It’s Messy.

Messy keeps running through my head.  When a word runs through my head, if I don’t do something with it, it multiplies like bunnies.  Soon, it feels like every nook and cranny is filling my brain with the word.  Sometimes I journal, sometimes I use it for the book I’ve been writing for 13 years, and sometimes I blog it…and usually never post the blog publicly.  I am fairly certain I am working towards a world record on unpublished blog posts.  Sometimes I post them for a day, or an hour, and then pull it back…I worry I am posting it for the wrong reason.  So messy even fits my blog.  Cause it’s ALL over the place.

I remember the first time it kinda popped into my head…the Messy word.  I was driving into the big city…where we have two lanes, a Macy’s, Walmart and Costco.  I had all these to do’s in my head, worries on my mind, and a messy house to clean.  As I often do, I started having an out loud conversation with myself…the kind where you are talking into the air, and anyone driving near you might possibly think you’ve either lost it, or are talking into your cell phone blue tooth thing…but not letting the other person utter a word.  I was talking about being 45 and not having a degree and being unsure about what I want to do when I grow up….and how that feels scary and lonely and super messy.

Social media might make it feel more lonely, but really, I think some form of social media has been around a long time.  There was even messy during Little House on the Prairie times.  Imagine how Laura felt walking into Nelly’s house?  She felt messy without her shiny shoes, perfect hair bows and store bought dresses.  Going into her one room school house probably felt like social media messiness….it sucked.  So, the messy feeling isn’t new, maybe just don’t go to Nelly’s house so much.

Messy can feel hard, endless and hopeless.  Sometimes messy feels stinky if it’s dishes, unclean football gear, a rotting vegetable drawer, hair that you are trying to remember if it was yesterday, the day before or maybe two days ago since you last washed it.  It can feel really damn scary when Messy is our marriage, our children, our finances, our world. Messy sometimes is your house, your bank account, your fridge, your laundry room, your car, your jiggly belly.  It might be the lost relationship of a child, a broken marriage, an aging parent with Alzheimer’s,  someone you love so much and they don’t love you back.  It could be the loss of a friendship, a job, your memory, your health, your security, your house.  It could be the death of your husband, your wife, your child, your mom, your dad, your very best friend.  Whatever messy you are feeling, it sucks.  It’s lonely, isn’t it?

You might be hoping I have something to say to wrap this up…to fix the messy or to at least put a bow on it, so it feels prettier.  I don’t.  I’m sorry.  I do have words I tell myself all the time.  I’m not alone in it.  It sure as hell feels like it sometimes.  Especially when I’m in self protective mode where I try to make everything look perfect, zen filled, sunny and not messy.  I just end up feeling messier.  So, just like you tell your friend who drops by unannounced that you are sorry for the mound of laundry hiding the couch….it’s okay sometimes to just admit that you feel messy inside too.  You don’t have to go into detail if you don’t want…but find that person you can just tell the truth to.  That you just feel messy.  Don’t be hurt if they don’t know what to do with your messy or they back away a bit….maybe they are feeling it too.  Just don’t fill your life full of people you can’t be messy around.  I don’t mean that you should kick everyone to the curb…but do know your worth. Know that it’s okay to really just let those special ones in close who really get you and who don’t share your messy with other people.

If today sucked, if this week sucked, if your whole year, decade,  marriage, childhood sucked….I’m sorry. I wish some things were as easy to clean as a junk drawer.  I wish you could power wash bad memories away.  I wish bleach, a vacuum, or those cool, freakish magic erasers could clean up all the messy.  I know they can’t.  Just don’t feel lonely in it for too long.  Close your eyes and picture who you can tell a bit of your messy too.  If you can’t think of anyone at the moment, take a drive in your car and pretend your very best, most understanding friend, who may or may not exist at the moment, is on your blue tooth speaker phone….and just tell them your messy.

And if you ever tell me that you just decided to throw away 3 whole baskets of unmatched socks, or a sink of dirty Tupperware after cleaning your fridge….I’ll admit I’ve done that too and we’ll laugh.  Cause some messy is just that easy to fix and it’s good to know the difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is about Arlington.

I miss you Arlington.  When you move away, you’re kind of caught in this weird love triangle. Us, Arlington and Kauai. Our triangle.  We didn’t leave a place to reject it….we just fell in love with a place and wanted to jump in.  A lot of people fall in love with places, so it’s confusing when people decide to just up and move to that place….I get it.  But what you have here…with the two of us….are two humans who are a tad bit sporadic, unpredictable, lazily adventurous and throw-caution-to-the-wind type of people.  And that was all before we even decided to fall in love and make a family.  I think we even surprised each other when we got to the Bellingham airport on June 22nd, almost a year ago.  After checking in for our flight and handing over just 9 bins of stuff to bring with us…..we sat down in the one restaurant in the tiny airport, ordered a beer and 3 sodas (beer….me).  Then we looked at each other and I said, out loud, “what in the hell are we even doing?”.  Then we laughed and watched the last part of the USA soccer world cup game.  I think we even surprise ourselves and still kind of wonder where we’ll end up most of the time.  Right now, we pretty much keep waking up on Kauai….minus the occasional work trips and visits back to WA.

There’s a lot to miss.  We miss our daughters and our pretty much son-in-law….we miss our families….we miss our Duke.  We miss the mountains with white on top.  We miss Target. I miss Target.  So do the boys.  Doug doesn’t.  He misses his fishing boat though…..that’s his Target.  This right here though isn’t about that.  This is about a little town.  It’s 45 minutes north of Seattle with zero traffic.  It’s 2 hours north of Seattle with normal crappish traffic.  But this little town doesn’t worry about traffic to Seattle much.  Unless you’re sitting in a yellow school bus with green seats on the way home from the Science Center/Zoo with 60 kids who ate sugary field trip lunches and need to pee.  Then you care.  Otherwise, Seattle is reserved for hot dates, Christmas traditions, scary doctor appointments….and if you’re me….any excuse to wander around pretending like you live downtown and are a city girl.

I love where we are.  I LOVE our friends…framily…our Ohana here.  You form a crazy close bond really really quickly with the tribe you land in here.  You have to or you’ll lose your mind a little and start staring at the ocean and calculate how long it takes to swim to the West Coast.  I love our little North Shore without any stoplights.  I love our one lane bridges and our salty, sandy days.  I love Hawaiian time.  I love talking story.  I love slippahs, barefeet and no daylight savings.  I love being freezing cold when it’s 67 and hot when it’s 77.  I now live in a 10 degree comfort zone and layer up for the fluctuation outside of those numbers daily.  I love staring at the hills and seeing new things every day.  I love staring at the ocean and feeling small.  I love that I live in the same town as Ben Stiller, Chuck Norris, Mark Zuckerberg, Bette Midler…..they wear invisibility cloaks though.  Because that’s like saying you live in Conway, WA with all those people and never see them.  It could also be because they really, truly live in California most of the year….and only dream of a life chosen differently where they could have lived here full time too.  If I do meet them, I’d tell them to stop worrying….if they would have chosen differently…they couldn’t afford to buy a house here….I know this.

But this isn’t about Kauai. This is about Arlington.  I miss you.  I miss the four thousand different variations of the Arlington hoodie.  Blue, yellow, white, grey, pink…..football, soccer, track, band, baseball, softball, basketball, wrestling…… I miss the Blue Bird and our waitress, who we had 95% of the time, who knows that our boys like warm chocolate milk in the big white mugs with a huge dollop of whip crème.  If someone else brings it to them in the regular beige small coffee cups with just a tad of crème…she’ll stop by the table and simply pick up the mugs and say “I’ll go make you new ones”.  I miss the creaky floors of the hardware store and the magic feeling of knowing that no matter what I am looking for, they have it.  Once, I went looking for windshield wiper blades.  They apologized for not having them.  I let them know that in the 15 years I was going there for stuff, it was good to know that I finally stumped them.  I still was in that store for 45 minutes that day.  Looking at wooden handled brooms, cowboy boots, cute cards, and spray paint. I walked out with licorice and a case of old fashioned soda.  I’m sure that night when my husband asked me if I picked up new wiper blades and I told him the hardware store didn’t have them, and he mentioned that perhaps the auto supply store would be a better place….I was probably irritated that he didn’t share my same awe that I finally stumped the hardware store and asked him if he appreciated the soda I bought him….I’m very certain the licorice was gone by this time.  I miss the football drama…the basketball drama…the baseball drama….the ptsa drama….and the complete lack of soccer drama.  I miss Romeos.  I miss walking into the wrestling room at the high school, where everyone has taken off their shoes, and it’s just a sea of Romeos.  Do you know that in most parts of the earth…people haven’t heard of Romeos??? (p.s……a wrestling mat is like a house, school classroom, anyplace-with-carpet in Hawaii….you never ever wear shoes onto that mat).  I miss the parades.  Holy cow…the parades.  Arlington has got to enter a contest for the number of parades a town holds in a year.  I miss Friday night lights……and  the boys wearing their youth football jerseys and staring out at the field watching the high school players with the same admiration as they hold for pro athletes. I miss the high school basketball games after a fall season of freezing our hiney’s off under the Friday night lights. I miss the band rocking out at the games….I miss seeing our stands FULL of people, and hearing fans from other towns say “is the whole damn town here???”. I miss the high school plays and musicals that blew my mind every time. I kinda miss spending our boys college tuition on the concession stands during these sports seasons. I miss the hot summer days jumping in the icy cold river. I miss the frosty cold early morning soccer games holding onto my coffee cup like it’s a pure golden goblet given to me from God….and seeing my youngest run out on the field with the same group of boys he’s played with since he was 6. I really miss the people. All of them. Friends, Framily, coaches, teachers, store clerks, LaHa waiter, espresso stand gals…..espresso stands. I miss those too. Do you know they don’t have drive thru espresso on every single city block in most parts of the world? You have to park your car, bike, etc outside of buildings and GO INSIDE for coffee…what?!?! But, I really, mostly miss the heartbeat of the town…the people.

I would love for all our people to be happy for us…and I think a lot, most, are.  But I definitely feel the tension, hurt and anger in the 2500 miles of air in between us and many.  I’m sorry for that.  I’m not apologizing for our move, our decisions, our choices in the how and why of coming.  I’m just sorry that it might feel sucky for some.

We are happy.  We are learning a lot about ourselves.  We have deeply changed in ways I hope will always remain. And I know we still have more changing, growing and learning to do.  Just as I can’t begin to imagine ever leaving this place,  I also truly can’t imagine never living in Arlington again either.  When you choose to spend your life with someone…you hopefully are in love with that one person.  (I’ve heard the whole “but I will always be in love with So-n-so”…let me say, as a complete side note…unless you have been widowed, that’s a pretty craptastic way of spending your life with someone…and that other person doesn’t smell your stinky self and see you pluck your chin hairs on a regular basis….and you aren’t arguing with them about the nordstroms bill, the power bill , or the fact that you forgot to pick up windshield wiper blades again…so that other one…that long lost high school/college love…that ain’t “in love” baby.) I do know now though, that you can be in love with more than one place. You can truly feel and call two places home. That can feel great….and it can feel really hard. I just don’t want my constant posting of pictures…. my obvious awe, love and wonder of this new home of ours, make it seem like we think it’s better than our other home….our Arlington. If we never would have done this, I think the itch would have driven me/us crazy. I’m glad we scratched…I’m glad we’re here.

We’ve proven ourselves a little nutty by moving here. Luckily, we are surrounded by like minded nuttiness in all our transplant friends. Where we go from here….it’s too early to call. I do know we are here for at least another year. We’ve grown to love so many friends here, most of whom have places they moved here from…places they are also in love with and miss. Mississippi, Wisconsin, Florida, Oregon, Illinois, California…..SO much California. Maybe we’ll take a skim through all those places on our next nutty journey…..bahahaha. Maybe Kauai will be our home until we are called to our forever home. Or maybe we’ll convince them all to move to Our Arlington.

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Staring into a puddle.

I have fourteen blog post drafts.  That means I’ve started typing words….many words fourteen different times and didn’t finish.  Tonight I’m sitting here wondering why, but also not even knowing if I’ll post this one.  It’s become a strange journal.  A not so public documentary of my feelings and thoughts.  I feel like the closer we get to 11 days from now,  there is a tidal wave of unknown emotions just waiting to burst through.  I’m not sure what is harder….the feelings I feel, or not knowing what’s coming.  It’s a cycle of emotions that always brings me back to feeling guilty because my tidal wave is small compared to some of my dear friends…..so I end up not finishing the writing I started…..because it doesn’t feel right to share the depth of my sadness.  My depth is like a mud puddle when others are staring into a canyon. And I imagine it feels bottomless.

And I moved.  I moved away.  I moved 2500 miles away exactly 3 months to the day after the “slide” in Oso.  Those I was most worried about leaving told me emphatically to go….it’s what life was about….go.  And we did go.  I know we made the right choice, but it doesn’t feel like that when it’s late at night, or first thing in the morning.  It doesn’t feel like that when I wake up in the middle of the night.  Once again though, I have a mud puddle.  A divot in the road.  Where do I fit?  Do I fit anywhere?  Does it really even matter, because me fitting or not fitting affects nothing.  What I know is that it hurts not to be there, but me being there wouldn’t take away an ounce of the hellish bottomless canyon of unknown that people I love are facing.

Also, it wasn’t a damn slide.  The whole side of the mountain came away.  It didn’t slide.  Slides don’t do what happened.  I don’t really know what it should be called, but slide sounds too nice.

I knew it would be hard approaching the day. I didn’t know that the day it became March, I would slip into this weird place.  Not even on February 28th did I know that the very next day it would feel like this. I just know that one day I woke up and it was March, and it felt like a gut punch.  Not a swift striking blow….but more of a slow aching shove to the gut that hasn’t stopped and it keeps hurting more and different.  Every day feels a little bit different.

I’ll just say what today feels like, because I can’t really remember how I felt yesterday.  Today I keep wondering what I was doing on March 11th, 2014.  I wonder what I was worried about.  I wonder who I was with.  I even wondered what I ate.  I wondered all of this, and then I wondered what my friends who lost their family 11 days later were doing on this day a year ago.  Who they were with.  And then I wonder about those who died that day and what they were doing.  Did God whisper to them that they’d be with Him soon.  I always wonder if He’ll do that to me.

I remember how it felt the moment I heard.  I remember what it felt like that whole first night, week and months.  I remember so much about small details…the look on people’s faces, the sounds of the constant helicopters, the big white semi trailers crowding the streets. Muddy boots. Faces that couldn’t smile. Everything is like a slow motion film when I look back.  But right now I want to know about the before.  I want to know what it looked like in the Oso fire department on March 11th, 2014.  I want to know if those volunteer guys and gals had just returned from a call or if they were all home, because it was a slow day in Oso.  I want to know what Pastor Gary was doing.  If he was spending the whole day at his little country chapel.  Before he knew that the President of the United States would be sitting in his chairs. I want to know what my friends teenage son was doing.  He was probably in one of his classes at the high school.  Not old enough to vote, but 11 days later he was out in the mud searching for friends and he was no longer a kid.

I want to know if I felt grateful.  If I felt hopeful.  If I felt appreciative of small moments in a simple day.  Before I knew that I would soon question everything I knew about what it means to really live.

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Little grief

I fell in love with my now husband watching him read Dr. Seuss’s “Big A little a what begins with a?”  A simple Seuss book that he read her night after night when she was 5 years old.  I fell in love with the girl at least a year before, moments after I met her~it took Seuss to help me fall in love with the boy she called “Daddy”. 

It’s hard to “blog” or even just write about March 22nd…it’s not as hard to talk about it when you’re with the right people, but it is hard to know who “the right people” are.  It’s hard to feel safe and understood, when we don’t truly understand within ourself.  I wasn’t “directly” impacted.  What the hell does that even mean though?  Do I need to explain myself to everyone I meet that I am grieving, but that it’s little grief compared to the big, horrific, gigantic grief that friends are going through?  Do I tell them I feel lucky for not having the grief that my friends have?  The grief of having a child that was helping search for friends from almost minute one?  The grief of friends who had friends die, and homes and all belongings lost?  The grief of friends who I love so so much, that had every bit of their lives shaken up and tossed around and they look nothing like they did before that stupid stupid day!!  Their friends died, their family was put on hold because they had a job to look for friends, neighbors and strangers…their kids grieve for the friends they were just playing with in the days and weeks before….every single thing that was so simple about their lives was shaken up and spit out in an instance!  That sucks beyond belief and I feel guilty for feeling lucky that it’s not me!  Friends who lost their home, everything they have ever owned, but survived and are trying to restart, rebuild and figure out what in the world it means to still be here and how to deal with their grief, and the grief of their children who ask questions they aren’t the least bit sure how to answer.  The grief of a dear friend, who gives everything to our community, her kids, my kids, her family….she lost her sister and best friend….and her little, cherished, adorable baby neice.  All of this grief is beyond reason, beyond belief, beyond any type of understanding and it’s so far beyond what I think I could ever handle.  What I know I could ever handle.  So where does my grief fit in? The first day I drove my son to school and all of the white trailers, the mobile showers, the middle school campground visitors were all gone~I felt blindsided.  I felt the depth of my grief, but I really couldn’t see the bottom of it, where it ended, how deep it was.  I knew though, that the depth of mine was so so shallow.  I had the little g grief.  People I loved though, they have the big G Grief, and I don’t know how to help them out of it….because I can’t.  I can love them, listen to them, give to them and hold them, but I can’t take a bit of it away.  That sucks so bad. 

 

 

 

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Faces after 10:37

It is so unbelievably gut-wrenching to see the faces over and over in my head of my hurting friends, hurting community, hurting kids, rescuers, mothers, sons, leaders….I now know why close-ups of faces are what the media will focus on many times.  As much as it was so surreal and so hard to have the media descend on our town and seemingly take over our streets, I do understand that many of these folks have seen the hurting, devastating faces in tragedy after tragedy and they have learned that those pictures are the only ones that could even begin to get people to understand the magnitude of devastation….the magnitude of the unimaginable sadness.  It’s unimaginable until it hits your community.  It’s unimaginable until the names of people on the news are ones you know.

 The untold grief over a lost sister and baby niece, isn’t just a story…it’s a friend who gives her time, love and energy to a town she loves and grew up in.  I close my eyes in prayer for her, and all I see is her happy smiling face rooting our sons on in football…the team mom who embodies what it’s suppose to be…a mother for all the little boys out there acting like grown men.  Imagine a small town football team mom who will brush off dirt, wipe tears, give water and then tell them to “now, get back out there buddy”.  That is her.  I haven’t looked into her eyes after she has lost her sister and niece.  My heart breaks thinking of it. 

I have seen faces of people waiting for word on their families that very first night.  Those I won’t describe, because there has to be sanctity and privacy in a place where grief and worry weighs so heavily in the air.

I remember seeing the face of the people in our favorite diner last Sunday morning.  It was full of people that you are use to seeing there. A mix of people heading to or heading home from church, teens who are normally retelling stories of their weekend, guys in Carharts with dirty hands and ball caps, big families, small families, couples and folks sitting up a the counter alone nursing their cup of coffee. The faces last Sunday were different.  Any laughter I heard seemed uneasy.  A place filled with people all trying to start this first day after.  Until that Sunday, many didn’t know what a “first day after” really stood for.  As we get older, our chances of tragedy, of grief…it grows.  All I could think about that morning was that some of the faces in our town are too young to know this grief.  Too young to know what a “first day after” feels like.  Too freaking young to grow so much older so damn quickly.

I remember seeing the face of the pastor at the only church in Oso.  That Saturday morning before 10:37, he was a small town pastor, ministering to his small congregation.  His face seemed to be one that was wading through his own grief while trying to manage offers of help from near and far.  Wading through the world that was slowly hearing about a town, that wasn’t before truly recognized, outside of themselves, as their own town.  Trying to hear the needs of his beloved town through the sirens, the helicopters, his once quiet cell phone ringing and beeping constantly, the cameras, the outsiders coming to help.  His face looks worried, sad, overwhelmed, but quietly determined to do what is right, what he’s suppose to do. What God specifically placed him there to do. 

I drove down the steep, rain and mud soaked driveway to the Oso fire station to bring some things. I saw the face of the sheriff who was placed on the corner to keep some sense of order.  To keep the media, up on the roadside with their cameras pointing down the embankment, from getting closer.  To keep people like me, dropping off gloves, a shovel and granola bars, from expecting to find comfort and hope….because they have watched these guys and gals coming and going from hell and they knew they weren’t there to give comfort and hope to the gal with random stuff in her trunk.  Gloves, a shovel and granola bars are a Band-Aid on a shattered leg.

  I saw the face of a friend at that fire station, waiting to be called to go out to volunteer in the search.  I saw the faces of young men…grown boys who, at the very moment you see their eyes, you know they’ve already been out there.  These are the local boys.  They are the boys you see on weekend mornings in the Blue Bird diner while you are eating breakfast with your own young boys.  The same looking boys who you sometimes hush and say “watch your language” while they describe their weekend antics over breakfast at the next table.  These boys who you secretly want your boys to be like, and prayerfully hope they will be as respectful as the boys are with their “sorry” ‘s after some mom hushes them and tells them to watch their language. One of these boys faces keeps playing over and over in my head…his fresh looking young face coupled with his dirty gloved hands, dirty boots duct taped at the top, dirty yellow hip waders and worn yellow jacket.  He just looked at me when I was talking to be my hopeful volunteer friend. I hope I haven’t hushed him at the Blue Bird before.  I hope I haven’t told him  to watch his language.  That young man…that grown boy…who knows that mud-covered land better than most and that is most likely looking a friend, a family member, a home he lived in or knows….that boy is stronger, more heroic and more grown up then I’ll ever be.  It’ll be a long time before I hush a teenager around here.  I have no idea what they’ve been through.  I’ll err on the side of grace and keeping my own mouth shut.  People around here have been in a war zone, and I hope we fully understand that and most importantly don’t forget it.

At the Oso station that first day I was out there, I also saw the face of a good friend who is an Oso firefighter.  I knew he had been there since the very beginning of that Saturday after 10:37.  I know and love his wife, and I know the worry and grief she is holding.  He walked over and gave me a hug.  I really can’t describe his face in this public blog world atmosphere.  Next to the faces of the families on that first night, his is the one I want to protect too.  His grief and what he has been through will be his own story to tell when and if he wants to.  Describing his eyes, the look of his face would be telling part of that story, and I want it to remain his.  I hurt for him every day though, and his wife…my beautiful, loving, giving friend.  I hurt for them both.

I remember the faces of a lot of the media.  Many of their faces changed over the days.  The first days I think it’s easy to see past the people for the pictures.  To look past the person for the stories.  Something started changing.  They didn’t just look tired, they many times looked bone tired, but a bit haunted by what they saw and what they knew was ahead.  You can’t hang out in a small town day after day and not start to feel part of what was normal before. So many of them seemed to go from searching to be the first to a  story, to truly wanting to be part of the story…part of trying to find the healing process.  It was so easy, and sometimes still is easy, to direct our directionless anger towards anyone with a camera, microphone or pad and paper.  We need someone to mad at~we need someone to blame for this sudden, unwanted national attention.  We wanted and still want this to not have happened and to just go away.  It somehow felt as if these news faces just went away, this horrible nightmare would go away too…that it could make it so that it didn’t happen. We don’t want anyone else to hurt, but somehow seeing the changing faces of the news people makes them being here easier.  I wish it wasn’t that way, but it is.

Every day though, we keep waking up and know it isn’t going away.  We wake up and know that someday we have to start a new normal, but we are working from dawn to dusk and beyond dusk trying to donate, fundraise, cook food and pray it all away.  It’s all we know to do right now.  To help remove a burden of grief that we can’t even begin to understand yet.

 

 

 

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Not just a Community

On my heart the last couple days is our community, and where do we go from here. Where do we start. How do we not end. I was at Arlington Hardware yesterday and a new word was shared with me … Trimmunity. The gal helping me said a friend shared with her “We aren’t just a community anymore. Oso, Darrington and Arlington are a Trimmunity”. I love that word. How do we keep this Trimmunity. How do we keep this nightmare of destruction, the loss of our foundation, our safety, and our sense of tomorrow, from destroying the fabric of us. Destroying how we are woven together?

I hope and pray that with all of the emotional, physical, spiritual and financial support pouring into our towns, we don’t let it cause divide, distrust and anger. I hope and pray that the very things that are so tightly weaving us together right now aren’t the very same things that light flames underneath the fabric of this new Trimmunity. The fabric that was designed hundreds of years ago when our ancestors were designing our towns…working the land and imagining a future, and praying and hoping that their children and there children’s children and far beyond a future they could imagine…that we would keep the fabric together.

I imagine our ancestors worried about electricity damaging the fabric. I imagine those who grew up with electricity worried about the phone damaging the fabric. Then the cable…then the cell phones…just as we now worry about the internet destroying the fabric. “damned technology” is constantly murmured and has been since these towns were begun. Its not technology though. It’s us. Its our human nature to point out the differences in the fabric and we stretch it and pull it until it threatens to break. We love our foothills, our mountains, our trees, our rivers…it helps make us the small, smaller and smallest towns that we love. Now those things we love are literally dividing us. I hope and pray that as we recover and try to find a shred of hope into how we begin a new normal through all of this, that we keep turning towards each other and not away.

I hope and pray that we don’t strive to be an example, but that we are an example. Anger, distrust and disagreement are surely to come in the days ahead. Underneath all of that is fear. Fear of the known and the unknown. I hope and pray that we don’t meet that anger and fear with more anger. That we meet it with love, patience and compassion.

I hope and pray that wherever we all go in life and wherever we live, that we pass onto our children and our friends what we learned from our new found word. Our new found way of community. It just happens to be a Trimmunity, which is more than just a cute word to make us smile when we feel guilty being happy. It’s what was started along the beautiful Stilly long before our time, and what will heal, strengthen and sustain us…even long after we are gone.

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I’m not Oso, but I know who is.

When your area gets hit by a massive tragedy, you quickly learn what it feels to be flooded with emotions that feel like waves in the ocean. You feel tossed around between fear, anger, helplessness, complete sadness and determination to do something… anything. National news starts mentioning the name of your town, and your neighboring towns. Just as the realization sinks in about the strangeness of how that feels, they switch to the next news item and honestly it feels like a slap in the face. Even more painful is your “local” news stations arriving and asking probing questions that somehow feel violating. You are angry about the slowness of the coverage in the beginning, but then realize as this “news story” gets more sensational on a state and national level… it feels more violating for all these cameras and people walking around on our sidewalks… walking into our diners and looking around for potential news stories.

 

Then the realization sinks in that people are just hearing about this area for the first time in their lives. “Arlington landslide” slowly becomes the “Oso landslide” and the news finally starts venturing out to Darrington  because they are starting to catch onto the geography of the area. There’s a difference between Arlington, Oso and Darrington. And even as I type this, and spell check keeps really wanting to change Darrington to Darlington and Oso to Oslo…. you start realizing that just like spell check doesn’t recognize these places as real~you yourself are just starting to let it set in what the “difference is”. I live in a town named Arlington, which isn’t  the Arlington in Texas or Virginia. I live in Washington, which outside of the PNW you have to clarify “state, not DC”. But at least spell check recognizes us. I’ll  try to explain what Oso is…. who Oso is.

Oso is near me, but it’s  not where I live. It has an address of Arlington. Some of the kids in Oso go to Arlington schools, some go to Darrington . Oso, rural Arlington and Darrington are filled with hard working, get yourself dirty, help your neighbors and treat them like family, men women and children. People who have grown up in Arlington, in long standing Arlington families, are tied to Oso and Darrington. They were and some still are, farming families, family of homesteaders. Those Arlington/Oso/Darrington people and families are what us “new” Arlington families have a hard time admitting we are jealous of. They have a shared history. We slowly learn that history and wish so badly it was our history. We wish it was our family lineage that remember Grandpa’s farm. Remember working in a dairy. Remember when “big businesses” were 7-11 and  Safeway. People ask if you remember “Rotten Ralphs” and you have to admit you didn’t grow up here. But, you wish you did and want to ask if that counts for anything. After you live here a while and settle into this being your town and show that you love it, just as these longtime folk do, you’re accepted. You’re considered a local. You’re jealous of your kids though…. because they get to be the next generation of kids who “grew up here”.  I quickly learned that people don’t care who you know~they care what you do outside of the spotlight. These last few days, I see rescuers and volunteers who cringe at praise. Cringe at attention. It’s in their blood. In their Arlington/Oso/Darrington blood. Many of the victims of the mudslide didn’t grow up here either. But they inherited that blood somehow. I think by moving out there… to rural Arlington and Oso/Darrington….and staying there, it’s a statement that you get it. You get what this area was like in its younger years. You want a slice of life that others don’t. You  want that life for your kids. Its why we moved to Arlington. But I’m a different kind of Arlington. When people that live elsewhere say “Oh, you live in Arlington? Where about? I grew up there!”. When you answer “Well, I don’t live “out” we live in Gleneagle”, they sweetly answer “oh, I’ve heard that’s a great area. It’s good you’re raising your kids there, its a great town”. You both know its different though. We moved here to enjoy small town life, to enjoy the blood, sweat, dirt and tears of what made and keeps this area small town….. but were just a bit too chicken shit to really dig in our heels and live “out”. (pardon my language….I typically don’t let myself talk like that outside of here, but its really not a bad word when its the only term  that fits…. something I’ve learned here). Old time Arlington friends live in my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods…. they don’t live “out” either. But it’s still who they are.

But I know enough to have my heart break into pieces at the smallest slights. The cameras in faces of families, the reporters questions that just don’t matter right now….. they feel like personal attacks. The confusion over the lack of news coverage, but also not wanting anymore, because you’ve already known that “news” for a full day now, but it wasn’t news to you… it was a heartbreaking ending to a friends search. Every time someone gives you accolades for helping your community, you cringe because you really, truly don’t want the accolades because it feels wrong somehow… that cringe at least makes you feel more local. More a part of your community.

I’ve seen the changes in the faces the past couple days of the public service folks who don’t live here, outside rescuers, the governor, other politicians, and even some news reporters. Their faces have changed and they look like protectors of our community now. They bite back at stupid questions that don’t need asking yet. It’s a small bit of comfort that we all need here. They get who we are. They even more importantly get who the folks are who embody what it means to be from here. To be from a small community. To be Oso. That its Darrington, its Oso and its the root bound Arlington folks. They are the folks who put on boots, sweatshirts and grab their chain saws and 4 wheelers and go out there to search too. You learn quickly that you can be a big official that says “no way… only trained people can be out there” but its better to quickly realize that  they know this land and you might as well work with them because they’ll go out there regardless. We know the ones who get it… just by the look in their eyes.

Oso right now, as a national news definition, is a group of people, a community of people who either were born and raised here in this Northeast Snohomish County area, or jumped in with both feet and get themselves dirty to make up for the years they weren’t here.  Some of them sob over their lost homes, but push it aside to go out there and search for people who lost far more than a home. They keep their questions of blame, fairness and  “why me” buried deep down and look instead for that person who has been hit harder then them, and they don’t ask “what can I do?” they just do it. They are tough in the most compassionate way and I will always remind myself to respect their protectiveness over their community. I’ll remind myself to remember not to barge through wanting to help, but quietly wait for them to let us know what they need from those of us who aren’t Oso.

I’m not Oso, but I love a multitude of people who are. I grew up in Everett, and I love Everett, but no matter where I live in this world, my hometown will always be Arlington. I’m not Oso, but I wish I was.

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