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Friday, May 30, 2008

Warm and Wheaty

Molly and I recently returned from a wonderful vacation in eastern Washington. After moving to the midwest, it is always a welcome feeling to get on a plane knowing I will end up on the Pacific, whether it be in Portland visiting my family or in northern California at my girlfriend's childhood locale.

The Walla Walla valley to me is one of the most gorgeous and hidden landscapes on the west coast. Located just four hours east of Portland, Walla Walla is situated in a growing wine region, surrounded by wheat fields and the Blue Mountains, and close to the long and winding Columbia River. Walla Walla celebrates over 300 days of sunshine annually and only one-third the precipitation of its neighbor across the state, Seattle. I count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to have lived here for four years while completing an undergraduate education at Whitman College.

Our main purpose for our vacation out west was to attend Whitman's annual commencement ceremonies. It was an odd feeling stepping off our small turboprop flight and making our way to campus. While campus was almost identical to the way we left it in 2006, the faces of faculty and students have greatly changed. Despite the new people filling the grounds of Whitman College, the traditions of behavior have remained: bike rides, frisbee games, spontaneous conversations, slip 'n' slide, and outdoor studying on a wonderfully sunny spring day.

The spirit of the place has changed with these people, but it still felt familiar. In reality, this was the last class of students we will know on campus, an odd and sad realization of our now d
istance from this place.

The Whitman grounds are a lush and immaculately groomed landscape nestled in an agricultural and artistic town of 30,000 and home to approximately 1500 students. The campus represents a place dedicated to both educational integrity and extracurricular involvement, a blend of rigor within the physical structures on campus and a comfortable place to play hard without. The brick buildings, immensely smaller than the massive structures on the campus of UW-Madison, emphasize the intimate nature of the educational opportunities here and bring a classically collegiate feel to this small locale, spotted with a varied collection of art, fountains, and flora.

We ate and drank our way through our vacation, filling the time with lunch dates, walks to the farmer's market, beer drinking, long conversations, basking in the sun on numerous benches, and more. The goal was social only: see friends, catch up, and enjoy the fellowship of friends we had not seen in some time at one of the happiest and most monumental times in their lives, college graduation.

We celebrated with many of our old residence hall residents, including Drew, Kyle, Danielle, Megan, Bryan, Shae, Julie, Meghan, and Andrea. Below you will find some celebratory pictures of their commencement.

I was also fortunate to see family members just minutes away from Walla Walla. There was grilling, laughing, yard games, and catching up. Below right, Molly means business during a game of redneck golf!

We couldn't resist a photographic celeb
ration of the beauty of this place. An early morning trip to the rolling wheat fields north of town for sunrise brought back memories of taking in some of the most beautiful sunsets in the country here, and the time I gifted Molly a gold chain in this very same location.

I thank Matt and Allison for joining us after a long drive down from Spokane.

Overall, I don't think I adequately captured the overwhelming joy of seeing old faces and being overtaken by the beauty of this place. Nevertheless, those images will always be burned into my memory and ready to be shared through stories and tales of our time in Walla Walla.

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