There’s nothing like returning home.

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Home to the place where I attended high school, and to where I flitted during the years of raising my children and getting established in a career.

Now positioned in my middle years, here I am, replanting my roots in the familiar rain-soaked soils of NW Washington state. Wondering why out of all the places I’ve lived — Iowa, Texas, Massachusetts —  this is my choice. Beyond the familial ties that remain.

What does this small city with heavy dashes of nature have to offer me? The woman I have transitioned into during 22 years of life by the limestone bluffs and Mississippi River in eastern Iowa?

Caffeine availability? If I were a coffee drinker this would be paradise with opportunities for re-java-nation abounding. I imagine at some time in the past . . . city officials unanimously passed an ordinance that stipulates construction of a coffee shop every six blocks. No more than six blocks lest residents have to either make their latte grandees at home or rely upon the kindness of a stranger at the local convenience store.

Coffee houses abound. From the woodsy flavor of one growing network, to peaked red roofs of another chain, and of course the giants of the industry – Starbucks and Seattle’s Best. There are a few tea specialty shops for pariahs such as myself who prefer the drink that fueled Great Britain to span the globe during the 1800’s, and fortunately, coffee shops do offer tea bags to dunk in hot water.

So, no, I am not returned here because of coffee opps!

Is it because I adore the color of gray? AKA silver if one is searching for a positive lining in their lives. Mornings around here are coated in silver, mixed with blue, as the sun attempts to make a daring entrance. Clouds seem to snap “Hey bub, move on, this ain’t California!” Few people could mistake these gray-scudded skies for being anywhere else. Although it isn’t unusual to see license plates of possibly lost individuals who claim allegiance to the great golden state.

Green, heavily forested hills surround the city where I live, many now dotted with domiciles as construction keeps searching for new places to plant houses. Now, thanks to taking a geology class, I know these sandstone and shale structures as the Chuckanut Mountains, and the ones to the north as the Canadian Rockies. Mt. Baker, a snow-capped volcano, and the Twin Sisters, formed from dark basalt, dominate views to the east. Local Native American legends name these peaks as the mighty Kulshan and his two wives. I treasure these familiar sights but no, they are not the driving force that lured me back here.

What draws me most of all here isn’t visible to the east, but to the west. To what is commonly called the Puget Sound, also known as the Salish Sea.

Here at the edge of town is the park to which I often trekked during my turbulent middle school years. When I needed quiet in a circle of familial events that I couldn’t control or understand.

That park, and its sister greenway to the north, are still the place for me to restore myself. The waves roll in, dash at rocks, splash madly in all directions and I watch and find peace. The seagulls with their aerodynamic wings, mewl and soar overhead, and dive for bread tossed by tourists. The air is tangy with salt when the tide recedes out, leaving rocks, tangled bands of sea grass, and purple sea stars temporarily exposed. Here is a place to sit on the worn tops of sandstone boulders and gaze out to the islands and imagine myself in a sailing craft or kayak.

Here what makes home merges together. A long boardwalk perched over the water takes me to that favorite cafe for tea and a place to duck out of the rain. Reveals of islands covered by forest and human habitations. Sunlight dancing on the water when the sun emerges. Here I pause, drink my tea, draw in deep breaths of  my native environment. Home.

© 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke      All Rights Reserved.

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