The whole world is wet. A fine mizzle falls first, sparging and soft. Gathering momentum, the tempest pounces in earnest, drumming the earth like spears pounding wooden shields. Rain rushes down cedar skirts, drips from preening poplars, gurgles out of gutters and sprints down canyons, ravines, creeks and pastures. Quivering, the ground exhales in sharp, roric gasps.
Rain is no stranger to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. From the Pacific Ocean to the tree line of the Cascade Mountains and the Olympics of western Washington are wet forests—those that receive more than 60 inches of precipitation annually and have soils that retain water well.
Storm after storm arrives from the open Pacific, drenching Northwest coastal slopes to create the nation’s only temperate rain forest.
In these magnificent old-growth forests, mammoth fallen logs serve as shelter for small mammals and salamanders. Festooned with crepe-paper moss and cranky lichen, these "nurse logs" nurture the next generation of trees. Indeed, the region is defined by water, bordering the Pacific in the west and the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the north, with Puget Sound running down its midsection and a host of river drainages flowing into it from the Cascades and the Olympics.
"The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth… They rose … and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered."
The Northwest is home. Here on the southern hip of the rain-washed Olympic Peninsula I stretch, breathe, walk, drive, eat, brood, and wonder.
I find the two inch long, ebony body of the misnamed California Prionus beetle which hosts three malicious spines on each side of its elongated thorax. Long, segmented antenna counterbalance long, spindly legs. The beetle eats dead wood and can be found frequenting the coniferous forests west of the Cascades.
When the outside lights are on, the glare attracts huge, hovering crane flies. They hug our incandescents like miniature Hueys. About an inch and half long, crane flies are often mistaken for their nasty twin, Aedes and Culex mosquitoes. But crane flies are harmless, living near woodlands near water and forest fringes. Their long, slender bodies, usually russet with white stripes on the thorax, seem outsized by their clear, slender wings. Their legs fall off easily, evinced by the pile of lost limbs cobbwebbed into our panes and lighted glass globes.
From May to September I watch Western Tiger Swallowtails light on meadow grasses. Velvet wings are striped with black "tiger stripes," black with yellow-spotted margins. I inch closer, quietly studying butterfly hindwings hosting several blue and two orange spots near the long black tail. The second largest Northwest butterfly at three and a half inches, the Western Tiger Swallowtail frequents willows, poplars, alders, parks, backyards, and stream sides.
The Pacific Northwest teems with flora and fauna, including wildflowers, which abound in a startling array of shapes, sizes and colors. Chief among these iridescent masses are my personal favorites, lilies, which include: Avalanche, Bead, Cascade, Checker, Chocolate, Columbia, Glacier, and Green Corn. Also Lyall’s Mariposa, May, Sagebrush Mariposa, Tiger, Water, Yellow Pond, and yes, Lily-of-the-Valley.
I best love the delicate glacier and avalanche lilies, Erythronium grandiflorum and Erythronium montanum.
Glacier lilies peek from nival slumber in May. Spurting Tinkerbell blooms like yellow fountains, these satiny lilies dot forest clearings and meadows, often near melting snow.
Nine inches tall with flowers unfurling to two and a half inches, the avalanche lily spoons a dollop of yellow upon its center and thrives in the subalpine meadows of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains. Tulip-like stalks and pert white petals peek from melting snow banks in July and bloom but a few brief weeks.
"Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways."
The whole world is rank. According to the United States Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, "U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced approximately 24 million crimes in 2003." Within that statistic the National Crime Victimization Survey reports the following for 2003:
¨ 77%, or 18.6 million, were property crimes
¨ 22%, or 5.4 million, were crimes of violence
¨ 1% were personal thefts
¨ For every 1,000 persons age 12 or older, there occurred one rape or sexual assault and one assault with injury, all classified as "Violent Crimes."
Violent Crimes is a collective aggregate specified by law enforcement to include Homicide, Rape and Sexual Assault, Robbery, and Aggravated Assault. Another statistical category is "Property Crime," which includes Burglary, Larceny, Theft, and Arson. The classifications are endless.
Some types of crime are so variegated that they require separate groupings, sub-species within a genus. Larceny, for example, is sub-divided into "From Motor Vehicle, Pocket-picking, From Coin Machine, Purse Snatching, Bicycles, From Building, Shoplifting, Vehicle Parts/Accessories, and Other."
The Washington State Uniform Crime Report for 2003 reports that:
* There were four Washington law enforcement officers killed, two feloniously and two accidentally, in 2003. A total of 1,140 law enforcement officers were assaulted during the year.
* There were 26,498 reported drug abuse arrests. Of this number, 11.8% were persons under 18 years of age.
* Property valued at $330,544,877 was reported stolen.
* A total of 38,977 arrests were made for DUI in the state, which constituted 15.4% of the total arrests reported in 2003. This percentage represents the arrests of 38,352 adults and 625 juveniles.
* There were 51,589 domestic violence offenses including simple assault and violation of protection/no contact orders.
The list of offenses doesn’t include other crimes, such as embezzling, fraud, perjury, or obstruction of justice. The statistics blur into mind-numbing numbers. Even so, they can’t begin to catalog the fetid list of less obvious iniquities: Greed, Covetousness, Neglect, Gossip, Lying, Arrogance, Indifference, Ingratitude.
The whole world is rank. Quivering, humanity exhales in sharp, roric gasps.
Coarse, congealed cumulonimbuses roll up in saturnine folds, wringing out water as from a sopping towel. Rain ricochets off the Olympic Mountains, sluices down the Wynoochee, Satsop, Wishkah and Hoquiam Rivers, their angry waters swollen and carnivorous. The whole world is wet.
So, what happens to the outside world in a raging downpour? I flee inside to warmth and shelter. But what about the rest of western Washington? Where do crane flies fly? Maybe they scoot south for the winter. Perhaps they hibernate, sleeping until summer. Do the deer turn tail and flee, dashing to denser glens, grass-thatched and snug against the spattering flood? What about the newly hatched Ruffed Grouse, the soon-to-be Swallowtail Butterfly cocoons? Glacier and avalanche lilies are safe in their refrigerated slumber, but where do gliding Sharp-Shinned Hawks, experts at capturing small birds, go to wait out the weather? Woodland nymph, satyr, Pan and Faun, do they hoist white flag in surrender to the Nereids?
All of Grays Harbor County, nay, the State of Washington seems to slide away like sand through an hour glass. Rain pours over flattened trees, rips apart beaver dams, swallows boulders. Drowned logs bob like corks in the river. Windshield wipers can’t keep up. Sputtering madly, they toss sheets of rain off glass in futile gesticulations. Flotsam and jetsam rush down the Wynoochee River, racing toward the Pacific.
Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth.
¨ Every two minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted.
¨ In 2002, there were a total of 4,854 cases of aggravated assault in Washington, D.C. This means that 1.3 aggravated assault are committed a day in that area.
¨ In Maryland, there were 3,228 cases of larceny and thefts per 100,00 people in 2002.
¨ In Detroit, there were 41.79 murders per 100,000 in 2002.
¨ In 2002, with the exception of burglaries, Philadelphia led all crime levels which were above the national average rates for murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, larceny/theft and motor vehicle theft.
Blond and smiling that tight, professional smile barely concealing hopes of a hefty tip, our waitress brings our pizza. We order a Canadian bacon and pineapple for the boys—extra large. My husband, Chris, settles for a personal pan Supreme. I am content to graze among the bean sprouts and beets at the salad bar.
"We love pizza!" we exclaim.
Love. The word seems to apply equally to Marina smothered in pepperoni and mozzarella, an azure curve of sky, game shows, a late model Dodge Caravan, children, and spouses. But what does "love" look like when the whole world is rank? How does it act? What does it do?
"Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."
What if God has the same regard for us as we have for, say, a field of wildflowers or a pepperoni pizza? "This marina is too thin, this cheese is moldy. And look here! These stems are dried out and useless."
Spoil, ruin, corruption.
What of lives with washed-out colors, crumpled souls of rank, would-be blossoms?
"The time is coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…"
Puddles turn pregnant, ballooned by a sudden infestation of fat, fast raindrops that could float the Spanish Armada. Dumping showers on conifer-clad ridges, the tempest bristles the harbor, flapping sails and shingles, folds in upon itself and exits, stage left. Sunburnt hills and coppered waters wait in the wings. Hemlocks and alders flutter jade and topaz across a busy horizon. The earth is pungent and puissant. A pavonine streak strums the Olympics. Amethyst breezes lick gorge and vale as turquoise seeps off the sky.
The Swallowtails and crane flies will return, as will grouse and hawk. The lilies will yet bloom. Wynoochee, Satsop, Wishkah and Hoquiam Rivers recede. Gathering their skirts in indolent retreat, they ripple backwards like grape jello.
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
I look up and see that the world is now neither wet nor rank, but rainbowed.
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