“To see! to see!—this is the craving of the sailor, as of the rest of blind humanity.”
Joseph Conrad, Mirror of the Sea
The Pacific Northwest is painted in seemingly infinite variations of a single color—the gray shadow of land rising in rough peaks above gray water beneath a sky of broken gray clouds. Like a Chinese landscape, distance becomes intimate. Far and near alike are softened and obscured and the familiar becomes inexplicably mysterious. A few spare strokes capture entire landscapes and histories.
This morning a crow stood motionless on a field of wet grass. Rain glistened on leaves like
splintered crystal. And in the sky above, white gulls were scattered like yesterday’s newspapers.
Gulls always seem brightest on the edge of a storm, their wings brilliant against the yellow
storm light. They were once believed to be the souls of drowned sailors. Understandably, they grow restless with approaching bad weather.
In the afternoon, clouds massed above the Olympic Mountains—above Hurricane Ridge and Storm King
and the Brothers. The air grew cold and dense, sinking beneath the wharves on the Seattle waterfront, streaming between brick walls and down back alleys—currents of air drawn by falling pressure and low places. On park benches and street corners the old men cast furtive glances westward toward the
promise of raw weather.
Rain squalls drifted across Admiralty Inlet. The rain hung in tendrils like the stinging cells of a Portuguese man-of-war. A gull banked hard on the cold front and its wing visibly flexed. All things fulfill their function. The function of humankind is to witness to the beauty of a gull’s wing and the approach of wet