Three years ago, I boarded a plane to Portland International Airport as an anxious and intimidated adolescent. I did not expect to discover the landscapes that lay ahead. I sat there, on a Jet Blue flight, squeezing the arms of my seat before take-off, longing for the moment I would exit the plane and find myself in the safety of my aunt and uncle’s Eugene, OR home. Little did I know this wasn’t just an ordinary trip; this was going to be an adventure.
I had a feeling that this trip was going to be different from the moment I entered my relatives’ truck. The moment I stepped out of the truck at 2 A.M. to have a late night meal at Shari’s Restaurant, in the heart of Eugene, confirmed this all. This was about to be the most unorthodox trip of my life, one that possessed an array of oceans, deserts, forests that some people die trying to witness.
Day Four of my journey to Oregon had the largest impact on me. We traveled for hours in the grey Dodge Ram that began to feel like home to me, though I was a newcomer to this state. My bladder betrayed me along the way, and when I realized there was not a pit stop to be found for miles on that desolate highway, I found myself believing that the trip was not worth it; mentally demanding that the visit was astronomical enough to be worth my patience in a time of distress.
After pulling up on a dusty road that contained a picnic area, shaded by trees and guarded with park benches – the only section of green that could be seen for miles — we found ourselves at the Painted Hills. I found relief at a nearby outhouse, a structure I’ve only witnessed in films about country folk. Exiting the detachment, I took a moment to breathe in the dry air and ponder our vicinity — and I was immediately swallowed into a vortex that took me inside the pages of God’s coloring book. Grains of sand stacked miles high made up the desert, each coated with different 180 degree angles of auburn, copper, toffee, rust, sepia. With each gentle sway of breeze that temporarily cooled the area, myriads of molecules shifted, forming new designs on the surface. New strokes of color splashed and rearranged before my eyes, intoxicating me with the puzzles they presented, forever ebbing, never the same. I was so drawn in. I was a part of something bigger. I was watching beauty take form.
“Jasmine, there’s a rattlesnake by your foot!” my uncle shrieked, tearing me away from fascination only to find myself shrieking as well. He cackled his joke, I shot him an irritated glance, and then we parted from the mountains of granulates, abandoning the streams of vibrant shades behind us.
I could talk about all the other scenic locations we visited – the cliff–side view of Cape Perpetua, the esoteric depth of Crater Lake, the everlasting roar of Sahalie Falls – but none of those places could not embed their beauty into my mind the same way as these phantom hills. Skimming through the scrapbook filled with memorabilia of so many summers ago, I still can hear the whistle of the wind with every flip of the page; and I could easily detect the geometric structures of the hills in my aunt’s script on the final page: “We’ll miss you Jasmine! Thanks for visiting!”
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