“Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather, a room where I could retreat to who I really was.”
– Cheryl Strayed
Being alone is essential to me. Besides the fact that I’m socially awkward, overly earnest, usually serious, and generally not great company, I simply prefer to be able to hear myself think. My batteries wear down faster than an old iPhone in roaming mode, and they need long stretches of silence to recharge. I rarely pass up the chance to go to that place, that room.
As a woman, however, there are circumstances in which it seems impossible for me to feel comfortable alone. Anywhere at night, for example. Even if I’m in my own house (say my boyfriend went on his own weekend trip), I am hypervigilant, attuned to every tiny noise or flutter of light outside, real or imagined.
So why the hell would I want to go camp by myself, out of cell range in Gifford Pinchot National Forest — for two whole days? My dad, who’s spent many a night alone in the woods, always says “there’s nothing in the woods at night that isn’t there during the day.” Which may be true (though I did recently come across this article in the Atlantic), but it’s what isn’t there at night, namely, sunlight with which to see.
These are the best days of summer. Slathering on sunscreen and donning straw hats, braving the weather and bee stings to gather up baskets full of juicy purple treasure.
The heat radiates in jittery waves off the nearby pavement, hot dust clouding up each time a car passes. The berries, baking in the sun, perfume the air all around, and you pick and pick until you can’t reach any more without coming perilously close to meeting your end in the neverending tangled web of thorns.
By the end of the day everything’s stained a dark wine hue: fingers, lips, countertops, cheesecloth… And it’s all in the pursuit of that taste of summer: the blackberry.
There’s a little corner of the United States, the upper left one, that is a conundrum of precipitation. This corner (the Olympic Peninsula) is the part of Washington that looks like it’s being torn away from the mainland. Mount Olympus sits astride this peninsula like the queen that she is, watching the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Salish Sea to the north, and the Sound to the East. She is one of the rainiest places in the entire US, getting about 220 inches of precipitation per year. A few miles west, the town of Forks, WA (of Twilight fame) gets about a hundred inches fewer. Seattle, for comparison, gets an average of 38 inches of rain per year.
Tucked in the midst of all this drizzle, sits the town of Sequim. Pronounced more like a tentacled sea creature than a shiny adornment, Sequim gets a meager 16 inches of rain per year (Los Angeles gets about 15!) The reason for this is a rain shadow.
A rain shadow occurs when a mountain(s) blocks moisture from its leeward side. This is kind of what happens between the western and eastern sides of the Cascade mountain range, making one side a lush, mossy paradise full of magic and wonder, and the other side a hot, dry, dusty wasteland that’s baked or frozen brown three-quarters of the year (but I digress).
It’s Creative Monday again, and I was just about to skip it (I’ve been SO bad, lately!) when I had a sudden inspiration. So here I am, after all!
Shells from La Ribera, Baja, Mexico
One of my favorite places on earth is a small, jawbone-shaped island off the western coast of Florida, called Sanibel Island. It’s like a land out of a story, and in fact, the first time I heard of it was in a story. One of the books my mom would read to us when we were kids (and even sometimes when we needed a bedtime story into adulthood) was “The Lion’s Paw,” by Robb White.
The Lion’s Paw follows two kids, Penny and Nick, who have run away from their orphanage. They sneak onto a sailboat to hide, and run into another kid, called Ben, and he’s on a mission to sail to Sanibel Island to find a rare shell called a Lion’s Paw. They manage a daring escape from Ben’s uncle and sail off into the night, hiding their boat up rivers along the coast in the daytime, warding off storms and patching together a destination from old letters and journals from Ben’s dad.
Sweep the house with blossomed broom in May; sweep the head of the household away…
~ traditional rhyme of Sussex
It’s a familiar sight here at the threshold of June: driving along I-5, watching the bright spots of yellow burst out, a patch here, a dot there, until blam! The entire hillsides radiate sunshine hues. It can be mesmerizing, almost pretty, if you didn’t know better. On my latest drive from Portland to Seattle, the sky was dark and moody, with giant banks of clouds jutting across in thick lines. The darkness reached almost to the horizon, leaving just enough of a gap for the late evening sun to strain through. Burnt gold sunlight lit up massive patches of Scotch Broom against the sky.
Jim walked in the door just as I commenced dumping baby food down the sink. I told him not to ask, and continued with my task. I had just tried to clear my guilty conscience of spending too much at the bead store (yet again) by finding the cheapest housing I could for my new beads. Baby food is only $.89 at Met Market, and they are actually really good little jars. The only problem is: they’re full of mushed peas and squashed carrots and liquefied pears. Not exactly the sort of thing you’d want to add to your morning smoothie, so I did something that would probably have my maternal grandmother rolling over in her… urn, and dumped the food down the sink so I could use the jars.
As those of you who got my newsletter last week know, I had the pleasure of attending a meet-and-greet and workshop with the artist behind “Flora Forager” on Saturday!
She is Bridget Beth Collins, and she creates unique collages of botanical materials – sometimes portraits, sometimes woodland scenes, sometimes animals. As the name suggests, most of the materials she uses she collects from around her neighborhood in Seattle, with a few exceptions like fruit or cut flowers.
Among my many unemployable skillsets is one in particular that I have been doing for a long, long time. Building faerie houses, you might say, has been my life’s work. When no one would play with me and hiding in the bathroom every single recess in third grade was no longer an option, I wandered to the far corner of the schoolyard and built faerie houses under the trees. My cousin and I built faerie houses all through our youth, and into our teenhood. When I became a preschool teacher and eventually a nanny, it became a pastime that I was able to teach little kids.
I tell people I drink a lot of coffee. Everyone tells people I drink a lot of coffee. I don’t know if it’s true. I’ll explain what I mean.
It’s exactly six steps from my desk to the microwave. That doesn’t really matter, because all in all, I probably take about a thousand steps for coffee per day.