Crater Lake, Oregon

Posted on
Aug 23, 2012

Do you ever look back at events, with the hindsight of years gone by, and wonder how exactly you were able to get through them?

In high school, a friend of mine commented on this phenomenon. She and I had gone to Homecoming (with our respective dates) a mere two weeks or so after another friend of ours had died.

“How did we do that?” she asked me much later. “How did we go to a dance after all that?”

And how did we have fun? Because I remember having fun. I know that aside from grief there was laughing and happiness. That on my front porch, I kissed my date on the cheek because I was too nervous to actually kiss him on the lips. And I ran up the stairs to my bedroom and could hardly sleep, even though it was so, so late. How was all of that possible?

Looking back, I still don’t know. I guess we did it with the resilience of youth. I’d like to think it was that more than callousness.

Nowadays, I don’t have that feeling very often – I don’t marvel at my ability to handle things, because I don’t think I handle them all that well. I’m known to freak out. I am bad in times of crisis. But I get through things, for better or worse, like everyone else does. Okay, fine – maybe with slightly more napping and cake eating.

The other day, Rand and I were discussing our Ashland trip. And we realized it was a scant two weeks after my surgery. Now, two months after it, it seems insane that we did that. I don’t even know if it was a good idea.

And we didn’t just go to Ashland. We drove out to Crater Lake, too.

Gorgeous, right?

It’s a two-and-a-half hour drive (broken up by stops for ice cream) away. I slept most of the way. I still wasn’t at the point where I could stay up for the whole day. Even now, I’m still sleeping about nine hours a night. Sometimes ten. I’m not exactly complaining. My life is such that I can get away with stuff like that.

Holy crap, I’m lucky.

We arrived at Crater Lake a little before sunset, and we were able to hike around a little bit.

And by “hike”, I mean “walk around slowly on dirt paths while taking lots of breaks.” I let Rand go ahead of me most of the time, because I couldn’t keep up and didn’t even attempt to.

He was excited – darting around and exploring like a little kid. I think he felt – for the first time in several weeks – like things were going to be okay. Like they might go back to normal.

But I couldn’t relax. I was worried he might go tumbling over an edge.

It was really steep. A few times he dangled my camera over the edge and took a few shots.

I was petrified. I hooked my fingers through the loops of his jeans, and leaned back, in case he should slip. I begged him to stop, and finally he did, and came back to standing next to me.

Eventually, this happened:

Rand insisted on taking a few photos of me. I didn’t want him to because my face was still round from steroids. Let me say this now: that is an idiotic thing to worry about. Really, really stupid. I’m still mad at myself over that.


I think I was so self-conscious because nothing felt the same. Whenever I complain about something physical, Rand stares at me and says, “Really? That’s what you’re worried about? Seriously?”

And I’m reminded that our appearances shouldn’t count. Weird to think that a lesson I learned a child is so easily lost. Outsides don’t matter. OBVIOUSLY. But after my surgery, I felt weird on the inside, too. Everything felt off.

Well, almost everything.

We stayed out by the lake until sunset.

It gets chilly late at night. There was still snow on the ground.

Rand had made us a reservation at the restaurant up at the lodge. If you want to eat up there, you kind of have to make a reservation – it gets pretty crowded at night. Otherwise, you can order food and sit around the fireplace in the lounge. Which, arguably, doesn’t sound all that bad. But you will have to fight for a seat.

Since I had a teeny, tiny bit of roid rage, it was probably for the best that we actually had a table reserved. Fighting over seats is no way to spend an evening.

I started with a spring green salad with Oregon blue cheese, pears, and hazelnuts.

For my entree, I got trout, I think. I have trouble remembering.

I still had steroid tummy, so I demolished that sucker. It was delicious. That part I remember.

Rand got the surf and turf, which was a filet mignon topped with a crab cake. He was less enthused by the crab (“Too much cake,” he declared, and I gasped), but assured me the steak was excellent.

And then we “shared” a berry cobbler. Or we shared it as much as Rand and I ever share dessert. Which is to say that I ate most of it, and he snuck his spoon to the dish a few times.

It’s funny – every time I eat in old lodge restaurants like that, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been pushed back in time. Not terribly far, but just a few decades. I ate my meal thinking that this must have been what gourmet food was like in the 1970s. It’s delicious and beautifully presented, but something about it feels pared down and rustic.

Like, “Here’s your steak, which is perfectly cooked, alongside a pile of lumpy mashed potatoes the size of a toddler. Enjoy.”

I know it’s silly, but I love that quality in a restaurant. It’s so unpretentious.

After dinner, we went outside to look at the stars. That was the whole reason Rand wanted to go up to Crater Lake in the first place: to see stars. And we did. So many, in fact, that we could see that band of foggy light that signifies the arm of the Milky Way in which we reside.

Fact: that’s something I’ve always wanted to see. And that night up at Crater Lake, I saw it. I saw where we fit in the whole universe.

I tried to take some pictures of the night sky, but I lacked the photographic skills to capture anything, so it resides only in my memory.

And then we went back to the car, and back to Ashland. We listened to music, and I dozed, waking up every now and then to offer to drive, even though Rand and I both knew it wasn’t sincere.

“Just sleep, kitten,” he said.

I did. I slept then, I slept the next day, I slept and slept for the weeks following. Until I woke up, the haze of surgery lifted, and looked back on that trip. And wondered how, exactly, I managed it, so soon after someone tinkered with the innerworkings of my brain.

And while brain surgery is far less traumatic than losing someone you care about, my friend’s words from all those years ago once again seemed apt. How did we do that? How did we go? How did we have fun?

This time, it wasn’t because of the resilience of youth (obviously). It certainly wasn’t due to moral fortitude or strength of character. Instead, the answer was as crystal clear as the water in that lake and the cloudless sky above it.

He simply makes everything easier.

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