06 May 2013

Our Most Dear and Ancient Friend

The Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge is a favorite place of mine.  It crept up on me when I wasn't looking and became very dear to my heart.  Nowadays, when K. and I are getting read to "go out", we often head to its dry, wind-blown hillsides for a heart-expanding walkabout.

It is a magical place, full of sunshine and long grasses blowing in the breeze.  The Columbia River Gorge is famous for its woods and waterfalls, but we more often than not opt for the bright, dry views of its Northern side.

Today, it is unseasonably warm in Portland, but that weekend Spring was just beginning, the wind blowing its way through our hair and hands as we climbed around buttes and walked through fields of wildflowers, and up and down bright green paths.

Whenever I'm around rock, I have to reach out and touch it, put my hand on its gnarled surface, feel the age of the Earth moving under my fingertips.  And there is something about this place that always feels new and big and grand, like I'm discovering it in that moment.  It is a place that elicits awe.

In the picture below, you can almost see to where Celilo Falls used to be, a Falls that was sacred fishing ground for over 10,000 years, flooded in the 1950's when The Dalles Dam was built. It is also a place dear to my mom, who grew up in The Dalles and remembers watching the Indians fish.

That day, I looked towards Celilo, face in the wind, and thought about how the great rock I was standing on had been there the whole time, housed Native Americans at its base, felt them climbing to where I was now, watched them fish, and eat, and live. And then had watched as their home was destroyed.

I felt sadness as I thought of this, but more than anything I felt a part of our Earth that has seen history come and go, that mourned what was but accepts what is.  A part of our Earth that would be there long after there was a Dam or someone to wonder about it.  And as we descended down, I felt myself understand a little bit more about the Gorge and its magnificent, cleansing wind.

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