Escape from the Wet/Return to the Wet

I left my hometown of Salem, Oregon at age 17 for a summer job at Breitenbush Hot Springs where, naked, I scrubbed out the tubs with baking soda and, after work, made out with a soft-spoken hippie boy in the back meadow. From there, my big plan: GO SOMEPLACE HOT. My friend Jen and I hitch-hiked the circumference of Mexico with truckers (not advised) and nothing terrible happened. My Spanish got better and, on a little side adventure, a geriatric man in Belize asked me to marry him. I guess he liked the way I jumped off the dock into the teal water first thing every morning? He was known on that island as “The Crab” and I respectfully declined, but not before bailing him out of jail with my only possession of value: an old REI water purifier. (Long story.) Jen and I had no money and we ate a lot of scavenged food. A highlight: a sun-heated watermelon injected with rum, and some fried fish from a little ghost boy who appeared out of nowhere before our bleary eyes and brought us to his home from the beach. We were teenagers and we were invincible. My friend fell in love with a French-Canadian (as one does) in Guadalajara so I ventured on solo to what was next: by train and by bicycle (rescued somewhere outside of Tucson by an older couple in an RV) to my first year of college in northern Arizona.

Oregon felt farther away than it actually was. All that green wet was so far behind me. I burnt myself to a crisp each day climbing rocks and writing poetry in the hot, arid sunlight. THE HEAT! It was glorious. Years and years later a friend, also from Oregon and also not living here at the time, asked me, “Don’t you miss it? Don’t you want to go back to Oregon?” I was adamant that I did not, probably said I never would. But you know, things happen.

Coming back is as glorious as leaving was. These fucking beautiful trees! The moss. The rain and all the different sounds it makes. The first plants I knew how to identify as a kid are on every walk: Salal, Western Hemlock, Trillium, Bunch Berry and Sword Fern. I greet them like the childhood friends they were, look for whales and take deep breaths. My 17 year old self definitely had to leave, and this homecoming feels every bit as right.

2 Replies to “Escape from the Wet/Return to the Wet”

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