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.


About dancingintheminefields

I am a wife to my best friend, and a mother of 4 wonderful, beautiful, indvidually amazing, kids. I am a child of my two lovely parents, a sibling to a brother and 2 sisters, and a friend to many whom I love dearly. I live my life grateful for a grace-filled God.
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55 Responses to I’m not Oso, but I know who is.

  1. Danny and Pat mann says:

    This is so well written and makes us all proud to be a part of OUR Darrington, Oso and Arlington family. Prays for all of us, we truly are one family. We all hurt deeply and forever, now and always.

    Dan and Pat Mann


  2. Dawn Gray says:

    This is the best thing I’ve read and spoken so well. I can completely relate as someone who moved to the town of Arlington 7 years ago and have had the opportunity of raising my daughter in this town. Why I did not grow up here, I consider this my home and I am blessed to know some people who have called this their home since they were born. Prayers to all of Arlington, Oso and Darrington families.


  3. Trish Sargent says:

    I know that came from your heart and I couldn’t of said it any better. Thank you.


  4. Lynette Carlson-Evans says:

    Tears…very well done! Thank you!


  5. Galde Family says:

    Thank you for this wonderful perspective of the area we love so much.


    • Diann says:

      To my Galde cousins, so glad that you were not still living in OSO when this tragedy occurred ! Have some wonderful memories of when we would go to your home for easter and holidays , playing in the river ! miss those days and our familys…so sorry that this has happened… prayers to all of the familys.that have lost loved ones.

      Diann Gostol Dobesh


  6. Russ and Lori Stach says:

    Fabulous words of prose capturing the feelings of us that have been Arlington/Oso/Darrington family for many many years. Thank you for putting into words the feelings of our hearts, and our souls.


  7. Jan says:

    Thank you for putting it such eloquent words how many of us are feeling.


  8. Heather says:

    I am with you. I moved to Arlington 2 years ago and within a year, decided to stay and purchased a home. I don’t have children, but if I ever do, I want them to live in this wonderful community. You said it perfectly. This tragedy feels unbearable. How can I help? What will the outcome be? How can we comfort these grieving families? The best thing is just as you said, put your boots on and don’t be afraid to get “dirty” whatever that means to you, collecting supplies, praying, donating money, or being part of the SAR efforts. My heart is broken by the tragedy of this event even as it is warmed by the love of this community.


  9. Thank you for saying exactly what I’ve been feeling, but haven’t been able to put into words. I did grow up in Arlington. I get it. Thank you.


  10. you can add words to the dictionary of your spellchecker. depending on the spellchecker though it might be difficult, and only really worth the effort if you’re using uncommon words or names often.


  11. Tracy Legler says:

    Thank you for putting those “under the surface” feelings into beautiful words.


    • Joe Bernstein says:

      Agreed. Speaking of community, I click on a link on my facebook feed, read a wonderful article about how so many of us are feeling, and find a comment from my mom! Sort-of illustrates what it feels like to grow up out here.


  12. Rocket says:

    I was born and raised in Arlington. I am now 40 and have lived the last 7 years in Cali. The people here don’t come close to the genuine people (family) from Arlington, Oso, and Darrington. Beautifully written!! Love, prayers, and strength to all those back home.


  13. Sheila Merritt says:

    I am Arlington/Oso/Darrington family. Born and raised! This is so very well wrote. Perfectly said!!! Thank you!


  14. Sonja R says:

    Amen! Arlington is my home! I’m not living there now (miss it everyday) but it is my home. Thank for writing this.


  15. AareneX says:

    I’m new here too (Bellingham girl repotted and transplanted to Trafton/Arlington now)…and what you said. It’s a true thing. Thanks for saying it.

    (and even after 5+ years here, my spell check is always dubious about Trafton)


  16. Jenifer Molstad says:

    I’m not Oso either but always wish I was…the folks of Oso are some of the best people on this planet..the outside world is slowly seeing what us locals have always known…they’re a kooky bunch for sure, but like you say, they’re the first ones there to lend a hand, in this case, putting their own lives at risk…without a single thought of it…you bet they have their chainsaws, shovels and 4 wheelers…that’s what they do…God bless them for who they are and what they’re doing…and thank you for getting it and writing about it so beautifully spot on.


  17. Ingrid says:

    Living in Virginia, I feel so sad! Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you all.


  18. teresa says:



  19. Robert brenton says:

    Like you I was born in Everett . For ten years I lived in darrington , a town with the Mayberry kind of feeling . I have friends ,and family in Arlington , oso , and darrington affected by this sad tradgety . Unlike the people there I don’t get enough coverage because I now live in Minnesota , most my knowledge comes from face book . My heart and prayers although go out to my home ! Washington , state !!!!!!!


  20. Maria Nicodemus says:

    Well said…I couldn’t describe the heavy lump that’s been in my chest since Saturday, but you did.


  21. Casey larsen says:

    As being what you would call a true Oso boy I am proud to read this. No matter what part of Arlington we are always considered family. Even though we do give new people the “transplant” name 😉 but regardless that’s the great thing about this community. We will always be there for our neighbor wether it be hell or high water. As hellashious as us “Oso Boys” are known to be we will give you the last penny we have because someone will always need something more than we do. Thank you for this beautiful letter. Very proud to have you as a fellow Arlingtonian


  22. Brei Billings says:

    Thank you so much for writing this , as I was reading it tears where running done my face my heart has been aching since Sat ! I have lived & worked in Arlington & Granite Falls since 97 and I might not be from Oso or Darrington but I know the area & people that live there & you are spot on about the people so many wonderful people that would give you the shirt off there backs & get dirty doing it if they had to. My thoughts are with everyone in this small tight knit community


  23. Nina Armstrong Charlson says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. It is so very, very true of this community and has been for many years. I was born in Arlington and raised in Oso. My mom was raised in Cicero and my dad in Oso and they raised their family in Oso. I have now moved away but a part of my heart has always been there. We planned to move back but that did not work out. The Oso Chapel is very near and dear to my heart. Armstrong was my maiden name and I am very proud that my most formative years were spent in Oso. I attended the Oso school through 6th grade. Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Gates were the teachers – each with 3 grades. I am a teacher now and am amazed at the wonderful job they did teaching 3 grades. My heart aches for this community.


  24. Robin (Crabtree) Brock says:

    Well written… I grew up Arlington, I was not Oso… I admired the comradery of the kids that went to Trafton school and then transferred into town as they got older, although we had a bunch of us in town that went all of the way through school k-12 together it wasn’t quite the same. My parents moved to Arlington when I was 2 years old, hard to believe I’m 40 now (crazy thought)… To hear the reference to Rotten Ralph’s cracks me up and makes me sad at the same time… My dad & I would go for coffee there early mornings on the weekends. I was his “little helper” according to the old cronies. I couldn’t believe it when they tore it down. That was one building with a planned removal this is a whole neighborhood in a freak occurrence. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see the devastation in this community.That really small town feel is fading from Arlington, but Oso maintained their tight knit community and God bless them for it! No one in the area we be left unaffected. May we all contribute to the rebirth of this community


    • lana kapustik says:

      I thought the Rotten Ralph’s building was still there, and is a bank now? I guess I will have to take a second look at it tomorrow.
      I was happy when they left that beautiful tree out front.


  25. Nikki Rosenbach Johnsen Stinson says:

    I’m 14 generations Arlington and Oso and I admit we can be pride snobs of sorts ,but I have never heard someone, so eloquently describe us in a way so “Oso”. However I must correct the author for your short view of yourself regarding your newly found heritage. You my dear.. Are the epitome of all that is Oso. 🙂 I can, as I read this to my family, see that ” your breeding is showing”. ( as granny would say). Be careful my dear.. Your ” Oso” is showing . 🙂


  26. Debbie B says:

    I could barely read this through the.tears of so many different emotions swirling around within me. I am an Arlingtonian, moving here over 40 years ago as a young girl. Moving back to the town my dad grew up in back in the ’30s and ’40s, where my grandparents owned a business. I do remember Rotten Ralph’s, Bill’s Superette, the Woolworths store, the “old” Safeway, and so much more. Much has changed since those days, but one thing remains the same and you said it so well, it’s community, it’s family, it’s pulling together in times of trouble. It really can’ t be explained, only know, felt, believed. Thank you for sharing.


  27. Thank you for writing this when so many of us have no words. I grew up in Hawaii and married into the deep roots of Arlington…I never understood why my boyfriend was so obsessed with his town until he married me and brought me here to live in the middle of a cold and dark February. People came out of nowhere to be my friend, and fifteen years later, I feel just as fiercely attached to this place and its people. We lived just a fews miles north of Oso when we first moved here. It’s where my heart began to grow for this place.


  28. I loved reading this.You have captured that no matter who you are you are accepted here . You think you have no idea but I say you do. Arlington is where I lived for many years . Oso was the place to go for fun and Darrington was where you went to play in the snow. Some how they always are associated as one big family and yet their 3 individual community’s that with out without each other . It wouldn’t be the same. Thank you for weighting this and seeing the real towns that always have and always will be in my heart.


  29. lana kapustik says:

    Such a wonderfully written story. I love the way you captured our communities. As a kid, we called the kids from OSO, Oh So Slow. Cuz we liked to rib each other. We had nicknames, out of love for each other.
    We DO love our neighbors and you don’t get that in a big town. I only learned that when I moved to Kirkland for work, because the commute was so long. I had not know that, in other (bigger) cities, people did not hold doors for each other, or say Hi and acknowledge each other on the street…;stranger or not.
    I worked at the Arlington Library, beginning sophomore year in High School, and for seven wonderful years, to follow. Linda McPherson was my co-worker. She was a wonderful woman.
    I did not know what a wonderful community Arlington was, until I moved elsewhere…..to a place where, when I, happily, said hello to a stranger, they looked at me like I must be confused.
    Thank you for such an incredible post.
    Those of us who grew up here are truly blessed. We do help our neighbors, and are happy to do it.


  30. Kelly Williams says:

    Tears rolling down my face . You are Arlington if you feel like that in your heart – glad your a part of our community God Bless All !!


  31. Julie Kuntz says:

    Thank you for getting it and relaying it so beautifully. Reading your words, I weep…not for losing my house (those tears will come), but for the awesomeness of these people… I weep for who have perished and those vigilant men and women who won’t quit looking… they keep on fighting… they have seen horrific things… it only strengthens their resolve… they keep on working, cooking…helping. Many Darrington high schoolers didnt go to school so they could help feed volunteers and wash the fire trucks… Because that’s how you treat your guests. And you are right, people get it too! The donations have overwhelmed us. So while my husband’s family was raised on a dairy farm in Hazel/Oso, you and others embody the same heart. If you get us, then you are home! Thank you for honoring us.


  32. Devon & Katie Walter says:

    This is amazingly written, giving a voice to so many who want to say something but can’t find the words. I was born and raised in Arlington, my husband from Darrington. Our families are there and we are in spirit. Lots of love from Guam.


  33. Anonymous says:

    I’m a Sedro-Woolley native/logger who worked for a logging company in Oso and has ties to Darrington. All the upriver communities were brought up the same, where the term he/she will give you the shirt off their back has true meaning and where a deal can be made with a handshake.


  34. Michele Bechtel says:

    Well put my brother or sister! God bless you!


  35. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the words. No truer words could be written.


  36. Thank you sharing your thoughts. There is truth and comfort in them.


  37. Rhonda Torfin Groendyk says:

    I am oso….. 🙂 thank you for this wounderful words so well put i was rased out there on a dairy farm and its a beautiful place i have taken many sunday drives there just to soke up the beautie Of the mountens and walk back in time. God Bless all that are working so hard my heart is saddend and prayes are sent minute by minute… ( Hevenly father please watchover and keep safe all my family and friends and all involived and bless thows that hearts are sadend by the loss of loved ones and friends this i pray in the name of are father in heaven Amen )


  38. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for putting into words the feelings in my heart. I have been a hermit and a wanderer of sorts. Never living anywhere more than a year or two. However, I hung a right in Arlington one day looking for property and ended up in the woods of Darrington, I’ve been here over 14 years now. I like how the people just know how to get things done and do it. If you’re in trouble they’ll help you out. I’m not real sociable, but I’m recognizing the loss of people I know, the sweet lady from the library and my brave horsewoman friend and its cutting very deep.
    I’ve been very concerned about Darrington the past few years. The troubles with drugs and lack of jobs the young people were up against. I’ve never been so proud as to see those highschoolers work so hard making all that food and being happy to do it.
    I love being out here. The hard weather, rough driving etc can be problematic. Its awesomely beautiful and dangerous at times, with the storms of wind and rain, and falling trees. The Sauk and Stilly with its shifting currents and silty sand, are very beautiful and very dangerous. When the storms lift and the rivers tame down, its the only place I want to be. I wasn’t from here, I wasn’t from anywhere. My people came from eastern Washington, family folklore has us being of the family of William and George Rogers Clark-professional wanderers. Anyhow, I claim Darrington troubles and all as my own. I no longer need to wander. Denise L. Clark


  39. Reblogged this on SNAKES AND SNAILS and commented:
    I have been trying to sort through my feelings the past few days in the wake of this tragedy. I myself was not affected directly by the tragedy so my emotions are complex and hard to understand and articulate. Sadness and grief for the victims and the rescue workers, many of whom are friends of friends, certainly. Relief that the one person I know and care about who lives near Oso is safe – that’s pretty easy to explain. More difficult to explain is this sense of loss, which seems so self-indulgent given that I lost nothing and no one in the tragedy. Then I found this – and this explains it all for me.


  40. Debra Hull says:

    I have lived In Wa and Ca. I live in the town I grew up in. But I found living in Wa for 8 years I met the nicest people. They help each other without expectation. They love unconditionally. They work for the sake of working. 🙂 I would like to know if there’s a place to donate money yet. I’m in Ca but have a small town Wa heart …


  41. catherine Logie says:

    I lived 4 miles west of Darrington in the 1990’s. My daughter went to Darrington High School. I didn’t know everyone but I knew names. I loved it there but made a stupid move which I regret to this day. All these wonderful people have always cared about there own and losing all those people in the land slide is like losing people in your own family. I pray that everyone who is missing is found. I pray for strength for the families, volunteers and search people. I pray that this never ever happens again. My heart is with you.


  42. Jessica says:

    I married a man who grew up in Darrington. What you wrote is the exact feeling I have. It’s a place you wish you grew up in, a place you wish you were a part of. The sense of community has a whole different feel out there. It’s a wonderful town with wonderful people and I loved what you wrote about them. I wish I was Darrington.


  43. Bob Broten says:

    Thank you. I’m from Darrington. Born and raised. While I left for military and career long ago I never forget the people and place I knew and valued as part of my life. I watch now from afar the news, feeling for the victims, and families. This wonderful part of our country will never leave me. My thoughts and prayers to everyone in Oso, Arlington, and Darrington.


  44. boiester says:

    Reblogged this on View with a Grain of Sand and commented:
    My niece says it very well…


  45. Crystal says:

    I have two strong teenage sons and spring break is next week for them. We live southeast of you in the tri-cities. We want to help. How can we? We are willing to get dirty. Please let us help. Our hearts are breaking for your tragedy.


  46. a canadian says:

    My friend has lost 4 family members in this tragedy, and your exceptionally written and honestly delivered article brings a welcome dimension to the information that comes through FB. Thank you for giving context and heart to this tragedy for those of us watching helpless from so far away.


  47. This is a beautiful piece and thank you for writing it. I DO remember Rotten Ralph’s and have a plaque in the tiles around the fountain there as you turn towards Oso from Arlington…I ran the Bonsai Nursery and Pottery there in Oso… That was a long time ago, yet I can’t stop weeping for the little town and all the huge people within and around it. I keep writing about it, too…


  48. Diana says:

    Thank you so much for your beautiful description of our community. As a child, my parents moved around the state frequently which was always very hard on me. When I met my husband 23 years ago, who’s family goes back generations in Darrington, Oso and Arlington, he brought me to Rotten Ralphs and I remember asking him “Where in the world are we??”. I was so jealous of his childhood and decided right there that our kids would continue on as his family did. We dedicated ourselves to finding a beautiful home in our beautiful hills and to showing our kids how amazing this place really is. Sometimes I still feel like a “transplant”, but after 23 years, I can’t hardly remember that time as a child where I had no “home”. Thank you for your words and thank you to this beautiful place that has become the home I always longed for.


  49. Brent Rollins says:

    Well put. You captured what I’ve been feeling this last week. I haven’t lived in Arlington in over twenty years, but it is were I’m from and that will never change. A small part of me is Oso, but just a small part. My dad was a dairy farmer in Oso back in the early seventies…it was the greatest time of his life. Thank you for this article.


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