You know those places you find that just become innately special for some obscure reason? It doesn’t really matter why. Perhaps you went on a meaningful trip. Maybe you made some special memories there, or maybe you just had a perfect day. Whatever the reason, those places just become beautiful. Special. Wonderful. Absolutely priceless. And, honestly, I think we all have those places. Last fall, about a month after Ryan got home from his last deployment, we made our way to Lacey to the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. Until that day, I’d never really know what it was. I could see it from the freeway when we drove South towards Olympia, but it never really registered until then. This past weekend when the smoke finally cleared, we made our way back to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge…if only to see if it was as beautiful as we remembered.
The last time we went, Mieke was only about eight months old. It was cold and nippy, but it was a beautifully clear day, and wandering the paths was gorgeous – barren trees, brown grass, and all. This time, however, the refuge was alive with color, and the fall leaves were just starting to show their beautiful colors. The last of the green leaves contrasted perfectly against the tall golden grasses, and Mieke (obviously completely mobile this time), was content to eat every single blackberry that lingered on the vine from passersby.
It’s kind of weird visiting these wide open spaces this fall and seeing masks around everywhere. People leave a wide berth between them and others, and yet the crowds are still out there, in large part because the weather is still primarily really nice. I imagine once the rainy season starts in earnest, our favorite paths will see far less foot traffic, and we’ll be spoiled by these wide open spaces again.
It’s so funny to think that our last visit was a year ago. Perhaps I’m waxing nostalgic because our time at JBLM is dwindling, or perhaps it’s because summer is fading fast into fall. Whatever the reason though, I’m struck by how fleeting all of this is. I remember thinking the same thing at Fort Drum as we tried to cram in one last trip to Kingston, savor one last beach day, and enjoying one last drive down to New Hampshire. As military families, the goodbyes to people are familiar. We know they’re coming, and we anticipate them with great sadness. With places, however, the feeling seems a bit different to me. It’s no secret that I don’t love Washington, but I will tell you this: I am so grateful we’ve had the opportunity to live here.
As an Army spouse, I have a choice with each duty station. I don’t have to love it, but it is my choice what I want to make of it. For my kids and for my family, I will always choose experiences. Memories. Joy. That’s why we find our way back to these little gems like the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. One visit is fleeting. Two becomes an imprint, and watching my boys remember the lookout and the trails, as well as seeing Mieke explore in her own right is oh-so special to me. I’m grateful for this crazy time and this crazy season. I’m grateful for this challenging duty station. I’m grateful we’ve been given the opportunity to live somewhere we would never have outright chosen to live.
I know big things are coming, regardless of where the Army sends us next. But for now?
I’ll just sit here basking in these memories of the early autumn glow.