The car moves and sways, picking up a gentle rhythm. After a while, you get your legs – your train legs, I suppose. You begin to anticipate the dramatic sways over rough track, and you realize that you can *feel* the car, the train, the tracks beneath your feet. There is a connection, a circuit of soul.
To my right the sky has turned a powder blush purple, filling the entire window with its soft and soothing shade. To the left, the sky arcs from a deep navy blue, fading gradually to robin’s egg blue, then yellow to orange as the sun slowly sets. This side, there is foliage growing rough, with a stream that grows to river and shrinks back peeping from among the dark twilight of green.
Not even eight, and the gloaming time is upon us.
Occasionally through that forest of leaves, a barn’s red or farmhouse’s yellow winks at me, alluvial flood planes being mined for their mineral as late summer crops bear their fruit. To the right, there are more frequent farmhouses, smaller acreage. The discarded heaps of machinery rust, abandoned in forgotten corners of land.
Sometimes the stream-river creeps under the bridge, an old blue or white span shepherding us across. On the other side, the stream-river spills out into a still lake, a few houses dotting the shore. A kayak built for two breaks the mirror smooth surface, the brilliant life vests jumping out vivid red and yellow from the dark and natural landscape.
There is peace here. A quietness that has gathered slowly in my soul all weekend, from sitting on the marina docks, looking down into moss water, from stretching in mottled sun on patio furniture, tucked in the backyard of my parents house, from walking in the dusk just to stretch and feel the coolness on my face. The spray of the ocean water and the smell of magnolias.
There is also a charm here in central Washington. A little bit of a bygone era, caught in its own time capsule. It speaks of simpler times, of eating off the land and being tied to its cycles. Of feelings your connection, being part of the land-air-water-sky circuit, instead of shutting yourself off with polar fleece and waterproofed jackets, covered by multicoloured bumbershoots.
The sky above has deepened while the sky across has grown brilliant. To my right, the powdered purple has faded to a cerulean cyan. I could make a paint palette off this sky.
I’ve always questioned who I am, with the pull for city life contrasting for the earthiness and connection of a more distant country life. Gleaming condos in the hearts of bustling downtown vying with peeled paint farmhomes with creeping vines and row upon row of willing garden. But over time and with thought, it’s occurred to me that I never once argued for city life and its energy and excess. That when I had the chance to have my own home, I said I chose for convenience but really I chose for beauty – a property that was lightly forested in an ever so contrived way, with streams and ponds and fountains, with windows facing it all, ducks and birds, and a skylight above the bed so that at night, I could alternate between touching the crystalline stars and being wrapped in the soothing staccato of rain. That my current abode barely functions as a home, offering me few of the things that matter most. I don’t care so much about the dishwasher or washer and dryer; having them is a convenience. I miss, I ache for a patio, a place to sit in the cool afternoon and read, sipping sun tea. I miss being able to feed the birds and feel in touch with nature. I feel cut off from the land.
It’s been less than 15 minutes, and the sky is deepening to navy to the right and above, while a fire has broken out along my left, western horizon. The trees have become green black blots against the growing night, with the brittle late summer grass standing stark and tan against them.
I can’t imagine myself arguing to live in a condo, surrounded by the latest and shiniest of all the amenities. The hard glittering lights of a vibrant downtown hold no allure, and cannot compare to the diamond twinkles of stars set in a rich velvet night. I could live there, with modifications – I always modified every patio into a greenhouse. The last was overrun with baskets and vines and creepers and flowers. They tied me to the space, the ocean view my original love. Combined, the foliage and water created a perfect, balanced picture that rooted me in a tumultuous space I was always reminded I did not belong in. I lived in the city, would have sacrificed my country house and garden, because of love.
The fires burning on the horizon extinguish as quickly as they bloomed. The blue creeps further and further down, deepening around the edges into that soft night that will welcome the pinpoints from other systems, galaxies. Tiny reminders that we are but one rock around one sun in the endless, uncountable vastness of being.
My soul is old. It needs to twist its feet deep into loamy earth, inhale the crisp scent of juniper tempered with wild dill and rose. To work itself into a home, inhabit the space as well as the location. And sometimes I see the youth and vibrancy, and feel alive as the salt spray kicks up from the Starcraft; connected, grounded, flying. And on a very rare occasion, I see that it isn’t my soul at all, but part of a greater collective that is at once merely all; Atman, Brahman, Bodh, One. Endless before me, whichever way I look. Always existing, from now til the end, from now til the beginning. My soul is old, and it appreciates, values, the old. Leave the shining newness to the young ones who are ever so flighty and enraptured with its gleam and chrome. I’ll take the old, the discarded, and unwanted; the beautiful as my own.
Night has fallen with a flourish, but seems so much like it has been burnt by the daylight; caught by surprise, a freckle of stars pops into existence like a last gift of the sun. Ours may have set for the night, but it did so with the promise of millions more.
The trees break suddenly, and the once tiny stream that varied to a greater river suddenly jumps in size and empties into the yawning gulf of brackish water, fresh and salt mingling before the salt overruns fresh and we’re at the bays of Tacoma. The water is vast, deep, and the same shade of midnight as the sky. The stars echo twinkles in its depths, occasionally augmented by slices of human life or the more beautiful bioluminescence of the creatures within. At just the right angle of light from the newly emerged moon, the water ripples and dances with glee at finally finding shore.
Tucked between the land and the water, built on and in to shallow cliffs, are tiny Martha’s Vineyard homes, so clearly once being vacation homes and now lived in year round. They gather together in the night (night already? It’s only 8:30… Summer is truly gone, and there will be no more 10pm sunsets until next year) like so many birds huddled against the dark, talking their own language that I can just barely hear, if I close my eyes and cock my ear. Tilted, listening, waiting, I can hear the quiet invitation to join them, one of them, somewhere. Be at, live at, that point of merger between the elements, give myself as a circuit to connect them all to one. Someday, someday, I will stare across the inky night and see myself, my home lights, reflected on the glassy surface of the water, my trees shading the background, my garden warm and softly scented.
We pause, and I delight in the delay while passengers around me groan at the thought of arriving a mere 15 minutes late. Let the freight run the lines. Outside my window a small copse of trees is backlit by an invisible streetlight. Their leaves move from back to a papery thin green at the core of the light, set spectacularly against the velvet blue sky. I can hear the breeze whisping through those branches, gently calling “relax, relax.”
I feel my spine bend, elongate. This would be a beautiful spot for yoga. Settling back in the seat, tucking my feet under me, I can only smile at the impatience around me. How is it that I’ve managed to be so unaffected by the hustle, the bustle? Like so many pieces of my mother come out when I am around people I love, so many pieces of my father emerge when I am in these quiet spots of nature.
Mother summed me up over the weekend, calling me a pioneer spirit wrapped in southern manners. It’s a description I threw on like a cloak tailored to my body, and it pleases me greatly. The best of both of my parents, blending in me.
No, it’s not that I’m not a creature of the city. I’m a creature of the earth, and I need that connection. But I need to be near people and culture as well, but not always in the heart of it. In the heart of it, I wind and wind til I break, and the lack of my connection to the ground aches. The solution is not the suburbs, not a downtown core, nor isolated country. The solution is to find one of those rare and precious pieces of land, old farm in the middle of development, the area 30 minutes away from the center still bustling with a life intimate with the passing seasons. I know what I’m looking for, the question is only whether it will be available when I am.
Punctuated by orange, yellow and white lights, the darkness is complete. Earth and sky have become one in the blackness of the night.