On a clear May morning, I climbed up Artillery Hill at Fort Worden at dawn. Before reaching the bunkers and the spectacular view over Admiralty Inlet, I stumbled upon Memory's Vault, an installation by Richard Turner featuring the poetry of Sam Hamill. The poetry is engraved onto bronze plaques, mounted on tall, concrete columns that stand scattered within the trees. Standing there, with the first rays of sun filtering through the forest, the experience of this place, this artwork and these words felt very moving. Later that day, I would receive an email from my aunt and uncle saying that they had decided to sell the land that my grandparents homesteaded in the San Juans - a place that has always been integral to my soul. The experience on Admiralty Hill that morning suddenly took on even greater significance. I doubt I'll ever forget it. I've included the first part of Sam Hamill's poem here.
A Lover's Quarrel
By Sam Hamill
There are some to whom a place means nothing,
for whom the lazy zeroes
a goshawk carves across the sky
for whom a home is something one can buy.
I have long wanted to say,
just once before I die,
I am home.
When I remember the sound of my true country,
I hear winds
high up in the evergreens, the soft snore
of surf, far off, on a wintry day,
the half-garbled song of finches
darting off through alder
on a summer day.
Lust does not fatigue the soul, I say. This wind,
green trees, this little bird of the spirt --
this is the shape, the place of my desire. I am free
as a fish or a stone.
Don't tell me
about the seasons in the East, don't talk to me
about eternal California summer.
It's enough to have
a few days naked
among three hundred kinds of rain.
In its little plastic pot on the high sill,
the African violet
grows away from the place
the sun last was, its fuzzy leaves
leaning out in little curtsies.
It, too, has had enough
of the sun. I love the sound of a storm
without thunder, the way winds
slow, trees darken, heavy clouds
rumbling so softly
you must close your eyes to listen:
then the blotch, blotch
of big drops
plunketing through the leaves.