When it comes to style, I don’t know what happened to my X chromosome. My house is a minimalist zen utopia of smooth surfaces and dark, neutral colors. Everything is stylishly utilitarian and there’s an overabundance of space and clean. People use the words “retreat,” and “serene” when they stand on the threshold for the first time, looking around in wonder. One girl even blurted, “Where is everything?” Well, what else do I need? People accumulate so much crap, both mentally and physically, I just got tired of dusting it all. As your inner world distills, so should the space around you. That’s why I gave my television away years ago and don’t own a smartphone. Stop looking at me like that.
The hitch being that now that I’ve become accustomed to this extraordinary level of visual calm, other people’s houses piss me off.
For instance, the 40-something girly-girl who collects stuffed animals and abuses glitter. If I am forced to enter a home like that for any reason, she’ll have about ten seconds to get to a safe place because I will 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 Malibu Barbie LSD trip is waiting for you on the other side of her front door. I’ve witnessed living rooms that look like a twelve-year-old is insulating herself from a bomb threat with mismatched decorative pillows. I’ve drunk coffee in kitchens festooned with bows, lace, and other wildly unhygienic feminine flourishes that all wreaked of 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 in it. It’s hard to release your sphincter when a ceramic Mickey Mouse is grinning and pointing a wand at your privates. There were scented matches on the back of the Pepto-Bismol-pink toilet; believe me when I say I had to repress a few incendiary ideas.
That being said, I’ll admit I was giggling with pleasure 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 party. Monday was that day.
[Full disclosure: I was so enamored with this place, I went back on Friday, too, so this is actually a photographic two-fer but I ain’t tellin’ which ones are which and that will be the closest I ever come to mismatched throw pillows. Vomit.]The weather was perfect and the location pristine. For a hiker, rolling up to a cool, calm trailhead parking lot at dawn and seeing a completely empty expanse of gravel to choose from 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 was for clear skies and climbing mercury, so I dressed in layers: body lotion, sunscreen, and insect repellent. It’s the perfect foundation to start a nice, filthy skin butter later on when you add the 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 guaranteed private peeing spots, a combo more potent than kittens and Xanax.But the best part by far is the fauna–we’re talking Disneyesque levels of woodland creatures, here. I couldn’t have conjured a larger gathering if I smeared honey on my boobs and burst into “Whistle While You Work.” Okay, let’s move on.
The rest of the fritillaries and serpents didn’t socialize, probably 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, okay, we flirted but nothing came of it. They never called.
Lizards are more approachable–just move at a glacial pace while pretending to look at something else, then execute a swift grab to produce the coveted hand-held encounter. However, I wasn’t fast enough today. The heat sped them up until they zipped across the trail like cursors. Rising temps have the opposite affect on me; anything over 61° slows me down until I come to a screeching lawn-chair-and-iced-coffee halt. If you ever want to kidnap me, do it in August.
All the birds perched high and ignored everybody. Sure, they kept a running commentary on who was close, who was closer, and who was dangerously in need of a pecking but they did it with such unaffected nonchalance. 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 the photo but its entire surface is actually flickering and flashing 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 large lurched by. When you’re tasty, you’re quick, that’s the Law of Nature. I think it’s the 12th Law. The 5th Law is “Mom will rip your face off if you come near her brood,” but the 12th Law kinda cancels that out, especially when Mom weighs less than a coffee cup.
By this point, the ambient temperature was setting off warning bells in my skull: 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 30. Sudden moves along these lines only yield unhappy weekends of laying in bed before an oscillating fan, your reddened carcass spackled from head to toe with vitamin E and aloe, watching 70s game shows until your eyes bleed. Did I mention our family trips to Florida?
I lingered as long as I dared, absorbing the droning lullaby of sleepy crickets and the rustle of spring’s bright green leaves. There’s a powerful joy in nature, as compelling as it is ubiquitous, that makes one wish to bottle it and take it home. The closest I’ve come is pausing for long interludes and “soaking”–committing every sensory pleasure on the trail to memory like an emotional hard drive. Proof of its effectiveness is the fact that even now, typing in my utilitarian office of dark wood and bare walls, I can still smell the soft candy sweetness of those lupines.
Yes, my darlings, that’s a monster pano. Click twice and inhale.
May 15 & 19, 2017