Leaning Into the Light

As I begin writing this post, I am safely tucked away at Saint Lucia coffee shop in the old historic part of downtown Centralia. There are a few locals engaging in banter that is white noise to me and what I love most about small coffee shops. I feel the community, but I am quite invisible as I tap away on my phone and flip through my journal. It’s a blending. Like the difference between a latte and a shot of espresso … I am the cream. 

I just left my niece after a whirlwind fabulous weekend in Portland. We ate, hiked, visited a friend, ate, watched soccer and did I mention we ate ? We climbed a mountain and waited patiently with others for the clouds to clear to get a glimpse of the six miles of gorgeous Oregon coastline. We ventured upward through a forested-turned dusty portion of the PCT, visited one of my favorite people from my Mineral residency last summer and watched the local womens soccer team play to a tie. From the front row !! 

We did the drive-thru at Dutch, ate glorious sandwiches at Tilt and grabbed donuts at Pip’s. We got our bakery fix at the Cannon Beach bakery (best marionberry turnover I have ever put in my mouth) , had an amazing breakfast at Yolk and the best Pho’ ever at Oregon Pho’. This morning we topped it off with biscuits and gravy and a bottomless cup of coffee at Pine State Biscuits. Whew !

That’s the official download.

As I drove away from Portland I watched hawks circling and dancing along the I-5 corridor. If happiness had a signature movement and sway today, these hawks would be it.  I saw the circling and dipping of this hawk dance in three different places. They had my attention. 

Now that I’m gulping down my spicy mocha I have time to let the past few days sink in. It was really the first weekend I’ve spent with my “friend” Natalie and there is a rush of emotion. 

In watching her, I see glimpses of the very serious five year-old. When Kelly stepped in as nanny to Nat and Blake, she was determined to help these two grow into themselves. Blake was shy and reserved, Natalie was thoughtful and serious. I always wondered what that would look like as she grew into it. I saw it this weekend.

I saw it in her face as we talked about climate change. We did, after all, just flip the calendar on the hottest July ever recorded. I saw it in her eyes as we talked about the senseless shootings and what might motivate a human being to randomly, callously take the lives of others (there is no good answer here). 

I think she was listening as I gave my signature “auntie lecture” about paying attention to how people treat you. People will always show you who they are. Believe them. The first time. ( Maya Angelou said this. I am paraphrasing) There may be endless attempts to alter what you’ve seen, or try to edit your experience by telling you otherwise, but it is crucial that you trust how someone makes you feel. I got the eye-roll after a few versions of that, but I know she heard me. And I trust that on some cellular level it has sunk in. 

There is still the playful part of her too. She makes endless fun of my more quotable moments. Most notably this trip was my feeling that “the older I get the more I am fascinated by light”. I’ll never hear the end of that one, but it’s okay because it is completely true. My other notable quote is less profound … “oh fuck”. You had to be there to appreciate that one. (Hint: it came after a constant “up, up, up” on the dusty portion of the Neahkahnie Mountain trail).

Great weekend. I hope there are many more in our future. Here are the other highlights:

Saturdays Gillette Lake hike took us through a beautiful forest lined with knotty, mossy old Douglas Firs. The Tamanous trail, as it is called, began as a vision quest for young Native Americans. It is filled with soft light as you begin the straight uphill climb toward what we have renamed “Heart Lake”. We ventured beyond to the junction for Table Mountain but opted to make that our turn -around spot. 

The food was amazing on this trip. I just love Portland. I’m happy to know Nat and Blake will be here for at least a few more years. 


Soccer on a beautiful night from the front row. An un-obscured view is hard to come by anywhere in the world these days. It was a nice experience. 

Neahkahnie Mountain is a beautiful hike, mostly through lush, green forest. We were there around 8 and it was a beautiful light show in streak and shadow. Oh, how I love the light these days. It is a climb to the summit of the mountain on rock boulders. We shared space with others at the top as we waited for the low clouds to dissipate. Lots of dogs, too. I made a new friend in Nima, who snuggled right next to me as I provided love and shade. It’s the best thing in the world. Her owner said her name meant “blessing”. Indeed. 

The clouds eventually cleared for a moment and gave us a glimpse of that signature view down six miles of Oregon coast. It cleared more later in the day, but we were happy to stick our toes in the ocean and sand at Manzanita and relax before heading for home. 

Three of Earth Farm in Centralia was my last overnight stop for the weekend. My friend Gretchen has created a sanctuary here and I stay as often as the stars align to make it so. Inside, you are enveloped in warm, vibrant color, outside you can be swept up by the sounds and light of the meadow and woods. The view from the soft, cozy bed is beautiful. I keep the drapes open, which I can never do at home, and watch stars twinkling through the trees. There is faint light from the valley and a train whistle that reminds me this is small town America and I am basking in its beautiful glow. You can book a night or two here, and read her posts about this and other magical places, on her blog here. And definitely plan a visit to Hubbub, where Gretchen’s sister Rebecca owns the coolest shop in Centralia here.

On my last morning of this trip, I rose early and was out the door by 4 am. It isn’t quite pitch dark at this hour, and as the minutes tick by, the light begins to materialize in the softest ways. My drive toward Mt St Helens, to witness the rising sun was a journey into light. From nautical twight to civil twilight and finally the rising of the sun over the Mount Margaret Wilderness. So very much to love. At the top of Johnston Ridge, I wait through those sherbet colors shifting across the sky until I see my shadow. The sun has risen and it has been a glorious awakening. I wandered the Boundary and Coldwater Lake trails until 10 am, when I finally got to watch the two striking movies in the theater of the Johnston Observatory visitor center. I highly recommend doing that if you ever visit here. Stunning, educational and breathtaking images of the eruption that changed the face of this mountain forever.

My trip ended with my car breaking down on the on-ramp to my last three mile stretch of roadway home. Sigh. A reminder that for a few more months, I have another life to return to and that it involves, cars and traffic and wasted time sitting in all of it.

More adventure ahead for this week. I can hardly wait ❤


2 Comments on “Leaning Into the Light

  1. I am so happy you had this moment with Nat. I can feel the smiles. The heartbeats. I am happy for her, too. So full…*

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