Writing always seems to go hand in hand with reading for me and its been a long patch of half finished literary efforts over the last few months. The blog has been sitting quietly with “hello world” for way too long and it’s the sticky half of my web presence and counterpoint to my website that should be fully up and running in the next week or so.  So it was quite the relief when I found John McPhee’s “Basin and Range” at Pegasus books and I easily slipped through the 200 or so pages of crisp prose straddling the space between required college text and a buddy road story about traversing route 80 and ending in the stark terrain of Utah and Nevada. I wouldn’t consider “Basin and Range” his greatest work but he has a real gift for weaving technical and historical issues with characters and a narrative that is always engaging.  It is literary granite after 224 pages of “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”, by Dave Eggers where a inspired first half turns into self referential primordial coal swamp; or the obsidian shard of 6 pages of the prologue of “Virgin Land” by Henry Nash Smith (I need to give this one another shot); or the relentless deposition of muck  in 194 pages of “Ratners Star” by Don DeLillo; or 168 pages of soft mudstone in the “Power of Myth”, the Joseph Campbell interviews by Bill Moyers that just slips through your fingers; or the epic start but downward trajectory of a submersion trench after a whopping 442 pages of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” by Michael Chabon. 5 books started in the last 6 months that ended up on the talus slope of the nightstand and by most accounts these are pretty respectable writers. I’m generally fully committed to finishing books but for some reason I just got to a certain place in the book and wasn’t compelled to continue.  Anyway, I thought bedrock was an appropriate place to start the blog and by coincidence the rock / geology theme is hitting close to home this week quite literally.

The image above is from the bluff above Maury Island Marine Park. It may be one of the most dramatic seaward views of the Puget Sound with an elevated perspective 300-400 feet high with an amazing view of Mount Rainier and the Cascade foothills. The mountain was obscured by clouds on this morning but I was lucky enough to catch this tug pulling a log boom against a strong headwind. What you can’t see in the foreground is the crescent shaped gouge of a former sand and gravel pit that now is a natural area in the King County Parks system. It’s a steep walk down to the Sound, on sandy eroding trails encroached by black berry and scots broom but there are also significant patches of Madrone, fir and some other hardwoods. From the top of the bluff I watched a sharp shinned hawk cruise by at eye level and it is a place where the magical play of sky, light and water in the northwest is clearly evident.

To the south lies the same band of sand and gravel glacial outwash and is currently the site of the Glacier Northwest (also called CalPortland) a working pit that has been quite controversial in its desire to build a barge loading dock within what happens to be the only marine reserve in the central Puget Sound.  It also happens that I am using sand and gravel from this site for concrete that I am using to rebuild an entry courtyard and puts in sharp perspective the provenance of the materials that use. For me using locally sourced material is a better option than trucking rock from eastern Washington from areas that may be just as ecologically unique but with no neighbors to complain.

A few days ago the story broke that the County and a coalition of non-profit groups had made a deal to purchase the property and preserve the stretch of almost a mile of coastline and about 500 acres of adjacent uplands.  In a month of backlash against government and politicians, this is a bright spot that shows that negotiation, community protest and passion about our environment, work. CalPortland continues to supply the island with materials on a modest scale but there will continue to be magic in the trajectory of a hawk across the face of a bluff and the sunlight dancing on the surface of the water.


About jim gerlach

A seasoned landscape architect living and working on beautiful Vashon Island.
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