Tag Archives: spring

Everett Versus Bird

At first I wasn’t sure that what I was hearing existed in the outside world. It could have been an echo of a dream, or a misinterpretation of a real sound by a sleepy, 5AM brain.

And then it happened again. And again. I strained to figure out the identity of the sound. My mind compared it, I suppose, to every other sound that came in striking distance of this one. It was a rap. No. It was a wham. No. The sound, skipping like a record player but slower, was somehow tamped down. It had multiple parts that chimed at once–it was like a sharp thud. What the hell is a sharp thud? How could anything sound like that?

When deconstructing a sound, there is complexity. The start of the sound, the middle (this is optional) and the finish. Every sound pushes against air, creates something from nothing and then travels out in all available directions until a fraction of that creation reaches our ears, where it is funneled down to our eardrums. And then when our tiniest bones rattle our experienced brains quickly sort through our dendrite-supported memory and label those sound waves. A dog barking. Glass shattering. A soda can opening. There may be individual differences among those canines, windows, and pops, but they’re similar enough that it doesn’t take us very long to assess and categorize what we hear. All things being equal, of course.

But here I was, the clock relaying the early hour to me, and the sound. The sound. The sound.

It’s unusual for someone in their 40s to hear a completely brand new wave. (Ha. I wrote new wave.) And yet, I couldn’t place this on listening alone. So I got up–clad in boxers and a faded t-shirt. My hair was pillow-conformed. I forgot my eyeglasses on the bedside table, so I wasn’t great at seeing anything in front of me, either. (Rookie mistake.) I stood in the dining room, swaying a little, waiting for the next eruption. Read More…

Northwesterners wear black in spring

This year winter was like a photo negative of last year; except for a few inches of snow in December, none has fallen on the streets of Walla Walla. The last month didn’t even bluster much, with a few days of overcast and a few days of rain, and a whole lot of days during which we didn’t ask much of the heater in the basement, so it sat there like a sleeping dragon with a chest cold, happy not to cough up any fire for us. Back out in DC all of our friends were moaning, then foaming, then apoplectic about the endless bands of snow that covered absolutely everything. They posted angry statuses on Twitter and Facebook. They took pictures as evidence. With way too much time on their hands, they made time-lapse movies of porches increasingly blanketed, forgotten toys buried, and personal vehicles inconveniently blocked in by an inconceivable amount of frozen precipitation. I watched this all from 3,200 miles away, exhaling in wonder and relief that my nonconsensual isolation in the house from 30 inches of snow and no plowing last year did not repeat itself. It would have been some kind of very cruel irony if I’d been back in DC this winter. And to everyone who had copious amounts of time with their loved ones while they were instructed to stay home, day after agonizing day, you have my sympathy.

Spring clearly has sprung around here, has been springing for a while, actually. The wineries are readying for the tourist onslaught, and people are smiling with notable more frequency, often looking at the big yellow ball in the sky, so happy for their skin to generate some vitamin D, even as their retinas fry away from the radiation.

But this is the Pacific Northwest, well, kind of, and damned if we’re not all still wearing earth tones and lots of black and gray and navy blue. We have to separate ourselves from the color of daffodils, after all, for we might confuse pollinators otherwise. It’s an ecological imperative, see. We feel that much warmer when the sun beats down on our black hoodies than if we were simply wearing a white t-shirt. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing a down vest over a dark gray long-sleeved shirt (or even better, a black hoodie), even if it’s 74 degrees outside because look, just over there, see the mountains? Snow on the mountains! Never mind that they’re 3,000 feet higher than us. If we can see snow, it must be cold.

Some Northwesterners complement these heavy jackets with wool socks and Birkenstock sandals. It’s actually a rather popular look, and it separates the wheat from the chaff; people with any hesitation about wearing socks and sandals together, especially with cargo shorts, have simply not lived in the PacNW long enough. People who wear this combination and live in some other geographic area, you need to put everything you can fit in your car and move out here, because you have some like-minded crazy people out here who really, really want to meet you.

Sure, we enjoy spring. We don’t want to compete with it. We’ll walk through wildflowers and scrub brush, and all the sage that survived becoming tumbleweeds over the reasonably short winter, but we’ll walk through it in ecologically friendly clothing and gear, we’ll take reusable water bottles with us, and some of us will  cover up our tracks on the way back, lest we leave anything behind that wasn’t there before we passed by. And when the temperature hits 100 degrees in June, then fine, okay, we’ll ditch the socks. But the synthetic down vest stays.

ever the sun shall shine

It was in the nadir of the winter that a long-time Walla Wallan approached me and told me to hang in there, the spring in Walla Walla is beautiful and I will really enjoy it. I trusted her, thinking that she wouldn’t knowingly lie to me, except that the people in this town have also declared the following:

1. It doesn’t snow here all that much (we got 40 inches last winter, the height of your average 9-year-old)

2. Oh, you’ll find a job out here, it just may take a few months (9 and counting, is that still “few”?)

3. Vote McCain!

So I took her very genuine statement as well intentioned but potentially far, far off the mark.

Spring did, in fact, uh spring. The wheat started out green on the rolling hills around town, a lovely contrast with the swimming pool blue skies. Daffodils and then tulips started popping up, and in town, the tree buds have given way to bright green baby leaves.

Spring, however, now appears to be over. It lasted something like 8 days. The past three days have been mid-80s, no humidity and lots of bright sunlight. One wonders how hot this desert town will get in the next month, and when we’ll see our first 3-digit degree day. I’ll start a pool on that, I’m sure.

Small town life continues despite the surge in temperature. I’ve been here long enough that shopkeepers know how I like my coffee and my haircut, and ask what I’m going to make for supper when I am in the grocery store. It’s nice and invasive at the same time, and I’m a little surprised that I think that, given that I sometimes was irritated by the constant anonymity of living in a large city. But I do appreciate the friendliness.

Walla Walla hosted a cycling race last weekend, the Tour of Walla Walla. Imagine what my sentence will be:

It was a short race. They looped through the downtown area several times to complete the race. Why they didn’t go through the prison facility or the plutonium plant, I have no idea. We cheered them on, however, and I was happy that someone had brought a cow bell. You really can’t have a bike race without a cow bell.


Tour of Walla Walla bike race

Tour of Walla Walla bike race



Our other excitement of the week was a fire across the street from our house. We had come in our back door from visiting with a friend, and thought the air smelled funny, like barbeque gone horribly wrong. Then we were inside, playing cards with Kurtis, and a few minutes after that, noticing some blinking lights from the street. A quick look with the blinds pulled aside and we could see that one of the apartments in the senior housing center across the way was on fire. The city had sent three fire trucks and a host of police cars, all working to put out the flames and get the residents out safely. Fortunately no one was seriously injured, but it was more than a bit unnerving to see firefighters in full gear running up the stairs with hoses and axes.

Walla Walla has 48 full-time fire fighters, and I think the majority of them were there at the scene. The next morning the building bore the scars of the event.


building after the fire

building after the fire

Given that the rain is pretty much over for the season, I wonder how often fires happen in and around town now. We have no Santa Ana-like winds here, but we do have wind, and it is sometimes intense. I suppose given that the town doesn’t own a snow plow, having about 50 people to put out fires is a sign they’ve had to deal with the dryness before. And hopefully that fire last week is the closest it will ever come to us.

Overheard in the West

spring wheat field, walla walla

spring wheat field, walla walla

Susanne and I were making our monthly trip to Costco last weekend when we pulled into the gas station just past the Bad Broccoli Plant. Well, we needed gas, and it usually has a better price than in town. It’s also notable for a few other reasons, namely:

it is next to the “tattletale light,” as described on a local news broadcast, to catch speeders, the only one of its kind for 20 plus miles.

it is located on Humorist Road. I swear, I haven’t found any humorists there, and I’ve asked around.

it is patronized by completely clueless drivers who pull up to one of only four pumps, walk inside, eat a hot dog, walk outside, and then pump their gas, 15 minutes later.

The only thing that makes this place tolerable is the gas prices. Consistently they were about 15 to 20 cents cheaper per gallon than in town. I am sorry to report that those prices are no longer deep discounts, so perhaps our foray on Sunday will be our last for a while. However, I did get to observe the following exchange between two obviously teenage women.

Teenager #1: (standing next to gas pump, smoking, wearing an oversized WSU sweatshirt and purple sweatpants, hair up in a ponytail) I hear you’re not talking to Cherie anymore.

Teenager #2: (drinking Diet Pepsi, wearing a faded t-shirt and tight jeans) That bitch.

Teenager #1: What happened?

Teenager #2: You know, I don’t even care anymore. Whatever. She’s gonna stay fat after having that baby, not like I did. I lost all my weight right away.

Good thing they didn’t see that my jaw was hanging open. Back in my day, in my Catholic school, girls would actually hide their pregnancies. How . . . nice that we’ve gotten more permissive? I certainly am not advocating for shaming girls in painful, difficult situations. But to see that completely ignored in favor of making nasty comments about one’s pregnancy rate, well, I think we’ve gone a bit off the rails there.

Meanwhile, spring has come to the valley. I had no idea before I moved out here that wheat starts its life green, but I suppose that’s not terribly surprising. It does make for some striking landscape.

walla walla in spring

walla walla in spring

The daffodils have popped up and opened, the tulips are sticking their heads out from the ground, people are talking about gardening, and the river and creeks are flush with all of winter’s precipitation. Rushing, hard water, that gushes through town in small levees, first through the eastern outskirts of town, and into downtown. Years ago, intrepid and stupid Whitman students would get the futile idea to go tubing down the canal path, only to wind up outside Macy’s, bruised and naked, suddenly aware of the power of a fast current. The path for the water is gated off, but every now and again, some person will get the urge to make the Walla Walla equivalent of a trip down Niagara Falls in a barrel. With all the snow we had last December, this would be a particularly bad spring to take a ride at the impromptu water park.

Latest on the Walla Walla Freecycle list: a “gently used” maternity belt that the soon-to-be former owner just washed so it still has a little “fuzz” on it, and ferret cages from a family who realized all too late that ferrets are not the pet for them. Anyone else picture screaming toddlers running away from a snapping rodent running amok in the house?

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