The Other Side of Empty

On the far side of the Cascades heading East, the land empties.

As I drive further east, past Richland, across the Columbia, down into Eastern Oregon, the sky grows wider, the trees recede, everything opens.

Sometimes, love it here on this road on which I have never been and all of this emptiness.

Sometimes, call friends, text pictures. Remember. Wonder on where it is I’m going and why.

Somewhere along the way, pull off, get out and see what appears so empty, is in fact green and purple sage brush and grasses, yellow flowers, bugs and song birds. It’s a hawk on the wire. A gravel road and a pick up truck. A barbed wire fence and the distant roar the highway.

Somewhere along the way, pull off into Echo where a young man in a blue ballcap sits on a bench on the porch of a tiny white clapboard diner on the vacant street. He looks to his left, back behind him, down at his hands. I look down the street at the dozen shuttered shops in what once was a town and now, in season, a tourist stop along the Oregon Trail.

“Are you from here?”

“Where are you headed?”

“Who are you looking for?”

Miles down the road, I’m still listening, quieting to hear what it is he’s trying to say.

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