Shades of Beauty

I have been in Seattle going on 20 years now. Add that to the 5 in college and working odd jobs, and that is 25 years with moss growing on my north side; more than 1/2 my life. Periodically, I find myself wondering if I could ever live in an arid climate again.

I remember when I left home after High School, I Could. Not. Wait. to live in Bellingham, a college town just south of the Canadian border on the cold cold Puget Sound waters. As I drove from my farm home in the the Palouse country, some of the most sensual and fascinating landscape in the world, we headed up the Cascade mountains range. We tipped over the summit and down into the most glorious green earth I had ever seen. I felt like I was driving into Narnia. Or Heaven. Really. It was likely one of my first mystical experiences. It hit me that hard.I suppose part of the blame goes to John Denver. He was singing on the 8 track tape deck as we passed over. My mom was beside me.

Since then I have had many nature-connecting moments on the wet side of the state. Gazing at Whatcom Falls near Bellingham; touching the smooth red-barked Madrona trees that line Lopez Island; sitting on the bus coming into downtown from Queen Anne hill; watching the pears fall in my back yard.

I had another one of those experiences today and I am not certain, but it may give some insight into why the shades of beauty here give me so much peace.

I was on my way to work. I had put the dog in the hatchback of my Honda CRV with a chew toy and a couple of dried sweet potato sticks. Beside me was my cup of coffee – and as I backed out of the garage, I noticed the green in the grass beside the car. Then, I saw the red and yellow tulips that were lining the shrub. I slowed down. As I continued to drive, I noticed the many colors of new plant growth and the blossoms on shrubs and bushes and trees. Color – deep, warm, rich layers of color were everywhere.

The Palouse isn’t like that. At least, not year round. Most of the year you have to look for it. The lushest colors are in acres of plowed brown dirt in the fall and wide blue sky. Or condensed into the murky algae around a creek bed. Color is cool; layers of tan and gold fields. Except just before the barley ripens. Then it is this tender green that is softened with the longest soft shafts before they dry. (A farmer’s side note: often when they show people on tv wandering through “wheat” fields, they are actually barley. Barley has longer, softer-looking tendrils and photographs more romantically.)

Regardless of all that sweetness, even in years like this one when I think summer may choose to just pass us by, I am comforted by living here. In thick shag carpet grass; in moss and lichen that hangs from dark wood; in white alyssum, newly planted; in one yellow tulip; and in the green that sits on the ground and shrouds the trees. This is home.

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