“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” – Herman Melville
I set out alone early on a Saturday morning for the sunshine of eastern Washington.
I am headed to Ellensburg, Washington, a place I have never been. I am going to see my youngest daughter Ryan, run for her University track team. She is a sprinter, but she is trying something new, the 800m run, a race some say is basically run your little heart out and then puke at the finish line.
Rain pelts my windshield as my wheels hug the ribbon of the Columbia River that flows between Oregon and Washington. There's a pattern here in the canyon that brings me comfort; basalt cliffs of Washington, highway 14, railroad tracks, Columbia River, railroad tracks, highway 84 and basalt cliffs of Oregon graced by waterfalls splashing down their face.
The pattern is only broken when the highway and railroad secretly criss-cross giving me glimpses of the train cars at times against the water and at times against the shadow of the stone cliffs. Wildflowers are sprinkled on both sides, some are only found in this volcanic gorge. I was reluctant to leave home, but I already feel the earth rising to meet me.
At the cut-off to Goldendale, I drive through Maryhill. I am mesmerized by the vineyards, the windmills and the feisty wind whipping through the gorge. I stop to capture the sight and had to brace myself in the wind gusts.
I post this beauty along the way. It looked like a painting to me.
"Road trips are always good for my soul, though being a homebody, I don't always wanna leave home. But I'm going to see my baby girl run, so I hit the road happy. I hope she runs like the wind blowing these windmills.
Out in the columbia Gorge even the grasses wave in the world class wind."
The photos don't do justice to the size and magnificence of these windmills. Their 41-story height is sculpted against the sky. Their feet are set in wildflowers and the grasses beneath are flowing like a river as they catch the wind.
Honestly, I got back in the car with hair like Bridget Jones on her mini-break holiday.
My bouffant hair was just the beginning. The sun had broken free from the clouds and I could already sense the wind expanding my soul, airing out the musty spots and breathing in adventure.
When my four whippersnappers were young, I always needed out of the house, for a coffee, for a run, for an errand. I just needed a break from the day-in, day-out routine. I needed to b r e a t h e .
Now that they are mostly gone with interesting lives and thoughts to tell me, I am deeply contented to be at home. Of course, now I can run errands till the cows come home, but who wants to? I have curbed my appetite to get out of the house and get out fast.
I think what I was looking for back then but sometimes confused with "out there", was "in here" (point to heart).
I poured myself into being a mama, heart and soul. I felt the deep privilege and heavy responsibility of shepherding four little hearts and wiping eight little buns. Mike worked too many hours to count and we did a lot of divide and conquer to make it through the day.
Back then, I was thirsty for solitary time, little scraps of it to complete thoughts and prayers and dreams. Out on an errand, I could read labels, buy a thoughtful gift and make good decisions with just a little bit of white space in my head, around my heart and hugging my knees. It's not that I loved running so much as I could clear my head and finish a thought on a neighborhood run. I returned red-faced, sweaty and ready to be a generous mama again.
I'm thinking about those times as I drive through Yakama Nation with wide views of Mount Rainer on the western horizon. If only I could have seen snowcaps in the distance back then. Somewhere after Toppenish, I dip down into the sunshine of the Yakima Valley where the foothills, brown and barren of trees, remind me of the Alborz mountains, the backdrop of my years in Tehran. I have been places and loved adventure.
In Ellensburg, Ryan runs two races under sunny skies and a crosswind. She is a sprinter learning the art of the 800 meter race. There is a strategy built around how fast to start, how to pace for the distance and when to gather steam for the finish. I can see she is being coached well, as a whole human being and she is blooming like the wildflowers in the gorge.
My mama heart smiles and sighs. As much as I enjoy my homebody routine and the grit it took to establish it, looks like I've got to get out in the wind.
It was her sister Kate's brilliant idea. She had a mama's heart even before she became one to Eliza. I stay a night with Ryan near her college, meeting her friends, exploring little nooks and crannies and watching the clouds paint the sky. We dream, we thrift, we go in search of acai smoothie bowls. We wish Kate was with us. We call to tell her about the acai bowls we found.
While Ryan writes a paper for class, I go for a walk in the marina near the hotel in the afternoon. It's rainy and I think about singing beside her in church that morning.
"Sundays away from home are good for a different viewpoint and singing in a different church. We sang, "I am a child of God." and "I have been set free." Things I need to say out loud more often."
Thanks to my husband who knows my first-born heart, I stay another night breaking into Monday. I let the laundry pile up at home while he works. He doesn't care about the laundry. I am learning not to.
I head home with a soul full of space and freedom. I think Ryan does too. We are both wildflowers in the wind, with petals to share.
"I've been away and now I'm home again. Both are good. I was a rebel to my routine which I secretly love. I covered almost 500 solitary miles. Now I'm back in an ordinary day and seeing things a bit differently."