Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pinch me! I’m in Washington!

I kept stopping on our path through the woods to marvel at the fact that I was no longer in the dry, colorful woods of Wisconsin with blades of grass and leaves crunching beneath my feet; but I was in Washington, in a wet and wild, misty forest with a bed of soft pine needles and dirt below me. The dark soil drew a contrast with the emerald green moss and ferns, growing up and out and over everything! Somehow I had gotten all the way out here and now I was in the place I had so often imagined, the place so many others, too, left homelands to discover - the Pacific Northwest.

There is something special about the area and the people of Seattle. I read in a book that the British expatriate writer Jonathan Raban mused, “Seattle is the only city in the world that people move to in order to get closer to nature” (Wild Seattle by Timothy Egan).

It’s not hard to see why, what with views of the Cascades or the Puget Sound and numerous forests to explore and wildlife, while the people and the city meld into it and love it and foster hobbies to enjoy it and stop their cars along the beach to watch the waves of the Puget Sound over their lunch break. I haven’t met anyone yet who takes this environment for granted. I pray I never do…for creation seems to want to be enjoyed.

Take for example, the tree trunks and rocks covered in shaggy, bright green moss so when you reach out and touch them, they feel like a dog’s curly hair under your fingertips! I named my favorite, an especially mossy one, “The Petting Tree.”

Here and there are splashes of bright color, in the face of a wildflower or in a multi-colored mushroom – such as this one, that grows out a rotting tree trunk.

“Old forests have a singular mystery, where young life embraces death and rot,” writes Timothy Egan in Wild Seattle. How is it that life can bud right out of death?

These splashes of color surprise me every time, and so much of the living and the dying are companions intertwined that you hardly know where one ends and the other begins. If you looked away and then glanced back, would the dead be coming to life?

This fallen tree, with its curved limbs sprawled out like the legs of a gigantic centipede…when the magician snaps his fingers, will the force of life return to it? Could it come lurching across my path?

 Or this tree, standing above the ground on its roots. What lovely fuel for the imagination! Is it the cozy home of a little leprechaun who sleeps under its roof? Or will it thrust its roots forward and start walking, tree and all? I can't help but think that these are the scenes books are made out of, like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.


 Every forest feels enchanted. It is a stage for the circle of life and the drama of created things reaching for the sun. From high up in the tree trunk, this daring "Zacchaeus" fern waves its leaves to catch as much sunlight as it can, reminding me of the short-of-stature tax collector, who climbed a tree to see Jesus through the crowds.

Light! It always comes from beyond and all the plants are reaching towards it. It moves across the sky to shine through the mist and to reach all things as it goes its course, and to quench the desires of all that stretch out to absorb its warming rays.

The hikers whom we pass on the trail up the mountain greet us. They are friendly, asking us how we are doing, and it feels good to share the joy of being out here with fellow human beings.

I realized why the artist Thomas Kinkade’s paintings always seem so fictitious to me. My friend says there is nothing dead in his woods; all nature is alive, and the light emanates from all things rather than one source. Perhaps this was the way it was in Eden, nature pure and fruitful, or the way it was meant to be…but those paintings do not mirror the world that I inhabit. Let me rather be found in these woods I know, where, though nature is fallen, she shows that even the dead can rise again.


  1. Christina, truly beautiful in every way. I love how you are taking everything in. It makes me wish blogging had been a reality when I was first discovering that amazing state! Thanks for sharing your "green" impressions. There's nothing like those first glances and thoughts. Keep reigning them in through your words!

  2. I live in Washington state and I am used to after 36 years of the rain and damp and beautiful weather..It is lush and lovely, our only child went to school in Bellingham a lush and gorgeous city, near the Canadian border, all manner of hiking, biking, snow shoeing, skiing oh,my goodness sakes, we live at the tip of the state near Oregon, it is different and you do have Eastern Washington which is dry and sunny most of the time even when it gets tons of snow in Spokane, it is lovely...

  3. Thank you for reading my blog and for sharing your appreciation of this beautiful place with me! I continue to be amazed and thrilled, especially every time the clouds clear and the white-crested tops of the mountains suddenly rise up all around me and I just look and look and look.