Fleeting Springtime Love in The Northwest

After a few days of hitchhiking up from California I'd arrived at a market on Whidbey Island in northwestern Washington. A free island bus had gotten me the last stretch and I was waiting for Jenny to pick me up. I'd met Jenny years earlier briefly in Alabama when we were staying at the same house for a night heading different directions, me to New Orleans and west and her east to Georgia to work on an organic farm.

Eyes dreaming and curious, she had passion and excitement for the now and the potential she was clearly going to tap into, ready to delve into life with a knowing of it's certain happiness, her adventure was underway.

We'd stayed in touch with talk of me coming back to Georgia when she was done on the farm for a hitchhiking trip back to Dallas, which would have been her first experience with that sort of travel. As that time got closer I found myself in California on a bender of adventures with people who are now as close to me as anyone, because of those trips. The idea of racing back to Georgia to do the quick trip with Jenny seemed like too big of a detour from the bliss I was in. I weighed the potential and ultimately told her I wouldn't be making out that way. I continued my western tripping around which resulted in some incredible memories, but I frequently thought about the trip that could of been with Jenny, more so than any other missed opportunity in my travels by far.

For whatever reason I was thinking about her again while in northern California, springtime. I sent her a message, we'd intermittently stayed in touch since the missed Georgia trip, she responded back that she was up in Washington working on a farm, but was about a week away from heading to Texas and then England to see her boyfriend and spend some months exploring.

I'd been thinking about this direction anyways, Vancouver on my mind, so I told her I'd make my way up there to catch up for the first time since the short Alabama meeting. I wasn't sure what to expect, the brief attraction I had to her seemed irrelevant given her having a boyfriend now, on top of that I was in flux with a girl myself I'd just traveled with for four months but was now across the world with no definitive plans as to what that meant or when we'd link up again. I chalked the whole thing up to seeing a new part of the world where there'd be a familiar friendly face.

Now her face appeared in a car rolling up in front of me, the transitioning moment from the go of the road to the temporary settling in of a new place, a new experience. She looked exactly as I'd remembered her, slender with straight brown hair and those same dreaming eyes, still curious and inherently confident.

We drove out to the farm she was working on just a couple minutes away. Inside was the woman who owned the place with her smart looking baby, probably a year old, smiling a good smile. Two ham sandwiches were waiting for us from the last years slaughter, pigs on her farm. I happily swallowed mine down while they told me about the lingering rain water in the fields that could prevent us from picking any beets or onions for tomorrow's Saturday market. This day was in fact cloudless and flat perfect, seeing the snow capped mountains in distance had me reeling the whole trip there and this type of day would fortunately continue despite people of all sorts telling me of the typical rain, I couldn't picture it and didn't need to.

We trudged out into the field through some muddy wet patches to see what was what. Some decent puddles remained, but they both seemed optimistic explaining that these puddles had been more like a pond that had served as a swimming hole for the ducks the previous days.

The onions were good to go so Jenny started pulling them up and I followed suit.

"So how long ago was it that we met anyhow?", she tried to remember. I couldn't remember how many years ago other than it was a few weeks before the Saints won the superbowl since I'd landed in New Orleans directly after meeting her for that, a couple years ago I'd assumed. We recounted the few memories from being hosted over there in Mobile, Alabama, tossing the onions in a big pile before cutting off the roots and throwing them in a bin.

"So... ha, what do you do?", she kind of laughed, "people here were asking me when I said you were coming and I realized I don't even know, I'm sure you get that a lot actually". I hadn't thought about how little we actually knew each other until then, she seemed so naturally familiar, but besides Alabama we'd just sent occasional short messages back and forth and at the moment I couldn't even remember any significant content in any of those.

"What I do", that was a common question I got and never had a definite answer, at least not a single answer, so I just told her about some of my recent travels and the trip overseas from the past year.

We sat on some hay bales and peeled the onions down so they were looking fresh and shiny for the market, bundling red and whites together in bundles of five with a twist tie. The three of us plus Henry, the little one strapped to the owners chest, walked around the farm harvesting a couple more bins full of salad greens and the like. That was about all there was left to do for the day, an easy day Jenny said, her last day on the farm as it were. This was a Friday and after the weekend she was driving to Seattle where she'd fly to Texas to see family for a little less than a week before getting over to England.

We drove into the little town of Coupeville where she'd picked me up, she was wanting to play host and thinking of possible things to show me around the area or what we could do. We parked across the ice cream place that bragged homemade waffle cones, I got a few scoops and she got a green blended veggie drink across the street to aid a mild cold she felt lingering.

We sat at a picnic table overlooking the bay and the mountains, delving into conversation about travel and the flow of our lives at the moment. She asked me if I ever felt lonely in my travels, hoping I'd have some insight for her, also debating the idea of always being on the move versus sticking around a place for several months in between spurts of travel. This was the flow she was in, working on farms for pieces of time with a road trip in between.

I told her about the dynamic of traveling with a partner like I'd done for several months up until just recently, she'd also done the same with someone before meeting her current boyfriend. The turning point with that one for her had been a two week trip to Vegas. Just hearing "two weeks" and "Vegas" in the same sentence and I already knew; Vegas is a two night town or a stretch to three, I knew that well by now. Beyond staying longer than they should have they'd also had there vehicle broken into the one night they decided not to sleep in it, things apparently went downhill from there.

Essentially the benefit of traveling with a friend or partner is experiencing things you may not have attracted on your own and being able to share that, while traveling on your own offers more flexibility and a free flow in general.

In our messaging back and forth leading to my coming up I'd mentioned my regret of not making the Georgia to Dallas trip with her and was also up front about sensing some potential attraction had we gone through with the trip. She seemed to echo the sentiment, but now it was much more comfortable to talk about since it didn't seem to matter.

We took a walk on the beach below the docks with it being low tide, it was covered in mussels and the odd crab, sometimes starfish too Jenny said, but we didn't see any. We walked up to the library from there so she could take a look at what events could be going on that night, if anything, but nothing popped out. I assured her the day was easy and it didn't matter to me any about seeking out anything in particular for the sake of being a good host, I was happy all the same.

We made the drive around the bay to where she'd been staying rent free, house sitting for her friend's parents. They'd be returning the next day, so after this night I'd have to find a place to camp again.

The house was pushed back right from the cliff dropping down to the beach overlooking the bay in a beautiful panorama. A black and white dog excitedly wagged his tail and ran around the yard when we came in. Jenny pulled some pasta out of the cupboard and told me to poke around and see what else we could use for dinner while she changed her clothes.

After finding some sauce and a few other things we hopped in the car towards the market to fill in the gaps. Besides some mushrooms and extra dinner items I excitedly looked at the beer section. Oregon and Washington are know for having good little breweries, I grabbed a six pack of stout from the Deschuttes brewery and a big bottle of an IPA from a brewery in Eugene someone had mentioned to me days earlier.

Back at the house we scooped up the dog and headed down the road to the beach access with a couple beers poured in plastic cups. Jenny unleashed the dog when we saw no one else out there, letting her roam around free while we walked along. After a ways we found a seat on a big rock talking about the things we'd done and were thinking of doing in the days and years ahead. The dog circled around us with half a loaf of bread in her mouth, who knows where from, she eventually buried it in the sand.

Back at the house I hopped in the shower, Jenny had started dinner by the time I was out and it was smelling pretty good. I popped open the IPA and split it between us, feeling clean and blissful. I relished the beer slowly while sitting at the table looking out to the water, fooling with forms for California food stamps I wasn't convinced I wanted.

We enjoyed some bowls of spicy pasta and remained at the table talking into the night, swapping stories and ideas, I poured another couple stouts as we went along, Jenny had a bit less with her sickness still lingering a bit, opting to wrap a towel around her head over some steaming eucalyptus water. Although she seemed to be fading, she was still listening and talking intently until sometime after midnight. We were both happy to sleep when the time came, she took me outside and down to the basement and showed the bed down there with a heater to sleep next to, I fell into the bed immediately and was probably asleep before she made it back upstairs to sleep herself.

In the morning I stepped outside to the view of the water all around, walking to the cliff side to take it in. I relaxed in the new sun for a while before heading up to the deck and into the main house where Jenny was just waking up. We had some granola and yogurt and eased into an easy morning and afternoon, her doing some packing and organizing for her coming trip while I did some reading by the window overlooking the scene outside.

We put a couple bottles of beer and a bottle of wine into a pack and hit the road in the late afternoon, heading down towards a beach in Coupeville, close to the farms she had been working at. We started hiking up a trail heading up a hill rising alongside the water. To our right she pointed out the barn past a large field, it was the other farm she worked on and she'd gotten the OK for me camp there for the night.

On the edges of the trail were patches of clover, earlier on the drive she'd asked if I had any tattoos, I didn't, but joked that if I ever got one it would be a giant four leaf clover on my shoulder. I'd always wished to find a four leafer, I told her about being younger and ripping one leaf in half and trying to fool my brother, it never worked.

Once we were high up on the cliff we went down a bit off the trail and tucked away on a grassy ledge overlooking the water, I opened a beer and she poured herself a cup of wine. We stayed up there for a while talking about family, nature and the happenings in the world. I felt perfectly settled up there with her, the sun wasn't all to far from hitting the horizon at this point and I'd have been plenty happy staying up there talking through the sky's changing color, the stars arriving and finally fading into dreams nestled on the steep grassy cliff.

We pulled ourselves away before all that, she had a friend to meet for dinner and I could keep myself entertained with the basketball game, actually I was very excited, this being the deciding game seven for the Lakers in the first round in the playoffs. We hiked back down the trail at a happy pace, halfway down Jenny bent over a patch of clovers saying how great it would be to find a four leaf clover, I glanced down to the other side of the trail where I immediately saw just that, bending down excitedly to confirm what I thought I saw, "I found one!"

"Shut up!", she said turning to me excitedly, I reached down low and picked it from the base. I'd reached down far enough that there were a couple other clovers off the same stem, and I'll be damned the clover attached directly next to it also had four leaves. A smile came onto my face that would stay there for the rest of the day and coming night.

Jenny dropped me off down the road at the pub in town where I could watch the game while she was at dinner, she said there was karaoke there later in the night that her and her friend had planned to check out after dinner anyhow. I grabbed a book from my pack and flattened the clover between the pages to preserve it, then headed into the bar.

They happily changed the TV over to the Lakers game as I ordered a beer and some mozzarella sticks to munch on. I nursed the beer and talked to the older local woman next to me who bad mouthed the bar with a smile, there really wasn't much choice in this town and her complaints were little more than excuse for conversation. Besides the bartender and myself, everyone else in the place was forty, fifty and up, all having their routine drink or dinner.

During halftime the karaoke started getting set up and soon the TVs were being switched over to show lyrics. Luckily a girl came in to work behind the bar and was excited about the game and kept it going on the big screen. The karaoke began with just three people rotating through songs, two of which were the ones who'd come and set it all up. The guy set it off several songs in when he pulled out his trumpet to blast away while singing "Never There" by Cake. The woman he'd set up with had a hell of a voice too and blew the place away every time she got the microphone. The old crowd was trickling out with a new crowd trickling in, everyone now getting into it.

Somewhere towards the end of the game Jenny arrived on her own, I almost surprised myself how excited I was to see her with an embraced hug and smiles as she took a seat next to me and ordered herself a beer and a shot of whiskey. I bounced between smiling at her and the TV as the Lakers plugged away and eventually won the big game to move on to the next round.

Some of Jenny's friends came in, but disappeared for a while to the back room playing pool. We had conversation I can't remember anything about other than the wild grins and laughter. I went through some more beer and eventually got myself a shot of celebratory whiskey as we took turns shaking the tambourine and cheering on the people blasting into the microphone. Her friends all got up there at one time sharing the microphone, but they left shortly after.

As the night got deeper we were ready for the next beat, "What do you think about grabbing a bottle of wine and heading back to the farm?", she asked, questions like this are the easiest to answer. We raced to the gas station before the hour came that alcohol could no longer be sold in town, we got in a minute late, but were allowed our bottle of cheap red anyways.

Down the road we pulled down a dirt drive and up to the massive big barn where I was to be allowed to stay the night. I pulled my bag out of the car and put it next to a little trailer in the middle of the barn I'd be able to sleep in.

Jenny walked me around the barn showing me the various areas for processing one thing or another, a chest full of beans of some sort and plenty of equipment big and small scattered throughout. We sat in the hay next to a big tractor where we opened the bottle and poured a couple cups for ourselves, talking while Jenny rolled a couple cigarettes. "This is actually historical and protected, it's been around for a long time. We for sure have to go outside to smoke these.", I could see how easy a spark would end it all, hay and everything else going up in flames.

We sat outside, the mountains dark shadows in the distance and the stars shining pure above us, we focused on that for a good while. I don't smoke many cigarettes, only the odd one on certain nights of many drinks, smiles and good company. This was certainly the night for it, completely blissed out under the stars loving the moment and every moment that I could think of that had been and was certainly coming in the life ahead.

We moved back to our spot in the hay and emptied the rest of the bottle into our cups. I loved this girl next to me the way you can only love someone you haven't loved yet, staring into eyes that seemed to have the same passion, restrained only by outside circumstances, but I was in the moment of now and in love completely. I vaguely started explaining this, maybe mostly in my head, certainly some words started stumbling out, but the last and only definite thing I said was, "Fuck it, I'm just gonna do it", I leaned in as she did and kissed her, then kissed her again until this was all there was in the world.

We rolled around in this fashion, slight pauses to scan each other's eyes, exploring each other all over, passion in the hay that could never be duplicated together again. There's nothing that matches the feeling of the first spark of love with another after restrained and unsure anticipation.

After some time we pulled apart, I stepped outside briefly, when I came back the look in her eye had changed slightly, "I'm feeling a little guilty.. it's just bad timing", she said. I understood this, she was a week away from joining her boyfriend for an adventure in Europe, I was still involved with a girl across the other ocean to some extent, and here we were in the middle with each other.

"There's only happiness", I told her, I was still smiling, reaching into her hair to pull some straw out. For me the regret of having not given into our passion would have trumped any guilt. Guilt is a state of mind that isn't always accurate, all the same it can fade with time, justification or better understanding. Regret leaves you guessing forever.

We were now into the phase of parting, still standing and staring into each other, a kiss or two more, then a long embrace with squeezes aligned with the thoughts tumbling through our heads. Thoughts of the day's memories, thoughts of what could have been had the outside been different, had the timing been different, if we could be together anyhow, we couldn't, when we'd see each other again, if we would, what we'd even do or say, love, guilt, bliss, passion and the eyes of a dreamer - we finally released each other with a final goodbye and she turned towards her car.

I headed to the trailer and got one last glance of her taillights fading down the dirt drive - the girl I'd regretted missing once, dreamed and guessed about and somehow got a second chance with, a fool's second chance that only confirmed the first chance blown. The taillights were inevitable.

There's only happiness, and that's where I was anyway, drifting to sleep with the sky already glowing brighter bringing on the next day, the next set of chances, beauty and certain bliss. Dreams fade to dreams and the adventure rolls on.

May 11, 2012 to May 13, 2012