Wednesday, February 10, 2010
how did this come about? let me back up. a couple of weeks ago, two newcomers to the state asked me what my favorite place in the coast range was, and why. (actually, that's not completely true. only one asked me. the other just mentioned the coast range in an offhand way, which i took as sufficient invitation to expound on the best places. so really there was only one direct solicitation.) the 'where' answer came easy - cascade head. the 'why' answer - well, i had to think about that. and i realized there were two reasons why - one, because it's just a beautiful place; what i think of as the absolute reason. the other is more personal - a relative reason.
in truth, i haven't been up here for years. a ridiculous number of years. and i've certainly had the chance. i've played tour guide for several groups in and around the area. and i always expound on how beautiful, how unique, how much i love cascade head - but i haven't come up here. it occurs to me now, walking through the quiet, that maybe, deep in some corner of my heart, i wanted a pilgrimage to this place and recognized that, for me, pilgrimages are best spent in solitude, not among a large chattering group. for once i don't want to share the memories i have of this place with anyone else, while i'm reliving them.
the interest in the grasslands is new and different - and yet still connected to memory. last week i had to track down the grassland plant communities on cascade head. these aren't detailed in the forest service guides to plant communities in the coast range. so i dug out my plants book and started flipping through.
now, my amateur botanist enthusiast career started in grade school, when a terrific teacher taught me how to press, identify, and mount plants. of course i started with the obvious, pretty, showy bunch - the wildflowers. since then, my affection has been focused on trees. but an odd thing happened the other week as i looked through the book. there were some it seemed i could remember, quite clearly. then, i found a phd dissertation written in 1984 for OSU's botany department classifying plant communities in coastal grasslands in oregon. eureka! his classification species jived exactly with what i picked out from the plant book. although i hadn't realized it, i was paying attention in this place i loved so much, all those years ago. in fact looking at the illustrations brought back a flood of memories - the feel of the downy panicles against my palms in spring, the soft feel of the fresh spruce growth, the sunshine so readily felt in the open area, the sound of the waves rising from a thousand feet below. again, some secret little corner of my heart was paying attention, was speaking to me. that's when i knew i had to get back out there.
except - and this is so key - except cascade head. how did it escape such association? was it because we always went in the daytime morning, before the scotch got flowing? i even flirted with the thought that my memory might be faulty, and i should verify this with my mom - but good lord, why would i ever seek out such a truth, if it existed? why would i ever willingly pawn off this place of good memories for just yet another, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum boring standard ordinary place of good/bad memories?