It’s early in the season in the Northwest, so the countryside is not crowded. That’s good. But the weather hasn’t cleared up yet. That’s bad … for a potentially leaky roof. It’s a longer rhythm up here in the Northwest. The sun appears at 5:00 am and sticks around for 16 hours. Not only is there more rain, there’s more light. No wonder everything grows so green. I dashed from the North Oregon Coast, just ahead of the rain, and landed at Crescent Bar on the Columbia River. From there, I rode Alice over the spine of Washington, across the Cascade mountains. We stopped for a breather at Ponderosa Peak.
After crossing Washington State, I camped out at La Connor, near Anacortes and the San Juan Islands. Fifty years ago, as a freshman at UCLA, travelling with the rugby team, we took the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria on Vancouver Island. It was at sunrise. I was standing on the bow … the sharp light in the sky folding in and out of the clouds, the wind whipping off the water … I have never forgotten.
This time I took a ferry out to Friday Harbor, as far as I can go without crossing to Canada.
Boats are clearly a way of life in the San Juan Islands. The ferries carry hundreds of cars and trucks between the islands every day. The main cabin of the ferry has jigsaw puzzles laid out on some tables, so that shifts of passengers can work on them, taking for granted the spectacular display of the world around them.
The Puget Sound is beautiful here at La Connor. It is an Indian reservation. ‘Lone Tree’ is an ancient Douglas fir, broken in a storm 3 years ago, that has stood watch over the Swinomish lands for generations, guiding those who navigated this part of the bay.
This experience is the opposite of a city, like Los Angeles, where I lived as a young man. Richard Feynman, the eminent scientist, liked to say that there is always another way to see anything and that being able to see things in another way was important to understanding the universe. As a boy, in Darwin, I hung out at the beach all the time and set my schedule by the tides. Then I went to school in the city and forgot all about it.
Here, at the edge of Puget Sound, I can see the flow change direction again. I don’t see how the native tribe could not believe that they belonged to Nature and owed everything to her. Back then, what happened, happened. There were no contradictions. There was nothing to worry about. They were home.