The crisp September air greets me as I step outside and shut the door behind me, slipping the letters to be mailed into my messenger bag. I walk across the deck and down the steps to the sidewalk, enjoying the slight cool breeze after months of heat. Crossing Washington Street, I head into town, passing the neighbor's junk heap, the largest and most spectacular of many about town, which contains everything from a broken-down golf cart to a mountain of black garbage sacks full of ancient aluminum cans. From somewhere among the debris I can hear someone loudly expelling their morning phlegm. Several houses down is a pristine turn-of-the-century almost-mansion towering over a lilac hedge. A wrought iron lamppost overlooks a perfectly-kept lawn. That's Chewelah.
I meander down tree-lined Webster, enjoying the way the huge roots of the maples have caused little eruptions in the sidewalk, as if Nature feels the need to remind civilization of its ultimate futility, as if the trees are saying, "We were here long before you came, and we'll remain long after you're gone." Perhaps that shouldn't be comforting, but it is.
I cross the railroad bridge over Chewelah Creek, shaded by the surrounding willows. Now I'm on Main Street, approaching the town's one stoplight. In a couple of months there will be traffic heading up to 49 Degrees North, the local ski resort, but for now it's nearly as quiet as a ghost town. One car wheezes by, an entire panel missing off its side. The exposed frame looks like old bones. I step into the crosswalk without waiting for the light, and continue down Main Street.
Beyond the drugstore on the corner, I find the new ballet studio. It represents a triumph for the arts in Chewelah. Ballet teacher Ann Marie Benedict has now taught in Chewelah for over twenty-five years, until recently giving her classes in a run-down gymnasium.
Why did she come to this tiny rural community? Why did any of us come here?
A semi with a full load of fresh-cut pine logs roars by. The driver grins, waves, and spews a brown fountain of tobacco juice out the open window.
Several streets down is the Flowery Trail Coffeehouse, where you can get your coffee specially roasted to your preference. A little way beyond that is the park, where the local farmers' market sets up on Fridays. We're proud of our farmers' market. It's won the award for Best Small Farmers' Market in the State several years running.
We come for all different reasons. Junk-heaps and phlegm aside, we stay for love.
I reach the post office and drop my letters in the outgoing box. Then I turn for home.