When it comes to interior design, I don’t know what happened to my X chromosome. Through my front door is a minimalist zen utopia of smooth surfaces and dark, neutral colors. I hear the words “serene” and “spa” a lot when people stand on the threshold for the first time, looking around in wonder. One girl even blurted, “Where is everything?”
As my inner world distilled, so did the space around me. People accumulate so much crap, both mentally and physically, and I just got tired of dusting it all. That’s why I gave my television away years ago and don’t own a smartphone. Stop looking at me like that.
Once you become accustomed to this extraordinary level of visual calm, other people piss you off. Like unicorn hoarders and 40-somethings who collect stuffed animals and abuse glitter. If I am forced to enter a home like that for any reason, they’ll have about ten seconds to get to a safe place before I completely lose my shit. Adult women who live in a mental bubble of childish anachronisms just make my teeth itch.
You often can’t tell from her purse or her shoes what kind of LSD trip is waiting for you on the other side of a woman’s welcome mat. I’ve walked into living rooms that look like a twelve-year-old is insulating herself from a bomb threat with decorative pillows. I’ve sipped coffee in kitchens festooned with bows, lace, and other wildly unhygienic girly flourishes that nonetheless outgassed bacon grease and burnt popcorn. I’ve been forced to weave my way through a labyrinth of nonfunctional pastel furniture and dust-coated figurines on tiny shelves to reach a bathroom that looked like Walt Disney set off a scatter bomb. It’s hard to release sphincter when a four foot tall ceramic Mickey Mouse is grinning and pointing a golden wand at your privates.
That being said, I’ll admit I was squeeing like a tween at all the pretties on Memaloose Hills Trail last week.
The thing about wildflowers in the Columbia Gorge is that you have to hit it juuust right. You’ve got to time it with all the precision of an Army Ranger sniper to find the sweet spot when the balsamroots are glowing yellow, the paintbrush is blazing red, and the world-famous lupines are dripping down the hills like a purple paint ball skirmish. Today was that day.For a solo hiker, rolling up to a cool, calm trailhead parking lot at dawn and seeing a completely empty expanse of gravel is a level of bliss on par with finding the public restroom empty and recently serviced. (It’s those giant white rolls of virgin toilet paper that put it over the top.) The forecast predicted climbing mercury, so I dressed in layers: body lotion, sunscreen, and insect repellent. It’s the perfect foundation for a nice, filthy skin butter when you add the sweat and trail dust later on.Being the first hiker of the day carries certain responsibilities. You must sweep the entire length of the trail for cobwebs with your face while swearing. Also, you must set out in a jacket that looks psychotically inappropriate to everyone you pass on the way back down in the rising heat. Hey, they weren’t there for the nipple raising at dawn, they can just shut it. As trailblazer, you will enjoy silence and an unlimited selection of private peeing spots, a combo more soothing than kittens and Xanax.I met these two right off. I had no idea Propertius Duskywing butterflies and ringneck snakes were homies.
The rest of the bugs and serpents didn’t socialize, mostly because the latter were enormous. The two Western Yellow-bellied Racers I met were four and five feet long, respectively, and highly anti-social. I mean, we flirted but nothing came of it. They never called.
Lizards are more approachable, one swift grab and you can enjoy a hand-held encounter. Today, the heat sped them up until they zipped across the trail like cursors: I caught nobody. Rising temps have the opposite affect on me. Anything over 65° and I come to a screeching lawn-chair-and-iced-coffee halt. If you want to kidnap me, do it in August.
All the birds perched high and ignored everybody. Only a Pileated Woodpecker broke tradition and executed a cheeky fly by so violent I nearly wet myself. Then, he laughed, the handsome bastard. He probably knew all about me: I’m the one who’s been pining to see a Lazuli Bunting for years, not realizing every “bluebird” I’ve spotted since moving to Oregon was a freaking Lazuli Bunting. Damned Sibley’s.
The tiniest people I met were living in a gigantic hippy colony of absolute communism. See that dead tree? You can’t tell from a still photo but its entire surface is actually flickering in the sun like a glitter ball.
Other logs had cuter inhabitants with better outfits. What can I say? I’m biased in favor of fur. All four of these little guys moved pretty fast whenever anything lurched by. When you’re tasty, you’re quick, that’s the Law of Nature. I think it’s the 12th Law.
At this point, the ambient temperature was setting off warning bells in my skull: Get to shade! Get to shade! Get to shade! When you’re uber-Caucasian, you live by a different set of rules during the swimsuit season. You must reveal your pasty flesh to the sun gradually and with great care, like Gypsy Rose Lee in SPF 30. Failure to observe these guidelines yields unhappy evenings of laying naked in bed before an oscillating fan, your reddened carcass spackled from head to toe with vitamin E and aloe, watching 1970s game shows until your eyes bleed–Whoa, nasty flashback to those family trips to Florida!
I lingered as long as possible, absorbing the droning lullaby of sleepy crickets and the rustle of new leaves. There’s a spiritual euphoria in nature, as compelling as it is ubiquitous, that makes empaths want to bottle it and take it home. The closest I’ve come is pausing for long interludes and “soaking” like this, committing every sensory pleasure on the trail to memory on an emotional hard drive. Proof of its effectiveness is the fact that even now, typing in my cool office of polished wood and scrubbed walls, I can still smell the soft candy sweetness of those lupines in the warm wind.
Click twice and inhale.
May 15 & 19, 2017