Once I found myself wandering through the streets of Bruges, a small lace making city in Belgium. I walked along canals and old buildings. I began to cry.
“Why can’t all cities be this beautiful?”, I kept asking myself. “Why can’t every city be a Bruges, or a Paris or a London?”
I’ve always been attracted to beauty…but not the runway, highly stylized and magazine-perfect beauty of Barbie Dolls and Supermodels. No, what attracted me were the little quirks and gestures of my teenage girl friends and later, the women I dated.
I was sitting at the faculty lunch table of the school where I last taught. The talk was about the senior girls.
A female science teacher mentioned a student of hers named Karyn.
“Everyone teases her,” she said. “And to be honest, if I were her age again, I would be among those teasing her.”
I was startled.
“She drives me crazy with her blinking.” the teacher said.
I had taught Karyn two years earlier, in the 6th Grade.
I expressed shock that a teacher would find a mannerism like blinking so off-putting.
“Well, if I were her age, I would probably have a crush on her,” I said to the table of silent teachers.
“But the blinking?”
“Yeah, but I would find that endearing about her,” I said.
The teachers kept silent…hopefully thinking about what they had said about the blinking Karyn.
My girlfriends always had something different about them. Some little indescribable tick or something that made them less than “perfect”, less of a Prom Queen, but more of a girl-next-door.
I am going to make a major conceptual leap in this post.
I’ve driven over 4200 miles on my journey to Orting. Now I’m on my way back home. At this moment, 6:34 Pacific Daylight Time (PM) I am at an RV camp that appeared in the middle of the mountains leading to Crater Lake. Yes, it appeared. It wasn’t on the map or my guide to RV campgrounds. Just when I was growing very tired of the car, there was the sign for the Last Chance RV park. We’re somewhere in the Rogue-Umpqua National Forest. There are mountains with slopes as steep as building facades all around us. The evergreen trees bring the twilight into this little valley quite early. I’m going to wait up for the rising of the Full Moon…it’ll be awhile because the horizon I saw on the Plains is not here. Only the dark steep slopes of these beautiful mountains. This is Bigfoot land. And, I can almost understand why such a beast (I’m not necessarily a believer) would choose to lose itself in these heavy forests like these.
Which brings me back to thinking about what I’ve seen and learned about this country (the whole country as seen from my selected route)…and to beauty.
I expected some rough edges along the trip. That’s the way of nature. But the way of humans is something that is troubling to me. In an unclothed situation, a woman…a real woman…will have blemishes. Those little quirks that attract me. The imperfections that shouldn’t be airbrushed away. But the landscape I’ve seen is unclothed as well and the blemishes are glaring. This land, once home to the First People, passed on to the developers and it never left their hands. Entire mountain tops are scraped away for coal. I expected much of this, but the pure expanse of raped earth left me shaken.
Then I got to the Pacific Northwest, another haven for Bigfoot and another place where the unspoiled skylines of foothills show the scars of clear-cutting. Trees unimaginably ancient have been cut away leaving patches of bare earth, like a drunken barber might attack a three-year old beard.
Again, I found myself near tears. But now my question was why can’t things be left alone? All cities can’t be Bruges but do we really NEED to cut, split, saw and stack this precious old wood on the shelves of every Home Depot in the country?
A naked surface can be a wonder to gaze on. But a forest without trees is problematic.
The Oregon Coast.
Clear-cutting on the Olympic Peninsula.
A tree covered mountain with something missing on the left.