My future sister-in-law Alli—we call her Foof—doesn’t belong in southern Oregon. She could easily be a model, lives for electronica concerts, and wants to pursue a career in fashion. She spends many evenings using the Internet in my Ashland apartment to troll Craigslist in Manhattan. Yet she never quite gets up the will to leave—she seems tethered here. I like to think I had something to do with that.
For Foof’s 26th birthday, we took her to the North Umpqua, a Wild and Scenic Class III river in southern Oregon, and rented a cabin above the river. The walls were covered in bald eagle paintings and rusty farm tools. It rained constantly. Despite that, Foof didn’t seem miserable. She put up with me as I yammered on about the delicious kayaking lines down the gin-clear whitewater as we hiked the North Umpqua Trail. Later, she stopped in the rain to admire the brilliant oranges of the changing alders surrounding us. On Sunday, we took a dip at the Umpqua natural hot springs, a series of four travertine pools perched on a cliff, in the company of a gang of survivalist hippies. Foof didn’t blink, just soaked in the 110 degree water and stared blissfully through them at the river below.
About an hour into the drive home, I looked back at Foof. She was staring out the window, smiling, watching the thick rainforest slur by. I thought about how much I was going to miss her when she moved to Williamsburg. Then she said, “I’m so happy I live here.” She still says she’s planning to move away in the fall. I’ll believe it when I see it.