Dec 12, 2006

SEATTLE, Washington – The plane skates along Lake Union, then gingerly lofts into the sky. She banks, curving past the Space Needle, then drones north towards British Columbia.

I ricochet off the armrests, craning to see out both portholes.

Here lies the rub: when float planes skim directly over one's house, said house is not visible from a float plane. Doh.

My colleague – P-I photographer Karen Ducey – tries to doze, her jacket wadded into a poor pillow. Unobserved, I sulk for a few minutes – float-plane fix denied – then succumb to the view.

Puget Sound glows teal, shading to sage, then beige, with a white ruffle along the shore. Clouds reduce the Olympic mountains to a thin band: Tom Robbin's dance of the seven veils, beginning with the navel. We fly over a rural grab-bag of architecture, the landscape of my youth: waterfront manors, trailers on bluffs, farm houses and fields, those semaphore flags strung across the churned earth. Cul-de-sacs sprout everywhere, like fungus puffs after a heavy rain.

Dungeness Spit is a wishbone below. I last hiked there 12 years ago, as a young guide coaxing day-trippers with McManus tall tales. Supertankers – looming six, seven, eight stories – made me yearn overseas. Let me go. Go, go, go to get gone...

I did. I'm home. I want only to watch that one white seagull, like a cigar band on a drift log.

A 1970s-Kodachrome sun turns Victoria mustard and gold. The float plane mosquitos low ... a 15-second glide – suspended, suspended, wait for it – then the pontoons jolt into the harbor.

And we're off to surf the Wild Pacific Rim.

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