Friday, June 03, 2005

Place II

Place II (To Chris J. and Christopher (and Chris T. for being the first))
Friday, June 03, 2005

What happens when that wanderlust really does set in? The restlessness is here. The bitterness has begun. And I don’t know what to do about it.

For six months I have stayed. I have committed. I have loved this place.

After six months with one day’s notice to a friend I barely knew, I packed my bag, loaded my boats and drove north with a sense of urgency that was almost uncontainable. I needed to remind myself to not step so hard on the pedal as the pine trees of Nevada City abruptly changed to dry scrub down Highway 20. I glided, I flew; it was not driving – it was escaping silently with the wind.

For months it had been raining. The rivers in California were showing off in earnest. Perfect flows. And all I wanted to do was leave them all behind. I drove alone with the window down and my arm out the window to a place I hadn’t been to in over a decade to meet with people who would take me to a different place that I had never been – to a place where the water was running low; to a place I where I felt an apprehensive unease in visiting. I had the strong sense that I was trespassing where I was not quite wanted.

Hood River, Oregon has been on my mind for a while. The scenario was too similar to my first introduction to Nevada City for me to ignore it. Over the past few years I have been told by countless people that I should go to Hood River because I would love it. And like Nevada City, it took several years for me to follow those instructions. For this reason, I was apprehensive to go. I didn’t want the potential confusion of falling in love with it. I’m supposed to be in love with Nevada City.

In a whirlwind, week-long episode of recent extended phone conversations (now abruptly ended without warning – the voice I began to anticipate hearing has now been replaced by constant ingratiating busy signals), I had listened to detailed descriptions of the disdained 75 cent toll bridge spanning the Columbia River from Hood River to White Salmon, Washington; of the open landscape desired over closed ones such as Nevada City’s; of the White Salmon, Little White and Wind Rivers and their named rapids and runs; of the influx of water lovers – the kite boarders, wind surfers and kayakers – arriving for the summer; of a new sushi restaurant still being built that will probably have some real wasabi behind the counter at least for a little while. I listened carefully to the place being lovingly recreated for me over garbled wireless connections sometimes with yearning to see it myself and sometimes with irritated frustration because I, myself, do not have the desire to share something like the details of the bridge layout of Nevada County with someone over the phone. I realized I was jealous.

As I drove north I did not know if I would see the owner of the voice on the phone. I hadn’t informed him of my imminent arrival. Busy signals were, and still are, the only form of communication I receive. In Bend I learned he would not be there, producing simultaneous feelings of relief and disappointment. The voice would not be there in person to further shape my new experience of the place.

To my surprise, as soon as I saw that huge dam stifling the Columbia River at The Dalles, a different voice parked itself in my brain. This voice had named his second daughter after Celilo Falls, now silenced by the dams on the river. The owner of this voice had been compelled to swim the entire length of the Columbia to get to know it as intimately as possible. That dam made my jaw drop. The water behind it made me sputter unintelligibly. I am in awe of what you have done, Christopher.

The first voice was soon joined by a happier chattering voice that piped up every time we drove over the toll bridge – you’re right, it is a ridiculous bridge: it’s not paved, you can’t walk or ride a bike on it and you have to pay 75 cents every time you cross it. That voice kayaked the rivers draining into the Columbia with me, walked through town lodged in my brain, and had dinner in my head accompanied by an honest-to-god real jug band playing in a cafĂ© where the Where the Wild Things Are monsters and Max dance on the wall above the booths.

Now I have caught a glimpse of the importance of this place to my resident voices in my head. It’s not something that I can describe with words. It’s one of those things that just is. I left with reluctance. This evening I returned to Nevada City craving both of those voices to some day step out of my head and return to me again in the real world. I miss hearing them. As I let the same CD replay over and over three or four times, barely being conscious of it, I thought about both of you. I now have a greater appreciation and understanding of the thoughts you have shared with me. This place has moved me too. Thank you both for drawing me there.

Next time I will bring my camera. And perhaps my bed and kitchen table…

Special thanks to Courtney and Orion for physically bringing me to this special place that I now have a HUGE crush on.