It is there in the quiet tick of pine needles dropping onto the tent. Except they are needles of fir, not pine, because this is Oregon, the Cascade Mountains, and while pine trees do shoulder their way into clearings, the Douglas firs predominate, their thumb-sized cones littering the trail around the lake. In the night, in the tent, beside the still and quiet lake cupped in the hands of the mountains, there is a quiet tick against the tent, and one says to oneself, needles, because one so much does not want it to be rain, but there it is again, and again, a snare drum pattering against the rain fly, and one sighs and rolls over because yes, of course, it is Oregon and it is rain. And in that sacred dark inside the tent beside the lake it is there–in the patient sigh, the quiet waiting for the grey of dawn, the breath of wind ruffling the rain fly, the quiet lullaby of the snare drum rain that lulls one back beneath the surface of sleep.
It is there again in late winter, when the weather forecast calls for three glorious days of sunshine, and that silly neighbor three doors down goes ahead and plants her beans, even though we both know the rain will come, the cold rain slanting across the sky like hash marks, blotting out sun and warmth and rotting every last bean seed except for a handful of indomitable little fellows that insist on peeking out of the earth 16 days–16 days!!–later, past all hope and good sense, wearing their first tender leaves like jaunty silly hats at a new years party. And two months later darned if she isn’t the first one on the street to harvest beans from that gap-toothed row, gloating over her fortune in green beans, suddenly the wealthiest woman on the street with that squeaky bite of fresh green beans plopped into boiling water with barely a swish to rinse them under the kitchen sink.
Have you heard it in the river’s green flow? Not the Willamette, not the Columbia, those dignified senior riverine citizens, but the ones that pop and burble like the Clackamas or the Salmon–the ones that rush headlong and willy-nilly from glacial snowmelt, racing along beneath the nodding alders and dancing maples, tickling the toes of ancient cedars and pushy Doug firs. If the rain plays snare, then the smart-aleck rivers play jazzy bass, clunking stones along their gravely beds in rhythms that punctuate the slow dance of a salmon’s tale, flicking that muscle of a fish upstream, up the green river home.
You must hear the word for yourself. I cannot tell you. It will come to you beside the mountain lake, in the garden’s mud, through the cadences of the river flowing green and fast through fir-clad mountains. The salmon speak the word; the word is written on a banner borne triumphantly by greening beans; you may sing the word, you may pray it or cry it or whisper it, and it will carry you gently home.