One Sunflower

what do you see when you read this?

on January 3, 2011

There is something magical about the imagery created when reading a book for the first time.  I’m glad I read the first few Harry Potter books before the movies were made.  I treasure the images of Hogwarts that I created in my mind – and just wish they’d been able to withstand the onslaught of digital imagery that has followed.

What do you see when you read this:

“the nonchalant border, a geographical handshake heralded here by nothing more than a drainage ditch that turned raucous with horny frogs in the spring and overflowed into both countries every fall….as thin as a rumor, the line cut through lakes and swamps and forests and fields…slicing through Peace Arch Park and splashing into salt water.  The park was all most travelers saw of the border, but locals drove into the valley to gawk at this ditch that divided the two countries and created a rural strip where Canadians and Americans drove on parallel two-lane roads, Boundary Road to the south and Zero Avenue to the north, just a grassy gutter away from each other, waving like friendly neighbors…”

Jim Lynch begins his book, Border Songs, with this description of the border between the US and Canada in the county where I live in the northwest corner of Washington state. These words might not create powerful images for you but I don’t need to create a picture in my head;  I drive Zero Avenue every holiday as we make our way to my sister-in-law’s home in Aldergrove, British Columbia.

Peace Arch Park and the other border crossings are substantial with their barricades, stanchions, and rows of brick and glass booths.  The taciturn officers always manage to make me feel like a 5 year old with tell-tale cookie crumbs on my cheek.  But once I pass through the border at Lynden and make a right turn I’m traveling along this road that does indeed have a twin just 20 feet south.    I know there are cameras on the telephone poles but to think that the black line on my globe between the peach and the green is a common – and quite stinky – ditch is sort of comical.

I checked out this book because it is being sponsored by our community-wide reading project called Whatcom Reads.  I came late to this experience, reading the first book on their list late last year. (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie.) My book group at school ended up reading it too and having a great discussion.  So I put in a request for this book and was surprised to have it come so fast.  I’ll have to get down to business because there’s a short turn around in order to get the book into as many hands as possible.

It is fun to read about the place where I live. On Christmas night, when we were heading west on Zero Avenue, an owl flew along beside us for a bit, then turned and flew over the ditch into the fields on the US side.  We continued to make our way for another mile and then, after shyly wishing the border guard a Merry Christmas, we too, crossed into our own country and made our way home.

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2 responses to “what do you see when you read this?

  1. Tara says:

    You have a gift for evoking landscape – I always look forward to your posts!

  2. Ruth says:

    Thanks for making me think a little more about place today. Thanks, too, for sharing the photo.

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