Smoke and Sea

Crater Lake has been on Justin's bucket list for as far back as I can remember and it was with real eagerness that we pointed the truck toward that Cascadian treasure from Redwoods. We began noticing the smoke about an hour out and by the time we reached the park, it was clear that we were deep in wildfire country.

Our hopes still high, we made our way to the visitor center, but had them dashed officially when the ranger there recommended we watch the video as "it's likely to be the only sight of the Lake you get this week." Womp womp. 

Stubborn, we pressed on, and this was indeed the sole view of the Lake we managed:


It was clearly time to regroup.

So we scrapped our plans to head into Bend and made our way to the coast instead. Oregon is famous for its scenic coast and it certainly did not disappoint. It wasn't the Oregon we'd planned, but it was a gift all the same. From the stunning Heceta Head lighthouse, to the best trail run I've had in ages at Cape Perpetua, to the famed Cannon Beach "haystack" at sunset, we were surprised and delighted at every turn and could hardly be sad that our original plan got derailed. Perhaps our sole regret is not veering back inland to the Columbia River Gorge...Justin has never seen it and less than a week after our passing by, it was set on fire by the carelessness (maliciousness?) of humans and more than 35,000 acres burned. It's a tragic loss to say the very least.

But we lingered on the coast, marveling at the way the mountains rose straight out of the sea, how the hemlocks towered and the sword fern grew tall and lush and thick. We inched our way north towards Washington and reveled in the time together amidst such beauty.


For The Trees

The trees. We were definitely in it for the trees.

It began with towering red firs and western white pines and mountain hemlocks in Lassen Volcanic. They greeted us along the winding two-lane highway as we approached the park and with every rustling wave of their limbs, we were welcomed, waved in with a ruckus as if returning weary from the wars. We breathed in their scent and lingered in their shadows and felt the first stirrings of release in our too tight shoulders.


After taking that respite, on we searched, until the cool of coastal fog and deep shade heralded giant country. There we laid our cheeks against the redwood ancients and felt the fingers of time draw us closer for embrace. In the damp crumble of rotting timber, we witnessed new life spring forth from the death and were reminded of the inescapable nature of cycle and season.  In the perpetual gloaming cast by these great elders we found sanctuary and belonging and the whispers of home, wisdom sought and found.


We traveled on, as travelers do, and we came to the places where fire turned us back. Heat and milky smoke blocked our path forward and we paused to grieve the fallen armies of douglas fir and white pine even as we acknowledged that some beauty, some life, can solely be forged, be born, of fire.

We veered back to the west, to the water, fleeing the flame and the smoke. Through Pacific mists we saw the great Sitka spruces and patient western hemlocks teeter on the cliff edges as the mountains rose out of the wild sea. Unable to resist the siren's call of forest floors carpeted in sword fern and narrow trails winding through soaring spires, we ran. Clumsy, heavy steps lightened as our own rhythms began to fall into sync with the endemic cadences enveloping us, and we felt leggy and fleet as the deer as we moved. 


And north we continued until we came to rest among the silver firs and yellow cedars and white pines and mountain hemlocks growing in the shadow of the mighty volcano. Among the huckleberry and Sitka valerian and Seussian pasqueflower pods we laid down our burdens and leaned our backs against fat trunks. We found there, among Patriarchs and young friends both, a renewal of courage and faith and timeless devotion. And it was there, among sentinels standing guard against the fallacy of thinking ourselves important, that our shoulders and our humor and our creative spark fully shook loose. 


We were definitely in it for trees. And like any travelers in search of Avalon, we met mystery and fire, solace and water, magic and healing along the way. For the trees are nothing if not arcane. And in their shadows, in their depths, our follies and triumphs fade allowing us to begin again and begin again. And still begin yet again.  


When Women Were Birds

I have recently revisited the work of Terry Tempest Williams and I feel amazed that I could possibly have forgotten how magnificent her writing is. I'm obsessed. It's getting out of hand. 

Do you know her work When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice? If not, let me treat you to a favorite snippet...

"Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated."

Obsessed. She has a new book almost out that I'm dying to get my hands on, The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks. Don't miss out on her work.