most often at the brittle end of fall, when it’s too cold to do anything more than look at the water. I remember that Whidbey Island was particularly washed of color. The sky was opaque and the sand pale beneath my boots. Weather-beaten logs laid like bones across the beach. My bare hand glowed a ghoulish white.

I crossed my arms over my chest. The beach was empty, save for me, my sister, and Emily. The silver bench nailed into the ground at the top of the hill was empty. And the foam of the water that lapped at the shoreline was methodical, rhythmic, expected. It churned back, heaved forth, churned back, heaved forth. And the one word I could think of to describe that scene, as the salty autumn breeze slung pieces of my hair to the west, was “tired.”

Tired. Tired, like my dad when he clocks out of the shop at five.

Tired, like that song on the radio.

Tired, like Time.

I can only imagine how tired Time must be.

Time is a hard worker. Like the ocean, it doesn’t stop. It isn’t allowed to stop.


Time is not money, and Time will tell, but only if we listen.

It’s always about Time when we have a good Time and a matter of Time before we have a hard Time, or a hell of a Time. Time wonders how it can be free when it can also be borrowed or stolen, wonders why we think it’s stealing from us when it’s just doing its job.

In the moments we want to hold onto that sunset or that hand a little longer, we avoid Time. We look it dead in the eyes and coldly ask it to go away. We tell Time we don’t need it. But then we confide in it when we need winter to change to spring so that we can stop quietly screaming.

Give me this, take this away, heal me. Too much free time results in trying enslave Time to our demands. Our love for Time is conditional.

We try to manipulate Time, believing that timing is everything. If we’re not in the right place at the right time all the time, nothing will happen just in time. And being in the wrong place at the wrong time leaves us shrugging, thinking, “next time,” because Time has a way of convincing us we’re young even when we’re not.

If Time is wise, then we must be naive, believing the comfort-laden lie that each of us have all the time in the world.

Truth is, our time could end any time. So in the meantime, we race against Time, reassuring ourselves we have time while at the same time pushing others away with the generic, “I don’t have time.” That we’ll try to find time, as if it isn’t stuck to our ankles like Peter Pan’s shadow. That we’ll make time, as if the invention of the clock made us mighty.

This causes Time to half-smile in amusement, finding us funny for thinking we’re so big-time. Finding it funny we think we can outrun it, speed it up, slow it down, make it, as if it isn’t already, permanently, itself.

Angry Like That


Photo credit: Kira Guyer

When we get mad, we break things. When God gets mad, he fixes things.

I want to be angry like that.

                                                        -Some guy two tables over in this coffee shop

All Right All Right There’s a Land


all right all right there’s a land
where forgetting where forgetting weighs
gently upon worlds unnamed
there the head we shush it the head is mute
and one knows but one knows nothing
the song of dead mouths dies
on the shore it made its voyage
there is nothing to mourn

my loneliness I know it oh well I know it badly
I have the time is what I tell myself I have time
but what time famished bone the time of the dog
of a sky incessantly paling my grain of sky
of the climbing ray ocellate trembling
of microns of years of darkness

you want me to go from A to B I cannot
I cannot come out I’m in a traceless land
yes yes it’s a fine thing you’ve got there a mighty fine thing
what is that ask me no more questions
spiral dust of instants what is this the same
the calm the love the hate the calm the calm

-Samuel Beckett, bon bon il est une pays

The Quiet Life

photograph retrieved from tumblr.com, faking-glory

photograph retrieved from tumblr.com, faking-glory

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.

-1 Thessolonians 4:11

I never liked the sounds of living a “quiet life” until I learned what it meant.

Quiet life. It sounded to me like silence, a suppression of opinion, decoration, opposition. It looked like a barefooted young person sitting crisscross in the center of a rugless hardwood floor, with a mattress shoved under the window, a couple library books stacked on a stool of a nightstand, and a cup of water glistening on the windowsill. It sounded like restriction—the ability to have that piece of candy but refusing it because pleasure was an accessory. Recognized accomplishments seemed out of the question, because it sounded like the quiet life allowed the essential and nothing more. It seemed stripped down past the point of comfort, bearing the expectation that you look around that room, at your remaining belongings, at your lack of experience and believe, this is enough. It is enough to make unglamorous wages at a standardized job and go home to minimalism.

Saints and hippies and meditative beings practiced living quiet lives, and because I had a fascination with perfect peace, the concept of a living a quiet life became glorified while remaining secretly unappealing.

Why was it secretly unappealing? Because the inside of me was cluttered, and my messy, artistic environment reflected that. Because I liked Christmas gifts. Because I liked things. Because I had expensive taste. Because I liked to create—stories and drawings and clothing out of plastic grocery bags and an air hockey table made out of construction paper—and wanted those special, yet flimsy, materialistic things to mean something. Because I wanted a big wedding. Because I believed I was supposed to accomplish something great. Because I was a complex person that desired a full life.

And, I’ll be honest—I wanted to be recognized. I would have happily given the glory to God, yes; but I was also after proof of self-value, thinking it might lie in an accomplishment instead of Him.

In late elementary school, I was deeply curious as to what the purpose of an earthly life was if the things we made and did and said during that time had the potential to be destroyed or forgotten. There seemed something selfish about pleasure that came from earthly things and something pointless about the temporary—which, admittedly, seemed to apply to everything.

At twenty-one, I understand now that this earthly life is, in fact, important—and that my doubt had derived from trying to measure life by the temporary instead of the permanent. By what is remembered in catalogs and documentaries by generations to come instead of what is remembered by God Himself. By what can be destroyed, rather than that which cannot.

What I was getting wrong all along is that the quiet life is, in fact, about substance. The difference lies in where that substance is located: internally, or strictly externally? It has little to do with materialistic minimalism or excess. It had a lot more to do with spiritualistic simplicity.

It is said heaven can be experienced on earth. My childhood creations may have been flimsy, but what they brought—joy or laughter or insight—are everlasting spiritual entities. Pleasure born of pure intent and unique talent may produce objects of fleeting existence, but that which they bring within that time is not unimportant. And I realized that God’s creations—us—are temporary on an earthly level as well. Flimsy. Easily broken by the roll of truck, the shot of a gun, the heat of infection or a tick of time. But the eternal things which store up for ourselves here and what we experience in richness on earth is purposeful, and though temporary in a timely sense, perfectly permanent.

We use our gifts to create gifts. Gifts breed gifts, and because of this, the abundance of this life becomes obvious if we choose to recognize and experience them. God delights in our delight.

We were born for abundance. God loves giving. Sometimes His gifts are material, necessary for earthly life or simply to make it better. A gift is more about the way it makes us feel and smile and sing and the way we use it than the novel or possessive aspect. Sometimes His gifts are simple and direct in form: an opportunity, an inexplicable swell of joy, a friend who knocked on your door just in time.

Abundance might not always look like what we expect. In fact, it might like look a near-empty room, a low paycheck, a less-than-thrilling job, even an unmet desire. But I believe it’s 100% possible to live an outrageously obnoxious life regardless of how much or how little you have. I believe the same for the quiet life.

Living a quiet life doesn’t always equate to living in silence, beneath the surface, or under the radar. You can, believe it or not, be the president of the United States and choose a quiet life. It’s less about what you have and more about what you do with what you have. Less about what you’re known for and more about what you know to be true. It’s about living purely for intimate purposes than to please the masses, whether your life has an audience of twenty-two or twenty-two million.

The quiet life is now appealing to me. Why? Because it doesn’t mean I have to be quiet. It doesn’t mean I can’t strive to become a successful writer. It doesn’t mean I have to sell all my things and donate the money, ignore an RSVP to a high-end New Year’s party that requires a fancy dress, or clam up and stop posting my thoughts on this blog. It just means my motivations to do these things are driven with permanency in mind, instead of the temporary.

My life is arranged differently now. Even the way my environment looks has changed. Before moving to my new apartment, I got rid of things that don’t matter, as well as things that did matter but would be better off mattering to someone else instead. I’m practicing mindfulness. Everything is cleaner on the outside because I’m cleaner on the inside.

In An Instant


We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must….all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words, “I have something to tell you,” a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s paper ancient hand in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.

-Brian Doyle, Joyas Valardores