A friend wanted me to do this blog, so here it is. A few years after moving to the country from Seattle, I wrote this essay and it was published by the Seattle Times newspaper. About a third of it was edited out, as they have a strict 1000 word guideline. I tried to scan it, but obviously, that didn't work. So, I've typed it all out here...
City's energetic beat no match for nature's peaceful rhythms
The day's heat is suspended in the damp, humusy air of the woods. I walk on moss and step over rotting logs along a narrow trail under Douglas fir and alder. I'm going to the swimming hole, a few minutes behind my house, for a cooling soak.
My address for the last three years has been a town few people have heard of and even fewer have visited. I don't even live in it, but 14 miles away, on a river named for an obscure Indian tribe.
Shoes on, I step into the rocky-bottomed river and wade upriver 50 yards, my rough-coated terrier gliding beside me like an otter. Where the depth rises from my knees to my waist, I pull myself up onto the logjam and hoist up the dog. The unprecedented floods of the previous year deposited this natural dam and created a swimming hole behind it that beckons in the heat like a promised embrace.
I slip out of my clothes, heart beating faster at the thought of the icy plunge to come. With a ragged intake of breath, I jump high, knees hugged in tight. I hear a split-second of splash, then the gurgle of water as I sink until my rear hits the mud. Uncoiling, I surface with great, startled gulps of air filling my contracted chest. I may not reach beatitude here, but I can approach it, if only for a moment.
-Out of city, into Eden
I spent my first year in the country pining for the city. Against the advice of nearly everyone I knew, I persuaded my husband to move away from traffic, pollution, noise and crowds to the Eden I thought I'd find. But the perfect vision I'd had eluded me, at first.
Every two weeks, I drove the two hours to Seattle, feeling relief as the downtown buildings came into view, solid and familiar symbols of my early adulthood. Rushing from restaurant to bookstore to appointments, I'd absorb the city's energy like a solar panel. I had left my soul in Seattle. My body lived a hundred miles away. It took a long time for the restlessness of city life to seep out of me.
When I came to live here, I was unused to such enveloping quiet. Where I could hear a crow's wing beats as it flew overhead and the rain approaching before I saw or felt it. In the space of a week, I had a list of 11 bird species I'd seen on our acre. I was ashamed that I felt guarded in such an open place.
Before the move, I'd laughed at stories of city people who fled the country after hastily making the decision to relocate. It wasn't funny anymore. It wasn't only the sudden thrust into a place ruled by nature that put me off balance. The people were very different.
Environmentalism is profanity here. They laugh when I ask about recycling. People leave injured animals, wild or domestic, in the road to die slow deaths. This is the land of clear-cuts and slash burns, where every other man you meet either works for Weyerhaeuser or Simpson timber companies or has been laid off.
But trust and support are the norm in this place. In October of my first year, it became bitingly evident that I needed a cord of firewood -- soon! I called on a local ad, but the man could only come while I was at work. "Just leave the $100 on the door," he said. As I stood shivering in my dining room, I reluctantly agreed, expecting to find an empty envelope and no wood when I got home. But on my return, the wood was exactly where I'd asked it to be placed, with the opened envelope sticking out of the pile. That same winter, when we were without power, and therefore water, for 10 days, "neighbors" in the next valley offered a hot meal, the use of their shower and their freezer in which to store the Christmas ham.
I'm learning as I go along about the conflicts of ideas and values. Listening more, preaching less. The edges of my spirit are not as raveled. The mornings I spend with coffee and notebook at the battered picnic table are a ritual I wouldn't give up.
Gradually, I'm feeling this is home. It is no longer surprising to me to see deer on my way to work, eagles flying overhead, a herd of elk ascending a hill or a great blue heron flying over corn fields. I am still in awe of them all. This land is patiently weaving me into its fabric. I am becoming part of the design.