Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter Wonderland, with Earthquake

As I did last year at this time, I'm enjoying an artist's residency with Centrum, at Fort Worden in Port Townsend. But this year there are some differences. I'm in a cabin, instead of an apartment. And this morning, my first day here, I woke to snow. And so the world is all white and gray, and the few remaining flowers are mostly hidden under a thick carpet of white. And it's incredibly quiet. The cabin I'm in this time has electric wall heaters in each room, so there isn't even the sound of the fan that comes with central heating, just the hum of my desktop computer.  

Because it's my first day, I knew that I couldn't afford to adopt a less than vigorous or disciplined attitude toward my daily routine, so I vowed to go for the daily walk regardless of the weather. Since it was still snowing at 11:30, I decided that the earlier I went out, the better. My walking sticks served me well, and my spanking new hiking boots. (Lucky thing I'd replaced the ones I'd been using since 1985, since they would have given me little traction and left me with wet feet.) But I chose the wrong coat. Wearing layers under my rain parka would have been more advisable than my wool jacket (which buttons to a V-neck, with the result that a layer of snow accumulated over the sweaters I was wearing under the jacket). When I got to the path taking a shortcut down the hill, I paused along the way to look at a very unhappy bird emitting truly pathetic sounds. That side of the hill is covered with a thicket of bush that still has a scattering a berries. My guess is that the bird was a spotted towhee. Cold and pathetic or not, the bird got visibly pissed off at me for standing there staring at it (and snapping a photo or two of it). It fluttered from one branch to another, and then puffed out its feathers and bent low to make its tail feathers stick up in a kind of fan. I got the message and moved on. (Maybe if I'd had some seeds to offer it, it mightn't have been so eager to see me go.)

When I got to the bottom of the hill, the wind hit in me in a bitter blast that made my face sting. (This would've been nothing to me back when I lived in Illinois. I wouldn't have considered it bitter until the air got cold enough to make the snot in my nose solid. In fact, my nose was running like crazy while I was down on the beach.) The wind was howling out of the north, which meant that as I approached the beach, the snow was blowing into my face. No one was on the beach. I saw no footsteps in the snow other than my own. The only birds I saw on the water were sea gulls. It was at this point, surveying the beach and realizing how much snow was accumulating on my sweaters and how hard it would be to make headway against the snow-laden wind, that I decided to go back. Namby-pamby of me, but it probably won't be snowing tomorrow and if it is I'll be better prepared in wearing a rain parka.

About an hour ago I wet out again after I'd done a bit more work, in search of Centrum's wifi network. The snow was lighter, the fog lifted from the water. Walking, I listened to the sound my boots made as I crunched through the snow--all fluffy and airy on top, with a layer of ice at the bottom. I could hear, too, to the sound of the surf, which carried very clearly through the cold, sound-damped air. First stop was the Centrum office, to pick up the key to the deserted building that offers wifi, as well as the password. While I was talking to a staff member, the earth rumbled and shook-- very slightly, for a very short period of time. But enough to make us stop talking and look at each other. No heavy machinery or large vehicles were operating anywhere in sight. So, we concluded, it must be an earthquake. A small one. No big deal. (The best kind, actually, to have.)

I live in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. And Centrum lies within that zone. I'm feeling a trifle Emersonian today, so I'm going to take that as a excellent harbinger for my work.

I had some pix to upload-- of my cabin, in the snow, of the spotted towhee in the snow-flecked thicket, of the beach covered in snow. But the internet connection seems to be too slow to handle it, at least for today.

1 comment:

Timmi Duchamp said...

I've confirmed the earthquake. It was a mere 3.1, located in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Another, of 1.5, followed shortly thereafter (which I didn't, of course, feel).