We have found ourselves in one whirlwind of a weekend! Three months of stationary life whittled down to three days of big decisions and hard goodbyes. It started with our Permaculture presentations on Friday. Everyone in the Permaculture Design Course presented their design projects to a group of instructors. The majority of us in the course were Lost Valley interns and therefore had something else on our minds as well: our impending departure. Sure we had one last field trip to go on once presentations were finished, but most of us were looking past that at the reality of leaving each other after three very close months.
Once the presentations were finished and we all had our Design certificates in hand, we separated and the interns went back to finish the task of packing all of our gear away, or for some, start packing everything up. Our field trip would take us to Southern Oregon to the Seven Seeds farm and from there, two people would return to Lost Valley while the rest of us continued south.
Claire and I had organized a ride with our fellow intern, Terrance. He would be headed south to Lake Tahoe in California along with Kayla and Brenton and his camper in tow behind his jeep. He offered us a ride south to get us out of the cold rain that is the bulk of an Oergon winter. We accepted the help and were even more floored when he went further to suggest that we spend Thanksgiving with him and his girlfriend in Tahoe. We had San Francisco on our minds but our hearts were still with our group of friends, so after some deliberation, we decided to take him up on Thanksgiving. Even Kayla is considering sticking around for the meal.
So we loaded up bikes, bags, the works into Terrance’s camper and jeep and tried our hardest to say goodbye to as many community members as possible. Our first tough goodbye was with a fellow intern, Cupcake (Robert), who would be staying behind to do further work building Tiny Homes. We couldn’t hug him enough before we had to load up and leave. We drove south and made it to WIlliams, OR in time to catch the end of a concert and then driving to the farm where we were to spend the night in a yurt. And though the yurt was large enough to spread out, we found ourselves in one large pile on the floor; enjoying each others presence and our last night together as a group.
Saturday, first and foremost, I awoke to pictures of my first niece. Later, we were given a very inspiring tour of the farm by owner, Rob. We have experienced many great examples of permaculture in action, but Seven Seeds was a real gem and Robs insight was a welcome finale to our tenure as interns and Permaculture Design students. And when it was all over, we were faced with the sad task of saying goodbye to more of our group, Deb, Elle, Jeremiah and Michael as well as two of our instructors. Words can’t describe the sadness and longing we felt as we hugged each other. A testament to this feeling was how long we stood in a circle, looking at each other, searching for things to say to somehow make it last even a little while longer. Another testament to this feeling was how we then went to a general store together to get ice cream one last time. And then, goodbye Justin, goodbye Simon, goodbye Michael, goodbye Jeremiah, goodbye Deb and goodbye dear Elle.
The five of us headed south towards Tahoe. We had thought about driving straight through, but since Terrance would be the only one driving, we booked a hotel in Red Bluff, CA and planned on breaking the trip into two days. Jeremiah and Michael, who were following a similar route to Sacramento but in a lighter, faster car, had stopped for a meal, and then caught back up with us. We took a break and as we hung out in a grocery store parking lot, invited the two of them to stay in our tiny hotel room with us. They declined and so we said our goodbyes again and took to the road.
Not far from Red Bluff we got the call. Michael and Jeremiah were going to stay with us for one last hoorah! We met with them in Red Bluff and worked out a plan to sneak seven people into a double occupancy room. It worked a charm and there we were in the most crowded hotel room I’d ever slept in. Three people in two beds (we wanted Terrance to get a good nights’ sleep so he had his own) and four to the floor. Given a bed large enough, we could have happily all shared it.
Sunday morning we shared a final brunch together at a diner in town. We ate and laughed and drank coffee. When we finished, we said goodbye to Michael and Jeremiah and got on the road for Tahoe. As we were driving, Claire and I considered our options. We wanted Terrance to have some decompress time at home, so we made a quick decision to go to San Francisco for a few days and booked a bus ticket for that night (this night). Immediately we were back on the ball, writing friends and couch surfers and just trying to figure out what the hell we were going to do getting into San Fran at 1:30 am. In true Claire and Andrew fashion, we looked up what time the sun rises and decided we would walk the city all night and then be at the Golden Gate Bridge for sunrise.
We eventually made it to Truckee, CA where we would split with Terrance who would go to Tahoe while We would meet up with Brenton’s mother in Reno and kill some time before catching our bus at 8:30. It was easier saying goodbye to Terrance knowing we would see him again in a few days and so he took off with his camper still loaded down with most of our gear and sadly, our bikes as well. Kayla, who was going on to a different part of Tahoe, was able to catch a last minute ride with a friend of a friend who just happened to be in Truckee at that moment. As we said goodbye to Kayla, we reminded her that she should come back for Thanksgiving dinner with us. And then there were three.
We met up with Brenton’s mother who lives in Reno and is an absolute dear! She is the kind of person who would thrive in a community such as Lost Valley. Conversation came easy as we waited for 8:30 to roll around. We ate some delicious Thai food, shared the beer that we had made at Lost Valley and got to see Brenton surprise his girlfriend who had no idea he would be home. We were so happy, we could have easily stayed there. A sentiment that was mirrored by Brenton’s mother as she gave us an open ended invitation to do just that whenever we wanted. We said goodbye to a new friend and jumped in the car with Brenton and his girlfriend and headed for the station.
We got there around 7:30 to check in and after doing so, walked Brenton and Maddie to the car to say goodbye as only tramps like us should be hanging out in bus stations. Another easy goodbye as Brenton will be the one who picks us up on Wednesday. Just like that, it was only Claire and I again. And sitting in the bus station benches, minutes from our separation, we missed Brenton. And we missed Terrance and Kayla and Michael and Jeremiah and Deb and Elle and Cupcake and Paul and Nicole. For three very close months, these strangers became our friends. And though we travelled as two for so long, we became part of this larger family and must face the love and sadness and joy that comes with being a part of any family.
We will see each other again. Some sooner than later. And as I sit in this dark, slightly too warm bus feeling the change of pressure in my ears and watching the lights streak by, I look forward to my Thanksgiving with family. Please don’t ask me what I am grateful for this year. I don’t think I could finish by New Years. May you all be equally happy and sad and loved!