Monday, May 16, 2011

Lost Horizons


I am one of the rare commuters whose daily commute is on a train that glides along the shore of the Puget Sound. Most people are stuck on freeways staring at the tail lights of hundreds of other cars or wedged into a bus seat, reluctantly sharing personal space with a total stranger who to often enough insists on providing TMI via a cell phone conversation.

I generally get a quad of train seats to myself and a window view of the Sound and the Cascade Mountains (if they've decided to slip off their robe of clouds). I also see a plethora of herons and an occasional sea lion. It is a view most people in land locked states would pay for. And I get it as part of my regular morning and evening trip to and from work.

Ironically, most of the people who commute on my train don't even look out the window. I have been tempted on more than one occasion to shake someone sitting on the water side of the train at a window who is sleeping and suggest that if they are just going to doze and not appreciate the view then they shouldn't sit by the window.

As beautiful as the view is, staring at the Puget Sound just isn't as mesmerizing as standing on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and getting lost in the horizon. Because when you stare at the Puget Sound, you are aware that it is a finite body of water framed by a mountain chain. The Pacific Ocean, however, gives you a sense of infinity and your own insignificance.

I was also struck by my view of the Sound this morning how devoid of color it is. Staring out my train window , I felt as though I was watching the nature channel in hi-def on a black and white television. The various shades of gray were beautiful, but I longed for some color.

Regardless, I am grateful for the water. Growing up in Idaho, I was surrounded by a sea of sagebrush. I would sit in darkened classrooms watching shaky films about life in the ocean and long to walk on a beach and explore tide pools. But the closest I ever got was Lucky Peak Reservoir, a huge man made lake just outside of Boise. The extent of life in that man made ocean was a large population of squaw fish and suckers (bottom feeding trash fish).

It was that longing for the water that pushed me northwest from where I was born. I don't miss the sagebrush, but I sure miss the sunshine. Seattle has been particularly rainy and gray this winter and spring. The rain is great for fostering lush growth everywhere, but without the sun, it is hard to tell that it is green and not a lighter shade of gray.

I suppose if I could have my way, I'd live in the Caribbean. But in addition to having to figure out how to make a living, I'd have to worry about the more than occasional hurricane. Every paradise seems to come with fine print.

I've even fantasized with living on a cruise ship. There is nothing like sitting on the balcony of a stateroom staring out into the vastness of the ocean that dwarfs even the largest mega liner. But again the fine print of cruise ship life would eventually eclipse the view. You can only dine on so many buffets and listen to Filipino lounge bands so many times before you understand where the phrase, "Ship of Fools" came from.

The thing about a horizon is that it is always on one. You stare at it knowing that it is always tantalizingly out of reach. But the best dreams always are.

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