Monday, April 25, 2011

I'll Miss You, Chelan

Dear Chelan,

I’m a week away from leaving for Mexico. When I come back, I don’t plan to come back to you. It’s a good thing for me, but sometimes you make it hard to walk away.
You and I haven’t always been the best of friends. I used to avoid going to the grocery store because I didn’t want to see all the people I knew. It’s tough living in the town where you grew up; sometimes it’s tough running into your old teachers and classmates, but living in your hometown means you do it constantly if you’ve been away as often as I have. It’s hard to try and explain how you’ve changed, and harder still because you see the changes in your hometown and you resent them. It’s a catch 22: you want people to recognize that you’ve grown up and become different while begrudging the changes that took place in your absence.
There are fewer orchards. There are more people. Many of the faces have changed, but many have stayed the same, or perhaps just become a little more lived in. Those changes one can get used to, Chelan. It’s the way the world works. What is harder to get used to – at least for me – is leaving the absolute beauty of your lake.
You’re so beautiful in the moonlight. You’re like the sea when the wind tears across you, and no one should underestimate your power in those instances. More than that, however, you are the trusted friend that cooled my skin in the summer heat and gave me something to smile at when the cold winter clouds hovered over you.
It doesn’t matter where I am in the world or whom I’m talking to, I’m bragging about you. I tell people that you’re deep, clear and cold, 55 miles long, with a hidden treasure at the other end that includes a bakery and a minute town that is only reachable by float plane, boat, or a long hard hike. I tell people about how I was spoiled growing up next to you; how I hate swimming in warm water after having gotten used to your glacial temperature; how I swam across you once, and cutting through the reflection of the mountains on your surface was pure bliss. I love you all of the time, but most of all in May, when I’m one of the crazy ones that can’t stay out of your near-hypothermic water. The apple blossoms are out and the hills are a light green, the lilacs are in bloom and there you are, not yet overrun by boats, placid and deep like a wise teacher. Now, on the cusp of spring, the trees are covered in tiny green buds that promise my favorite time of year.
And I won’t be here to enjoy it.
There’s no need to pity me. I’m heading to another paradise, different from you but beautiful in its own right. Despite the fact that I’m leaving, however, I just had to make sure you knew that I always think of you, wherever I am, whether I’m with you or not.

Love and pure water kisses