Oh, Spring, with its riot of bird song, the choir of frogs rising from the swamp, the sword ferns unfurling their upright Dr. Seuss fiddles. How can you not feel a pang of something like hope? In an act of supreme superstition, I am even going to pay my Pacific County property taxes.
In keeping with tradition, I bought new sunglasses at Ross so I could take this picture. My Ross is in a strip mall of wonders that include the laundromat, a liquor store, a Safeway, and more. I overheard a mom explaining to her young daughter, “Well, they don’t sell radios, and it’s not a shack.” On my way to the Safeway, a white-haired woman murmured to me in passing, “You adapt.” What info was my face leaking: cluelessness or sorrow?
Listen, if the coastal erosion that has proceeded on schedule for over 100 years wants to stop right about now, that would be ok. It’s perfect just like this. As my neighbor Resha put it, “Why would I want to be anywhere else?”
I can see the ocean from the screened aluminum window of my trailer. Cobwebs partially obscure my million-dollar view, despite tapping, snapping and Shop Vac-ing of the screen.
In my job as a gardener, I often work in Seattle’s fancy lakeside places. This notion that a view of the water could actually be mine is a terrible tease. A poor girl would like to get used to this.
I stand in my doorway, agape. I gave my huge, decomposing, collapsing trailer away and now my property is wide open as a prairie.
The sound! That rustle, whisper, roar. Or how about the light now, cobalt, backlighting the doomed trees, luminous in their fragile beauty. Why did I not truly appreciate these trees before? The instinct that led me to $500 in tree removal in the fall seems frivolous now, though it is nice they’re not falling on me. The remaining trees are in shapes of Bonzai, sculpted by wind, rare and remarkable.
Also toppling is the warren of beautiful sheds and outbuildings built by a man named Steve who died of cancer. I wish I had met this man, a true artist and master carpenter. The things he built out of beach logs, lumber, cedar and rope are breathtaking, with whimsical pieces of driftwood that look like animals. There were whale bones over the curved windows, like eyebrows. One of the sheds had a player piano in it. It seems like Steve knew how to live, while he lived.
For a time, it seemed as though Johnny Cash might B. Next, but now it seems it will be the house at the end of the street, across from Ray’s. “So, Ray,” I said, “You worried?”
The good news is that Chuy, Ray’s three-legged dog, is making a remarkable recovery. You can see it in his little amber eyes. He’s fine. We should all adapt so well.
Johnny Cash will not B. Next, but I would be here telling you ANOTHER story about poor defenseless animals meeting a terrible fate, were it not for the intervention of some excellent humans over the weekend. But let’s backtrack.
A couple years ago, Julia, my doctor friend, was visiting from Maine, a place where fireworks are illegal. She was keen to go to the rez, the Shoalwater Indian Reservation, and buy some fireworks. We strolled into Chief Charley’s, where she announced she’d like to buy $100 worth. They were happy to oblige, loading us up with lots of the bottle rockets and firecrackers that I despise, but also some big-ticket explosives known as “cakes”, with names like “Tidal Surge” and “Just Looking”.
One should really light these things on the beach, but my property was deemed conveniently closer in proximity to the beers in the fridge. Professional-grade explosives went rocketing up into the trees, twinkling in a terrifying shower of sparks. I began to protest, but pyromaniac doctors can be headstrong.
Suddenly, a booming baritone voice that sounded downright disinclined to hear any arguments roared loud as a firework through the night. “STOP LIGHTING THOSE GODDAMN FIREWORKS BEFORE YOU SET MY TREES ON FIRE!”
“Yes sir,” Julia said. After that, I came to refer to the owner of that disembodied voice as Johnny Cash. I suspect, though, that the original Man In Black was the cooler and nicer guy of the two.
Johnny Cash’s accomodations could be reasonably described as eccentric, with strange plastic-covered greenhouse-like outbuildings and a high number of cats, feral as wild animals. You know your stuff is crap when even looters don’t want it. With doom eminent, Johnny has relocated to another place, but left behind a sculpture installation of garbage for that great dump, the Pacific. Ah, the humanity of surveying another’s abandoned personal belongings!
Oh, and he also abandoned all those cats. Then my neighbor Craig started feeding the poor things. What a sweetheart, he doesn’t even have any pets. How much was all that cat food setting him back? “I buy it on sale,” he demurred.
So then Christy Roberts, who works at PAWS and Gray’s Harbor Spay/Neuter, coordinated with Craig to stop feeding them so they could trap the hungry cats Sunday morning. The traps are a box on a stick, connected to a string, which gets pulled once the cats start diving into the Fancy Feast. “Pretty simple,” Christy told me, “Like the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.”
In all, they caught 22 adult cats and four 10-day old kittens. Fourteen of the cats were pregnant females. Two more of the cats were caught today, Wednesday. One remains at large. You do the math.
The cats went off to Lynnwood, to be fixed, treated for injuries and respiratory ailments, and then were going to be rehomed in their new gigs as barn and shop cats around Gray’s Harbor. The volunteers had already found homes for them. Really, the whole thing lifted my heart, gave me new faith. A shout-out to these excellent human beings.
There’s a new book out by actor Frank Langella called Dropped Names, a memoir about the uncertainty of the actor’s life, the greats who preceded him in death “in order of disappearance”, and musings about what my friend Karl calls the “Fickle Finger of Fame.” Langella writes:
“The wilderness in which I wandered as a young boy, believing myself forever lost, never to reach a destination, I have now come to believe is precisely the place to be. There is no lasting comfort, it seems to me, in the safe landing. Better to stay in flight, take the next bus, relinquish control, trust in happenstance, and embrace impermanence.”