Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Foreigners Looking West

Last year Janet and I took on a big summer adventure that still prods us. Our travel was outside of Cascadia and so we kept it out of this blog, (up until now) and drifted away from posting on these pages. We continue to be pulled by other interests - the world ebbs and flows with many stories and much work. But there are reasons to "get back to work" on this project, and so we start again.
This adventure is smaller, more within our borders. Our present trip has not required four airports and eight timezones, nor unfamiliar currency and opposite road driving. Telephone numbers and road signs are less baffling. We have reached the eastern edge of the northern Pacific -- as far west as we can be and still be in the continental United States.

Near Dunquin, Western Dingle, Ireland looking west
But for a moment, we are pulled to the Dingle peninsula and the eastern edge of a different body of water. We want to compare -- so different and yet similar.

As visitors to Cape Flattery we ARE foreign visitors, on Makah tribal lands. But there is no border security here, no ceremony: at the Museum we buy an annual visitors pass and proceed. Janet and I have both been at Cape Flattery before, I a little and she a lot. We do not hope to find ancestral lands, and although we know some of the deeper histories of this land, our reflections are more personal.
At Cape Flattery looking west from a trail outlook.
It is a dry day, and we are as lucky for it here as we were that week in western Ireland.  Our present location is more familiar and less foreign. The plants and animals here we can all identify.  But while our home in Olympia is less than 100 miles to the Pacific Ocean, to reach this particular jagged coastal tip of land we have had to drive twice that distance over often winding roads.

Chickaree (Douglas squirrel)
Walter Siegmund (Wikimedia)
Outlook from Cape Flattery trail

Here there are no stony treeless hillsides cropped by sheep.  Only bits of the world are exposed.  We feel our foreignness in a deeply different way.  In this great temperate rainforest we are swallowed up by the enormity of trees, and by the history their sometimes twisted growth suggests.  We quiet ourselves to the lengthy chattering conversations and songs from Douglas Squirrels and song sparrows, chicadees, and winter wrens. 

We come to the end of the path, or at least our hike. The terrain becomes more difficult, and seems to balance on edges of roots and rock. It is not the easy hike hoped for.   It probably does not matter that we can only glimpse bits of sea and sky.  Much of the living world is hidden from view, hinted at by a nose surfacing above the waves, the rattle of a woodpecker and the blow of a whale, by holes in sand and bark, feathers strewn in a hungry pile, excavations gouged in a dying tree.  There is mystery here, life revealed by a raven's croak and a sparrows chip.  We pause, we listen, we guess. We are grateful for the gift of where we are.


Photo of Chickaree (Douglas Squirrel)
By Walter Siegmund, via Wikimedia Commons
All other photos Glen Buschmann


  1. Beautiful as always. Reading your posts are always like a taking a vacation. I look forward to you getting back to your blog! Janine : - )

  2. Janine, thank you and you are welcome. We look forward to more postings soon.