At Grants Pass, OR we head west from I-5 and hit our first main stretch of two-lane road. My lungs fill with air filtered by wet leaves and wood smoke. My body instantly relaxes.
The rain hasn’t stopped since we left Seattle. Dad keeps checking the weather like we are somehow going to move out of the cloud, but what he doesn’t know is the rain is here for me. It’s my buffer, my blanket, here to ease the transition. It’s somehow comforting, and if it follows me to California, that is just fine.
Parts of this drive are so familiar: the area just north of Olympia where as you drive south and look out over your right shoulder you get a last glimpse of the Sound; crossing the Columbia River as we pass into Oregon; dropping into Grants Pass feeling like you’re descending from mountain tops. Every once in a while Dad comments on things around us. Says, “Hey look, Sweet Cron! They did the sign wrong, funny. I think I stopped at that place with your mom.” And all I can think is That must have been so long ago, fighting to remember a time when we all took car trips together. Maybe it was before me.
Regardless, I have a connection to this place, to this coast. To the flora and fauna I see through the horizontal rain lines on the window. Plants I learned to identify as I was learning to talk. Edible. Poisonous. Cedars. Firs. Madrones. I’ve had to tweak my plant knowledge to incorporate the Northwest (too cold for poison oak), but after nine years I feel like I’m on a first name basis with the West Coast in its entirety. Hiking with Alec I’m always asking, “Isn’t that a….” and she laughs and says, “You’d be the one to know.” Or just, “Okay”, a smile in her eyes. Soon I won’t know anything.
How different will my surroundings be in a month? Will I recognize distant relatives of plants? Will I find a foreign familiarity?
Still two lanes, the October maples and firs acting like a strobe light to my peripheral vision. Yellow, green, yellow, green, yellow. The road is curvy under these trees; we’ve hit a creek and are canyon-carving our way down to the coast. Time to look up and enjoy the scenery.