We really shouldn’t have made Walmart the first place I saw in Newport, but we needed toothpaste. One mini tube for 6 days between two people is just not enough and toothpaste should not be something you try to “conserve” anyhow. I typically do not find myself to be a judgemental person, but when thinking about who I could see myself being friends with in this new place I was guilty. Guilty, guilty, guilty. I whispered, “Ryan, am I going to have friends here? Are there any normal people here?” I was getting worried because it seemed that with every person we passed my chances of finding a friend were getting smaller and smaller. I could have hopped on the plane back to Lynchburg right then, painted the soles of my shoes with Gorilla Glue, and dared anyone to try and move me. But, then I realized how completely psycho I was being, so I tried to keep things in perspective by telling myself things like, “The people in every Walmart are always a little interesting.” Right?!?!?
Three days later I am slowly coming to realize that just because change is hard does not mean that it shouldn’t be welcomed. Everything we see and experience on this trip is helping to put things into a new focus. It is not often that one gets to move to a new place that embraces an altogether different attitude and way of life. You will not find the majority of people in Newport living in big, fancy houses. Homes here are functional, a place to eat and sleep. You cannot exclude yourself from people that are different from you in terms of socioeconomic factors by holing yourself up in a brand new subdivision. You must coexist with all of your neighbors, and a quick drive through the small town will show you exactly what I mean. Well manicured homes are down the street from homes with peeling paint and children’s toys everywhere. But all of that is somehow not so important here.
What I saw as glaring inconsistencies with what I considered to be a respectable way of life have turned into challenges for refocusing my own priorities. Can we make a 1000 square foot house work if it means we get to be a couple blocks from the ocean? It was overwhelming.
I had to run 7 miles this morning. I decided that a beach run would clear my head and help me to think things through without worrying about the street names. Slowly my head cleared as I listened to the waves crashing and my feet crunching through the sand. Then it hit me, I was exhausted. Not just physically as I looked ahead to the end of the beach and realized that I had to go all the way back the other way, but emotionally, too. It had been hard to hold it all together. To keep a brave face. As I looked down I saw that beside me were a pair of footprints. I ran with those footprints for the next mile or so. Footprints that had been left by an earlier runner doing exactly what I had set out to do. But, I couldn’t help but have my mind repeat the “Footprints” poem that for so long hung in my parents bathroom. “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints is when I carried you.” I could go on and on about the flaws of Newport, but suddenly it didn’t matter so much. I want to approach this as the adventure of a lifetime that it will be. Sometimes it will be hard, but it will be in those moments that we will carry each other through it.
Newport is a small beachtown. An active fishing community that brings in Dungeness crab, albacore tuna, and salmon (to name a few). A place where people from all over come for a vacation. Barking sea lions below the piers echo along the bay. Restaurants serve local seafood and produce – much of it organic and sustainable in two small, but thriving downtown locations. A place that prides itself on it’s performing arts center. Somewhere that jeans and a fleece are just fine for a fancy dinner. Somewhere you can see cliffs sweeping majestically on the backside of miles of beautiful, clean beaches.
Will I make the friends of a lifetime? It remains to be seen, but I think Newport is a place where our whole family will become a lot closer and more centered on the beauty that sometimes rises out of madness.