TRUSTING OUR UNDOING
- A LESSON -
There it was again. That same distant rattling sound, a low hum, and now something else joins it - a knocking at my feet. A death knell. Our little yellow van has some mystery illness. With every turn, the wheels under my feet are coughing, wheezing, rattling and thunking.
We stop, mid sentence, all plans for the day falling away. The next twenty minutes are spent driving up and down a single shady, tree-lined street in a suburban area made up of powdery blue houses and charming marigold gardens. I must have looked a little mad, running alongside the van, ears down, trying to listen to the tires. Trying to decipher what was wrong - where it hurt. It became very clear that something was truly amiss. The front passenger-side tire was on its last legs. It seemed it was about to fall off at any second, the rattling was now more of a pounding and shaking.
So, with our hearts in our mouths, we limped our only home-on-the-road across two blocks to the nearest mechanic’s garage. There we found an angel in the form of a surly young man with an armful of swirling tattoos and grime under his fingernails. This guy would save our lives, and could do so cheaper and faster than any other place we had called. When we got there he didn’t mess around with setting up an appointment, didn’t tell us how much it would cost just to “have a look.” Instead he worked quickly, briskly, bruskly, lifted up our little van and went about his business. Within five minutes he was able to tell us what was wrong, affirming our worst fears…
The verdict: the van desperately needed a new wheel bearing.
Cost: $350, with labor.
Although we were incredibly fortunate to have found one of the cheapest mechanics around, $350 was still way outside of our budget. Heck, we had only $150 in our bank accounts! We had been living on a mix of road-trip magic, the last of our meagre savings, and the smaller earnings we were making from driving for Uber Eats in the cities we traveled through. This was not the first time I had felt the world was falling down around my ears, not the first time my best-laid plans had melted in front of my eyes. But it still hurt. A lot.
Yet, a strange sensation began to overcome me. Every adventure I have undertaken with Oliver has challenged and pushed me a little more than the last. Every crisis, every sudden change-of-plans, every breakdown, every meltdown… all of it has been a lesson in the act of trusting. I have learned, through even the most impossible of circumstances, that things will work out. That this too shall pass. And like a test of faith, this latest breakdown in my world gently illuminated just how much my attitude has shifted in the last 5 years…
After the initial shock, and that inevitable frank discussion of what this means for our road trip, I just let go. The familiar feeling of gripping anxiety falls away, my heart loosens, and I leap once again into the void of not-knowing. Unsurety feels like slipping and falling from a hard surface into nothingness, losing grasp of all roots, branches, anything that would hold me. Instead I allow myself to be cradled by the unseen. The unknown. The universe. In moments like these, I realise I have very little control. The only thing I can control is my own response.
We float in limbo, and there we find a strange, clear kind of joy. One that defies reason, relying not on the curation of one’s experience, but the beauty of the moment as it is offered up. Raw, honest, still stunningly beautiful. The world keeps spinning. I am just here observing.
We somehow ended up breaking down in the most beautiful little suburb, right down the street from a shop that makes heavenly tiny doughnuts; steaming hot, covered in caramel-y sugar and cinnamon, and served with spiced chai. This place feels like home after a day or two.
The van is parked on a side street, where pale purple chicory flowers grow from the cracks in the sidewalk. The long walk into town is punctuated with small wonders, sites worth stopping to take in…
A community garden, complete with rhubarb, potato flowers, and artichokes that glisten after last night’s rain.
An army of bicycles.
A giant mural of stars in a sky full of blue.
A complex of old mills, breweries, and industrial buildings with peeling painted logos. Several of these spaces have been turned into hip new cafes.
Crossing over a bridge that links the industrial quarter to the inner town. Overhead: thick, red, industrial iron beams and rivets. Underfoot: a swift, smooth running river. Ahead of me: Oliver stops for a moment to peer over the edge, then turns to me and grins.
Two tall glasses of craft beer, and a window for watching people.
A garden of roses in full bloom. My favorite: an enormous dusky pink rose, with full petals that beg to be touched, named Barbra Streisand. It reminds me of long-forgotten crushed velvet curtains, and the soft skin of a woman’s thighs.
A moment spent by a large fountain, watching a daughter make her father laugh by skipping and twirling through an ankle deep pool of water.
The bricks passing underfoot, as we walk and talk.
Running to escape the rain, and stepping through a tinkling door into another world - a maze of rooms and doors. Every surface is covered in books. We lose ourselves for a few hours.
A trip back in time, through dimly lit 1920s art deco halls, to find a cinema screen inside a painted Egyptian temple.
Ice cream that tastes like spun sugar rose petals, pickled plums, and a puff of smoke.
The feeling of walking out of the twinkling indoor lights, and out into a dark, warm summer night, still caught in a sparkling conversation.
The soft, deep, rich sounds of a saxophone, drifting through the dark. Walking hand in hand, without a plan or a clue about what will happen, totally free, totally blissful.
Every tear in the carefully woven fabric of our lives is a hole for the light to shine through.
PLACES WORTH CHECKING OUT
. . .
Pip’s Original Doughnuts and Chai… Best. Doughnuts. Ever!
The charming suburban homes and gardens of Rose City Park.
Cross over Broadway Bridge to find the old industrial buildings outside the city center.
International Rose Test Garden. Smell your heart out!
Stroll around the city center, and stumble across Keller Fountain Park.
Powell’s Books is the place to get lost on a rainy day.
McMenamin’s Bagdad Theater & Pub. A stunning art deco building, serving up craft beer and the latest films.
I will never forget the ice creams from Salt & Straw. As someone who likes strange new ice cream flavours, this was my idea of heaven!
Take an evening walk through the trendy, buzzing, boutique-laden area of Richmond. (Go for Salt & Straw, and stay for the saxophone players).