Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Big Water

     I guess it doesn't take much water to impress a guy from Sweetwater County. A hatful would be a lot of water in most of southwestern Wyoming. But if you come from a hard, dry country you have to be impressed by the Pacific Ocean. I love it. There's some sort of connection here for me. Way down deep, something way back in the genetic memory says “You know me.” Like a voice you haven't heard but you still recognize, it's there in your head and in your heart but you don't know why.
     Maybe it's the smell. They say the sense of smell is best at evoking memories. I started smelling it when I was still almost a mile away. That salt tang that I hadn't smelled for years brought back memories from my first sight of it near the mouth of the Columbia. I remembered the time Grandma and I came here, to the foot of Sloat Street when we were newlyweds, back almost 43 years ago. I remembered Ketchikan and Seattle and Monterey.
     Maybe it's the sound. I'm deaf as a post, but the sound of the Pacific has always fascinated me. It sounds like some creature of unimaginable size slowly, rhythmically inhaling and exhaling. Like the planet itself is breathing. In a sense, it is. I remembered Vancouver and Astoria and San Diego.
     But the sight of it is what makes my heart leap. With my back to millions of Californians jammed cheek by jowl along the coast, I could face west and see miles and miles of open water.
Water still alive with salmon and steelhead, sea lions and sea urchins, plovers and pelicans. Water that smelled just like this when the Spanish were here. Water that sounded like this when the Ohlone were here. Water that looked like this when there were no people here at all.

As Norman Maclean said, “I am haunted by waters.”

Courtesy The Ranger


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