For my writer's group, this month's prompt was pleasure and I found it to be a difficult subject. I started with a list of ten things which give me pleasure. It reminded me of the things I love to do and at the same time it made me nostalgic because I do some of the items on the list so rarely. I struggled with writing something positive and uplifting and all I came back with was pleasures that I have gone without.
Everything changed tonight as I left the community center in the city where I live. It was about 6:30 and the sun had just dropped below the horizon. The western sky was still bright yellow above the hilltops. The yellow faded to green and then to azure blue. As I turned south the sky continued to darken and there was a sliver of silver crescent moon hanging in the sky. I looked up and saw two large stars above me, and from the southeast the lights of a jetliner headed north into the airport. When I turned east the sky was dark indigo. I had viewed Mt. Rainier there not an hour before. There were cars moving through the parking lot but I was unaware of them. It was as quiet as evenings are in this area. I rejoiced of the beautifully sunny afternoon and the cool blue evening which it had given birth to.
The view tonight was a reminder of the beauty of my home. I fell in love with this place in 1962 when our family came here for the World’s Fair. My aunt and uncle had a house above Eastgate in Bellevue and at the time there was nothing behind it but forest. I walked out their back gate and into a dark green cathedral of cedar and Douglass fir. My footsteps were muffled by a thick layer of needles and when I had gone far enough that the houses disappeared from view, I had a close encounter with the deer which populated the forest. I wanted to stay there forever. I set a goal of living here and after I graduated from college I did just that.
I love this wondrous place I live. It is alive with nature and the changing seasons. I am never so aware of that as when I visit the Olympic National Forest. I love to walk on the beaches between Kalaloch and Forks. The eerie seastacks stand on the beach like Titan sentinels. I love the piles of drift wood and the dark red sands of Rialto Beach where I stood one one late summer afternoon counting two dozen bald eagles in the surrounding trees. I love hiking the trails of the Olympic National Forest. There life is primitive. I love the quiet, deep green of the moss and the rushing sound of waterfalls. And round every curve there is something new. I love the tiny black winter wrens and the variety of pale fungi which decorate the trees. I love rounding a curve in a trail to find deer and elk, so calm and trusting that they don’t run, but stand looking back at me with dark, fluid eyes.
I especially love soaking in the hot pools at Sol Duc at dusk, looking at the tall hills surrounding me. I sit there in the heat smelling the sulfured waters. I watch the swallows dive for insects overhead and I listen to the silence of the forest.
Back here at home I love the magic Mt. Rainier. I saw a peek of it as I drove to the community center tonight. It sat there stark white against the darkening blue sky. The girls used to tease me about how I would always point “The Mountain” out to them. It never bores me because each time I see it, it is different. Interestingly though after living in the Pacific Northwest for nearly 30 years, I have never been there to see it close up. I just like to watch it from the distance. I love how it hides behind the clouds and other times like tonight when it is “out” you can see it all. I love how sometimes it is topped with a little stratus cloud like it’s wearing a hat and how sometimes in the evenings it lights up like a giant strawberry sundae. It seems to move with me wherever I go. Sometimes it looks far, far away and other times it is huge and right there. I understand why the Native American people thought the gods lived there.
I have written before about my lifelong love affair with birds. I always like to see something new but it is also fun to see old friends like robins and mallard ducks. I am also always on the lookout for animals in the forest, sea creatures on the beach, and sea mammals when I can see them. When birding in West Seattle this fall we spotted a pod of orcas playing tag with the Vashon ferry. I stood in awe of these gentle creatures as they breached and blew their way across the Sound. It reminded me of a salmon fishing trip we took to Victoria many years ago. The fishing had suddenly dried up and we were about to head back to shore when our boat was surrounded by the dorsal fins of orca. I crawled out on the prow of the boat feeling the sea spray on my face and hoping I could touch one as they passed.
When the girls were in co-op preschool we took trips to the beaches around West Seattle in the summer. I remember one of the kids finding a moonsnail. I always find the shells but to find one alive was memorable. I sat on the beach surrounded by ten five year olds watching the huge mollusk squeeze himself back into his shell, his exeuded water pouring across my hands until he was all in, slamming his opeculum door after him. I made sure to put him back into deep water so he wouldn’t be attacked by the marauding gulls or crows. We did the same with the crabs, sea stars, and anemones which we also discovered during our adventures. And that memory took me back to all the wonderful family vacations to the Oregon Coast, walking wild beaches with the wind in our faces, picking up agates and shells and exploring tide pools with Sarah and Robin. I haven’t been there in eleven years. It seems time is too quickly passing me by.
Today, as I walked out the community center, I felt the beginning of spring. Through this dark winter, I have missed all the colors and the beauty of my home. I want to get out and enjoy those things, using them to wipe away my winter funk. It has been too easy lately to focus on the negatives; the parts of my life that will never be the way I want them. However, I know that to find true pleasure all I have to do is look outside my patio door and enjoy a hummingbird at my feeder, the tender shoots of hostas in my tiny garden, and the quiet beauty of a Pacific Northwest evening.