Ocean, highway, pub, train station, tent, winery... join me in a little head spinnage?

If it weren't for the 10,000 Photo Project of this west coast trip of mine, there's no way I'd remember a fraction of the things I've seen and done this week. Yesterday when one of my Seattle girlfriends and I rolled up to her house at the end of our drive from Portland, we got the tents set up in her garage to dry out (seeing as how we'd broken camp in some unexpected, honkin' rain, the morning before,) carried everything inside from her car, and I promptly took a 2 hour nap. Which is surprisingly the first such nap from this entire past month.

Any of my friends checking in with me via Facebook would think I didn't enjoy my Oregon camping experience. That would be my fault; nobody should be allowed access to updates on the internet during lengthy insomniac episodes. Especially ones that are caused by not having blown up their sleeping bag's pad properly. So I owe an update: our overall camping trip was lovely, and I'm glad we did it. Even with the insomnia, that night of hard ground, the Never Stopped Talking All Night Long neighbors the next night, and the rain the next night after that. Yes - I will camp again. Not next week, no no. But one day!

And? Camping wasn't all we did during the past week. Even the ever-changing view as we drove across state lines, past expansive farms, into wineries for end-of-the-day-tastings we didn't expect to reach after getting caught in that traffic jam, past ports, bridges, murals, barns... even the sights that occurred through vehicle windows - those sights alone were enough to fill my brain.

But in addition to all that, I've also visited Powell's Books, which is by far the biggest bookstore experience of my life, and the historic Bagdad Theater & Pub, where we stopped in for a bite and a drink and ended up making a friend who proceeded to invite us for the extra night we spontaneously decided to stay in Portland after having slept a night in a tent with a darling, beloved friend I made 4 years ago online but had never met before now, stood in a train station with another friend who left us a night before we were scheduled to return - a station that called to mind that day back when I was 24, when I stood in Grand Central Station on a totally different coast. (Yes. That was one sentence. Hemingway I am not.) And after we enjoyed a tasty meal with our new friend, shared conversation so personal and poignant that I actually sat and unashamedly cried in her dining room after dinner. That was hours after tasting the indescribable gourmet chocolate we hunted down in a shop that was named for the owner's grandmother, Alma.

Not only that, but my friends and I were given an actual tent and air mattress and other camping accoutrements from a lovely couple from Quebec a couple of nights after I stood in a bath house talking with a 75+ year old woman named Gail who wore a bandana in her hair while sweeping the floor and reiterating her polite concern that "we girls" might not have all our wits about us, (gleaned from her tone and facial experssions, though certainly not her actual appropriate words,) what with the temperatures and wetness of the ground.

Also during the past week, I've lost the beloved ring I bought for my 40th birthday - a ring my girlfriends had to convince me wasn't too big and bold for me - only to replace it by one twice as big and bold, in possibly the biggest open air market I've ever been in, once a different set of friends weighed in on how perfect it was for me. I've observed sleeping homeless people, "bathed" in a truckstop restroom, been amazed at up-close starfish and sea anemones and seaweed, hunted down mailboxes in random towns, for sending postcards to my nephew and other 4 year old friend, and maybe lost a whole sheet of postcard stamps. I've watched a man wearing a white suit and Mickey Mouse ears perform his music on a street corner, and been in awe at a greater variety of in-person tattoo art than I've ever thought conceivable.

You might say it's been quite a week.

If I had to choose a theme to describe the week I've just lived, the phrase "the kindness of strangers" would rank very, very high. And the word "strangers" would likely be in quotation marks. I am more in awe than ever before at the generosity of people and the awareness that many, many of them simply do not require years of history between you as a prerequisite for bestowing beautiful actions upon others.

Yes: It's a good thing I decided to shoot all these photos - I'd never, ever remember all these details. Oh how I want to.

It's also a good thing today is a work day. It's thrilling to confidently state "I'm not leaving the house today," and mean it. A very good thing, especially since tomorrow I go to meet another friend I first worked with in early '07, but have yet to meet in person.

Shawn Mullins is serenading me with his stories and guitar riffs, the window is open to perfect temperatures, it's 1:13pm and I haven't had a shower yet today. (Although the one yesterday was extra long!) Soon enough...

Much fun as I'm having, I really do miss my east coast friends and family and hope everyone's well. I've been wondering how long it will be before I book another trip that lasts quite this long. I mean, is it possible one's head could actually explode from this many sights and sounds and sensations??? I've been wondering. Hopefully not, since it'll be another couple of weeks before I return to NC. Until then, cheers!