Thursday, May 7, 2009

Eastern Washington

Due to a clerical error, I departed Seattle under blue skies with the cherry trees in bloom. Birdsong filled the warm spring air, and sunlight filtered through a canopy of ancient dogwoods. I’m not one for omens, but I’ll take what I can get.

I climbed the Cascades and crossed the Columbia River before sunset, and the land seemed alive with possibility.
Though snow is a weeks’ old memory on this side of the range, the days are already midsummer long at this latitude. Twilight lingered until past ten, and both the sun and I were up before 5:30. Only one of us desperately needed coffee to get moving.

I took a long drive up the Columbia to see the Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams, the jewels of FDR’s New Deal public works efforts. They turned this high desert green, helped win the war and kept the northwest if cheap, subsidized electricity. it also drowned a great river and are slowly but surely killing off one of earth’s great salmon runs. But there you go.

By noon, dark clouds rolled in over the Cascades and it started spitting rain. The rolling fields, some planted in wheat, some fallow, turned bleak and ominous, and I drove for hours through driving rain. So much for omens.

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