Day 21: Bear, Washington

Bear, Washington appears on a map, and Mapquest and Google Maps provide directions to get there. We didn't know what to expect -- and we've both been building emotional expectations for a year.

We pulled off the road onto the beginning of a dirt driveway, exactly where the directions said "Bear, WA" is -- we got out, walked around, surveyed the dozens of bugs, many of which we had never seen before. While driving as well, we were astonished by the landscape, one of the most beautiful and unique we have seen -- rolling hills (the tallest of which I believe is Bear Mountain), covered in purple, yellow, and white flowers -- some hill faces just shimmer with soft purple color -- and to our right, down the hill, is Lake Roosevelt, thin enough to be a large river, and so beautiful, curving between these colorful hills and pine trees. We walked down some very old tire tracks, which we hope weren't on anyone's private property, until we found a place that felt secluded and comfortable enough to sit, eat some snacks, set the camera on a tripod, and have a hearty conversation.

We've driven about 4,500 miles and arrived at the first Bear. There was so much anticipation -- we both wanted something really big, something profound, a feeling we hadn't experienced anywhere else. Instead, we used the unique location to reflect. Every day we are meeting people and learning about a community; this was an opportunity to be on our own, to be introspective, to experience a location rather than experience its people. We even ended up staying in a motel -- it's currently the following morning, and while I write this, Sarah is assembling footage from our day in Mazomanie, WI, to learn about how we've been documenting our experiences and how we can expand, or condense, or reshape what we're doing. Every day we learn new things, and every day there are dozens of things that happen off-camera, and dozens that happen on camera that we know we'll never use, right after they happen. We've been shooting about two hours of footage a day, and now, in the couple hours of this morning before we have to travel to our next town, we're reviewing what happens in those two hours a day and learning how to make them the most interesting, dynamic, and story-driven two hours we can capture.

As we say every day, we've been meeting fascinating people. Most of the families we've stayed with have been unconventional families -- maybe a mother, a father, maybe divorce is involved, or adoption -- and we've started wondering how this trend works. If complex families are more likely to welcome guests and trust strangers, it then raises the chicken/egg question -- are these people inherently warm and trusting, which may have led them to their complex family dynamics, or did the complex family make them more open and trusting? Maybe we should start asking people what kind of family they come from -- how many of the people that say no to us are from traditional families? We've also acknowledged the Christian element, which hasn't abated -- but it's also geographical. We've visited many towns that are almost homogenous with white Christians. We want to experience diverse races and cultures, and learn about that interaction with strangers, but we also hate the idea of targeting other races just to have them in the film. It's a constant dilemma, whether we should seek out the community's outliers, or continue to experience people randomly. We often choose a culturally-neutral attribute, like glasses, or sandals, to help us randomly select who we approach. But maybe we need to explore the outskirts of town, or spend more time in the grocery store or Wal-Mart, in order to meet all stripes of the community, and not just its majority.

In Bear, we had the chance to reflect on our relationship as well. We are spending more time together than ever before -- including the few days in New Jersey before we hit the road, Sarah and I have spent 25 days together, 24/7. We have literally not been apart. It's a little shocking to think about that, because it feels so natural at this point. And we bicker, and we've had a couple bigger fights. But I've also been experiencing my love grow every day. I'm having experiences that I couldn't be sharing with anyone else, and we are at the height of our working/personal relationships being intertwined -- which is at once stressful and amazing. But it's also difficult to reflect on our personal emotions when the only time we have apart is in the bathroom. We recently decided we needed to document more of our personal experiences -- our conversations in the car, or between interviews, or buying a milkshake, or doing laundry (at a laundromat this morning) -- we want this film to capture our journey, our adventures, we want to bring the audience along. But it's scary to wonder if we're diminishing our experiences by making sure to turn the camera on; by having personal and creative conversations while one person is holding our rig and invisible behind it; by turning this adventure into work. We knew that was an issue months ago, but I think we're both really feeling the effects now, especially as we review our footage and wish we had more of us, more scenes to build our relationship in the film, more to connect and reflect on other moments.

We're more than a third done with the film, but we've also got almost two-thirds left -- how will the camera and the work and the driving and the lack of sleep and the togetherness continue to wear us down? Or create an even more dynamic film?