“Why is there a car wash next to our table?” I settled into one of four seats surrounding a standard square table at Max’s Café in Kalispell, Montana. My kind host, John, and his assistant, Kris, smiled.
“This place used to be a car wash.”
Only in Montana. I nodded as if that was the most natural thing in the world. Sure, if your car wash goes belly up, try the food service industry.
We ate in blissful silence for a few moments, watching the long strips of blue canvas bathe each vehicle in a slow parade of renewal. The Montana-sized spices in my bison and elk chili had nearly singed every taste bud on my tongue before I finally pushed the yummy local goodness away.
“You know, it doesn’t look very violent from this side.”
John looked up. “What?”
“When you’re inside the car, those strips and rollers shake the car and it always feels a little scary to me, a little violent. But, looking at it from out here, it seems pretty peaceful.”
I saw the glint of wisdom in John’s eyes a second before my words echoed back through my brain. John’s been through the wringer himself these last couple of years. He’s still healing, but he’s far enough on the other side to see perspective on the horizon.
I gave voice to what was in his eyes. “Guess that’s a lot like life.”
He smiled, nodded.
“How so?” Kris had given up on her brownie – also the size of Montana – and sat back.
“When you’re in the middle of that process, of getting clean and better, it can feel like you’re being destroyed. But, if you can remember in that place that this place,” I tapped our table that sat safely outside the window of the cleansing strips, “exists, you can lean into the experience and trust you’ll come out the other side something better than you were when you went in.”