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.
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.
On Sarrah’s last morning here, I freed her from the collar that she loathed and placed it on the head of my cement gargoyle that resides on a cedar stump in the backyard.
It remains an Evolving Contrast with a shining chrome chain becoming a halo of rust.