A river runs north at the bottom of the hill, a mile away from my door. It joins a larger river in Portland which runs west to the sea 90 miles later. The Willamette here is small, familiar. By Portland it is majestic only to be swallowed by the Columbia whole. The Columbia is the Mississippi of the west; giant, enigmatic powerful. It runs through mountains and deserts, forest and field until it empties into the Pacific Ocean at Illwaco. When the tide ebbs waves stack up across the bar whipping the shallows to brown and white. But a larger river flows here, one that defines the land and every aspect of it.
The largest river has no name unto itself; it is a combination of winds and currents that make up the North Pacific drawing the warm moist air across the ocean to the mountains where they rise up and cool. the moisture turns from vapor to liquid, occasionally from liquid to solid and blankets the lowland in rain and the mountains in white from October to the following May. The constant rain is where the other rivers, from the cozy coast fork to the giant Columbia come from. The rain brings the salmon up the river looking for their natal streams and washes breaks the soil down ever finer until the silt sticks to everything it touches.
Which is why that giant river is in my mind as I soak and scrub a dozen potatoes from the garden. The soil so fine it sticks to the skin until forcefully removed. So much work to sow, tend, harvest, haul and lastly clean these spuds. The late summer soil here was loath to give them room or let them go. But the flavor of these potatoes so fresh from the ground is sublime. Potatoes are a fools crop, so cheap at the store I probably spend more to put calcium back in the soil washed away by rain then what I could buy the same amount of spuds from the Safeway. But they wouldn’t be the same; wrinkled and soft, quick to mash but hard to fry, pasty tasteless mounds of starch in comparison to the crisp and full pomme de terre from my own land.
Today is a good day for potatoes and pork; the long-awaited River in the Sky has returned like a dragon across the mountains. Even sick I spent the morning running around putting everything metal under cover, because anything iron left outside is rust. Many chores will fill the next months from sharpening blades to cleaning carburetors. I led the sheep up to the pole barn to remind them their was cover somewhere just as the sky opened up. The endless summer of laying in the field all nigh under the stars is over for the year. Now is the time of wool socks and wet boots, turned up collars and pulled down hats. And slow cooked pork, apples and potatoes.
And now to bed.