“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.”
I was born and grew up in the Portland area of Oregon. While going to college at Boise State, I made the drive back home along the Columbia River many, many times. Recently, I moved to mountains of Montana and although my drive doubled, the beautiful stretch of waterfalls, giant fir trees and windsurfers is still a part of that beautiful drive home.
My last drive back home was the first since the Summer of 2017 wildfires. I was really nervous about what I’d see. As I passed through charred and barren land, piles of downed trees and one giant tree on fire way too close to the road, tears rolled down my cheeks. I also felt this sense of hope that almost made me feel guilty. I’d been accompanied by a rainbow for at least an hour of that early morning drive through the rain. Oregon will recover. It will never be the same and I know many people were impacted by the tragic fires and my heart hurts for them, but what I saw was actually better than what I was expecting. The expression I heard repeatedly during my training in the Peace Corps, “Your expectations can never be too low,” drifted through my mind.
Between hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes and fires, 2017 has been rough on our world and I’ve had to remind myself that we must move forward. And that’s not even mentioning politics or for me, personally, a lawsuit that smashed my heart and idealistic spirit into the ground. Sometimes it feels like I’m wearing a backpack full of bricks and have concrete blocks for shoes and even one tiny step forward is enough movement to celebrate. I seek inspiration in nature, reading and writing. I seek inspiration in the knowledge that we all have challenges and struggles. As I make new friends and maintain connections to old friends far away from my haven in the woods, I find strength and courage in the experience of moving forward together. There may be days when I carry a brick from someone else’s backpack and days when he or she carries one of mine. But these connections, along with double rainbows, make the journey of life a little easier and sometimes even magical. Grow, Oregon, grow, and we’ll do the same.