April 25, 2019 – Dash Point State Park, Federal Way, WA
When it comes to decision making, I’m impetuous, but there’s a method behind my madness. I spend hours weighing the pros and cons of each option, only to throw it all away and act on instinct. At other times, circumstances intervene to push me in one direction. Brent’s hearing was postponed yet again to the end of May, and it looks like his shoulder surgery will be scheduled soon. With hot weather moving into Arizona, it makes sense to spend the summer in Washington, much as I long for a place to call my own and to store my things, a place to call home.
Arizona is the state we’ve chosen. Brent is from there and I already own the land to build on, 10 acres in the southeast corner near Elfrida. There’s nothing in Elfrida—a gas station, a small western shop, and a café. My favorite place, the Rattlesnake Crafts Gift Shop, closed its doors a couple of years ago. The shop was tiny, not much more than a shed, selling belts, wallets, and other items made from rattlesnake hide. “We don’t kill the snakes,” the owner assured me one day, “They’re made from road kill.” But it wasn’t the snakes I was interested in. Outside the shop was a veritable museum of western items salvaged from the desert—saddles, rusted rifle barrels, tin coffee pots, bleached out cattle skulls—a photographer’s dream.
Some don’t see the charm of the desert, they see only scrubland, snakes, and cactus. But they’ve never seen it after the monsoon season, when the dry brown landscape becomes rolling green hills reminiscent of Scotland, or in the spring when cactus blooms turn the desert into a Monet painting with splashes of red, yellow and pink. At night, the silence goes on forever, and the skies are bursting with stars, creating a twinkling canopy of natural light.
But that is the future, and the present is now, here in Dash Point. The interesting cast of characters that populated the park during the off-season, have largely disappeared, replaced by weekend campers, mostly families and young couples. The maximum stay of 20 days has become 10 days, so we’ll be packing up camp more often now. A few homeless people remain, mostly car-only campers like our neighbor Rob. He’s an amiable, talkative guy in his forties—his teeth are brown, chipped and stained by years of chewing tobacco which he spits out periodically. He’s one of the many people in the area that have been pushed into homelessness by the exorbitant cost of living here in the Pacific Northwest. He has a job, making $14 an hour, but that isn’t enough to pay for an apartment, so he camps out, sleeping in the back of his white station wagon. When the 10-day limit is up, he gets a cheap hotel room for 3 days then moves back to Dash Point.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been camping now for almost 3 months. Who would have thought I could live with a man 24 hours a day and emerge unscathed? It’s not my natural state, but I’m getting used to it, growing to like it even—and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve always been a high energy, impulsive person with a tendency to impose deadlines on myself and others. That’s fine when you have a plane to catch, but it makes no sense when the deadlines are self-imposed. Yesterday, we planned to play drop-in pickleball (finally!) and I deliberately avoided setting a time to be there. The only limit I set was waking up Brent at 8:00 am—the rest was up to him. He’s notoriously bad when it comes to being on time and he hates when I try to hurry him. I’m beginning to relax, working on developing patience.
The other lesson I’m struggling with is living in the moment. Usually in the spring I’m in Italy, enjoying the onset of warm weather. I loved to watch the flowers emerge, one by one—first the mimosa trees with their bright yellow fragrant blooms, then the wisteria, purple magnets for bees—later the irises (my mom’s favorite flowers), then finally the roses. During the day I tried to relax and enjoy the flowers. I’d sit on my swinging chair in the garden, take a deep breath, inhale the aroma. Then my eyes would move up to my rock garden, spot the weeds growing between the cracks, and minutes later I’d be down on my knees yanking them out. So much for living in the moment.
Here it’s different. The smallest of things are accomplished in slow motion—the dishes carefully washed, rinsed, dried, and placed in a bin. Making the bed at night in the camper is a ritual of setting down foam, two layers of sleeping bags, a top blanket, then tucking the sides in to make sure they don’t come loose during the night. My days are full of these small chores, and the few obligations we have are taken care of quickly so we can go stroll on the beach and collect shells. I have a feeling that summer will be good this year.