Wednesday, September 1, 2010

everything is temporary

one of the nicest things about getting to know a place is that you can see when it changes.

sometimes change is good; sometimes, not so good. but i love both the excitement of the new and the mourning of what's lost.

i am irrationally attached to the place i grew up. not just to the overall place, but very specific places within it. streets. vistas. particular doorways or parking lots. specific trails and woods and beach cliffs.

one of my friends will occasionally post on facebook just a name - a name of a place that used to be there, that no longer exists. and everyone from there will leap in with other names, places we remember, places we wish were still there, places that frightened us as kids, places that we frequented as teenagers.

when you grow up in a place, change happens so slowly that you hardly realize what all is gone. it's the accumulated loss, from a perspective 20 years out, that is striking. how interesting it is to see what others remember, that i don't. and how the memories come flooding back, when that list starts getting created!

i don't know olympic national park well. i've only been there a handful of times. but we just got back from backpacking there, in exactly the same place we went last year. and it was astounding and awesome to be able to realize, in a very specific way, exactly what had changed over the year.

last year, kalaloch beach was covered in driftwood. and not just any driftwood. huge, monster, old temperate rainforest sitka spruce driftwood. the logs, several feet in diameter, polished to a grey smoothness, often still with giant root stubs attached, covered the first twenty or so feet of beach from the land. we scrambled up and over them, climbed all around, marveled at their length and girth. they were jumbled together like so many pick-up-sticks, crossing over each other, balancing on each other.

we marveled at the force that brought them miles downstream, out into the ocean, and back onto the beach. each looked as heavy and as permanent as any human construction. logs six, seven, ten feet wide and fifty feet long? they were clearly not going anywhere anytime soon.

except, they were. this year, the beach was almost empty of logs. all that mass, all that volume, all that weight, somehow during the course of the year, simply picked up, and swept away.

last year we camped at a bend in the river a few miles in. there, the river channel spread out and we were near some calm pools on a side channel. the main channel was across a gravel bar, out of sight and out of mind. 

this year, the entire river was in the main channel. those calm pools and side channels we were fishing in last year were expanses of gravel and silt, that we happily pitched out tents on. the main river was in one simple, fast moving channel and in twelve short months it had completely changed course. 

a few miles down the trail from us were a pair of backpackers who've been coming to this river for 50 years. when the road washed out, they biked in. sometimes they walked in. they'd been here in fall, when the initial ford was impassable, when they rowed in by boat. they'd been here when the only way to get here was on unmarked forest service roads, before the national park began routing people along this upper valley road. i wonder if they sometimes sit around like my friends and i, naming features and landmarks that no longer exist. i wonder if they remember when there was no himalaya berry in the meadow. when the large doug-fir still had its top. when there were more bears, and less people. 

i can love this beach, or my hometown, for what it is, but it will never be again exactly what it is now. everything is temporary. 

1 comment:

  1. interesting take. i think everyone looks for what makes their little places in life unique and that's what is remembered even when they fade away. it's amazing how temporary everything really is. thanks.