Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Battle Ground

3:00 a.m.: I haven't slept. Outside, the moon glares on the new white paint of the south wall. Something trips the motion sensors and the lights go on in the front yard. Kiki, possibly; possibly raccoons. After a few minutes, the lights go out again, and once again the only light – the only thing I can see, except the gleam of my fingers as I type – is my laptop screen.

I hear two clocks ticking, and the refrigerator fan, and a faint sound like a jet engine building up on a runway. I don't know what that is. The loudest sound is that of my tinnitus, floating by my ears like a oversized, melodic, silver mosquito. I miss the tumble of the sea.

My hands smell of apple, and behind that there's even still a faint tang they picked up from the rock at Lucia Falls, up on the east fork of the Lewis River. Smooth gray rock, curved and twisted: shaped like soft ice cream when it comes out of the machine at Dairy Queen. It's all bare: not a bit of soil. Only the green water rushing through narrow channels, or settling in deep pools. Where it falls over a lip of stone, you can see, through a glassy wall of water, the foam-bubbles forming. When the water strikes, they'll be released to the surface: for the moment, though, they're trapped between the water and the rock, and are carried down, willy-nilly, to the splash pools.

Signs forbade water contact, lest the salmon be disturbed or confused on their way upstream. Perhaps that's why no one was there. Or perhaps it's just too late in the year: beautiful though the weather is, people have put away the things of summer, and they don't even think of it. At any rate, we had the park to ourselves: just stone and water and red light slanting through the hemlocks. A bloody sun to remind us of the wildfires burning on the other side of the mountains.

We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant in the small and pleasant town of Battle Ground – which is named after a battle with the Klickitats which was expected, but never happened. There was war with the Yakimas, so the Klickitats up the Lewis River – who so far as I can tell had nothing to do with it – were rounded up and interned at Fort Vancouver. Some of them escaped: a detachment of soldiers went after them and talked them into coming back. On their return, the settlers were disappointed that there hadn't been a battle, and they took to referring to the place where they met, derisively, as “Battle ground.” And Battle Ground it is to this day. I'm glad the soldiers didn't gratuitously murder the Klickitats for the heinous crime of wanting to sleep in their own beds, but the disappointment leaves a sour taste. And there's the bizarre fact, protruding awkwardly from all accounts, that Chief Umtuch was “accidentally” killed during the encounter. Accidents do happen, of course, especially when lots of jumpy untrained people are toting guns around. But one wonders.

Anyway. Our waitress was clearly a native speaker of Spanish, and I confused her by pronouncing “chile verde” in what I fondly imagined to be Spanish fashion. I switched to “chilly vairdy” and got on better. The food was cheap and good. When I was young, the food that got passed off as Mexican in such places was awful, but it's getting so that if you want a decent cheap meal in the rural Northwest, your best bet is the Mexican restaurants, the ones that the Mexicans themselves frequent. The Anglos out in the sticks seem to have forgotten how to cook.

It was a good day. But I'm worried about a friend, who spent the day, not clambering around on the rocks of the Lewis River, but anesthetized upon a table, with worried surgeons trying to understand the nature and extent of her tumors. All day I dropped into prayers from time to time, and I seem to have fretted restlessly through most of the night. It's morning now, a bright and beautiful Fall morning. No certain or reassuring news.


Patry Francis said...

Praying with you, Dale.

Deb said...


Dale said...

Thanks, dear friends!

Steven Cain said...

Sorry to hear about your friend... hope all is well.

Sabine said...

My hopes for your friend.
I do love the melodic mosquito. Come to think of it, there's one or two here as well.

Dale said...

Thanks Steven & Sabine. Docs are now saying they although they found a lot and at first they really didn't like the looks of it, now after a lot of labwork they think everything is benign.

Unknown said...

Am reading this at 3:54 am. Been awake since 2am. Also worried: about elderly parents (in another country) and a friend who is whisper-close to being on the street from long term unemployment. She won't be on the street of course, she's my friend. But one worries.

Prayers for your friend.

Dale said...

Hugs, you. Whoever you are :-) And prayers for yours.