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14 March, 2011

Blessed be the Falls

I escaped the Palouse the day before the winds whipped up.

Which is a good thing, as any veteran of the winds there can tell you. Me? I've only been there once, yet I now have the gall to write about it. 

Hills blown down round, no one of them anything big by northwest standards, but still dwarfing the hell out of any human, who can only clamber up to see another horizon, same but different. Outside of riverine unfurlings, the land in summer was hot and dry, in winter frozen solid. Many's the homestead begun well that has dried up, reduced to a smudge on the landscape, a rickety thicket of locust and boards.

The tribes knew when the time was to go dig roots or find a herd, and made their way through this land of loess on trails connecting hundreds of generations. A 160 acre homestead turned out not to be a going concern, but wheat farming on a massive scale seems to be working out, vineyards are moving in, and the land is tattooed with furrows and fencelines. This too shall pass, but it will take a while to completely erase.

The Palouse River cuts through this country, and there's a state park there where you can see a big waterfall, the whole volume of the river chuting through a deep notch near one bank. Coming up from the Columbia and Snake, it's a relief to see a river wild, flowing free, dropping over geology, not a spillway. The falls arc down in a white stream onto a pool hugged by cliffs, a hole in the landscape. Away from the froth, the water is shady and protected from whatever winds may be whipping about up top. Naturally, the pool has a uterine shape.

So of course I have this desire to go down there, but marmot warriors guard the place. Fiercer than the rabbit in Monty Python's Holy Grail. One charged up and gave me a good chattering. I backed down.

Even from behind the fence, the falls roar calls a smile to my face. Mist-fed ferns and mosses soft on walls, embracing falls surging into a ray of sun before thundering down deep in the shadow. Fecundity, guarded by marmots,...who I will eventually outsmart.


1 comment:

  1. I wrote about water not long ago - the young girl is riding to her mother's birthplace, and thinks to herself: when I go home, I will smell it as if for the first time. She is brought to think this by an encounter with the river in her uncle's city, the way it stinks, but comfortably, like a beloved dog does - not unpleasantly. Yet it is to her wholly new and unfamiliar, so she is fascinated by the smell of a landscape part of her blood was mixed in. And she recognizes how perfumed her own home city is, both artificially and with its own nature.