Gliding through the relatively calm waters, I see mountains in deepening shades of watercolor gray. Light gray in the foreground, darker gray in the middle distance and then on the horizon, Little Red Riding Hood dark. The colors are indistinct blobs in the mist as seen through dingy, nylon net curtains covering dirty windows. Closer up, I see thick stands of trees that look like Colorado trees. But leaving the boat… standing knee-deep in bracken and ferns and broken tree detritus (I think it’s called ‘duff’) I look up. And up again – my head at-risk of snapping off my neck.
These towering trees are nothing like puny Colorado trees. These trees are primeval. Their size intimidates and Sasquatch comes to mind. I look over my shoulder… just in case. The trees’ longevity make a person feel small and insignificant. We humans think we are so important. Ha! If we don’t indiscriminately cut down the trees or climate warming doesn’t do them in, they will have the last laugh.
Building on these rocky islands is a challenge. For this reason, most construction rests on log rafts that rise and fall with the tides. I like the romance of being one with nature. I like the small logging camps. I’m not so keen on the small, picture postcard colonies, festooned with flowers… seemingly populated by summer, yacht folks. The British word ‘twee’ comes to mind. The hamlets are beautiful – but a bit too manicured and insular to my taste.
Having just finished reading THE BEET QUEEN by Louise Erdrich last night and starting THE CASUAL VACANCY by J.K. Rowling this morning, I’ve been swept away by their multi-faceted, Everyman characters – none of whom would fit in a homogenized, moneyed community.
I love these flawed characters. I know every character devised by Erdrich and Rowling. Always a reader of reviews, I read the reviews at the front of the Erdrich book. A reviewer for The Milwaukee Journal wrote, “The Beet Queen is a slowly gathering storm shaking every belief you hold about the limits of your ability to love.” That review is perfect.
If you live in a city, it is easier to stick to ‘your own kind’ than it is in a small town where everyone knows (or thinks he knows) his neighbor. Politics are local and passions run high. Gritting your teeth and biting your tongue is called for when dealing with those you disagree with and whom you will meet in the produce aisle of the only grocery. Smile!
When issues are particularly divisive, I retreat and soothe my savaged soul by repeating, “We are all wounded.” Which, of course, we are. Visualizing myself walking among the walking wounded makes me remember that I have more in common with my neighbors than I would have thought.