A week ago, Patti, Casey, JD and I made a trip to Washington state for a wedding. My nephew, Matt, was to marry his fiance, Holly, out in a field in Walla Walla. Along the way, we picked up our sister-in-law, Lisa, at the Seattle airport for the drive across the state.

Earlier, we had flown from Austin to Phoenix to Seattle. Kinda like going to New York by way of Miami. I was a little apprehensive about the trip because I have been undergoing chemo treatments, have not flown anywhere recently and was just a little concerned whether having had a recent chemo treatment would affect flying.

So, I was a little nervous, especially flying to a city and airport that was new to me. As we approached Seattle, the peak of Mt. Ranier rose beautifully and foreboding above the clouds. Seemed like the peak could be a real magnet for an airplane, but we managed to skirt around it. Still, it was beautiful.

Even though I was a little anxious about the flying, we got there safely and uneventfully. When I was working as a consultant, I traveled all the time. During my last 11 years of work, I picked up the habit of buying a snow globe in every new city I visited. So, if I went to Chicago numerous times, I would buy only one snow globe. When I retired after 11 years, I counted my snow globes and had 94 of them. I enjoyed the fun part of travel then, but now it seems so monotonous and tedious. I wanted the flight from Austin to Phoenix and then Seattle to take, oh, maybe 20 minutes or so. Instead, it took the whole day, with a layover and such.

When we took off from Seattle for Walla Walla (Why waste the extra vowels and consonants? Just call it Walla.) we had a beautiful drive over the Cascades, which were grand, imposing, ominous and staggering. Lisa, Patti and I took one car and Casey and JD took another.  Earlier in the morning, when we picked up Lisa at the airport, it was a beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky. The day was warm, slightly breezy, and the sun was strong. We stopped outside Seattle at Issaquah, Washington for lunch at the Flat Iron Cafe. It was so beautiful out on the deck of the restaurant, we decided to really take our time and not worry about the four+ hour drive to Walla Walla. We shared a dessert of “drunken” cherries and ice cream, all in the shadow of Mt Ranier, before we continued east.

Once we got on the road, every turn offered a different view. We saw the craggy mountains, then the ochre-colored vacant plains. Along the river valleys we crossed, we saw more vineyards than I could possibly count. I found these vineyards to be somewhat rhythmic and graceful the way the rows and rows of grapes would follow the contour of the land and reach toward the sun. While we were driving along, I kept thinking of the line from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby when Nick Carraway said, “Life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.” I made the most of my perch in the back seat, listening to Patti and Lisa talk as the miles and phenomenal views flew past us.

We arrived at Walla Walla and caught up with family. This was Thursday and the wedding was Sunday. Of course, planning and execution of various odds ‘n’ ends needed to take place before the vows in a field on Sunday. It was just wonderful getting back in touch with family and seeing all the cousins interract, continuing to do what they were doing the last time they were all together. Casey, JD, TJ, Matt and Ciara caught up on each other’s lives in California, Oregon, Washington and Texas. It is always good to see them together.

After all the final details of the wedding were complete and the rehearsal dinner was behind us, it was time for the wedding on Sunday.  The vows were exchanged between Matt and Holly underneath a giant Russian olive tree.  Everyone was casually dressed, the temps were hotter than I had expected for an area of the country that is so far north.

While watching the vows, we sat in a family row (in the shade thankfully) and I thought of a quote from The Grapes of Wrath: “Up ahead they’s a thousan’ lives we might live, but when it comes it’ll on’y be one.” And I prayed that is what the future holds for Matt and Holly.

At the time, little did I know that there would be more reasons to think of The Grapes of Wrath than just the quote. After the wedding, the reception was on the other side of the Russian olive tree. There were tables, chairs, tents, dance floor that made the reception comfortable and relaxing. However, after an hour into the reception, a dust storm and rain swept the site. While the rain pelted the tents, everyone seemed to find refuge, with a few even taking to the dance floor to whirl amid the raindrops. The picture below shows you the dust storm that rolled in just before the rain. Very ominous.

Looks like Steinbeck's Dust Bowl from The Grapes of Wrath. This was just before the rain fell.

Looks like Steinbeck’s Dust Bowl from The Grapes of Wrath. This was just before the rain fell.

After the wedding, everyone decompressed back at the house. There was some cleaning up that took place, but, for the most part, everyone just relaxed. And, on Monday, we headed back to the airport and, this time, our flight took us from Seattle to Chicago Midway to Austin, Again, New York via Miami. On the flight to Chicago Midway, i thought about how good it was to see family again, to be able to travel, to be able to attend the wedding, and to enjoy the views and, oh those incredible drunken cherries.