Day 1

Boys will bite as will bears, and I hope to experience neither but see both. And so it is that I continue in my studies of The Last Frontier, whose landscape I intend to take inspiration from.

I’ve been plowing through parts of Home Ground, Barry Lopez’s edited dictionary that provides us with a cultural etymology of the words we use to descrive place. The book is as large as a textbook and designed more for perusing than plowing, but its size prevented me from taking it on the plane. I was able to photocopy many of the words pertaining to Alaska and the Appalachian Mountains and have stowed the papers in my carry on. I intend to use precise language in the coming weeks, as precise as the landscape and its unique formations dictate.

Meantime, my flight out of Asheville is delayed 4 1/2 hours into Atlanta, so not only do I miss my connection, but I am trapped indoors during our finest daylight hours. From m yperch at gate B3 I watch the July sun beam down its stucky heat. Later, dark grea clouds sift the light and eventually blot out the sun altogether. Rain falls the only way it can in a Carolina summer: all at once.

Hours later–when I should be flying over the Rocky Mountains–I am hustling my way through councourses at the Atlanta airport. With so much time on my hands, I’m already halfway through Scott Russell Sanders’ 1993 essay collection, Staying Put. Since my time at the Wrangell Mountain Center will be shaped by his craft talks and critiques, I have committed to study his work ahead of the residency. Atlanta’s airport contains more people in a single concourse than I would see in about a month back home. What is the landscape the airport terminal? How many here are rushing to get home? How many are rushing away from something? More to the point, what can I learn about the concept of “staying put” admist all this travel? Soemtimes a close brush with one extremem reveals more about its polar opposite than about itself.

I am in Atlanta for all of 12 minutes when luck has it that a flight I was never scheduled to be on is “now boarding” and has room for me, seat 11G, if I hurry up right now and hand over my boarding pass. Goodbye, “Hotlanta.” Hello 32,000 feet.

Seattle greets me with its unprecedented heat wave but I do not care. The smell and taste of the Pacific Ocean are on my lips. One breath, then another. In the air I can feel the waves cresting, see the water folding into itself. Dare I tap my toes together three times and say it? There’s no place like home. That smell. The color of those trees. Later, the scent of coffee. The skateboarder with abundant piercings. The fresh sushi. Yes, the Pacific Northwest…

Now if my baggage could just catch up with me in time for tomorrow’s drive across the Cascades and into the vast scablands of eastern Washington. Rolling wheat fields and wedding attendants, here I come!

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