I do not have a river story for you this week, but I had a visit from a good friend from Bellingham and our reunion reminded me of one of the other reasons I have persevered with this little cottage industry.
I wrote a story a few years back titled "Why I (Continue to) Raft" and the gist of that column was that I realized how much I enjoyed getting people out on the water and watching the transformation. It ended with the brief tale of my very young nephew from Dallas who floated the Skagit and - at first - was terrified of the moving, darn-cold-if-you're-from-Texas water. And, despite being on a trip surrounded by a large Y group of boisterous Northwesterners who could not get enough of swimming, it appeared he would endure the trip and be ecstatic to see the takeout and a warm, dry car.
When we were halfway down the river, his entire attitude did an about face. And by the time we hit the takeout he WAS ecstatic, but not about being finished and back to dry land. He was ecstatic about his experience.
I love experiencing that joie de vivre with clients and students and new guides. I don't believe I will ever get enough of those revelatory expressions.
But the other thing I love is getting to know people.
The width and breadth of experiences of the people who I have come to know through their brief stints as river guides is phenomenal. The Orion guide pool, stretching back through the decades and all the way to the present, is a phenomenal, eclectic collection of talent and skills and attitudes and life experiences that I do not believe I would ever have come in contact with if I had chosen any other means of making a living.
And y'all are everywhere.
I was in downtown Olympia at a off-brand coffeehouse catching up with Dyana Fiediga, a few months after sharing a boat with her in Peru on the Rio Maranon, when in walks Randy Stocker whom I had not seen in ages. And though the encounter seemed almost magical, as it is with all old friends, it was as if no span of time lay between us.
We chatted amiably for five to ten minutes when we could easily have whiled away the rest of the afternoon laughing and reminiscing.
I was driving the Orion bus to the Tieton when I pulled into the rest area just north of Selah and before I could make my way to the bathroom, Therese Harrild pulled in figuring there just might be a chance she knew someone driving those white rigs. Though I had not seen Therese since the '80s she was a friendly face with a friendly smile and our banter was natural and easy.
Nowadays she occupies her time driving buses for Metro and, though I have never taken her up on the offer she made to moonlight for Orion, it was generous of her to mention it.
Last May I was hanging out in the middle of the Puget Sound in a white raft with the logo prominently splashed across the front during the Shell No protests and - the next thing I know - Danny Geiger has paddled up alongside us in his canoe to say hello. I have not seen Danny since he officiated Jeremy and Lachovia's wedding in Leavenworth but we may as well have been back on the bus headed to Costa Rica, doing orangutan imitations on the roof rack and making ceviche from scratch.
Earlier in the day, I had been maneuvering the truck and trailer into position to offload the boats at a West Seattle boat launch, when a motorcycle cop from SPD sauntered up only to give me a good-natured nudge and a big hug. I had been braced for a clash with authority and instead I was treated to the warmest smile you'll ever see from a police officer and an encounter that genuinely made my morning.
It was Carol Castellani. Hard nosed on her 'day job' escorting President Obama and keeping order where there is little, but a cupcake when you've seen her scrambling in the middle of the night to keep herself dry from an unexpected Grand Canyon thunderstorm.
Another coffeehouse - this time on Capitol Hill in Seattle - another Orionite. There I was at Victrola's whiling my time away making up stuff to write about when I look up to see Chris Pratt at the counter. I don't recall the last time I saw Chris - perhaps on the Selway trip I just recently wrote about - but I thoroughly enjoyed running into him and being brought up to speed on some consequential life changes.
I love connecting. I love reconnecting.
One of the things I have always treasured is the somewhat random occurrences of these connections and reconnections. Greg Chapman stopping by on his way to California via Pullman. Jerry Baird checking in after coming down from Bamfield on Vancouver Island. Julie Ann Porter-Scott making the effort to 'pass through' Leavenworth when she was visiting Seattle. Charley and Cindy and Linda and Ed inviting me to dinner at their rental cabin. Dyana asking me to lunch on her way to Portland.
My life is richer due to all of these interactions and intermingling stories.
And in several days, once another guide training begins in earnest, it will be richer and deeper still.
Consider this my deepest thanks to you all.