Friday, November 23, 2007

Slug Death

Slug death is not something I’ve given much thought to, but the concept arose today when I saw a product prominently displayed in an upscale grocery store in downtown Olympia. The box proclaimed its intent in bold red letters above an illustration of fairly alive-looking slug, no doubt prior to application of the product. I never considered the need for slug death beyond a vague idea that gardeners hate them. They probably want them dead or at least someplace else.

Slug death is one of the things I learned inOlympia today. I learned that the center city the town is quiet on this day after Thanksgiving. Retail is busy, especially at the malls and big box stores. So are, I am sure, the many coffee houses. But some small businesses and the biggest business (state government) are closed. The city’s normally slow pace is even mellower today. My pace was mellow. I contributed nothing to corporate consumerism although I did buy a plunger, broom and dustpan at a yard sale but was otherwise faithful to Buy Nothing Day.

The weather here has been wonderful since my return. Cold, foggy mornings that morph into crisp, sunny afternoons. Driving to my cousin’s yesterday, I was headed due east toward Mount Ranier. What a jewel! Sparkling white. Massive against the horizon. As a newcomer, I am still surprised when I see Mount Ranier. It’s not often visible, either because of terrain or weather so when time and place give me the opportunity, seeing the mountain is a pleasant surprise.

Today was foggy until around noon, gradually lightening into blue sky with occasional clouds, cool even in the mid-day sun. I walked downtown to check out some local businesses, which is where I saw the closures. Apparently, the border crossings into Canada are jammed, up to three hour delays. Traffic here is light. I took a second walk just before sunset. I climbed up the hill to take in the view across the valley. Topographically, Olympia reminds me of Gallup, New Mexico: a broad valley with steep inclines on either side. That’s a good resemblance. The topography makes for an open sky above and an intimate feel at ground level. My neighborhood has a good, open view view of the western sky and the state capitol dome against the horizon. The winter sky is open through bare trees. It’s not the immense Four Corners sky but it will do nicely.

Olympia feels a bit like Gallup to me. Maybe Olympia is just a larger small town. The local metro area here is about 150,000. Although Gallup is only 21,000 it serves an economic area of 200,000 people, including large chunks of Navajo land. Native communities are also prevalent around Olympia although far less ubiquitous than in northwestern New Mexico. Whatever similarities, Olympia is much “softer” than Gallup which is rough and gritty. Water makes the difference. The Rio Puerco almost always has some flow through Gallup but it’s meager and has a long, long way to the sea, if indeed it ever arrives there since it drains into the Colorado River. The Deschutes River meets the sea in Olympia, flowing into Budd Inlet at the southern end of Puget Sound.

Looking across the valley here in Olympia, I can see low ridges that make up the western horizon. They remind me of the Blue Ridge Mountains as seen from a long time friend’s place in Nelson County, Virginia. Except there’s a city with a very large domed building between me and the horizon. In Nelson County the land is completely rural. Elevation there is higher, too. Still the traces of places past give me a link to this place that has not been part of my life in Phoenix the past few years.

A good word about Phoenix, that large, amorphous central Arizona urban area, is probably appropriate here. This blog began about six months after I returned to Phoenix after Window Rock, the Appalachian Trail and the northwest summer. Probably no urban area, even Olympia, can match that grandeur or put me in touch with the earth and sky the way those years and places did, so returning to Phoenix was a let down in a very important way. Nonetheless, Phoenix was very good to me, especially between 1982 when I arrived and 1997 when I moved to Window Rock and Gallup. Those years gave me access to the southwest and all the marvel that is Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Moving to Phoenix set me up to meet my life partner, Maggie, and many interesting people. My professional career taught me how to investigate, analyze and write, it brought challenging opportunity that was highly creative and sometimes even fun. I was successful as fine art photographer and helped establish one of the most creative art spaces of its time. Even the past few years in Phoenix have been good. I became a radio host and spent time with old friends. Nothing wrong with Phoenix except that I no longer feel human in such a massive built up environment. Window Rock ruined me for big cities.

Window Rock did not prepare me for slug death.



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