Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Difference

Columbia River Gorge from Bridal Veil Falls trail overlook, 2014

Columbia River, 2015 - taken with Nancy at Bridge of the Gods, OR
Aurora and I took a quick trip back to Multnomah Falls and Bridal Veil Falls the morning that we had to fly out of Portland. Most folks would have slept in, had a nice leisurely breakfast and gone to the airport on time. Nope, not us. We squeezed every last drop from that trip! In four day's time she and I spent two days flying out and back, managed to get in a trip the OR coast, visited and interviewed at two colleges, did a huge loop around the Olympic National Park and made two trips up the Columbia River Gorge. Every day held week's worth of experiences. It has taken me the better part of a year to process some of them.

Nancy and I visited here last month when we dropped Aurora off at college in Portland. Everything was dry, brown and crunchy due to the extended drought that has pounded the Pacific NW this year. No snowpack over the winter made for an exceedingly dry summer. No rain fell after May. By the time we got out there, we expected Multnomah Falls to be more like Multnomah Wind Tunnel.

This year's photo made it hard to hide the dry brown that was everywhere... plus the haze from all the fires in Central WA and OR added a dull grey-brown-ness to everything.

At the end of the day, it isn't the fires or the season that make the difference. This year is different because we left a chunk of our family out in Portland. Aurora joined a coastal explorers club at Reed... and I realized I wanna join too! There is so much to see and do, I just want to drop what we're doing here at home and move out there. I could list a millions differences between this year and last, but the biggest difference is knowing that Aurora gets to explore a whole new part of the world (to us)... and if we're lucky we get to hear all about it. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Learning to Fly

The first image was made this summer when Aurora and I took Georgia Rose up to Lake Ontario to swim. A recent storm had knocked down a huge chunk of the looming cliffs that make up Chimney Bluffs. The water was milky brown instead of the usual clear blue. Georgia Rose wasn't sure that the waves were safe,  and required enormous coaxing out into the water. Her life jacket didn't fit as well as it did two years ago. She'd grown a little.

The fallen clay and trees and misc debris that had fallen with the cliffside made it so that the beach access heading west was gone. Totally blocked. The only way around was to swim out into deeper water and brave the snags and unseen things in the water. Aurora and I discussed the possibilities and decided that foregoing our walk along the beach was a small price to pay for the knowledge that we would (all three of us!) be safe. 

The second image is of Aurora and Sandy, during Aurora's first summer discovering that she could, in fact, swim. We gave her a snorkel and mask... and the next thing we knew, she was off on her own, cruising the pool. At first her forays were along the walls, keeping safety within easy reach. As the weekend progressed, she gained more faith in her abilities and by the time we left Misquamicut she was a swimmer to the core. 

Red Cross classes for the next few years would see her progress up to the final lifesaving class which they refused to let her get at age ten or eleven because no one would hire her to lifeguard until she was 18. Never mind that she could lift the bricks off the bottom and perform all of the rescues that were required... she  was just too young (little) to pass the lifesaving test according to the Red Cross. The following summer would see Aurora in the middle of Cayuga Lake in a torrential electrical storm. Her sailing class had been out in little Opties... bathtubs with sails. A summer storm had come up quickly and now there were three foot waves with whitecaps roaring. Aurora's boat, like most of her classmates had capsized and filled with water. Everyone was being slowly rescued by the camp motorboat... but Aurora was left for last. She was relaxed in the water. Calm in the face of the storm. She knew she wouldn't drown... the  motorboat knew where her sailboat was... and as the chain of swamped boats was tied together and hauled to shore, Aurora's was the last boat in the line. 

Where am I going with this? 

I think we learn through adversity and failure. If things always worked just fine, I doubt we would really ever learn. This week Aurora started her first semester of college at Reed in Portland OR. She sent me her schedule of classes for the term and I gulped. She is signed up to take some heavy duty classes. Far more serious than my freshman year... but I know she can do it. I know that she will need someone to offer her that handhold for a short while... and then she'll be off and zooming. I also know that when storms hit and toss everything helter skelter, she'll be prepared and relaxed. It doesn't make it any easier to watch though!