I walk the streets of my city dressed in black
and lost in memory
. I won't be living here much longer; it is time, now that the weather
is growing warm again, to go out and revisit my haunts
of old, the places I have spent a delirious hour with friends, late at night, or alone in the dark.
I walk through the campus I have seen almost daily for the last five years or so. It is crowned by a large forested hill -- not tall enough to be a mountain, but great in breadth. The city is strangely centered around this place. This hill is the one that gives area its power; it is a center of events, a meeting of the ley lines, and it warps the world around it. It is a place to wander, and to ponder on the mysteries of life and magic. It is the part that reminds me, more than anything, of the Labyrinth of Great Barrington during summer, or of Faerie.
I go there now, finding one of the secret trails, walking through trees and ferns and rock, breathing the thick, living scent of it, enjoying the warm air. The sun has passed behind some clouds and is descending towards the horizon; the light is growing comfortably dim.
The climb is somewhat tiring, and my boots do not lend themselves to a rough earthen trail; they are best suited to the asphalt streets and concrete nightclub dance floors of a big city. But my mind is on the place around me, and I am caught in the memory of sitting in a valley of ferns, on the northern end of the hill, sitting with a two old friends who I have not seen in over a year. I also remember the nights I have stood atop the watchtower, looking out on my city, and I know now where I am going.
When I reach the summit of the hill, I wander around for a little while before going through the trees to the tower. I walk through the tunnel, moss dangling and water dripping off of its stone sides. I smile, put my hand on its wall for a moment, and go on to the tower.
It is a large wood structure, perhaps fifty feet high, made out of sturdy Pacific Northwest lumber. It affords one an unequaled view of the university, of the city, and of the area beyond, all the way to the Cascade Mountains. Climbing to the top, I stand on the wide wooden platform atop the tower, my long black trenchcoat blowing rather flatteringly in the wind.
I stand there for half an hour, looking at the city and out across the bay, watching as the sun goes down and the city lights come on, watching a big Japanese bulk freighter pull out of the docks at Georgia-Pacific, smelling the warm-cool air and remembering the joy this city, and this place in particular, has brought me. I'm listening to a mix of the Cocteau Twins and Siouxsie & the Banshees on my CD player; it fits the moment perfectly. It is a remote and majestic time, standing on the watchtower of Bellingham, lost in a beautiful present and a beautiful past. The music is remote, too, and mysterious, yet alive in a way beyond my ability to describe it.
The sun sets. I feel... not at peace, no. I never feel at peace. No, I feel the infinitely sweet longing for the other times, the other occasions... I long to have old friends around me, reliving those crazy nights of wandering this city in search of ourselves, talking 2:00 AM philosophy and loving the dark.
The sun sets, though, and if I'm to find my way home I have to leave now. I climb down off the watchtower and drop catlike to the ground, a bittersweet smile on my face, and set off down the hill, into the thick forest, down the winding trail back into campus, across the Parkway, and eventually home.
Gods, I love this town.