By Ashley Lodato
With the rain came a return to normal, or that’s what it seemed like, at least. The fire that had been looming was knocked back, and then the rain came, and the smoke cleared, and we said to ourselves “Hello Patterson Mountain!” and “Hello Studhorse!” The familiar topography that in a week we had grown accustomed not to seeing through the persistent smoke seemed to gleam bright and clear and almost Technicolor in its alien greenness. The breathtaking sight of our rain-washed surroundings reminded us of why we live here, and why this place is worth saving.
All sorts of signs of normalcy were returning. We greeted friends and neighbors under the bright new light of clear skies; we no longer hunched under the gloom like post-apocalyptic trolls. We let the kids out of the house (“jail,” my 9-year-old called it) to play in the yard and fields like normal, and we started exercising outdoors again, and we opened the windows and rid our houses of locker room humidity.
On Saturday I happened to see firefighters out washing fire trucks and I thought, “How great, things are calming down enough for them to have time to do a little housekeeping. Things must be getting back to normal.” It was only later that I realized what they were doing was so very anomalous; they were shining up the engine in preparation for the firefighter memorial procession in Wenatchee.
So, no, things aren’t totally back to normal, and won’t ever really be for the members of our community who lost children, husbands, colleagues, friends. Some parts of our beloved landscape won’t recover during our lifetimes. A skittish sense of unease may linger under the surface in the hearts and minds of many. But some sense of emotional normalcy — that’s a mental space we are hoping to inhabit.
This past week marks the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina decimating New Orleans, and I’ve been listening to interviews with residents who evacuated during the storm but eventually resettled in the place they love. New Orleans may not be back to its old normal, but it is once again a vibrant city. And one of the things that put it back on the road to recovery was the return of the people. Not just those who live there, but also those who choose it as a special place to visit.
So if the Methow Valley is one of your special places, now is the time to come back. Long lines at Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe? Bring it on. Traffic jams at the four-way stop? We’ll welcome it. Nowhere to park in the Rainy Pass parking lot? We’ll make room.
The pass is open. The air is clean. All of your special Methow places are open and ready for you to visit. Come back; help us return to normal.