Point Defiance Metro Park, Tacoma, WA
January 10, 2010

My fatness overwhelmed my natural inclination toward laziness. I could tell myself that my leg was still broken, that the damage to my calf, knee, ankle, and foot still caused me pain, that the scar across my achilles hurt. But nearly two months of inactivity, broken only by short strolls in California, was wearing on me this morning. I wasn't healed enough to head into the snowy mountains and had spent the morning drinking three pots of tea, reading volume one of Foote's Civil War, talking on the phone, and writing a six page letter: It was too late to go to the coast or to the low valleys of the Olympics. Point Defiance would have to do.

As they tend to do when I go for a walk outside, my thoughts drifted to places and people far away from me and the ferns and mosses and enormous cedars of the interior of the park. Three weeks in California had spoiled me and I wasn't sure if I would ever be quite the same again. I liked the Pacific Northwest. I liked looking at snowy Rainier. I liked the good coffee that was everywhere. I liked the small pubs jammed with quality beer. I liked the rain forest. I even liked the mist and the rain that hung in the air for seven months a year. The alpine playground of the Olympics and Cascades were truly world class and I still had huge tracts of them to explore. I liked having the smell of salt air in my nose every day and watching the sun set over the Sound. But California was pulling at me.

I wasn't sure where I was in the park, but I was on some sort of trail and would eventually come out of the forest and be able to figure out where I was and where I should go next. It didn't really matter where I was in the park. I wandered along one trail and then diverged onto another. I crossed a road and entered the woods along another foot path, unconcerned with being on new terrain without a map or any notion of where I was going. I came to a road and saw the Sound on the other side of it, well down from the bluffs that I was on. I turned off onto another path that seemed to go in the general direction of my car.

This summer I realized how much I missed the Pacific Northwest. It was home. I had a sense of place here that was stronger than any I'd had since leaving Evanston for college in Sewanee. Evanston had been home. Then Sewanee was home. I never felt completely at home in Champaign-Urbana or in Bloomington, nor had I for the first few years in Lakewood. But sitting in a dingy motel in Devils Lake, North Dakota, I realized how much I yearned to be back home, that the PNW was home for me. When I climbed Stevens Pass on my bicycle and cruised downhill to camp along the banks of the Skykomish River, I knew that I was home. I hugged a tree and pressed my nose into the mossy, damp bark to breath deeply the air of home.

I had been wandering in the park for two hours and decided that it was high time to go home and give my leg a rest. I couldn't call what I had done exercise, but I felt a bit better about having not wasted another day sitting inside reading or swilling beer. Another month, maybe six weeks, and I'd be back playing in the snowy mountains and, probably, still dreaming about California and where my future home might be.


From Lakewood, drive I-5 north to SR-16. Take SR-16 west for a few miles, exiting at the 6th Avenue Exit. From the exit, continue straight ahead (marked for SR-163), branching off to the right. The road you are turning onto is Pearl. Continue straight down Pearl, which dead ends at the park. Entry and parking are free. There is a lot to see and do, especially in the spring and summer when the gardens are blooming.