Not too long ago, the folks over at HBO were talking about the Seven Wonders of the World. I've talked before about how deeply connected I am to my world, still, after all these years, and how my world informs and frames my outlook onto the larger world. Good, bad or really ugly, I am who I am. Truer words were never spoken when it was said that you can take the girl out of the woods, but never take the woods out of the girl.
Still, you might like to know, specifically, what rocks my world and what dropped my mouth open into a perfect O upon first glimpse and still has the very same effect on me. Henceforth, may I present The Seven Wonders of My World, spoken with my best O mouth.
Just writing the words brings an audible groan to my core. At first glance, it's quite a contradiction of sorts: tourmaline blue Caribbean-like waters framed by soaring granite mountains. But as you enter it, there is no contradiction or confusion; it is absolute in every respect. Ancient. Silent. Moderately gracious. Acquiesces and allows tourists to canoe it. Is quite happy to let anyone skate it; ski it. Delighted that people walk around it. But is completely unyielding to anything else, particularly swimming. It's glacial-fed water and runs about 5 degrees Celsius, which, if you're doing the math, is a mind-robbing 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It is the closest thing that I can understand to pure, holy magic. Completely on its own terms.
Lake Coeur d'Alene
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Summer! I learned to swim on the north shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene, learned to canoe at camp in Kidd Island Bay, got married on French Bay, took my own kids there for birthdays, fun and to observe the rites of celebration. These days, the tug boats and log booms have been replaced by McYachts and McMansions and it's quite possible that standing ahead of you in line for ice cream on Sherman Avenue will be some Hollywood luminosity. It's still home, though and still is livin' easy and livin' well in the very best sense.
Cataldo Mission/North Fork Coeur d'Alene River
My first memory of the Cataldo Mission was of the field trip we took at the end of fourth grade after a year of self directed study on Idaho state history. Looking back, I can clearly point to this as the exact year in time when I became smitten with history, ancient people and rivers. God, how I love this place and love Idaho. The Coeur d'Alene Tribe still maintains a strong relationship with the Mission, thankfully, and these days, it operates as a real museum with a visitors' center and everything. Back in the fourth grade, though, you could still pick up the square nails used to build the thing as they popped out of the logs. I still have one.
British Columbia, Canada
Another big sigh and a giggle even at the thought of this marvelous community. Tourists don't come to Victoria to see Chinatown so it really has escaped much of the trinketry and development/decline that plagues New York's Chinatown and even San Francisco's. In Victoria, Chinatown is the where the Chinese in the area buy groceries, go to the hardware store, get their cleaning done, get together with friends for good food and conversation, look at art, go to performances, hear lectures, exercise, buy birthday gifts for each other, have their hair cut, and buy things they need for their house and to live their life. This Chinatown has a authentic, contemporary rhythm and never fails to stir me. I'd live there in a second if the locals would have me.
Pike Street Market
Now I'm chuckling. What can I say about the Pike Street Market that countless others haven't said? Maybe, why it's an obligatory and fundamental observance for me? Breakfast at a dockworkers' diner on Elliot Bay with scrapple and tripe on the menu. Pink and red silvery salmon the size of cocker spaniels packed in ice at the fish vendor. The smell of strong, dark pungent coffee. Impossibly bright, cheerful and fragrant handsfuls of flowers. Artists with great hopes. Street musicians with razor sharp wit. Clean, fragrant streets and alleyways. The absolute best of the Very Best.
The Gorge of the Columbia River
The mighty Columbia is never more beautiful than here. My favorite time of year is summertime when the rock cliffs practically light up with heat that you can easily see rising from the plateaus and crevices of the rock. The river and the rocks somehow become one but at sunset, the river goes silent and the rocks glow fiery red. Then the dark night sky is pierced with millions and millions of stars. You can only imagine what it was like to be alone and on foot back in the day in the Gorge....
The Mission at St. Ignatius
St. Ignatius, Montana
When other Americans were fighting a Civil War, the Jesuits were here in service to the native Americans of the area. The mission church holds a series of paintings done by a cook in the kitchen that are familiar, primal and startling. The frescoes, or murals as they are called in Montana, are as jaw dropping as anything Raphael ever did. Not a small part of this experience is the setting at the foothills of the magnificent Mission Mountains but still, the mission at Ignatius is an uncommon experience that simply isn't available anywhere else in the Northwest. My particular favorites are the Lord and his mother in the very back of the church. They are Salish. As are the locals, the native people of the Flathead Indian Reservation.
If there was ever a contentment or a peaceful resolve that emanated out of me than was greater than the one that Priest Lake evokes, I am not aware of it. Priest Lake never, ever changes. Despite development, the State of Idaho and the price of timber, Priest Lake remains undeterred and unseduced by the ways of the world. Utterly sublime refuge amid the chaos and wreckage of life in the new millennium.
The 'Kan EWA