And the scientists, no matter how much they investigate nature, no matter how far they research, they only come to realize in the end how perfect and mysterious nature really is. To believe that by research and invention humanity can create something better than nature is an illusion.” — Masanobu Fukuoka
There’s not anything inherently special about the Pacific Northwest. Or rather, there is, but not more so than there is something inherently special about any place on Earth that a human or other creature, big or small, has made their home. I write about this one because it happens to be the place that I have called home for most of my life, and the only one I’ve ever felt rooted. I feel deeply about this place, about these trees and my ability to describe all the different kinds of gray the sky can be in a place that is mostly gray (and green) for nine months out of the year. But there is more to it than that. It’s the only place I’ve been long enough to know, not just as a place, but as a place in the context of time. Because there’s no other way to look at the relationships between people and the land and the other things that inhabit it. Looking at how things are now can tell you very little about how they’ve changed, about damage that’s been done or symbiotic relationships that have been built or broken, or repeating cycles of death and regeneration and fire and seasons and sustenance. My thirty-some years are irrelevant on the scale of time, of course. But they’re the only point of reference I have, so they are where I start.
Novel (adj.): original or striking especially in conception or style
The world is large; there are far more places I haven’t seen than ones I have. I can’t say much about those that others couldn’t say better. But here are a few of the most novel things I’ve seen of the natural world, here in the Pacific Northwest:
On a boat in the San Juan Islands, in the northwest corner of this northwest state, a pod of orca whales, breaching all around. You’re not allowed to move your boat within one hundred yards of whales, to give them their space, but if you’re sitting still and they come to you — well. Orcas seem big when you see them from far away, but when you see them just one boat length away, it’s another story altogether; you can feel their wisdom and their power, and if you’re me, you want to do everything you can to make the ocean safe for them again, even though you know it might be too late.