Impulse, Instinct, Love
March 3, 2019 – Deception Pass State Park, Whidbey Island, WA
We drove over Deception Pass on the evening of the last day in February, greeted by one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever witnessed. I love to travel, no matter the distance or the place, no matter that I’ve been there before. It’s always different—different hues, different experiences, different companions, different state of mind.
Our tent stands in the midst of old-growth trees, tall and majestic. As I sat by the fire last night, I found myself thinking of the first settlers, what life was like for them. In fact, I think about that a lot here. Last night, in darkness, as I exited the tent in the middle of the night to pee, I headed to my usual spot, that invisible border where the campsite ends and the forest begins. Turning my back to the trees, not wanting to imagine what creatures might be lurking in the inky blackness beyond, I reminded myself that this was only a tiny taste of what settlers had to go through every day. There were wild animals, disease, hundreds of things that could have ended their lives at any moment but, despite all of this, I think they lived a much fuller life than we do today. They were in touch with their environment, their senses were heightened without the help of drugs.
It’s obvious that Brent is in his element. He’s a cowboy, the “regulator”—he should be riding the range —he doesn’t fit into this modern, corporate world. Yesterday I watched as he unrolled tarps, spreading them out to make an extended porch in the back. No matter that we’re staying here only a few more days, he puts hours into designing, modifying, improving, and he’s enjoying every moment of his work. I choose to see it as a sign that he’s starting to come out of the dark place he was in.
In January 2019, just before leaving Hawaii, I noticed an “extreme weather” warning on the Weather Channel for Auburn, where Brent was camped out. High winds were expected that night with gusts up to 60mph. I warned him of the impending storm. “You might want to move to a shelter for the night,” but I don’t think he took me seriously. The high winds ripped down the tarp over the hammock where he was sleeping, and the tent covering his supplies was hit by a tree limb. Then, the rain moved in once more, steady, pelting flood rain. I imagined the Green River overflowing and washing his tent away.
Two days later I returned to face one of the coldest winters ever in the Pacific Northwest. A reunion with Brent was the main thing on my mind as the plane pulled into SeaTac Airport. I would figure out a way to quash the warrant for his failure to appear on the assault charge, figure out how to get him out of this mess. At my son’s house, I sent him a text message: ”Let me know if you want to meet up sometime for coffee/food/conversation,” but got no reply. Most likely a dead battery, I thought. When I hadn’t heard from him by lunch time the next day, anxiety crept in.
Instinctively, I opened my cell phone’s browser and performed the search I’d done many times during the 6 weeks I was in Hawaii, the list of King County jail inmates. I scrolled down and there it was, his name, taken in on Friday at 3:20 pm. I silently chastised Brent. How in the hell did you manage to get picked up the same day I was leaving? This just isn’t fair. At least I’d no longer have to worry about inclement weather—he’d have a roof over his head. I checked visiting hours at the Kent Regional Justice Center. Reservations were required 24 hours in advance—it would be Sunday before I could see him.
That first visit was the best, and the worst. I was happy to be sitting face-to-face, even separated by a pane of unwashed glass. Brent looked like he’d been through hell. His eyes were wild—it was obvious he hadn’t slept and had likely been abruptly pulled off his anti-depressant medication. Not good. He looked at me sheepishly like a child who’s been chastised by his mom. “I hope you’re not mad at me.”
“No, but you could have timed it better”, I replied. “What about Loki? Is someone taking care of him?”
“I think someone took him, but maybe you can check. Last I remember I was standing in front of the ‘Ray of Hope’ (homeless shelter), bending over to pick up my backpack. I think they got me there, but maybe it was my campsite ‘cause I noticed my pants were all muddy.”
The Ray of Hope did not have Loki. I contacted the Auburn Humane Society and discovered he’d once more been picked up. Since this was a second “offense”, it would cost much more to get Loki out, and we’d have to get written permission from Brent to retrieve him. By that time, the fees would be astronomical. There was only one logical way out of this mess. I’d have to adopt Loki.
I got the usual feedback from friends and relatives.
“What? Brent doesn’t remember how he got picked up? That’s a common story and it’s a cop-out. He just doesn’t want to remember.”
“So, are you going to keep Loki after you adopt him? Brent’s obviously not in any condition to take care of him. Look how many times he’s escaped? He’d be better off with you.”
Why am I here, at Deception Pass State Park living in a tent? It was a knee-jerk reaction. I was tired of listening to the negativity coming from those around me, tired of having to depend on others for room and board, and most of all, without a place to call my own, it was the only way I could get to know Brent. But most of my best decisions in life have been impulsive, based on instinct, rooted in love.