Phone Ghosts

My phone has traces of acquaintances, pets, friends and family who are no longer living.
No longer living here with us.

Their birthday’s pop-up as if to remind and say “Don’t forget me.”
Photos in the memory mix float around and surface at times, blending in with new experiences.

It is hard enough to say “Goodbye” in this life,
making [Delete] impossible.

So, My Collection Grows…

Reckoning 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.

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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.

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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.

Two or Three Times… Freedom

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.

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Maze 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.

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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.

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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.

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Success

Time proved to us that we had achieved success.  We found the kind of place that you dread leaving.  Where that last day starts with a quiet ache and as other people leave, a somber tone increasingly takes over.  When afternoon breaks taken from the bustle of packing and cleaning, have a sad coating.  Where your mind reflects on the latest stay, dips into the past memories and shuffles them all together.  You start to sneak looks forward, plotting the next escape.  Sarrah had a somber demeanor as she watched the ritualistic events of the last day; she quickly recognized the patterns and knew that the trip was near its end.  You know it is good, when it hurts to leave.

To me a big part of this day is the last walk; Every trip has a last walk, to the beach.  Preferably as close to departure back to reality, as possible.  Usually, taken after most people have gone, giving way to greater observation in solitude.  Along the way small things seem different.  The weathered chairs of wood, quietly stare back at you, as if waiting.  Shuttered empty houses look lonelier.  Even the sea birds seem a little forlorn.

Somehow the ocean sounds different, on the last walk.  The constant roar sounds more like a lonely, resonating hollow moan as if to be saying, “Don’t go…”, maybe “Farewell…”, or perhaps “Happy Trails…”.  I feel and absorb this more every ‘Last Time’.  On these walks, the ocean smells more like a salty tear soaked kiss.  I occasionally wonder… Does the ocean miss us when we are gone?  Will it miss me, after I have gone?

In the joy killing spirit of ‘Tomorrow is promised to No One’ you never know when the actual last walk, may be.  I do not allow myself to dwell on this heavy finality, too much.  But I do make an extra effort to savor all moments… of each, last one.

Unwanted Gifts

Sarrah, Nissa and I explored the roads, trails, miles of beach and rolling dunes.  We never tired of these journeys and the ever-changing collection of treasure discovered along the way.  The ocean constantly changes the beach and gives back an endless amount of debris from the land.  Some storms take away sand, others bring it back and then some.  Those that come in the winter pile up logs and other assorted remains washed down streams.

Sadly, not all is wonderful. The ocean is always giving back the unwanted gifts of the human experience, garbage.  I began to collect these ugly bits of proof and pieces of disrespect.  The more we looked, the more we found and brought back with us.  I began to take ownership, understanding what is called “stewardship” and feel like this was ‘our beach’ and wondered why so many other people were just walking past these ‘treasures’, do they not see the garbage?  All of this reminds of when I was a kid in the early seventies, there was a television commercial with a stoic, once proud American Indian, standing with a tear in his eye watching garbage come to shore in the waves.  Perhaps time has come to replay it for those who missed the message and do not recall pride.  Or maybe a newer version to make us more aware of the long term affects of mishandling things like plastic.  Regardless of the cause of garbage turned into litter in the wild, it belongs to all of us and it is not ok for me to walk on by.

Why do people carry books with them?

Why do people carry the same books with them?

Usually Bibles or other religious books, I assume, but why?  Is it to read, or reread when time is theirs to spare?  Could it be kept nearby so they can make notes on the pages when something comes to mind?  Perhaps to have it on hand to share with others, if so moved.  Maybe it is simply for comfort.  I’m not sure why and I’d never really thought about it, until Nissa asked me “Do you think your binder is a Security Blanket?”

I replied (after a day of contemplation) “Perhaps… It is a security blanket, but I think it’s more a need to complete it (with no rush nor deadline).  If I stop, it may never be restarted and remain unfinished.  The story is too important, at least to me (besides the time invested) and deserves to be written to some level of completion”.

This question and contemplation all came about because; from the moment that I began writing about Sarrah I kept a black pleather binder with me, at all times.  This ‘manuscript’ evolved with daily handwritten words, as they came to me.  Mainly I retyped it in the early morning hours, those when Sarrah would have been by my side, while my dragon waited and before the day cluttered my mind.  Then I updated it onto printed pages.  In the quiet, alone times often I just read and reread portions of my writings, reliving them in my mind.  Sometimes I simply kept it open to a picture.

I am lucky that I started writing about Sarrah when I did, otherwise I may have never done it. 

Equally, that it grew enough momentum to help perpetuate itself.  

I always wanted the story to progress… but did not really want it to conclude.