From here to there

If the ocean signifies the breathing apparatus of Planet Earth, then the mountains are the memory of its earlier incarnations, seemingly frozen in time even as they move secretly in some new direction. I have an affection for sea water, since childhood play dates with sand, shovel, and pail. Growing up east of the Mississippi I thought that the Appalachians were as powerful as mountains ever aspired. They counted as wilderness, filled with things not commonly found in our suburban parcel.

Maybe I was too inexperienced to notice cloud formations hugging the tops of the ridges, the way very large boulders brought down every pebble near them when they crashed into the valley, or the way tiny evergreens bloom out of the ground after a fire explodes all of the pine cones in the singed area. I didn’t fall in love instantly with mountains. I had to develop a slow affection for them first, and then I had to ditch my immature relationship for an affair with their older sibling, the Rockies.

I was taken by the rushing water, turning my hand to ice while the air temperature hovered in the high 80s. What magic seeping out of these formations. So many shades of rock, all piled together under crystalline water like so many sleeping dogs. I’d never stood on my own two feet at such elevations—nearly two miles high. If I’d jumped I felt I could reach my own orbit.

These were not experiences I predicted when we packed up all of our material possessions and headed West for Susanne’s new teaching career. I knew we’d see pretty things, but nothing was going to top my Atlantic Ocean, the nurturing water, the terrible seas, the place where morning light broke so magnificently so repeatedly. And then I was faced with explaining my infidelity, all because I’d exposed my retinas to such colossal mountain topography. I begged Atlantic to forgive me, to try to understand that I could love them both, just differently. After all, the ocean always holds me at arm’s length, so couldn’t it just see my dilemma? I swore my heart was big enough for both.

Atlantic doesn’t believe me anymore, and I’ve lost all credibility because I haven’t spent quality time on its shores in more than two years now. Atlantic feels abandoned. And I miss having gritty sand in my toes, feeling the loving warm waters of late summer, even though they can harbor those terrible hurricanes. Atlantic reminds me I’ve lived through every storm I’ve ever seen at its margin, so I need to stop fretting.

But I do insist that each has a different appeal to my sense of pathos: I feel comforted and at peace listening to each wave crash, and I can see how many possibilities there are when I’m exploring a piece of mountain terrain. Maybe these places affect me in their own ways because of when I was exposed to them and what my person needed in those moments of exposure. Or maybe the ocean is, by design, a comforting thing in the way that is not readily apparent in tree bark and brown rocks. I will say though, that knowing more about geology opens up more space for me to see the story of each rock. Just as the wave I’m watching hit the shore came from some place earlier in time, so does that rock have a million- or billion-year history.

I could lose hours contemplating what I’m sure bores a lot of people. But it behooves me to consider that every pebble that crosses my path has millennia more experience than me, and yet I think I’m the smart one here.

I drove to Walla Walla yesterday and back to Seattle today, and thus I had the opportunity to see at least three microclimes in all of their glory in Washington State. I appreciate seeing the hot desert, the scrubland edge east of the Cascades, and the Western rainforest all in a 5-hour period because they help remind me that I’m a small being, and in my smallness, the most important aspect of my blip of a lifetime is how much I take in, appreciate, and give back.

And after a good, long sleep tonight, I’ll be back on the airwaves tomorrow, trying to write my ass off. But I’ll try to remember the mountains I saw today.

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Categories: driving, ponderings, Uncategorized


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2 Comments on “From here to there”

  1. September 14, 2010 at 7:18 pm #

    This is so beautiful. Thanks for posting.


  2. evmaroon
    September 14, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    Oh, thank you Kiki, I really appreciate that!

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