Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sehome Hill Arboretum: The Green Fuse

Observation Tower on Sehome Hill, Bellingham, WA

A sanctuary in the center of Bellingham, the Arboretum offers a surprising and welcome solitude for those who are suffering from Information Sickness or the gentle urban pressures of Bellingham's subdued bustle. While popular, it is not nearly as crowded as Lake Padden or the the Interurban Trail. Indeed, there have been many early mornings where I have thankfully not encountered another human soul. There's always a mysterious engagement to walking up a hill or a mountain, the point being ostensibly to get to the summit, but more to enjoy the journey on the way. Something of a Mount Analogue.

Over the years the Arboretum has seen it's fair share of logging and coal mining. Fortunately some farsighted souls designated Sehome Hill as a park in 1922 to preserve its unique character. The hand-cut hobbit like tunnel at the top was created in 1923 to accommodate the passage of early Model T automobiles; now it is only a footpath to the Other Side. Note this is not a cultivated and landscaped sort of Arboretum and Bellingham is the better for it. There are portions of the South Ridge Trail, where it is easy to believe you are in deep woods, far from any sign of human or noxious machinery.

You can find parking in the crowded (Western students) lot off Bill MacDonald, across from Sehome High School. From there, the recommended ascent is not up the road, but along the well-worn path at the Southwest corner of the forest. Here the trail runs along the western side of the hill, passing a fern-lined natural amphitheater, to turn round gentle switchbacks to an 80 ft wooden observation tower. In the summer months, when the trees are full of leaves, there is a limited view of the bay to the northwest; but there is a view nonetheless. Further along, you pass through the tunnel to emerge on the other side where a large prohibitively fenced in radio tower stands humming. Here you come to the asphalt road, which descends a winding wooded way back to the parking lot.

However, there are many lesser traveled paths that take you deeper into the woods. Story goes that the area was heavily mined for coal in the mid-1800s and a network of tunnels lace extensively through the Hill. The entrances are no longer known. But on those deep forest paths, there are moments of strange enchantment where you wonder about the other worlds underneath and Heidegger's Holzwege: paths that lead nowhere.  Open from dusk until dawn.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

Dylan Thomas

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

Tunnel on Sehome Hill, Bellingham, WA

No comments:

Post a Comment