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11 July, 2011

Pleading the 5th

The flag says the wind is waking on this 5th of July. The sole sign of the 4th is an over-stuffed trash can, visited now by a raccoon who nearly tricked me into missing sunrise, but this is all aftermath. I'll get back to it eventually.

A glow through the curtain crack told me it was after 4AM, when the sky near the Canadian border wakes and stretches, scratches at the dark, itching to become dawn. My family sleeps; I slip onto the balcony to see the shift. This is my church.

Above, the celestial blue is deep, but shallower than bottom, already less than the darkest our short Summer night offers. The horizon rolls out red as I stare out toward sea level, maybe 20 feet below my vantage and stretching for miles across the Strait.

Straight lines, but none of them able to withstand close examination. First and most obviously fallen: the horizon. A seismographic line of dark beneath the red, mountains pushed up by countless quakes, volcanic peaks like Baker and Glacier stand in for the big events, while mumbling multitudes remind me of the lesser but commoner rumblings that keep the Cascades rising.

Just above, lines between blood red and bled red, between the warm hues and blues. Infinitely many and fine lines. All straight in my pitiful little human view, but arched across the planet's fulsome curvature. And just where are the lines between redder, red, blue and bluer? I cannot pin them down, each dissolves color into colour, moving as unchecked as the rotation of our sphere through aeons, never to be delineated.

The water's surface, could I see it off in the dark distance at the foot of the rising Cascades, would be as straight as it gets. Pre-dawn calm, glassy smooth, perfect reflectory for the light show and the jagged silhouette of the mountains. But curving around the globe, warped by tides, and at any close view too cleaved and waked, blown splashed eddied and flaked to be truly straight for even a few feet. Water flows and will not be imprisoned by plane geometry, though for a crystalline moment it may let you squint and imagine mirrorine perfection, time unmoving.

Over the next hour, the calm is invaded as the approaching sun awakes winds. First, rifflets--islands forming. Then an archipelago. No white-top chop, not yet waves, really, no undulating horizon, but still the glass has shattered, letting me know that the flatlining peace of the un-dawned day is about to pulse to life and light. Before too long the meditative reflections have been swept away: the schooner's mast rippled apart, the seismograph of hills even more spastic, the stars and planets lost again.

Still, there are islands of calm. Lees maybe, or less romantically, sheens of oil or whatever was in last night's fireworks. But the way the wind blows and the tide flows, and these islands of calm remain, I suspect they are the deep waters running still. In and around one, a seal's head and wake sketch dances on the surface, then disappear. A pause, and then another dance. Neverlasting, never over. A fishing hole, maybe, some mystery known only from the underside.

Closer, in the thin strip by the strand, a raccoon mama emerges from the rip-rap and scrub-brush to investigate a trash can filled beyond capacity by last night's revelers. My eyes obey evolution and look. The tableau beyond, no matter how sublime, cannot compete with the creature. Like a fly crawling across a master's canvas, it demands attention, at least momentarily making the human eye follow motion and forget art.

But not for long. I've seen a grander motion already, and resolve to focus on it. From peaks left of the big mountain, shadow rays have shot subtly through the glow. Fanning darker into the lightening sky, lines of blue hue washing the warmer colors, paradoxical announcement of light soon to come. My eye rides them down to their center.

And in a bowl twixt peaks comes a brilliant green flash. More than a flash, a growing bubble, bursting finally into the yellow curve of the rising sun.

And day dawns.

Quickly the red draws itself on a line west, beyond my view. Maybe at my zenith, still there for the watchers beyond Tatoosh, but soon enough passing them as well, racing across the Pacific, chasing away stars and dragging up winds in its wake.

The sun stabs straight at me, as it always will over water. This low, the glaring orb remains attached to the long ellipse of the blade, and for the first time I see the sun's first reflection as a paddle, the sun a knob on the handle, slender Salish style, dipping into the sea. And so starts another journey.

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