August 22, 2015 I attended another Writing Workshop taught by Matt Love at the Fort George Brewery in Astoria, Oregon.
This was my second time in the former car dealership showroom turned brewery conference room, sitting amongst some kegs of aging beer and learning more about writing.
From the various prompts, discussion, breaks to walk around Astoria and a strong beer – I ended up with this:
I usually walk with purpose (I have a dog) and out of necessity (my back chronically reminds me) – I do this daily. Often I simply wish to walk for no reason, to range about. Today my purpose was to unwind my mind and let my feet range.
When walking I typically try not to think – it is my escape. I am however easily distracted by people (not today) and architecture (Astoria has plenty worthy of noticing). While glancing at older buildings (more refreshened since my last visit) and ruins of pilings wobbling in the river, I noticed something new. Colorful bits of random display, knitted patches of several different people’s artwork twisted, wrapped and tied around posts, benches and a gate. Public displays of an orchestrated effort to grab attention and brighten the day for those who notice.
Today my mind was bombed by yarn.
A steep winding road drops from our plateau down around an interesting earthen grassy funnel-shaped field and on into the Kent Valley. I drove this cut-off route many times and never stopped, over several years… I never stopped. Until I had a speckled co-pilot, I never stopped to visit this place.
Somehow upon first glance of this site Sarrah knew that we should stop. Pressing her moaning howling head against me and thumping her tail wildly against the truck interior until I laughed, said “OK” slowed down and turned into the lot, then whimpering filled the cab. Excitement exploded out of the bouncing black and white blur of fur, into the sea of green.
This former gravel pit turned into park is an aggressive walk, making it typically less crowded. The steep stairway into the labyrinth of spiraling lateral walkways is a hip grind in and a calf burner out. In youth Sarrah would run up and down the hillsides between the paths and with age mellowed into staying close.
I doubt Sarrah really noticed much of the view as she was typically so excited running and sniffing, perhaps when time slowed her some of the surroundings became more apparent. On clear days Mount Rainier can be viewed to the south, on foggy days the over-developed valley disappears.
This maze of a park became a favorite place to enjoy some freedom.
Walking through the streets of my forty-plus year old working-class suburban neighborhood with Sarrah, where I had lived for around eight years, I started to notice and discover things. The little stuff missed when driving on autopilot, getting from home to wherever and back, even those details that I had somehow missed when just out for a leisurely drive.
Like watching the ‘big hair’ artist Bob Ross on television go at it with a canvas; the brilliant colors, smells and sounds all quickly join in to complete the picture. With repetition and varied routes we viewed houses, landscapes, people and how they live in different kinds of light. Sarrah’s frequent pausing to bark at shut-in dogs, sniff shrubs and investigate everything worthy created endless opportunities to look around. As new discoveries were added into the mix, smaller details were exposed. A daily dose gives an observer some sense of goings on; projects, maintenance and all changes are easily noticed. I enjoy seeing pride of possession, on any scale.
I have always noticed the houses with architectural flair, typically those older ones with added attention to detail, built when priorities were different. By walking I discovered even more. In particular, landscaping; how it is designed, maintained and evolves has always been an eye catcher for me, but actually walking right beside it and in some cases through it via public sidewalks, paints the picture more clearly. I like to see timeless balance within a property, an organic harmony between the land and its buildings. This varied equilibrium is hard to achieve and almost impossible for me to describe with a handful of words, but I think that you know it when you see it.
Down the street four houses resides an old decrepit evergreen tree on the corner. This poor tree is in a crappy location and does its part to let everyone know that it is unhappy. It grew crooked on this sloped lot and has always looked sickly. To show its unhappiness it constantly drops needles and cones to plug the run-off street drain underneath so that when we get significant rainfall, the street floods. Sarrah only noticed one thing… the Cones! She loved the scratching hollow noise that they made as they skipped across the blacktop, when I kicked them. She would excitedly attack, catch and carry the cone of the day along with us (sometimes two at a time). Eventually she would drop it indiscriminately; some were deposited as little as ten feet away, most others much farther, the furthest made the whole mile plus round trip. She should receive honorable mention on Arbor Day, for if ten percent of her randomly relocated cones yielded a tree; she planted around four hundred along Marine View Drive.