Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Report from Port Townsend

This is a detail of a beautiful madrone that sits on a up slope of land heading toward the bluff at Fort Worden in Port Townsend. It has incredibly smooth and lustrous bark; "bark" seems the wrong word, more like peel. It's phenomenally pleasurable to run your hands over. The tree grows next to a small, atmospheric castle/tower, built in the late 19th century in recollection of Scotland -- and this could be a Scots landscape, the wide cold water below the bluff, where last night a seal floated with both head and tail raised up, then spied us and suspiciously ducked under. We're here for a writers conference; I'm teaching a manuscript workshop with a serious and articulate group. Paul gave a spectacular reading here. We had superb Japanese food in town. There's a sweet back-to-the-land culture here, and the local food co-op has the most beautiful crooked purple radishes I've ever seen, along with small turnips and orange beets that glow from the inside with radiant well-being. We've been watching a doe who comes every morning to browse the grass in the field outside our window. Our house is a little military family place: a rectangle with two bedrooms (terrible beds) and a kitchen with stenciled cupboards and yellow formica counters. Every time I'm in there I start imagining being a young military wife, 1954, making a pot roast or lemon sugar cookies, trying to imagine the life ahead of me.

Below, the field outside our window, in thin morning fog. The madrone's the big dome of a tree on the right.


A.H. said...

An interesting post. I have always wondered why Duncan exalted this tree. Now, I see: it is the sensual quality of that bark, its richness, like skin (peeling). Thanks for this insight.

apprentice said...

A beautiful tree indeed, and a very old one by the looks of it.

The house sounds simple and sweet, it makes me think of Julianne Moore in Hours.

T. said...

Lovely post about an iconic location.
The madrones are on the decline, unfortunately, due to a number of causes, both environmental and fungal. Along Lake Washington Boulevard in Seattle, most of them have been removed. Sadness.