I think one of my favorite things about being a writer—or more accurately, living my life with a side-brain that’s always assembling words like a ticker along the bottom of my perceptual screen—is the constant mental stretch to describe. I’m not sure if other writers or artists feel this way (I suspect they do, because why else would one paint the same scene over and over again?), but I think the most pleasurable and maddening of this reaching occurs in contemplation of familiar views.
Today, the creek that fascinates me daily is a bright, chlorinated green color—it seems to have drained all the light from the sky to whip itself into small and glittering peaked waves. By its edges, tall, bleached reed fronds higher than my waist sway: straw on jade. A storm is coming; everything else has closed in with a sense of knitting darkness, and this is the last play, the last dazzle. The reeds put me in mind of nothing so much as the bulrushes in the story of Moses’ escape as a baby, and I am amazed that at this remove of years, I can now understand just how they were at the riverbank, and how they might have been wended into something strong enough to bear the weight of a singular, preciously heavy child. Until today, I could never picture it: I grew up in a place where we couldn’t count on nature to obey or assist.
There have been mornings of piercing blue stillness, the water drawing in the colors of the bank and muddling them up like the haphazard clouds of a painter’s palette. Everything lucid and smooth, but not like glass—like something that I’ve been waiting to describe, and haven’t yet. It’s a poured, liquid mirror, flawed in places, nubbed in places. Roundabout, and then what have I done but only describe water again? Here is where the stretch occurs: at this point.
As it is autumn, most mornings I see are a high, clear amber—the mystery of the dawn already scattered and thrown out to the balding hills behind, gold thickening in the middle of the stream. But sometimes I have surprised it: pre-dawn and moon-lapped, silver-branched. Reluctant and heavy with mist, verdure in place of arid; English in place of West. I can understand how everything in this world can impersonate everything else. I can understand how the same view ripens within its own story and exists wholly apart from it: only to be formed, only to be made anew by my own assignations. I forever alight in this in-between place of trying to forge a truth with words, and trying only to touch off, spinning upwards into whatever can be spun and fabricated into facsimile.
It’s the ocean of the Pacific Northwest; light cleaving through stone; and it’s also everywhere I’ve been or imagined or read or re-imagined. It is the constant reach for metaphor: the constant tug to locate a word and a narrative. It is work that never finishes, because it isn’t precisely work at all. It’s simply my lucky way to experience the world. Simply the best part about being alive.