Field Notes

1 Field Notes September 2014
Planning Perspective
© 2014

We now live in a world of capitalized extremities. The Ultimate Experience now poses a threat to the kind of small revelations that can make us happy.

-Andrew O’Hagan

When my children were young, we used to play a made-up game called “What I Would Get You.” It was a version of cash-less window shopping. Tourist towns near campgrounds often had strips of stores, art galleries and gift shops. Windows framed displays of pottery, colorful scarves, mobiles that sparkled and stuffed rabbits playing with trains, hoops, blocks and puzzles. Because the shops were closed during our after-dinner walks, there was no temptation to go inside which may have changed the game considerably from “What I Would Get You,” to “I really, really, want to have this,” or the other version, “I really need to have this.” That, after all, was what the game was about. Not getting what you want, but feeling like you did, was all in the imagining.

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PDF  1 Planning Perspective

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2 – Field Notes Trip One Southern Oregon Coast
© 2014

I looked into the big brown eyes of the maybe 6 or 7-year-old in front of me.  “You can come visit us,” he said, “You know Gardiner, the town?  You just walk up 2 stairs to our apartment.” Be still my beating heart; a kindred spirit. This is how I give directions that tend to get me (or others) completely lost and sometimes right where we belong.  My friend, John Bush, wrote a story about his mother who lived in the Applegate Valley.  When people would come to her remote location and ask how to get anywhere, she would always give them the directions to Dick Miller Canyon.  Having no sense of direction herself, she had memorized those.  John said that she figured everyone would be better off if they ended up in Dick Miller Canyon.

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2 Field Notes Southern Oregon Coast

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3 Field Notes: Trip Two, Washington: Yakima Valley to Mazama
© 2014

There is a time where solitude tips over into loneliness. Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, in his poem “The Children’s Hour,” defines it as “Between the dark and the daylight,/When the night is beginning to lower.” Photographers have dubbed it “The Golden Hour,” that space of light just before sunset and just after dawn.  As a parent I (and many other parents I know) called it the “witching hour,” even though that original phrase defined midnight when demons and witches roamed the dreams and lands long past sunset. This was the time, dinnertime to be exact, that I would cajole my children with warm bubblebaths, stories on records (yes records!) or the newest stack of library books while I narrowly avoided a meltdown myself.

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3 Field Notes Yakima to Mazama

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4 Field Notes: Trip Three: Mazama to Mt. St Helens
© 2014

The best travel is in the unexpected, the surprise, even the paradox.  This sentence looks good as I type it, but I know that these qualities also bring a traveler to hives just trying to figure out the unfamiliar, say ferry schedules or what to do if you really do get stuck on an island? The novelist, Marilynne Robinson says that the “default posture of humans is fear.” People ask often if I’m afraid to travel alone. I am afraid, sometimes, but I also know the worst things that have happened to me haven’t come from risky behavior or from going solo.  I’m at the age where reasonable risks seem, well, reasonable.

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Trip 3 Mazama to Mt. St Helens

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5 Field Notes: Trip 4 Palouse to Rosalia
© 2015

Just prior to this trip in April, I got a note from a friend asking me how the travel project was going. Did the trips “make you want to settle in or just keep going and going?” She talked about a time she had camped for six months with the first half feeling voluntary, while the last had her feeling homeless and knowing that she needed to “move into predictability and more immediate access to warm water.” I have made subtle and not-so-subtle changes all along these trips, but I’m not ready to settle in – yet. This trip brought me to 55 new places so far. (My last entry will include a list of the places – all within Oregon and Washington. “You come too” says the poet Robert Frost.) While I’ve shortened the itinerary length from my wishful planning of 12 weeks of travel to 6 weeks throughout the year, it has been no less gratifying.

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Trip 4 Palouse to Rosalia

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6 Field Notes: Trip 5 Tillamook north to Gray’s Harbor
© 2015

Years ago before my children and I began a road trip across the United States, we stopped at a friend’s who snapped this photo.  In it, each of us represents a different aspect of our family that shaped travel in unanticipated ways.  The little bit of my daughter’s face that you can see is in such a deep frown, that her eyebrows have melded into one unit.  My son looks unsure and a little skeptical.  I kept saying, “This will be so much fun.”

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Trip 5 Tillamook north to Grays Harbor

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7 Field Notes: Trip 6 John Day River and The Painted Hills
© 2015

The poet Marianne Moore said “..the cure for loneliness is solitude.” When I felt lonely while traveling, I did four things: wrote, photographed, drew or read until loneliness shifted to the contentment of solitude. Sometimes the shift came from pure grace. With no electricity in most campgrounds, the stars were as brilliant as they are at my coastal home. Waking while camped next to the John Day River adjusted small fears and big worries so that, for a night, there was nothing but happiness and peace when I woke. If grace just arrives without effort, not permanently, but as a gift of respite, it arrived on the river, especially at Big Bend Campground.

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7 Field Notes