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Base Camp: Year One

It seems hard to believe I've been here a year already, this place I moved to almost exclusively for the reason of "leaving home." Base camp. The place before the Big Move. But, what with one thing and another, my plans have been delayed, so my time here has extended into the beginning of a second year. Fourteen months total, to be precise.

It's not that it's awful here. It's not. And as I was swimming laps yesterday afternoon, outdoors in a beautiful Olympic-length pool under clear blue August skies, I found myself thinking about the nicer aspects of this particular base camp. Things I might miss, later, and chide myself for not having appreciated whilst I had them.

My friend in Wales emailed me yesterday about the "lashing rain" they were having. "Lashing." That sounds terrible, doesn't it. And yet, not inconsistent with the UK, where I recall a day touring around Glasgow a few years ago, my attire alternating about every thirty seconds (not exaggerating) between sunglasses and umbrella (the latter of which was of little use, as the wind was whipping around hard enough to make any umbrella more of a hindrance than a help). In comparison, then, central Oregon's bright blue cloudless skies, the relentless and reliable sunshine ("Over three hundred sun-filled days each year!" boast the tourist pamphlets). Outdoor plans may be cautioned by heat but never spoiled by weather. Nobody here ever needs a raincheck or back-up plan lest weather interfere. Sure, an introverted book-nerd like myself might grumble occasionally about the lack of an overcast day "just once in a while!", so I could have the excuse to curl up under a blanket and read the day away, but won't I miss all this guaranteed reliable pleasantry in which to walk my dogs every morning, once I'm elsewhere?

I've been wondering, too, about things I don't even know I'm going to miss, things I take so much for granted that I can't even perceive that their presence isn't ubiquitous. Like toilet paper in central Turkey. Part of me wonders if that isn't something so straightforward as ... trees. Just now, turning my head one direction, I see the huge fir tree across the street framed in my kitchen window, with a tuft of my own front yard willow in the corner. Turning my head the other way, I see at least a dozen different tree & bush species in my & my neighbors' backyards: maple, birch, lilac, juniper... their canopies merging to fill at least half of the visual field. Will that be true on an island which has been inhabited by industrious white man (somehow those indigenous peoples did a much better job of not taking more than their share than we greedy Caucasian folks seem to) for thousands of years, chopping down every tree as if it's so easy for another to spring up in its place. (Oops, it's not.) Trees in the UK seem to be planned, or preserved, or maintained, or protected. They aren't simply "there." Admittedly, the maple tree in my neighbor's yard is hardly native and was instead planted there by some prior homeowner. But I watch BBC shows and can't help but notice there are frequently no trees, anywhere.

Thinking back to last summer, I also remember the life I thought I might lead here, versus the one which has unfolded. Some things, let's face it, are out of our control. Before moving here, I had envisioned taking advantage of all the funky eating establishments and adorable little shops. Hell, even the grocery shops are cute. But the truth is, after a time, it's so easy to resume one's normal routine. The realities of working -- and, as I'm discovering during these unanticipated jobless months, even not working -- bring the default of "Netflix and chill" to the fore. Sure, I have nothing better to do than spend all day looking for some obscure Asian pepper to prepare a new Thai recipe, but do I really want to go through all that trouble? As it turns out, I don't. Once a month, tops. And eating in restaurants, well, that's expensive and frankly I'd rather be home with my dogs. (A brief aside on same: What is it with people bringing their dogs into restaurants? Is that something the dog genuinely enjoys, being curled up at their owners feet on the hard floor, for an hour or so, while their owner chats with friends and gobbles down a cheeseburger? How is that really for the dog's benefit?) And all those cute little shops? I don't really need anything. Some forty dollar throw pillow that proclaims "The Mountains are Calling"? Nah. Anybody who knows me already knows that.

And the people of this community just seem to be cut from a different cloth than I am. Not sure how, exactly. Just ... aloof-but-false-friendly? Like, the sort to cheerily ask how you're doing but not give a shit about listening to your response. My own preference is either be genuinely friendly and approachable, or be the cold unhelpful clerk you want to be, like Parisians. At least it's more honest that way. I don't much care either way, really. But do any of us really need any more moments of Lucy pulling away the football than are completely necessary?

So then this year. Base camp. I'm looking at the calendar to a date of packing up my tent & moving on. It's been good, in its own way. I definitely learned some things. Experienced new terrain, new trees, lots of sunshine. Come to think of it, this might be a little bit what it feels like to stand below Everest and consider abandoning a perfectly reasonable living place in favor of somewhere bound to be more challenging, a bit hard to get to, and possibly ultimately less enjoyable than I am right where I'm standing today.

The problem is, I can't see, from here, what I came to see. I have to go up there to see that.


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