George, I have been trying to find you for a long time. You were and still are my friend who I lost one rainy day on a street corner in Seattle. There were no cell phones then. In fact, you had no phone at all. You would have taken a bus, perhaps the ferry. You were not there. It was raining. I waited. Did you ever make it to that street corner?
Like me back in the 1970s we were taking a creative writing class at Seattle Central Community College. That’s where we met. You were so shy you sat in the back of the room but I wouldn’t let you escape me. Like me, you carried the words. The words that had to be written because writers are not made, they are chosen. You were one of the chosen ones.
That was long before I became a hiker. Back in the 70s I’d take the Greyhound bus to visit you – neither one of us drove. You’d be standing along side US 101 waiting for me. I’d get off the bus in high heels and a folder bursting with poems. You also had poems but I had to pry them out of you because you didn’t think they were good. You were wrong.
You had a cabin in the woods and a white cat named “Smudge”. You had no running water or electricity. You had a few books – “Turtle Island” by Gary Snyder and “Backpacking, One Step At A Time” by Harvey Manning. You had a portable typewriter, a few dishes, pots and pans, a woodstove and not much else but the starry sky that wrapped around your cabin at night and friends who also lived in the woods off the grid.
The bus doesn’t stop there anymore. The last time I visited you they were logging near your cabin. We sat in a clear-cut surrounded by the green smell of dead trees on that hot August day, you in a red bandana mourning the trees.
I’ve driven by the spot where you’d wait for me to get off the bus. It looks like there’s not much left of those woods anymore. I haven’t had the courage to stop, to see if the cabin is still there because it would hurt too much to find it gone.
Time passed and we missed each other. Maybe I didn’t wait long enough on that street corner in the rain. Maybe you missed the bus. You didn’t have a phone and I couldn’t call you. I wrote, you never answered.
I’m doing OK, George. There have been a lot of changes since I last saw you. I don’t wear high heels anymore. I’m still writing. I’m hiking, backpacking and climbing mountains and I have you to thank for that. If I had not run across Harvey Manning’s “Backpacking One Step At A Time” in your brave little cabin I might not ever have found my way to the mountains.
I’m still here in Seattle. I hope you find me.