Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Peak Experiences

Seattle & The Cascades from Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal

I am astounded by the landscape that reveals itself in clear weather on Puget Sound.  I find myself whipping out my camera on the ferry to and from Seattle to photograph the craggy white-capped peaks of the Olympics and Cascades.  Stark and severe, even from a distance, my eye is drawn to them.
I thought I knew mountains.  For nearly a quarter century I made my home in the Santa Cruz Mountains surrounded by redwood trees.  
Our first house at the bottom of Blue Ridge Drive
Our first house was tucked at the bottom of a ridge and the sun disappeared from view mid-October to mid-March.  We counted more than a hundred trunks from our porch, but had to crane our necks to see treetops.  

View from our second house in Boulder Creek
Our second home sat in a clearing and the view encompassed a crest of green.  The weather and landscape factored large––rainstorms, mudslides, fallen trees, road closures, and downed power lines in winter; blessed shade, fairy rings, and earthy scents in summer.  We lived like fleas on the back of a dog, becoming intimate with an indifferent range.
Sunset from our second home in Boulder Creek
This island is hilly and at the tops of the hills when the sun is out, dramatic peaks emerge. I often gasp, literally, in surprise.  The mountains don’t show themselves everyday, often obscured by gray and clouds.  I am not the only person amazed by the view.  One Sunday in January as I was exiting a parking lot after church, the driver in front of me stopped at the street, jumped out of her car with her camera, snapped some pictures, waved at me idling behind her, then motored off.  I reached the stop sign, looked to the West, and saw the Olympics for the first time.  The sight of them was staggering.  I took photos, too.   

The Olympics from High School Road, Bainbridge Island

We can glimpse a few of the shorter peaks, like Mount Zion, from our community beach in good weather, and I’ve snapped their profiles.  
The Olympics from Manzanita Bay, Bainbridge Island

More than once driving to Poulsbo, the first city west of us, reachable by bridge, we’ve rounded a corner on Hwy 305 to a staggering view of Liberty Bay and a range of snowy peaks, wishing we could stop before they disappear around the next curve. 
The Olympics from Costco parking lot, Silverdale
The Cascades, in the eastern distance, extend farther on the horizon, North to Mount Baker, South to Mount Rainier.  
Mt Baker from Fay Bainbridge State Park

One achingly clear morning I took the ferry to Seattle, and as the vessel turned outside Eagle Harbor, Mount Rainier dominated my view, massive in the window.  I could only stare until the mountain disappeared behind me.
Mount Rainier from Fay Bainbridge State Park

I ask my husband––who wants to know the name and heights of the peaks we see, especially from our neighborhood, and who has placed a compass and map on our dining table––if these peaks are fascinating because they are unfamiliar, or because they’re truly spectacular.  I ask him why we didn’t research the names of the ridges that used to surround us, or carry our camera each time we left the house.  Were we jaded by familiarity?  Did we fail to pay attention?
These mountains are different, he says, the peaks are so much higher and outline so different--rocky, snow-capped.  They’re in your face.  You can’t help but notice.  He reassures me that even though it was less dramatic, we did appreciate our old panorama.  We paid attention, taking in the view from our deck on summer evenings, gazing out the window while we washed dishes.
Now we look out onto glacial summits, peaks that have captured our imaginations and contribute to the landscape we call home.
The Olympics at Sunset on Manzanita Bay


1 comment:

  1. Most of the time, here in Fresno, the Sierra Nevada to the east are obscured by smog. Once in a while, when a weather front clears the smog for a day or two, I delight again at the beauty that's there.

    Because my mind and heart tend to go these places, it often makes me reflect that this is how I experience God... glimpses here and there of stunning beauty and awesome majesty that are always there, that most days I am just not able to see. And while I wished I experienced those moments more often (but not enough to be more disciplined in prayer!), there is something comforting in knowing they are always there.