Goodbye, Opal Creek

It was just over two weeks ago when I noticed the first hummingbird had returned to Opal Creek. Lured here, no doubt, by the same sunshine and mild temperatures that drew many of us Oregonians outside over the Easter weekend. A day or two later, I heard the frogs calling to each other from the slowly warming muck at the pond’s edge, tucked into a still shady corner of the yard. But, just today when I woke, the frogs were silent and the hummingbirds were nowhere to be seen. In their place was a fresh layer of heavy, wet snow and cold, dark clouds raking the mountains overhead.

Spring comes in fits and starts to our little town of Jawbone Flats and, residents of this town all agree, spring is currently having a fit. Over just the past three days I have seen rain, hail, snow, “snain” (that’s rain + snow), blue skies, bright sun, dark clouds, gentle breezes, and vicious winds. In as little as sixty minutes our weather has covered the whole spectrum from Winter to Summer and back again. I think I even caught a glimpse of a new, undiscovered season tucked in there somewhere. One defined by wind-driven, horizontal hail storms and bright sunshine, stalemated overhead, each holding their half of the sky.

This is the fourth Spring I’ve watched return to Opal Creek and they are always like this. That is to say; dynamic, unpredictable and even a little violent. And I guess that’s how it goes anytime there is a transition as total as the one Spring brings to the wilderness. Life does not rouse itself from the torpor of Winter without some cramps and a lot of protest. And neither do the changes of our human experience proceed without discomfort and some struggle.

It has been reassuring for me to keep this in mind as I prepare for one of the biggest and most dramatic transitions I have yet faced in my 29 years. That is, leaving my little cabin in Jawbone Flats for Portland after participating in six consecutive seasons and living here year round since December of 2009. But, just as the Sun encourages the buds to swell and pop on the Alders the thought of my own personal Spring compels me to come down from the mountain and see what new experiences there are to discover in the valley. When I’m being honest with myself I expect it to be just as the weather is in the Spring time. Full of sound and fury, laced with fits and starts, but tilting steadily towards something better. And that’s good enough for me.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have spent the last five years living in such a magnificent place and working with such incredible people. I’m sure I will feel even more grateful for it after a few months in the land of 4-lane highways, neon lights, and strangers’ faces, but I know that it is a necessary change. Just as the horizontally driven hail and the swirling winds are somehow a necessary part of the Spring. And I know that, no matter how harsh the world out there may be, Opal Creek will always be here. Doing what it has for countless decades. Steadily marching through the seasons, slowly passing by the years, and always growing, always changing, always doing just as it should. Thank you Opal Creek. You are my heart.