Saturday, May 5, 2012


 ~~Today the moss-strung woods of the park were trilling with birdsong, and everywhere ferns were unfurling into the warming afternoon. On a secluded interior trail I found it absolutely necessary to stop and linger every few steps, to take note of lichen on tree trunks, or the heart-breaking translucent green of May leaves, the utter fragility of new growth.

No rush, there. Nothing but the present.

I spotted a blue heron in flight, a pair of flickers pecking at insects in bark, and an eagle circling its massive nest woven high in a Douglas fir. I found a branch curved into a perfect "C", the complicated and upended root system of a toppled fir, as well as an altar in a hollow at the base of yet another evergreen.

Some of the trees are 200-250 years old, scarcely babies when one considers that before white settlers arrived and began their systematic deforestation, there were entire forests of conifers in what is now Seattle, ranging in age from 1,000-2,000 years. A character in Annie Dillard's novel The Living, set in early Bellingham, Washington, lives in a "cabin" fashioned from a stump (very Wind in the Willows). I often ponder the fact that I exist on land that was once old-growth forest.

Walking these trails with my friend T., our conversation — which began 20+ years ago and has included in its ongoing narrative possibly every subject worth speaking of — turned to the notion of "going home" and all contained therein. He's just back from a sojourn to his midwest hometown, so it was fresh material from which to draw. He's come to the conclusion that he needn't go back again — of course, only time will tell. But at what point, if any, does someone decide this? I almost don't qualify to even state my views on this, as my hometown, ten miles to the southeast of my current home, is visible from my bedroom window. I believe, though, that it's calming to arrive at a place where one can comfortably say, "That was a life unto itself, and complete. I don't need to revisit it."

I no longer yearn for the woods I roamed as a child, nor for the maples in whose windy branches I swayed. Both my parents are buried in my hometown (just footsteps from Jimi Hendrix), and any sting of loss has long since faded. And while the details of that life in the late 20th century are rich and nuanced, I'm able to recall their all of their complexities — both in shadow and in light — while continuing to move with a surprising ease in these early years of the 21st century.

As a passenger in the car riding back from the park (the long way home, looping up into the switchback roads of Frink Park [many thanks to the Olmstead brothers]),  I kept my face turned to the passing scenery (while the conversation, of course, missed not a single beat) because there was so much to see, so many scents to breathe in, all of the wide, bursting world presenting itself with all the new life that this change of season allows.

And I thought: it's grand to be alive, in this city, with my friend T., at this single perfect moment~~


  1. Spring does that to me too; I'm just not so good at describing it.

  2. Beautiful, thought provoking post. I grew up on the east coast, where all the old growth timber was harvested, many for ship's masts. I have wondered many times what a stroll through old growth forest must have felt like.

    I understand maybe, what your friend was feeling. Although I am nostalgic for the shore, I feel no pull besides guilt to go back and visit my home town. It was another life, and that was a different me. I feel like I was lucky to get out of there alive.

    It is a wonderful thing to be aware, to notice the scenery and even more wonderful to share it with a friend. Glad you shared your perfect moment.

  3. You write so beautifully, T., with such passionate observation of the natural world and joyous pleasure taken in it, in being alive, it is a deep grace for those of us who are out of practice, or have forgotten for a myriad of reasons, how to look. And to be so bursting with life and appetite for more life, with gaping sorrows as companions on either side of your exuberance--it makes me feel quite humbled. xo

  4. Cro, I do know that you feel much as I do — that is evident by your many blog posts overflowing with optimism!

  5. Mel, one point of conversation that arose yesterday was "How many more lifetimes will I experience?"

    I believe that, as you wrote, "it was another life, and that was a different me."

    I am glad, as always, for your thoughtful comments.

  6. Dear Melissa, it is me (I?) who feels quite humbled when I know you've stopped by.