driving east on highway twenty to the mountains, i watched the forest thicken and the trees change as the elevation increased. soon we were high in the peaks of the cascades, surrounded by rock walls, melting snow drifts and waterfalls. my ears kept popping as heather and i talked incessantly, the way you talk on a long drive when there's still a'ways to go. we talked intimately, up and around life's challenges, dissecting them one by one. and i have to say, through those car windows, that scenery changed me, those majestic mountains carved by water, water tumbling into the arid valley, that valley so carefully snuggled up against those rock walls, split in half by the hardest rushing and coldest green rapid river i had ever laid eyes upon. how the wonders of nature transported me, and i could have just as well been in the swiss alps or the adirondacks, the french riviera, the himalayas or the andes. it was just washington, and it was only a double overnight a couple of hours away from home...but the amazing scenery, a holy reminder of the beauty of life, plus the solid gold company of friends both old and new...well, it was out of the ordinary, just different enough for it to feel like a real vacation. and as a result, i returned home a different girl. much better.