Point Defiance Metro Park
October 28, 2006

"What is to be done?" An evil man once penned those words before destroying thousands of lives in the name of helping them. But it seemed an appropriate question to ask when I awoke at 8 am, ready to race out to Rainier and make a run at Goat Island Mountain. The thick fog and clouds outside my bedroom window were not supposed to be there. My pack was stuffed with gear and my heart was set on making my first foray into the new snow in the mountains. Instead, I closed my eyes and went back to sleep for two more hours.

Confounded by the weather and my general softness, I set out to try something artistic instead of athletic. Besides being a beautiful place, Point Defiance is on salt water and can be a very stimulating place to be when you are looking to have a think. In the spring and late summer there are some big, obvious attractions, such as the extensive gardens, to gawk at. The clouds and fog were now my friends, as the ferry to Vashon, normally just a big boat, seemed far more intriguing as it sailed in and out of the floating mist.

From the Marina a pleasant half mile walk way extends along the water front, overhung by leafy trees whose colors were made all the more vibrant by the grey air around them. The tide was high, which meant that once the walk way ended, I would not be able to go much further along the shoreline. I moved slowly.

Boats floated in the rolling Sound, some powered by motors and engines, others by flesh and blood. A solitary kayak simply moved along with the current, its pilot apparently stuck in the middle of a think as well. I watch him from a bench along the walk way, bobbing slightly, and wondered what he could be pondering out there in the middle of the salt chuck. Maybe nothing. Maybe the extent to which Platonic thought was influenced by Buddhist philosophy. Maybe the secret to the Colonel's recipe. I forgot about the kayaker and headed down the walkway once more, having my own things to think about.

At the end of the walkway was a parking lot and a group of scuba divers in dry suits who didn't seem inclined to venture much more than about fifteen feet from the shore. Even though the tide was high, I was able to walk for a ways along the sand to a point where the thorns of thick blackberry bushes and the water cut off my forward progress. I could have forced my way through, as a group of young boys did, but didn't see the point. Instead I found a nice place to sit for a while on a large piece of driftwood.

People were fishing the Sound and I could hear their laughs, could hear their smiles, through the mist and the grey. Occasionally boats would draw near each other and ask how the luck was. I don't think that catching something was the primary goal of the fishermen: The act itself was what was important.

I watched for a while and then poked around through the other pieces of drift wood, looking for nothing in particular. Which was good because I found exactly that. It was good not to have goals, I thought. If I had had a goal to find something new or interesting, I would have been disappointed by my failure to turn up anything remotely appealing. Like the fishermen, I was happy just to be searching. Finding didn't matter much.

I watched as a dog raced into the water a hundred feet from me, chasing a stick that had been thrown into the water for it. Again and again the dog tore into the water after the stick, never tiring of the game. Every time that the pooch returned to the shore, he'd drop the stick and bounce about, tail waving high in the air, waiting for the stick to go sailing back into the dark water. The dog seemed to understand just as well as the fishermen about goals versus process. Long distance hikers know this. The fastest way to Katahdin is to drive there. Or spend three, four, five, or even eight months walking there from Springer Mountain. Both end at the same place, but the two methods yield vastly different results.

My nose was running from the cold air and my fingers were slightly numb as well, so I pulled myself off of the driftwood, away from the fishermen and the dog, and set out back toward the Marina. The Sound rolled, with internal waves rather than with waves that crashed against the shore, like a field of high wheat dancing in the wind without spilling out of the field. I walked extra slow.

I wasn't sure if I had figured anything out during my walk, as I had forgotten what it was that I meant to think about when I drove out two hours earlier. It seemed that there had been something, but whatever it was it had vanished completely.

This seems to happen to me whenever I come out for a walk along the salt water of Point Defiance. I resolve to resolve some problem, some issue, some sticking point, but end up just wandering around doing nothing special and forget about the problem, issue, or sticking point. Something always presents itself and takes away my attention and focus, leaving me quite happy and contented.


From Lakewood, take Bridgeport heading north, crossing over SR16 (Bridgeport turns into Jackson eventually), and make a left turn on Pearl Street (Jackson is now 26th). Follow Pearl Street to the park. To get to the water, follow the signs for the Marina. Entry and parking is free and there is a lot more to see and do than what I did. In the spring and fall, the gardens are particularly impressive.