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:
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.
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.