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the last post.

Making a Big Wish

Hello sweet friends and dear readers. There's been an incredible delay on this last post due to Big Life Transitions occurring resulting in Ensuing Busy-ness and Emotional Upheaval, but I did not want to let another month go by before I had a chance to reflect on this adventure and share it with you. So first, I'll do some time traveling back to mid-June, where I was last seen eating fresh strawberries by the handful and adventuring along the Columbia River Gorge.

The following adventure involved my good pal Caroline coming out to visit me in Portland for a few totally delightful days. Caroline flew in on Sunday with the remnants of a cold, and so our first day together was spent snoozing and sucking on Ricola lemon mint cough drops. Over the course of the next few days, we had our fair share of adventures, but mostly we laughed a lot and had those good, long heart-to-hearts that only your best pals can bring out in you.

Beach in Manzanita on my Birthday Expedition!

As a birthday surprise, Caroline woke me up with a fresh pastry from the bakery down the street and a gorgeous mushroom-themed bag full of thoughtful gifts. We'd planned a trip to the Coast that day, and headed out shortly thereafter. What an absolutely splendid day of Nature, adventure, and friendship. First through Tilamook to a small but beautiful rocky beach, complete with Haystack boulders and a waterfall cascading down to the rocks and then streaming out into the ocean. After munching on carrots and peppers dipped in hummus for a few hours, we headed up the Coast a bit further to visit Manzanita, a small town whose gorgeous, sandy beach made up for the beachside restaurant's soggy, gross-tasting fish n' chips. I frolicked my birthday butt off in that sand, running and dancing and harassing other people's dogs. It was divine.

A Birthday Frolic on a roadside stop out to the Coast.

The next day, we drove east of Portland to discover a new hike and waterfall along the Gorge. After much deliberation (approximately 3 hours worth), I jumped into the enormous, icy pool underneath the falls. Friends, it was the coldest water I have ever encountered in my long, medium-sized life. For context, most other folks jumping in had wetsuits. I felt alive, my oxygen buzzing in my cells. "You are strong, you are beautiful, you are healthy," the water whispered to me.

Herman & Co.

After our waterfall dips, we visited the fish hatchery in the town next door and met Herman, the 89-year-old sturgeon. He is now 90 year-old (it was his birthday that weekend, and yes, there was cake involved). Though we both knew we could've stayed there all day, we headed back to Portland for a brief ice cream splurge at Fifty Licks before hanging out with Caroline's good friend Ethan, whom I'd met a few weeks before through her introduction.

Iconic picture taken with Photobooth of me, Caroline, Ethan (my housemate, not Caroline's pal - different Ethan), and Bo, preparing for a Yoga with Adrienne break in the backyard.

The next morning, Caroline drove me to the airport and got herself to the train that would take her to her sister in Eugene, and I began the next leg of my own adventure; San Francisco with my dear (now ex-) partner Alex. Though we ended up parting ways shortly after I came back to Ann Arbor (it was mutual and, we agreed, for the best, though of course very sad and a hard transition for us both), I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we thoroughly enjoyed our time together in that city, and I would be remiss not to reminisce at least briefly about that experience.

GG Bridge and a gorgeous view!

We stayed at an Airbnb just a 20-minute walk south of Golden Gate Park in the Sunset District. Ocean Beach was just another 20-minute walk west. We walked so much of the city during our time there, my feet hurt in the best way possible at the end of the day and we both slept like babies. Much of the weekend was spent participating in Benny and Shaina's wedding celebration (that was the reason we met up in San Francisco in the first place), but we still had a few days to ourselves to explore the city. After their Aufruf ceremony on Saturday morning (a Jewish wedding tradition that was infused with a beautiful embrace of all gender and sexual identities), we walked through the Mission, Castro, and Haight-Ashbury Districts. It was Pride Weekend in the city, and so it was a very colorful walk, full of old queens, young, crop top wearing youths, and the smell of weed and incense. It was gorgeous, but a tad overwhelming, so after ambling and *gently* shoving our way through the mobs of people we found ourselves at Buena Vista Park, overlooking the whole city. There were only a couple other people, at most. We could see the ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the surrounding mountains in one fell swoop from our vantage point. I was reminded of how much I love this city, and the west in general, with those unexpected views coming out of nowhere and reminding you that you are alive, and that you can and should take time to revel in it.

San Fran flowers seen walking about the city.

The wedding the following day was a beautiful blur of new friends, dancing, laughing, and amazing food. Though I didn't really know anyone there except Alex, I felt such genuine, loving vibes coming from everyone I was surrounded by that I couldn't help but lean into their presence, to come into knowing them and sharing my self with them as well. That feeling was solidified the next day, when Alex and I were able to have a brunch that lasted well into the afternoon with Benny and Shaina because there was just so much between us it seemed, though I had only just met them this past weekend. Such loving people. I am so grateful to have met them and a handful of their friends in this beautiful, crazy city.

A walk to the beach before the wedding

The Airbnb we stayed at was another highlight of that trip. We stayed with William and Gigi, a sweet couple who lived in a house with two other Airbnb rooms they rented out, so the house ended up feeling like more of a hostel, but in the best way possible. Everyone was friendly and respectful, and by the end of the trip, William and Gigi had allowed us the Highest of Honors; helping them name their new pet goldfishes (we went with Bobo and Shasha, in honor of Benny and Shaina). If anyone is ever looking for a place to stay in San Fran, stay with William and Gigi! They are sort of the best.

Bobo and Shasha, getting along swimmingly!

The last thing I wanted to do at the end of that week was leave, but I felt that Alex and I had really maximized our time together and made some really sweet memories in the process; what more could I have asked for? My gratitude for our relationship and for our experience in that city felt full to the brim.

Once I returned to Portland, I had a day or two to get everything packed and prep for my trip back to Ann Arbor with my Dad, who flew out that Thursday evening to meet me at PDX (I never knew why people referred to Portland as PDX and when I learned it was simply because it was the acronym of their international airport I have to confess I was disappointed it wasn't something more wacky).


It was so sweet to show the city to my Papa and spend some quality time with him. We packed a lot of our time with outside activity (hiking galore), but also had some quality time in my two favorite Portland bookstores (Wallace's and Powell's) and at Next Adventure (The TJ Maxx of REI). I took him back to the Gorge for a day and we did another waterfall hike, about 4.5 miles through woods, babbling brooks, and gorgeous mountain views to a falls cascading down lush, moss-covered boulders. We visited Herman (i.e. The Sturgeon) again. Discovered a delicious smoothie place in Hood River (Latin-inspired flavors of Bubble Tea; loving these fusions people!!!). Drove home on the Washington side of the Gorge, the full Strawberry Moon rising fiercely and brightly over the mountains. I shed a tear at her utter grace.

This little light of miiiiine.....

While in Portland, we stayed at a sweet Airbnb that was also home to two beautiful Savannah cats (Cervals crossed with domestic cats) named Ash and Poppy and a gentle Whippet named Thistle. Poppy roped me willingly into several games of Fetch The Puffball during our stay, and her and Ash came downstairs to visit us not infrequently. It was a relief to have a cool, quiet, cozy place to retreat to after being out in the hot sun all day. It was in the 90s and furiously sunny that week. One day after our Gorge trip, the part of the Washington side of the shore near Hood River lit up in flames, caused by a spark from a train. The Fourth of July came and went. Dad and I piled everything back into my car, I said my goodbyes, and before you could say "Feel it All Around by Carrie Brownstein" we were off. It felt weirdly anticlimactic.

Clown Car 2.0

Other than a one day stay in Missoula, Montana (which was awesome; we hiked around Blue Mountain and cooled off in the Clark Fork River), we booked it home, driving between 8 and 11 hours a day and stopping at another Airbnb in a small town in North Dakota and then with my aunt and uncle in Minnesota. We talked, napped, listened to music and podcasts, simply looked out the window. It was wild seeing the landscape shift from the mountains and dryness of the PNW to the lush, midwest rolling fields and then forests as we drove back into Minnesota, then Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and finally, Michigan. A mecca, to be sure.

Atop one of the foothills of Blue Mountain in Missoula, Montana.

One blessing of this return trip, as well as my trip out West back in the Spring, was that I got to stop in Waukesha, Wisconsin for a couple hours along my way and visit with my grandparents (Dasa and Papa) and my aunt Pam. The reason I am especially grateful for this time with them is that shortly after I returned from out west, Papa passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Though he lived a long, full life and was loved by many, grieving his loss has been hard, sad, and a big transition. There was a memorial service in Waukesha at my grandparents' house last weekend, and though it was challenging to face our feelings, it was also deeply healing. You are loved, and you will be missed, dear Papa.

Along with the death of a loved one and the loss of a relationship, I made the decision to go back to school this fall as a student at the University of Michigan to pursue a Master's in Social Work, which feels like a huge transition, as well. For many reasons, the time felt right for me to move forward in pursuing this passion, and I let Spirit guide me into my next chapter willingly and without *much* resistance. I am excited and scared, but mostly excited.

Obligatory Demonic Cat Pic (Poppy left, Ash right).

For all of you who have followed my journey these past several months, who have supported and loved me along the way, I cannot thank you enough. This adventure was totally life-changing for me, and I grew in so many ways that I didn't see coming, learned so much that I wasn't expecting to learn. Though travel and a new place can sometimes feel glamorous and exciting, one of the most important things I have learned is that for me, in this moment, the work I do and the people that surround me take precedence over the physical place in which I find myself. That's why I've reconciled myself to staying in Ann Arbor at least another year and a half, and why I've even embraced and am loving it. Having been back now for a little over a month, I think I can safely say that, though I have had some big losses this past month, I have never felt more filled with the love and support of my friends and family in this community. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Love, hugs, and peace, y'all.

xoxo grace

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