Beauty of Memaloosian Proportions

My home is a minimalist utopia of smooth surfaces and neutral colors, I hear the word “Zen” a lot when people stand on the threshold for the first time. One girl even blurted, “Where is everything?”

I explained to her that people accumulate so much crap, mentally and physically, that 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 such an extraordinary level of visual calm, other people piss you off. Like when I’m forced to weave my way through a labyrinth of nonfunctional pastel furniture and dust-coated figurines to reach a guest bathroom that looks like Walt Disney projectile vomited the wallpaper. Homeowners like that have about ten seconds to get to a safe place before I completely lose my shit. Adults who live in a mental bubble of childish anachronisms make my teeth itch.

That being said, I’ll admit I was squeeing like a tween at the riot of 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 two hundred cans of semi-gloss. Today was that day.For a solo hiker, rolling up to an empty trailhead parking lot at dawn is a level of bliss on par with finding a public restroom unoccupied and recently serviced. (It’s those giant virgin rolls of 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 later when you add sweat and trail dust.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, especially after that triple shot Americano on the drive up.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. 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 typically more approachable–one swift grab and you can enjoy a hand-held encounter. Today, however, the heat sped them up until they zipped across the trail like cursors, so I caught no one. 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 flickering in the sun like a glitter ball.

The bark is moving.

They’re all naked! It’s like Burning Man with three times the legs!

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 swimsuit season. You must reveal your pasty flesh to the sun gradually and with great care, like Gypsy Rose Lee in SPF 45. 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 crickets and the delicate rustle of new leaves. There’s a spiritual euphoria in nature, compelling and constant, that makes empaths want to bottle it and take it home to sniff. I like pausing and “soaking” like this, downloading every sensory memory to an emotional hard drive. Proof of its efficacy is the fact that even now, typing in my office of polished wood and Zen surfaces, I can still smell the soft candy sweetness of those lupines in the warm wind.

Right-click on this photo, select “Open link in new tab,” and then click once again to zoom in on a monster panorama.

May 15 & 19, 2017