Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Arrival

Yesterday, I slurped down raw oysters from Hood Cannel, a fifty-mile long fjord that runs the fractured, mountainous length of the eastern Olympic Peninsula, an hour and a half north north of here. Lunch was crab bisque, the crab coming from off the coast an hour and a half to the west. The vanilla bean ice cream that accompanied the truffle cake afterwards was from Tillamook, a nearby region of green gentle valleys that wind in serpentine patterns down to the sea. The previous weekend I ate rockfish caught from the deep, and the weekend before I sat on the edge of an enormous redwood forest, picking apart a Dungeness that had been pulled out of the submerged beds of eel grass by local fishermen with their crab pots.

I’ve gone from a food desert to one of the most absurdly productive regions on Earth. This place, this zone that I now inhabit brims with the good sustenance of the land and sea. Then there is the artifice of men: the breweries, the vineyards, and creameries. The day I moved into the apartment, I purchased a Port Townsend cheese that melted at room temperature, smelled like gym socks, and tasted of perfection.

I haven’t used my car for a week now. It is twenty four minutes from my door to the locker room at work, and most of that time is spent traversing a campus that looks like an arboretum, a place so large and densely forested that wild deer still roam the grounds. The final leg of my morning walk takes me past a corral where red-faced Japanese snow monkeys press the sides of their faces to the ground so they can peer under the corrugated fence as I go by. The parking lot of my apartment complex abuts the local Max station, putting me twenty minutes from downtown by light rail.

This is the best of every place I have lived before — Europe, Asia, the Midwest, and West Coast. It has everything I love, and surrounding it all are the mountains and the sea.

Yesterday, I climbed up into the hills that define Portland’s western edge, and there above the urban skyline was Mt. Saint Helens: massive, white, and dominating the northern horizon. To the east loomed the glacier-covered Mt. Hood, looking so perfect and pristine that it seemed like a Hollywood artifact, the kind of mountain that film directors only wish that they could use as a backdrop.

I am still waiting on the DMV to send me my new plates, which is probably good as far as saving money goes because I want, I really want to go out and explore. Maybe it is something that is simply innate in me. I signed up in the Army to be a scout, to see what is on the other side of the next hill and the one after that. Later, I discovered that my paternal grandfather had also been a scout, during the Second World War, so perhaps it is something in the blood that flows from one generation to the next. Or maybe it is environmental, the sheer beauty of this region that calls out to be seen.

I want to head north the misty green realm of the Hood Canal, where the mountains plunge into the sea. I want to walk through the Hoh rain forest, to see the Roosevelt Elk there, and follow the trail up into the western Olympics to the touch the cold blue feet of glaciers thousands of feet above the sea. I want to drive out to Tillamook and see its air museum, housed in a dirigible hanger so massive that it is like something out of science fiction in its scale, especially when seen against the backdrop of the green mountains behind it. Most of all, I want to be on the coast and to stand among the rock spires and ancient basaltic flows, to see the storms come go, to sense the rhythm of the moon by the rise and fall of the waters, and to watch the sun’s descent over the infinite Pacific.

I want to spend eternity as a stone Buddha on the Oregon coast, watching the fluid dance and dynamics of the All playing out before me.

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