Summer in Cascadia
Drink deep from the well
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Summer in Cascadia is as good as it gets.
It’s a magical season, enhanced by the ephemeral nature of fields of luscious flowers, warm nights and other delights that are defined (and enhanced) by their impermanence. A brief interlude of perfect satori, a momentary exception to the well-established status quo of long months of rain, darkness and glowering skies. It is the exception that proves the rule.
As each year passes, I find myself ever more aware of the preciousness of these golden days. The end of summer, never more than a handful of weeks away, sends us a message about the inexorable passing of time that gets more difficult to ignore with each rotation around the sun. Best to pay attention and make hay while the sun shines.
These days (and nights) are far too valuable to squander—we must be brave and deploy that “out of office” auto-response and get out there. It’s so easy to get caught up in being busy. Our lives are brimming with deadlines, tasks, rules and alerts.
Give yourself a midsummer’s eve gift and turn everything off. Shuck the routine, if only for a few hours. It is summer in Cascadia. We must drink deep from the well.
Grab what we used to call a rucksack, stuff it with some essentials: water, sunscreen, reading material, art supplies. Take the road less travelled. If you can’t find that with your GPS, take the Mt. Baker Highway and look for dirt roads. The more potholes, the better. Get lost (but make sure that you can find yourself again).
Prioritize visits to the delicate and special places that see only the briefest flicker of summer in the high country of our mothering North Cascades. The shorter the season, the sweeter the nectar. Skyline Divide. Heliotrope Ridge, Chain Lakes, Ptarmigan Ridge. In this rarified alpine air, the season unfolds like a time-lapse video. Every day is different. Every day is beautiful.
The wildflower bloom, now upon us, is our Cascadia Mardi Gras, exhilarating and intoxicating. The glacier lily, lupine, paintbrush, phlox, penstemon and (my personal favorite) monkey flower join dozens of others in weaving a carpet of botanical luminescence beneath the black peaks and blue sky. Patches of snow lend a chiaroscuro to the high country and remind us of the winter, always waiting in the wings.
Don’t neglect the Salish Sea. The summer sun sparkles on its exuberant waters. The sandstone artistry of the San Juan Islands and the Chuckanut Coast are much better than anything on television
Want high definition? Check out the shadows on the cliffs at Clayton Beach on a languid summer evening.
And by all means, get wet. Lake Whatcom is a pleasing place to submerge yourself. The Nooksack River will carry you downstream in its own sweet time.
And, if you can finagle it, position yourself flat on your back in the deep hours of evening, away from the humming lights, beneath a tabernacle of stars that reveals a much bigger picture than the crisis of the day.
The best advice in human history: Be here now.
Bucket loads of adventure
As a reward for our most recent round of laborious trail improvements at his hard-rock mine in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, our supervisor invited Uncle Don and me to spend a “leisurely” weekend gold panning on his placer claim.
Although it was hardly the chartered…
Of time and tides
“Unless we are willing to encourage our children to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world, we can’t expect them to help protect and care for it.”
No matter what age I am, being around for low tide continues to be akin to witnessing one of the best magic tricks…
Treasure hunting at the steam and tractor show
For most of the year, my lady’s father is content to abide at his rustic Lummi Island abode. At 82 years young, he prides himself on cultivating a low-key archipelagic lifestyle.
Holding court over the Scrabble board, tending the multitudinous bird feeders on his deck and commiserating…