To Be Free
Last week I drove to Central Oregon to deliver some commissioned broadsides. I suppose I had the option to ship the work all along, but the weeks roll ahead exerting their own patterns and behaviors, and my schedule must fall in line. This is how I ended up printing the night before deadline.
I actually welcomed the excuse to get up early, brew tea and go. I'd been feeling a bit tight and high, working long days and late nights. I normally have a lot to prepare when I make a trip to Bend. Not only do I often try to utilize the print studios at A6, making it necessary to pack all of my art things, I also often bring my mountain bike, skis, sleeping bags, food: the stuff of a medium-extended stay in my home away from home. But this day there was no such stuff, no such fuss. I simply grabbed my favorite sky blue puffer coat from the hallway rack, buckled my favorite boots, let my hair fly loose and tapped on the gas pedal.
The day went from overcast and rainy to overcast with dramatic mountain clouds. The snow is beginning to stick in the upper elevations. Mt. Washington had his fluffy white wig on. And can I please say a little 'thank god you're here' to Rosie's on the Santiam highway in Mill City? Your espresso is always just the thing, you know?
To turn around in Bend after driving three and a half hours, chatting with your client for 15 minutes, to drive back home to Portland might seem a bit ridiculous. Sometimes though, it seems just right. Sometimes driving is therapy.
My route took me on a loop of the Northern Oregon Cascades. I drove from Portland down past Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington, arriving into Bend through Sisters. I headed home toward Mt. Hood, through Madras, Warm Springs, Government Camp. Just past Madras I turned off toward Lake Billy Chinook. I needed to stretch my legs and breathe a bit of high desert air. The sun ducked in and out of clouds, low on the horizon.
It took me a while to find a trailhead. The trailhead. I wandered through sage brush and rabbit brush, past Juniper and igneous rock. I climbed. My sole aim was to reach the canyon rim before dark, but in the process I witnessed the full glory of a sunset, seen from on high, at the edge of the desert. I made it with a breath of light on the horizon to spare.
Like my whirlwind trip to Bend, the timing on this short autumn day dictated I turn around immediately and head down the canyon path before darkness overtook the narrow trail entirely. I stood to inhale a little slice of open sky and I flew down the trail. And when I say flew, I mean I ran. I felt light-footed, sure-footed, buoyant. I felt, 'This is free.' In this month in which we reflect on what we're thankful for, I am so thankful to be able to feel this freeness. The freeness granted me by my able body to run down a canyon trail at sunset. The freedom and fulfillment my work affords me - both the work that supports and sustains me but the work that takes me to canyon rims on November evenings. The freedom gained by the uplifting support of my family and peers.
When I reached my car on the canyon floor, the sky was indigo and wild with the echoing of a flock of geese bedding down by the river. The call and response of the birds, echoing along the water shivered up the rimrock walls and out into the last light of day.