The stark contrast between the sunshine and high 60’s as we left California with the gray skies and high 40-degree temperatures in Washington was welcome. Most people would prefer the reverse, I’m guessing–especially after Puget Sound had just gotten through some 50 days of rain. For us, it was a nice change of pace and a way for us to consider what it was like here. Few people get to glimpse into their future like this and it wasn’t lost on us that we were looking at just that.
The Pacific Northwest is something of a compromise in our family. I’ve spent most of my life in Southern California, moving here from Pennsylvania with my family at 10-years old and only leaving for a brief time at 18. But in my quiet moments, though the people I love are here, my wife is native here and my daughter, too–I have to admit I’ve never truly felt at home here. Oh, I’ve come to love the west altogether, but Southern California is merely artifice for me. I’m at once kind of inside and outside of it.
But the Pacific Northwest always drew me. In 1992, when my dear friend Keith was living in Portland, I went to visit him with a teaching and college friend of mine. We spent a week in Oregon and I fell so in love with it, that I applied for-and was offered a teaching job in the Beaverton School District. I was ready to make the move. But at that time, I was also falling in love with Sue. And she was smart enough not to commit to anything until it became clear what I was going to do. I nearly gambled and took the job in Oregon, hoping Sue would come join me. But I felt more strongly about her than I did the job and so I returned to California with no regrets.
The rest is family history, of course, but it was endlessly fascinating to me that Shannon decided to attend college in the PNW at Pacific Lutheran University. And while a native Californian, she has fallen under Washington’s spell. For us, it really is an enchanted place.
So it occurs to me that the poetry of the moment is a kind of apex of much that I have pursued for these years. It’s a time for choices. I’ve been reminded twice in the past week of a quote by Joseph Campbell from his book, Myths to Live By. “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” In so many ways, that’s what all of us are doing. Shannon did it when she chose to go away from home for school. Laurie did the same when she uprooted herself from the comfort of her life with us here in California and moved to Washington not knowing anyone other than her niece. And now we too are headed that way, though another year stands between us and the move. It’s no use wishing a year of one’s life away, but I confess that I do sometimes wish it were 2021.
The past few days we spent in Washington with Laurie at her new home took on new urgency for us. We reveled in her new home and town and we no longer felt like travelers or tourists. We cooked in Laurie’s kitchen and we tried a new local distillery, while visiting downtown Tacoma and the state’s history museum. Our family, reunited in the north along with Shannon’s college friends, were no longer Californians. Instead, we were related to this place and we fell into easy comfort, enjoying the sites, surroundings, and preparing ourselves for the time we’re all here, in the north.
The comfortable thing to do, the easy thing, would be to teach for at least another three or four years and stay put. But life is lived forward, the broad windshield before us. A life that is, perhaps, waiting for me, is calling. It’s time to leave behind the life that was planned and start embracing new challenges, answering that call.