Saturday, September 13, 2008

Not My Cousin’s Kayak

This one was a rental which meant that Maggie had one, also. We put in at Boston Harbor, about six miles north of Olympia on a foggy morning. Our plan was to head back toward town about a mile to explore Gull Harbor, a small cove we’d seen in July when we kayaked from town with the Capitol Land Trust. That trip didn’t offer much time to explore very far in so we wanted to come back. Today we did.

Well, not quite. At the marina we learned that the tide was almost at low ebb which meant not much access back into Gull Harbor. Even more telling, the tide would turn in about two hours, and we’d be returning against a strong surge. We wisely went the other direction, following the last of the ebb tide so we could ride back with the returning tide. Like a tailwind on a bicycle.

The change in no way diminished the trip. A harbor seal watched us as we walked down the dock to get our boats and gear. The morning was gray and cool but the sun was beginning to burn off the fog as we paddled out. The marina is home to some interesting craft, including a double masted square rigged sailboat and some ponderous older large craft. One looked like it may have been a yacht at one time but has long since been a working vessel. In the shallows we saw starfish, hundreds of them in all sizes. I lost count of the many herons we spotted.

As predicted, the sun came out and the day was bright, pleasant and still cool. We paddled along the shore, checking out the many houses and private beaches. The other view was open water across Budd Inlet. Houses on the far side, too, but the open sky and water diminished the human presence somewhat. This is no wilderness but it is calm and peaceful this time of day. Along shore, jets of water spurted from the tidal flats. Clams, I think, filtering water. Some of the jets were pretty impressive, maybe 12 inches or more.

As the day brightened clouds in the distance began breaking up. The high peaks of the Olympic Mountains came into view amidst the clouds. It didn’t take long for the clouds to completely give way to a jagged horizon beyond the near islands. We pulled in for lunch by a small creek near the remains of an old pier and watched the traffic on the water. Some fishers trolled past. Farther out, weekend sailors headed north to the main channels of Puget Sound. These are the last fine days of summer here in the Northwest. I’m pleased to have made it out on th water at least one more time before the wet, cool weather set in.

This has been a curious year for me in that I’ve been to the back country not at all. I’ve not slept in a tent in over a year. Still, I don’t feel like year has been at all disappointing. Living in Olympia has been adventure in itself; I’ve found so much to explore and give me wonder. And to tell the truth, I don’t miss sleeping in a tent too much; I’m quite fond of my comfortable bed.

Today’s trip reminds me that I have much yet to experience. Gull Harbor is still out there.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

11 September 2002

On the first anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, I hiked from Bemis Mountain to Sabbath Day Pond in Maine with my partners, Red and Gary. Not long after crossing Route 17 rain started to fall and then to fall even harder. We moved as fast as we could, hoping to reach the shelter at Sabbath Pond and get out from all this rain, pulling in around mid-day. The rain kept falling and it soon became obvious that we weren't going to walk any more that day. We pulled out our sleeping pads, bags and warm clothing and settled in for a leisurely afternoon in the dark Maine woods.

The events of the year before had been on my mind now and again during the preceding days. Most mornings around 9:00 I thought about the attacks and the dead. As I did so, I marveled that I was still alive to hike. After all, no good reason other than luck and circumstance separated me from the dead, or them from me. But here I was, alive and well, experiencing the adventure of a lifetime while the victims were dead and their families mourned their losses. Somehow that didn't seem right.

Not long after we'd hunkered down, another hiker, Rocky Top, came in from the rain. We'd met him in Virginia way back in May but mostly saw him in passing. Rocky Top was mostly a fleeting presence throughout the intervening miles, mostly through stories and comments in shelter register, but a presence nonetheless. As the only African-American on the trail and 6'3" he was hard to miss when he was in the vicinity. Today, though, it was just the four of us, sharing stories about the previous five months' adventure.

The day was dark and wet. Rain fell off and on throughout the afternoon as the wind blew fall leaves across the forest floor. But for this hiker, the afternoon was every reason to be alive and savor this world and the company of friends while I could. That was the lesson I brought from the attack--all those people left unfinished business: arguments not resolved, loved ones not kissed and so many other things that we always expect to do later. And then later never comes.

I guess the lessons from that day are legion, many profound and heartfelt, more so than my scattered thoughts. But in recognizing the importance of Now, I opened myself to infinite possibilities.


The following day we walked into Rangely, Maine to re-supply. I saw a front page photo of the previous day's memorial at Ground Zero. George W. and Laura walked in solitary solemnity across a vast space surrounded by a guard of honor. It looked like something out of a Leni Riefenstahl film.

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The Other 9-11

Thirty-five years ago an American supported military coup overthrew a democratically elected government. Over 3,000 Chileans, including President Salvador Allende died in the coup and its brutal aftermath.


11 September 2008

Danny Schmidt says it all.

It was silent in Manhattan when the mountains tumbled down
With waves of dust that scoured the streets 'til words themselves were drowned
It’s a book of moving Polaroids: Jumpers jump and eyeballs bleed.
A trail of tears to Jersey. The skyline on her knees.
It’s already done.

There’s a hole in Pennsylvania where the White House might've been
Cause bad men learned to fly grenades but good ones pulled the pin
And the Allegheny sings her prayers, a heroes' mass, a single grave
Confetti ‘cross the forest marks the ticker-tape parade.
It’s already done.

Well I guess I never really understood the rules of war
And who exactly it’s ok, or not, to go and burn
Terror flies it’s flag up high -- this side white and that side black
But terror’s just the timing -- who kicked first, and who kicked back
It’s already done.

If there was hope down in the rubble I’d hoped that it was this
That in our vulnerability we’d open up our fists
And lay hands upon the ruined and lay wrench upon the come unfixed
And though we cannot heal them we shall see no more get sick
It’s already done.

Already done when I heard “less than human” come from the lips of our president
Already done when I heard some guy shot some guy right through his turbaned head
Already done when I heard eyes for eyes might somehow help us find our dead
It’s already done when I heard our boys say the same words their boys said.

If you’re gonna fly your flag my friend be mindful how it’s made
And see it’s got six billion stars and stripes of every shade
And hang it in the door frame until the door itself’s repaired
'Til all the grieving’s come its course and there’s no one left that’s scared


Monday, September 08, 2008

Arllington Northwest 2008

Yesterday, I joined other Veterans For Peace in placing 4,155 headstones for the Arlington Northwest Memorial here in Olympia. Set up took 30 volunteers about five hours on a bright sunny Sunday. I'd never seen this kind of installation before and was amazed at its impact. Even the local paper, no friend of progressive thought here in Olympia, carried a thoughtful article about the event. Many photos can be found at OlyBlog.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Simple Pictures

As repetitive and disheartening as it is, I still read the news. Sometimes I find information that encourages me but mostly, I am curious about what is happening all around me. In that endeavor, I came across "Unseen Iraq" in the Washington Post. Photographer Andrea Bruce presents--literally--snapshots of daily life in Iraq. One image and the story behind it. The combination of a single photo and a few words tells more about life under occupation than all the chattering heads and experts combined.