(Part 1 of 3)
There’s an old joke that goes around the Internet from time to time, usually modified to some degree depending on the sender. In it a fellow is making a phone call to god using a special golden telephone. He calls from various locations (states), and in each place the price is more exorbitant than the next, $10,000 being a figure I remember for one of the calls. Then the person comes to Washington State and wants to use the golden telephone. The charge? 35 cents. “Everywhere else charges thousands of dollars to phone god, why is this one so cheap?” (smelling a scam). “Why, don’t you know, son? You’re in Washington now. It’s a local call.”
For someone who’s lived here most of her life, I’ve always loved that one. And it is true. The state is full of astounding beauty from the Pacific coast to the inland border with Idaho, from Canada to Oregon. Alpine peaks and rain forests, high desert and lakes and rivers galore, all filled with a bounty of wildlife and natural resources. Living in the Seattle area we have Puget Sound and Mount Rainier as our two most distinctive landmarks. Every time I round a corner while driving and find Mount Rainier in my sights I am filled with awe and delight, even after over 35 years of seeing it regularly, often yelping or whooping with joy at the magnificent sight.
In recent years the area population has grown by leaps and bounds. It seems everyone loves the northwest beauty. Sure we get a lot of rain during the winter, but our summers are probably the driest in the country, short of living in a desert, and due to all the rain the rest of the year, stay green and lush while under (mostly) blue skies and sun for three or four glorious months. The dark-at-4 pm nights in the winter give way to seemingly endless days, where the sun doesn’t set until well after 9 pm and twilight lasts until nearly 10:30 pm. The beauty is staggering at times. Thus, our roads are clogged and our open space is disappearing in lieu of housing and shopping. While I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to live in such beauty, I also know that it’s stifling, especially when I can remember how it “used to be.” (Am I really old enough to say something like that?) So it’s little wonder that the topography I’ve loved so well for so long has begun to feel claustrophobic. The greengreen woods and juicy jungle of vegetation has suddenly felt overbearing and oppressive. The underbrush of vines and native shrubs so thick you need a machete to get through it feels confining and restrictive. It’s probably no surprise, then, that my sights have turned east. To traffic-free roads and wide open spaces of big sky and big landscapes. If you’ve read my previous post, The Secret Yearning, you know where this is going.
I recently spent two days on a ranch in the Okanogan Highlands with the dogs, and came away both satisfied and confused. Just what am I thinking, to want to live in a place so desolate of people? Or am I just scared? Do I really desire this?
See Part 2 for the continuation.