Mount Baker, WA. Photo by Roxy.
It’s January 2007, and the snows, floods, and winds that enveloped, soaked, and crushed so many lives in Washington state over the past few months, are still evidenced in the surrounding countryside. Roads heavy with commuter traffic and exhaust fumes are lined with broken limbs, fences, and downed trees. Farmers’ fields have turned into mini lakes where ducks paddle and grey herons stalk,–what?
When the rain provides a welcome reprieve, I gaze out at leafless trees, wet black against the grey sky. The sound of traffic from Interstate 5, five miles away, faintly drones in the background, and I try to imagine it is the distant sound of ocean waves crashing against the shoreline. For a brief moment, I feel at peace hearing only nature. Then a train passes and a truck rumbles by on a nearby road, and my senses come crashing back to the reality of life here on the west side of the Cascades.
On clear days or days with high cloud cover, the eye can see the jagged peaks of the Cascade Mountains to the east. Mount Baker rises like a sentry watching over its clan, and my eyes linger, dreaming of high mountain lakes, peaceful trails winding through lush valleys, and wildlife watching from the depths of old growth trees. To the south Mount Rainier dominates the landscape, its mass looms like a sleeping giant, and all those who dwell at its feet try to forget that the giant could awaken any time.
Further west lay the islands, each one slowly moving toward or away from the mainland as the earth’s bowels rumble and slide, rock gliding over rock, subduction re-shaping the maps drawn by man. Thoughts of the ocean rising from melting ice in Alaska and flooding those peaceful bays exist in each resident’s mind. However, the possibility of those calm waters turning into a 60-foot raging wall is a more imminent threat. The Straight of Juan De Fuca lies open to the Pacific Ocean, and a fault line travels down the middle of it. I hope the tsunami does not happen while the whales are migrating, there are too few of them left.
To the north lies the border of Canada, from which rise the Canadian Rockies. I hear that Canada has its own problems with pollution, logging, and over-population. Even farther north lays Alaska, where there is one square mile of land for each resident.
Here in the northwestern-most corner of the lower forty-eight, I have tried to find a peaceful place to walk. A place where the noise and car fumes, traffic, horns, sirens, and people chatter: trains, music, big toys, and other cacophony created by man, do not exist. Even in the foothills, (if I brave them and refuse to allow the fear of stumbling upon a methamphetamine lab to take over), the sound of silence cannot be found.
Between the mountains and Puget Sound, every inch of land has turned industrial and been destroyed by man. Roads, towns, farms, and railways cover each acre. Where small stands of second or third-growth forests lay, there is evidence that man has stripped it of its natural life force. Huge old tree stumps, thorns, foreign weeds and other invasive plants choke the understory so heavily, that wildlife cannot pass through, and the forest’s original beauty is lost.
Here there is no sanctuary for a human soul seeking serenity. No place to walk and hear only birds, no place the deer can graze peacefully away from the dangers of traffic, no reprieve from the hustle of a 21st Century life. No escape from the insanity… it has all been ruined, and the black sprawl of human greed continues to engulf the land at an astonishing rate. Like a deadly black mold, it grows in volumes, sending out its toxic fumes and killing as it goes. There is no hope for repair, not a thousand years, or two thousand years can undo the damage that man has done.
My soul craves something it cannot find here, it cries for the wilderness that once was this land, a mere 200 years ago.
Roxy Whalley ~ January 7, 2007
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