Field Report from Washington State.
December 2019

Photography by Michael Flugstad

 

There is something so fascinating, strange, and yet deeply comforting about the instant connection one feels with a complete stranger simply by sharing time and space.  

 

Two hikers on the PCT for instance.  It is unlikely that they have ever met, or that their paths in life would have ever crossed were it not for a shared interest in hiking; a coincidence of decisions that led both hikers to the same place at the same time.  One could be a teacher from Pasadena, the other a lawyer from Boston.  They may have absolutely nothing in common except for the moment in which they both stop to collect water from a hidden stream.  The human dependency on water is universal.  The meditative process of climbing down to the bank, letting one’s fingers drag through the cold current, and gulping back the pure refreshment is an experience that transcends individual context and unites people by bringing them back to the most fundamental commonality.   

*** 

The drive out to the coast was somewhat of a visual epiphany. Immediately out of Seattle, suburbs gave way to fields and small farmsteads. Within several miles, hills began to roll and thickets of trees became forests. We drove straight for nearly two hours, a narrow line of cars moving like ants among the old growth Fir and Cedar trees of centuries past. After an eternity of moving in a single direction, one ironically begins to lose one’s sense of direction, only the constant tick of the windshield wipers to offer perspective. Eventually the road gradually began to turn, a large gentle arc which I assumed meant that we were nearing the coast. Still no coastline in sight. More trees. From my monotonous reverie in the passenger seat, I was jolted into the present moment by a blinding light. It had not dawned on me that the old growth forests had been obscuring direct sunlight for the past few hours. At last, the sun flashed and flickered brilliantly as the trees became more sparse along the side of the Interstate. So blinding it was as it was reflecting off of the great Pacific ocean, so much as though I could have been staring at a sheet of tinfoil. And out of nowhere, came a village. One house, two, a cluster of cottages all constructed of the same wooden siding. They congregated upon the steep coastal rocks where the beaches were widest, nestling into the tall reedy grass.

We parked on a dusty shoulder, tucking our sideview mirrors in before clambering towards the water.  The beach in Washington stretches off into a craggy rock face on the horizon. It’s December, but the scene could easily pass for an October evening. People cluster along the sand although in far fewer numbers than the summer would see. A couple shares a romantic walk. A local guide leads a group of over-dressed tourists up the boardwalk like a colony of penguins.  

In moments, everyone will have gone their separate ways, another intersection in the rearview.  It left a melancholy weight in my chest.  But just as moments come and go so fleetingly, a breeze came upon the grass, blowing it all in unison in the way that makes your neck tingle. And on that wind came the call for adventure.

 

Featured in this Journal Entry

Olive Dartmouth Jacket, Women's Black Buttermilk Waffle Knit, Men's Grey Buttermilk Waffle Knit, English Tan Day Pack, Born in the North Navy Long Sleeve, Heather Grey Wool Jacket.