It wasn’t exactly a stealth visit, as I wasn’t keeping myself sequestered. But I did venture back into the valley for a few days last week, after being away for two months for hospitalization and convalescence.
Even that handful of days had a healing effect.
In the quiet of shoulder season, the valley has a calming influence. Things feel familiar, and welcoming. It’s quiet. The pace is manageable. It snowed a bit, presaging winter. The North Cascades Highway closed for the season. The Winthrop Rink opened for the season, and there was a hockey tournament. Live entertainment is making a comeback. The new Okanogan County Fire District 6 fire hall and the new Twisp Town Hall have risen from their foundations to start resembling the buildings they will soon become. Veterans and their guests got together for lunch. Oh, and the construction-zone phalanx that was West Twisp Avenue for so many months is now a passable street again, a relief to my neighbors and myself.
We had something to celebrate as a community: a state championship for the Liberty Bell High School boys’ cross country team. And the girls came close to making a double-win day with their second-place finish, extending their perennial claim to a podium spot once again. Meanwhile, the Liberty Bell football team extended its post-season playoffs run with a rousing home-field victory and is still in the hunt for a trophy.
We still have a ways to go but, all in all, there was a sense of underlying normalcy despite the enduring threat of pandemic impacts. This community’s resilience is like a tonic. The overwhelming, record-breaking response to the Give Methow campaign is more evidence that this is a place that cares deeply about itself no matter what the circumstances.
During my short stay I enjoyed a few casual encounters in local shops, and it was great to serendipitously reconnect with familiar faces and chat for a moment or two. I look forward to more of that. I plan to be back in the valley during Thanksgiving week and beyond. I’m planning to participate in Christmas at the End of the Road (how can you not love the fireworks?), something I consider a treasured local tradition. But after that I still have some follow-up medical treatment waiting for me in Seattle. So, more time and Highway 2, hoping for good experiences over Stevens Pass.
While I was back in Seattle this past few days my college alma mater, Seattle University, hosted an all-class reunion that included several group events. I didn’t feel comfortable attending any of those gatherings, but was able to spend a wonderful afternoon with three of my fellow class of 1971 graduates whom I’ve known since the first days of my freshman year. Fifty years is a long time, but the decades evaporate in the good company of people you like, admire and feel lucky to have known. Thanks to Jim, Caroline and John for making the effort — it meant more to me than I can express.
I don’t think it’s ever possible to thank people too much for their support and generosity. I’ve heard from many of you, and am grateful for your kind words — as well as the spontaneous donations some of you offered to help this newspaper maintain its mission. They come at a critical time, and are much appreciated.
Meanwhile, the devoted crew of Methow Valley News staffers and freelancers has kept things cranking, and I’m proud of what they have done with our resources stretched to the max. We still have some important work to do before the year is out, including our Year in Review issue (in case you missed anything in 2021) and the ever-popular kids’ Christmas cards special section, and I plan to be more a part of that. Then, 2022 offers its own challenges. We are working on some special project ideas that we hope will enliven the coming year.
For your part in the final days of 2021, please make this community first in your hearts during the upcoming holiday season. Shop locally. Support the Manger Mall and Neighbors Helping Neighbors programs, our annual hallmarks of community spirit and caring. Wander the welcoming streets of Twisp for a day of Mistletoe Madness. Give thanks for all we are blessed with. I know I will.