We spent our last week of summer on the Olympic Peninsula, nine days nestled in our camper amongst the ancient cedar groves and limitless ferns, near crystal clear turquoise lakes and the vast sand and driftwood grey of the Pacific coast. We read books and played games and skipped rocks. We drank coffee and wine from speckled metal cups and experimented with cooking over the fire.
Our last three days were at Lake Crescent, and the kids braved the cold water to swim. We spent one day exploring Lake Crescent Lodge, eating lunch in the restaurant where I devoured a Dungeness Cobb salad and my six-year-old son discovered a love for lavender lemonade. We spent too much time and money in the gift shop buying overpriced souvenirs, and we stood in awe under the enormous elk head mounted above the rustic fireplace in the lobby. We asked a stranger with a dog to take our family photo at the end of the boat dock, and we sat on a driftwood log in the sunshine staring at the water and the dad and his two daughters struggling to get back on their stand-up paddle board. It was a beautiful day, but the best was yet to come.
When we arrived back at the RV park and pulled the truck into our spot, we discovered we had new neighbors in the slip next to us. They immediately engaged us in conversation and Bryan helped them figure out how to extend the awning of their rented RV. They were two couples and one nine-year-old girl, which thrilled my very social eight-year-old daughter. In no time at all the two of them were thick as thieves.
That evening they joined us around the campfire. We roasted s’mores, and we gazed at the stars and the moving satellites and the planets visible in the sky. We talked about careers and writing and homelessness and falling in love until the fire faded to a glow. It was the last night of our trip, and though we’d been surrounded by incredible natural beauty and loved spending time as a family, meeting kindred spirits was the highlight.
The next morning we exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses and lamented the fact that we hadn’t more time to spend together. Our daughters hugged each other fiercely, their faces buried in each other’s necks, and we said goodbye.
Sometimes we find ourselves caught up in a moment of unexpected meaning and beauty and connection that could never have been planned or anticipated. But when we’re paying attention, magic is everywhere.
RACHEL WOMELSDUFF GOUGH and her family ditched the city for a patch of earth in the Snoqualmie Valley. She seeks to foster shalom in her neighborhood by rooting deeply, connecting people, and practicing hospitality. She is a Master of Divinity student at Fuller Theological Seminary, and she can’t live without books, coffee, and mountains.