Just a memory

Pup Creek Falls, taken from the Clackamas River Trail, January 2019

My car winded down a highway that used to be surrounded by dense forest. Years of cool, damp asphalt was home to thick moss creeping along the shoulder. It looked like some road, long forgotten, leading to nowhere. Many Sundays were spent hunting for the perfect picnic spot, a hidden cove along the river where you could sit for hours, forgetting the stress that existed in town, watching leaves float down the crystal, clear Clackamas river while eagles and hawks soared above.

That was over 2 years ago.

On Saturday, the drive was new. I’m having trouble recalling when the last time we took this drive was. It was before Labor Day weekend 2020. That Monday is when the fires broke out and the mountain sides that used to guard the sanctity of this river were left bare in just a few days. Secrets don’t remain there anymore. No hidden coves, or dark hideaways waiting for quiet picnics and afternoons of reflection. It’s all laid out, exposed, its final story told long ago.

I hope that story will not be forgotten as it writes a new chapter.

We avoided this drive as it was one of our favorites and I knew it would be heartbreaking to see. Unusual, however, it was less heartbreaking and more like I didn’t even take that drive 2 days ago. Like a virtual meeting you don’t really pay attention to, I’m having trouble recalling what we really saw. Bulldozers, piles of charred logs, fresh dirt, all of it masking what used to be there and I can’t, for the life of me, really remember any of it. Small, gravel parking lots were scattered along the river… were these the same lots we parked in to explore years ago… were these new lots put in for the work crews brought in to remove our beloved trees?

What a strange thing fire is. Unlike the storms of my youth, where foundations were left and intersections still there to remind you of landmarks, fire leaves behind a blank canvas, albeit charred, and what is left is quickly removed by work crews.

It’s not too dissimilar to remembering life pre-pandemic. I saw something online talking about how we may never return to the “shiny selves” we were 2 years ago. I thought a lot about this. I don’t agree. I think my shiny self has returned on occasion since March of 2020. Typically when doing things where thoughts of the pandemic can be put away for a few hours. Perhaps during that nice dinner at your favorite restaurant, a trip to NYC for a show, or during our weekend in Washington on Labor Day – my shiny self is there even if my story is brand new.

However, aside from the version of ourselves we were before, remembering what was around me then is hard to do. A few days ago, a college friend texted me a picture from her last visit to Oregon. January 2020. Before things went south. She couldn’t believe it had already been 2 years since her visit. But the strange thing is, how has it only been 2 years. Time has flown by and lasted forever, all in the same package. I had the same feeling yesterday when one of my previous team members reached out to celebrate her promotion. I congratulated her and was excited, but for something I can hardly place. It seems like a lifetime ago. Certainly not less than 2 years ago. My days in that office seem like a movie I watched and all of the steps I took through that building for 7 years don’t seem like steps I took at all, but rather a story I read.

Time has always been strange, but pandemic time is very strange when you really think about it.

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