I believe it was the ice on Friday morning, not the snow on Thursday, that caused me to say to Suzanne when I returned to the room after a quick walk with pups, “Not only am I not willing to drive anywhere this morning, I’m not willing to get into a car that someone else is driving either.”

Fortunately, we didn’t need to drive to have fun with the dogs. We ate our slightly more filling breakfasts (baked goods from McKay, purchased the day before) and then headed out to Good Dog Trail again, this time along the paved running path instead of the iced over dirt trail. It was cold, somewhat overcast, and glorious.

icy landscape

The iced over path, and the beautiful clouds.

My phone tells me we walked about 2.7 miles in the morning, and I think I enjoyed pretty much every step. It felt so invigorating, so inspiring to be outside and moving. Suzanne and I didn’t talk much as we walked and our paces were uneven, sometimes me ahead when Riley (on leash, because he is prone to disappearing) had to pause to sniff, often Suzanne ahead because she generally walks faster than I do. But it felt like a great combination of a companionable walk, and also a solitary walk.

And I was rather euphoric. I know it’s a symptom, but it’s also really fun. I spent a lot of the walk singing Christmas carols in my head. Not the secular ones, but the traditional religious variety — Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Come All Ye Faithful — the ones that are about celebrating, about gratitude, about the emotional rejuvenation of believing that God sent his child to save us all. Rejoicing, that’s the word I’m looking for. I was mentally singing the songs about rejoicing, as I walked through the winter forest rejoicing that I got to be there, thankful to be breathing and seeing and appreciating and feeling. And yelling at my dog every now and then, but mostly loving that she could be running so free and exploring so fully. 

By the time we went back to Loge, the plows were out, the roads were clearer, and I was again willing to go places that required driving. Our first destination was lunch, for which we’d chosen a restaurant called Spork. In a week of excellent meals, it was outstanding, as in I think Suzanne chose it as her favorite of the week, and for me it came in second only to Vida (the Brazilian cheese bread). We both had the same meal, the spicy fried chicken with cucumber salad. It was much closer to General Tso’s chicken then southern fried chicken, but it was delicious. Chinese food is pretty much completely eliminated if you’re gluten-free (soy sauce has wheat in it), so I was perfectly happy to be eating GF General Tso’s chicken even though it wasn’t quite what I expected. Hmm, my mouth is watering again.

As we ate, we discussed our afternoon plans. Suzanne was feeling mildly discontented with her Bend shopping. She hadn’t found a single thing at Goodwill and her REI purchases weren’t as exciting as my shoes. So we decided to do a little more thrift store shopping, and then find another place to play with the dogs.

I didn’t really feel the need to do more shopping: my new parka wasn’t quite the rain jacket I’d been imagining but it was clearly waterproof, so it would do. But I’m always happy to visit a thrift store or two. I’ll summarize: we went to two thrift stores, one called ReGroup and another called Super Thrift, and I had the most amazing thrift store luck. Poor Suzanne had the kind of thrift store luck that goes like this:

Suzanne: Look at this great X. Dang, it’s too small for me.

Me: Should fit me fine. I’ll take it. 

I spent a total of under $60 and got two long sleeved layering shirts, a black tank top, a t-shirt, a cute jacket with a fleece hood ($6), and the real scores: waterproof REI rain pants ($6); Walking Company boots, similar to this style and looking almost new ($12); black Levis ($8), and, best of all, a North Face rain jacket in a deep gray with a light teal interior ($11).

The rain jacket was the last thing I found and it was so fun. In the moment between pulling it off the rack and trying it on, Suzanne was already shaking her head at the impossibility of my thrift store luck. It would have served me right if it didn’t fit, but in fact, it fits perfectly. And it is exactly the jacket I was hoping to find for Arcata weather — perfect at about 50 degrees and actually truly waterproof, not just water-resistant. (The walking part of my 3-part depression recovery plan doesn’t include exceptions for rainy days and it rains a ton in Arcata.)

Suzanne did find a few things for herself, too, including a cute jacket and a vest that I would have sworn she already owned, it looked so right on her. But the weather was getting dubious again, so instead of looking for a new place for a dog adventure, we headed back to the hotel. We left Riley to snooze on the bed, and took the puppies back to Good Dog.

The weather was a bit more foreboding, and I did not want to wind up lost in the woods in the dark during a freezing rain storm, despite my great parka, so I kept a careful eye on the time, but we wandered around the Good Dog area for another 3.5 miles according to my phone. That distance turned Friday, December 30th, into my top walking day of the year, with 7.2 miles. It also was just enough mileage to give me a moderately silly and yet gratifying achievement: an average of 2 miles a day for 2022.

forest with gray sky

The overcast sky implied more weather on its way.

Back in the beginning of 2022, I wanted to walk 2 miles a day with at least one day a week of a longer walk. And then things happened; winter rain, COVID, whatever was wrong with me in June. My average for the first half of the year was closer to 1.5 miles a day than 2. But my average for December — the month in which I really started my depression recovery plan — was 3.8. It was enough to pull my average for the year up.  So, moderately silly to be pleased that a New Year’s resolution of 2022 that I totally ignored during the year, I actually fulfilled by the end of year, but still… gratifying.

The predicted freezing rain hadn’t started by the time we made it back to the hotel, so we bundled the dogs into the car and headed out for our last meal in Bend, after deciding to make it a “nice” one. Why is “nice” in quotes? Well, we were splurging, choosing a place that was expensive, sit-down instead of counter service, a little on the fancy side. And sadly, disappointing. I ordered the albacore tuna bowl with seared tuna, avocado, baby kale, black rice, cucumber, pickled veg, and miso vinaigrette. It was fine, I guess, but bland, and a couple of my avocado slices were so browned that I actually picked them out and left them on the small plate. The service was so uninspired that the waitress either didn’t notice that I’d picked out the brown avocado or maybe was just too grateful that I wasn’t complaining about it to acknowledge noticing it. But you know, I would be annoyed if Chipotle tried to feed me rotting avocado, much less a place charging me $21 for the privilege. We also each ordered the $12 cake for dessert, and were surprised that it was served cold. It would have been great warmed up, but cold it tasted a lot like fudge and carelessness and food that was obviously straight from a package, not from an actual kitchen. Lackluster, that’s the word that best describes the Boxwood Kitchen. Would definitely not eat there again. It’s fun to try new places, but both Suzanne and I wished we’d just gone back to Spork instead.

That perhaps influenced our Saturday decisions, however. Our original plan had been to go to Mount Shasta for the night, then home on Sunday, but we’d been keeping an eye on the weather and road conditions, and had already concluded that the drive home would be a lot more pleasant if it did not include California highways. Possibly even a lot more successful if it didn’t include California highways because that atmospheric river weather seemed to be closing roads all over the place. Instead, we were going the Ashland route again. And we were eating at all the familiar, fantastic restaurants!

We went back to McKay Cottage for breakfast (delicious, again); to the Awbrey Reservoir Off-leash Dog Area for dog romping; stopped at Pearsony Falls in Prospect for dog leg stretching (on leash, so no romping); and made it to Ashland in time to get to Vida before it closed. Then the Ashland dog park again for some more dog romping.

dog and small waterfall

Sophie, saying, “Sure, it’s nice water, but could we get to the ball-playing part of this excursion?” Sadly for her, there was no ball playing there. Happily for her, we got to the Ashland Dog Park in time for plenty of playing.

I called my dad from Awbrey Reservoir to wish him a happy birthday, remembering only then that I had specifically brought a pen with me so that I could send him a postcard from Bend. Alas, my pen went unused. Sorry, Dad, I am a postcard sending failure.

And I spent a fair amount of the drive thinking about He Who Shall Not Be Named, (not the Voldemort version,) who was also born on New Year’s Eve. But it didn’t impair my mood much. Mostly I thought about the birthdays that he probably doesn’t remember, like the year I invited his entire classroom to his birthday party, confident in the knowledge that some wouldn’t be able to make it, because of the holiday. They all did, and some brought siblings. New Year’s Eve, not a holiday on which parents of kindergarteners are busy, ha. Or the time we were on a cruise ship on his birthday, or the year that we searched for an armadillo on the world’s longest drive to the beach. (Stuck in traffic.) But I also mentally wished him well, hoping that he finds peace and happiness and joy in his chosen life and chosen family. And not once did I have to fight the temptation to reach out to him, which felt really healthy. In my Choosing Happiness memoir, which I’m not really writing, I admit that my last words to him (currently “Get a life and stop wasting your time reading your estranged mother’s blog”) are probably not the last words I would like to go down in parenting history with, but, you know, so it goes. At least they don’t include any obscenities or insults, which they easily could have. I will not be aspiring to sainthood any time soon.

And moving on, Sunday morning we ate our delicious leftover Brazilian cheese bread treats and headed back to Arcata. We visited the Phoenix dog park on the way, picked up coffees at Starbucks in Crescent City, stopped for a bathroom break at the Trees of Mystery, and admired some truly beautiful landscapes along the way. Oregon was delightful, but the crashing waves of the northern California coast honestly just can’t be beat for beautiful views.

And it’s good to be home. I love my cozy tiny house. It’s feeling a little cluttered at the moment — can a person who lives in approximately 100 square feet really own nine coats? I am not so sure — but it was immensely satisfying to make my veggie hash this morning.* I am really optimistic that 2023 is going to be a wonderful year. Well, of course I am; hypomania is a very, very pleasant state in which to be starting a year. Optimism unlimited!

Happy New Year!

*Red onion, carrots, parsnips, white sweet potato, yam, red cabbage, green cabbage, black beans, cilantro, tomatoes, black olives, kale, chard, spinach, lime juice, serrano pepper sauce, green onion, and some cheddar jack cheese. Am I trying to make up for lost veggie opportunities? Maybe!