“Hey there”, she said after our common friend introduced us. I went from sipping a beer and people watching at Doc’s Tavern (minding my normal – alone business) to shaking hands with Christa. A sparkle in her eyes showed me something unexpectedly bright in the otherwise dark familiar place. A couple of rounds and few slow songs later – things changed. The lies that I had told myself about destiny and being alone, walls that time built to lean against and pretend, the words “Not for me” said out loud as if to protect. Dissolved. She stole them all with one kiss.
In the summer as the sun-sets, bats return to eat their share of mosquitoes and scare the squeamish. The speed and erratic flight of these creatures is part of what I have come to call “Caveman TV”. One evening while sitting in wooden Adirondack chairs next to Sarrah snoozing in the sand by a crackling fire, my childhood friend Andy said “Caveman TV”.
While staring into the fire I replied, “What?”
“Caveman TV is what we are watching” and he went on share this primal-based theory of what is the attraction of sitting around a fire and possibly “the real reason people go camping.”
“Then this is ‘The Remote,’” I concluded while using the fire-scarred chunk of rebar to stoke our TV.
I embraced the expression and have since shared this primal wisdom with all fellow fire enthusiasts.
Hello! Spring was aptly named-all of a sudden, one day, there it is!
Plants awaken with… birds singing the praises of its arrival. Some years our spring sneaks in early, at the mercy of winter. Bulbs defiantly peek up in various yard borders, returning the favor of past work, giving a hint of color and brighter days to come. If looked at closely enough, buds appear on dormant trees showing signs of waking up, some flashing peaks of pink and white flowers. Soon these trees will make a scented canopy over some sidewalks. Lawns begin to wake up and grow erratically, with some darker green fertilized spots. This growth brings about the noisy season of the obnoxious grass cutting and mechanized yard maintenance machines.
One group of prized plants that live with us in our climate, are those called Rhododendrons. These woody plants have evergreen leaves and at varying times of the spring season, flower. They show off with their choice of vivid colors from a rainbow, multi-colored blends or two-tone combinations. Growing up here and thanks to my avid plant-loving Grandmother, “Rhodys” hold a bright annual connection to landscapes for me, Sarrah just liked to sniff’m as we walked by.
Sarrah loved to stand guard in the front yard, sniff the plants and watch the world go by.
This was another favored place of hers to enjoy a little freedom.
Having spent most of my almost half-century of living in the Pacific Northwest has given me the experience of watching people crowd into an area.
Observing as humans wade through the economic tides and refine the process of developing land, starting with the easiest and taking steps into the more difficult and less desired parcels.
A sort of reckoning takes place. No change goes unpunished. Our natural environment has evolved over time into one that had its way of dealing with rainfall. As human needs replace what was, weather dictates what will be. The more hilly earth becomes smooth and paved, the more concentrated needs become for dealing with excess water when the rains fall.
An evolving complex formula has come about for building water retention sites. These man-made ponds are camouflaged scars to the earth. Displaying some examples of human bargaining with a blend of indigenous “natural plant-life” (cattails, grasses and trees) for wildlife and often some kind of appeal offering to the local payer of taxes (landscaping, trails and/or a park) to gain the right to develop, creating monuments to appease the gods of rain. These places of reckoning are hotly debated for long periods of time, constructed relatively quickly, celebrated briefly and then quietly slide into being largely ignored. Not Sarrah, she always spotted these places of reckoning and insisted that we investigate.
Two of these places evolved nearby in Sarrah’s lifetime.
The first one is located at the low point of a community college campus hidden behind a tennis court; it has a labyrinth of paved trails through trees and a bridge over the fluctuating pond. I recall reading that some college classes were involved in the layout designing and choosing plantings, some studies probably continue.
Another was constructed so that a three-field baseball park could be flat and dry. This park is behind our re-located local Post Office. The land was probably swampy pasture with some scrub trees and blackberry bushes before our International Airport grew making it too noisy for human habitation. This water management creation has a fenced-in small pond, a rocky “dry river bed” and a much larger water retention pond below (we saw it seasonally dry out and fill to the top). At times a choir of frogs fills the air with hypnotic notes. The trails here are simple paths worn in the grass by shortcutting kids and dogs with people.
When Sarrah discovered this place it became part of going to get my mail, the best part.
If it were up to Sarrah we would explore both of these typically quiet places on the same day, when freedom from commitments allowed, we did.
Years ago I drove by a little pond nestled between an outside bend of the Green River and a busy four-lane road. This little pond surrounded by trees somehow maintains peacefulness despite having another two-lane road beside it cross the other and a small bridge over the river. I drove on these roads to and from work two or three times a day for a few years. Then my job changed and I only drove by two or three times per week, for a few more years. I never stopped at this little pond with a totem pole, fishing docks for kids, couple of picnic tables, some benches and a gravel trail around it.
One day, driving by with a very young Sarrah she looked out the window at it (as I had more than two or three thousand times) and then at me, she began to get excited, we stopped.
Sarrah delighted in what I thought was harassing the ducks and geese that always seemed to be there, sending them swimming from one side to the other, two or three times each visit. Perhaps she was simply intrigued by their freedom.
We continued to discover and frequent gems of common interest. A favorite was a park, nearby. We became regulars to Salt Water State Park, a nice mile plus round trip walk from home. Here, the small public beach is choked by privately owned beaches, sea walls, rock cliffs, logs and rules. The semi-sandy beach is about forty yards by twenty at high tide. Currently it’s more than half covered by the naturally occurring, growing log pile gifted by storms and kept in place by law. In the summer months the tide recedes further and if lucky enough or planned you can carefully walk out another fifty yards or so on the Barnacle covered rocks amongst the tide pools. Here at an edge of the Puget Sound, where the ocean’s water works its way around the San Juan Islands, the small waves are more like swells. These tired waves sort of heave themselves, splashing, thudding and pounding against the rocks. Despite its shortcomings, Sarrah loved this place instantly. She would often insist on going there by taking a hard right, instead of the left turn on our usual daily trek down Marine View Drive. I am certain that my occasional “giving in” further fueled this action, but making time to enjoy small victories is good for all. We probably hoofed that all terrain trek at least five hundred times over the years, and around one hundred shorter versioned, driven in stops.
Sarrah loved the Puget Sound, especially all of the creatures and smells that come with it. She happily stole bits of clam, crab and mussels from harassed crows and seagulls, who had dropped them onto the paved pathways to break them open. We walked the beach in search of sea glass (to collect) and sand dollars (to throw back), along the gurgling creek looking for fish, around the grounds and trails for less crowded nature.
Sarrah seemed to have an affinity for salted air, in all of its forms: warm and strong, crisp and bright, cold and damp or even the bone soaking driven by wind. She led me to find and appreciate the less popular versions of marine air, which are highly addictive and ultimately better.
* * *
On her last day here I carried her down to the beach, sat on a log and held her so she that could see the view and smell the air one more time.
* * *
Saltwater Park was one of Sarrah’s favorite places to taste some freedom.
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.