Monday, August 31, 2009

Whispers of the Columbia

We made two stops along the Columbia yesterday. One was at Avery Park, a tiny spot about ten miles north of Goldendale. Avery Park is open to the public year-round--except when the fish are running, when it becomes a private Native American fishing ground. It's quiet there. The wind riffles the surface of the river and the birds speak constantly, an exchange of secrets encouraged by the hidden nature of the place. You can not see the little cove from SR 14.

It was strange standing beside the US Army Corps of Engineers Survey marker, just a slender orange post with a white label. Unpreposing. But words "Witness Marker" stirred my imagination. Here a treaty was made. Here a people all but exterminated won back a toe-hold of their world. For how many years did they come down beside the river to take the shining silver fish, the world-makers, the people-savers, the salmon? There was a strange sensation to the air in this park--the feeling of expectancy like an indrawn breath before speech.

What was it ready to tell me? I didn't find out. A man with a jet-ski drove down and got his car stuck on the boat ramp, and we had to give him a jump to get him out of the river. And then we were off, quickly stopping at Horse Thief Lake State Park to see the petroglyphs.

How small they were! How surprisingly tiny! They were like the works of Frida Kahlo, human-sized works with all the presence of a room-sized mural. Removed from the ancient canyons, these sacred carvings cried out in loneliness for their lost brethren, swallowed up by the dammed river.

The last of the glyphs, the biggest, and the one I was most eager to see in person, turns her back to the rock fragments in their careful display. She looks out to the river, just as she always has. I was hoping to see her face, but horribly enough, her trail is closed now, due to vandalism. Who could deface the resting place of She-Who-Watches?

Who could jet-ski in a place sacred to the spirits of the salmon?

Who could damn a river and drown the cathedral of a people?

How I wish I could have heard what the river was going to say!

1 comment:

Headshot Heather said...

For some reason this post reminded me of a line from a song in Disney's Pocahontas

"You can own the Earth and still all you'll own is Earth until, you can paint with all the colors of the wind"