I’ve spent the last few weeks just outside of Seattle in Gig Harbor, Washington. It’s just me and two 1-year old labs named Percy and Earl. Also a cat but we haven’t been very interested in one another during this trip.
I write for a living and work from home so I have the flexibility to travel. I joined a house sitting website so I can stay anywhere for free in exchange for keeping someone’s plants or pets alive. In this case, it’s two dogs, a cat, and an orchid (though the latter isn’t going very well).
The homeowners are in Chile running a 136-mile race through the desert.
I am in their home wearing sweatpants and taking full advantage of the private access beach.
It’s been one hell of a year, and I came to Gig Harbor with a lot of questions. I’ve always struggled with feeling entitled to understanding. As if the world or God or someone owes me an explanation for everything that happens. I know it’s ridiculous, explicitly refuted in scripture even (lean not on your own understanding), but I struggle nonetheless. And so I unpacked my laptop, favorite sweatshirt and the few books I brought, and waited for the hit my knees and cry moment of understanding to come.
The house is stunning. It sits on the side of a mountain just off the shoreline and the back wall is made entirely of windows, looking over ferry boats and trees that have already redressed for fall. It’s directly across the harbor from Mt. Rainier and the view is pretty remarkable.
They have a deck in the back yard with a table and chairs and room for the dogs to snooze in the afternoon. I’ve spent most of my time on this deck, writing and watching the ferry go back and forth, studying the shapes and grooves of the mountain. I took a hundred pictures but could never get it right.
This morning the water and trees and cloudy mask overlaying the mountain were all the same color. As if an artist created the perfect shade — a soft, milky mix of greys and blues — and loved it so much he used it all on one morning of monochromatic loveliness. Yet despite the beauty of everything in view, this morning, like all those before it, drew my attention ever upward to the mountain.
Some mornings, the mountain was perfectly clear — elegant but strikingly powerful in its size and the promise of its force. These mornings were infrequent, as clear skies aren’t a staple of Seattle. But they were memorable. The beauty was paralyzing.
Other mornings, the mountain was hidden. Completely covered by a thick fog that filled the air like foam. But it whispered hints of its presence. Lurking there behind the clouds, like some slow-moving thing beneath dark waters, unseen but somehow palpable.
And still other mornings, like this morning, it was something in between. The mountain seen only in glimpses, dressed in lacy streaks of clouds. The dark ridges of its expanse stretching feverishly through them like veins on ashy skin. The subtlety more striking than the stature. The hope of the unseen.
This was the setting for my time in the Pacific Northwest. And for the mornings and evenings spent standing on the deck or the shoreline waiting for understanding that surely, surely belonged to me. I waited to hit my knees and cry when it came.
This morning I stood on the deck indignantly, again. I held a cup of coffee in my hands and tried to focus. To cash in whatever spiritual equity I thought I had that might buy me some clarity. To quiet myself, to listen. At some point I guess I weaved out of consciousness. And then apparently started thinking about whether or not I should spend money on a manicure this weekend because when I weaved back in this is where I found myself. Not listening. Not communing with the Most High. Certainly not cashing anything in. Just considering my need for a polish change.
I went inside and put on tennis shoes. I took the dogs for a long run. It was drizzling a little but it felt good. Earl ran in front, per usual, and Percy trailed behind. Like body guards. I ended our run at the beach so they could play off leash for a while. Immediately, they ran towards the water and started hunting for sticks. I found a bench to sit on and tried to catch my breath.
I looked up at the mountain. Veins on skin. Lace and subtlety.
The drizzle stretched into rain and two things decidedly did not happen: I did not hit my knees and I did not cry. But my heart twitched in the tiniest way and I knew it meant something.
I came to Seattle abrasively— demanding answers, explanations. Instead, I got a varying view of a mountain and the tiny twitch of a silent thought: isn’t that a little like God.
At times, perfectly clear, powerful, paralyzing beauty.
At times, hidden, completely covered, whispering his presence in the dark.
But most of the time, something in between, striking subtlety, elegant glimpses, the hope of the unseen.
I did not hit my knees and I did not cry. I will leave here on Wednesday with no real answers, no understanding, still a lot of questions and a lot of clouds.
But as I swallowed my entitlement, a wind came. And though it did not clear the clouds, it shifted them a little. And I saw the veins of God in the midst of one hell of a storm. And I knew it meant something. A tiny twitch. The hope of the unseen.