Living is giving. Living is giving.
The quote ran through my head as I drove through the Columbia River Gorge. And it continued as I drove through the Hood River area and through the Dalles. The phrase faded and I drove in silence, admiring the plateaus, the river, the waterfalls, the untouched hills, the wind turbines. I marveled at the clear, blue sky, the perfect temperature, the sun shining on my arms. I could hardly believe it. Sunshine.
I passed some tree farms, line after line of pine soldiers–skinny, straight, equal, tall. I descended into Pendleton, passed by the city and prison, and ascended out. Onward I drove through eastern Oregon, beginning to make the shift south.
Eventually the gas tank needed a boost, so I pulled into a town called La Grande. The service-man set the pump, cleaned off my windshield, and talked about small things. I asked if there was a park nearby, so he gave me some quick directions. I zigged and zagged a few blocks, parked the car, and let the beast loose. We enjoyed the sunshine–I ate two slices of pizza, as Gideon galloped around like a horse.
Awhile later, I was pulling myself up on the monkey bars, giving my upper body a little surprise work-out. A young boy approached, probably ten or twelve years old, skinny jeans, knit cap, skater shoes. He asked about my dog and if I was from the area. I told him no, but I certainly liked his town. La Grande was a lovely place. Quiet and situated in a valley, little mountains and high hills rolling all around. We started talking about skateboarding, about school, about video games. He told me about some of his favorite games while standing on top of the railing in front of the slide, balancing 15 feet above the ground. As he hopped on another railing, then twisted over to the fireman-pole, I asked him if he had ever broken any bones. He said no, as he straddle-walked the bridge railing, then hopped to another skinny beam.
I hopped to another topic–music. He was into punk and rap-rock. Insane Clown Posse, Kottonmouth Kings, stuff like that. I told him I liked most anything, but I wasn’t very familiar with those genres. I had been into that type of music when I was his age, but I was over it now. I think I had tried to block that stage of life from my brain (but I didn’t tell him that).
We talked about sports, then the kid found an old Chap-Stick on the ground and invented his own sport. Toss the stick as high as you can, lose it in the sunlight, and try to avoid being hit by it as it plummets back to earth. The boy added another element of difficulty to the sport by trying to kick the cylinder into the air. Genius, I thought. Pure genius.
He should work for NASA. That’s what they do. Send cylinders into space, then wait for them to plummet to earth when they’re finished. Only difference: a few billion dollars.