Once upon a time, there was a sleepy emerald land of abundance, filled with old forests, soft air, salmon, and berries. It was my homeland, and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Why would I want to? But one day I packed my things and fled; the forces of frenzied urban greed had shattered the sleepy emerald land into shrinking fragments and slivers that still retained some of the old way of living. I’ve never had second thoughts about my self-imposed exile, but once in a while I return, and find myself yearning a little.
Just a little, that’s all, for some forgotten corner with access to the water; a beach where my table would be set with clams and muscles when the tide goes out. Some place to have a boat to set out the crab trap, to mooch for salmon and other fish, life lived by the rhythms of the tide. It would be an old place, with a touch of moss on the roof, deep eaves, a wood stove to toast out the winter damp and big old rhododendrons between it and the road. Maybe there would be an old outbuilding half digested by ravenous wild blackberry vines, a small meadow bordered by a forest with alder and maple, fir and cedar, with a few queerly exotic madrona trees mixed in. But there would have to be several old growth nursery-stumps, spring-board notches marking their demise, crowned with salal, huckleberry, or perhaps a hemlock tree.
There would be a small orchard of old apple trees, Yellow Transparents or Gravensteins, possibly Yellow Delicious or Mackintosh, their thick upper branches radiating outwards, parallel to the ground from years of pruning discipline. And if there weren’t berries, I would put them in: raspberries, Logan berries, maybe transplant some huckleberries, perhaps some Marion berries, along with a few strawberries to please the family.
The garden though, would be an old garden, the soil wonderfully rich after years of tending. A garden to grow whatever I desired, because the sleepy country of abundance is a gardener’s country. Throw it in the ground, walk away, and let it grow; plant the seed and stand back so your nose won’t be in the way of the sprout bursting from the ground! At least compared to Wyoming it would be that easy! Peas, beans, all types of lettuce, sweet corn, carrots, runner beans, cabbage, broccoli, grapes, onions and shallots, pickling cukes, Asian cukes, pie pumpkins and spaghetti squash.
The soft air would be fragrant with alder wood smoke and damp forest in the winter, flowering trees in the spring, and on summer mornings the warm wholesome scent of fir and cedar. And through it all, the occasional iodine tang from the beach.
That’s all, just a little yearning for the old Northwest.
Growing up, it seemed so substantial and eternal. Only it was fragile and fading, as tainted by sin, Paul says in Romans, as every fragile and fading human being. Perhaps it’s waiting for me at the end of my road with A.L.S., part of the new Heaven and new Earth promised at the very end of the Bible. I have to say, I wouldn’t mind.