Seattle As Edge, You as Water
for Richard Hugo
by Susan Zwinger
Edges, those paradoxical meshes of boundary and beckoning,
I have always loved edges. Listen to over-sized rain drops
plopping from red cedar. Crave nothing less
than an epic myth by which to know our Seattle home.
Ferry horn, water shore, lapping bone. Nothing less
than the poetry of salmon and Sound will resuscitate us.
Not an armchair treatise but a sphagnum-bog-muck,
algae stink-slick seat of the pants revelation. We come from the cold
abstractions of the East, from the flowery inebriate thoughts to the South
to Seattle, to a tougher, sensual edge. We prefer our beaches
vertical. We prefer our oceans airborne and counterclockwise.
We long to replace mind-numbing words - sound bite, countdown,
boot up, HOV - with more resonant lexicons: wolverine, murrelet,
bog rosemary, boletus, grizzly, sockeye and Thuja placata.
Human history is migration toward a chain of last edges.
At Seattle, we lose that bottle top of escape: this is the final
wild edge on a finite planet. We immigrants saved Seattle
for last because its geography is scraped, punched, exploded, ground
faulted and drenched. Enormous trees and precipitous hills, once
impenetrable boundaries, are cut and skid rowed,
regraded, flooded, built up, burned down, filled in and dredged.
Go to Seattle Public Library; pull the huge maps of the bioregion
from the map drawers. Carefully trace all the edges of water,
all the lakes, all the rivers, all the sloughs on shelf paper. Forget
artificial boundaries. Move your pencil slowly, sensuously,
learning that each crook and curve is intimately known
by someone who loves home. Step back. View the waterways
as dendritic veins. Imagine the humans and lumps implied
underneath as those of a muscular lover.