by Kamalla Rose Kaur
To learn more about David Mason, visit the David Mason collection at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies , located at the Goltz Archives, on the campus of Western Washington University, or:
More Info. About David Mason
Yesterday David and I explored the top of Sehome Hill Arboretum, deep in the icy clutch of winter. David was underdressed, forgetting that his body is dying (Parkinson’s disease) and that he chills faster now. Yet he still moves beautifully. He can balance perfectly on one foot, slide down hills on his butt…no, that was how I got down the hill. David scrambled on his feet.
Point is, David inhabits his body well.
I had decided we would keep silent on our walk. I talk too much and I was feeling burdened, and it takes energy for David to speak.
Pacific Northwesterners are comforted by nature. For me, the trees call to me, and I do so like lichen. For David, it appears that a million small things attract his attention.; a little plant, an explosion of moss, fungi, a strange bug, a slimy place on the wall, petroglyphs and graffiti, a beer can.
Breaking the silence slightly, David encouraged me to perceive the palette of colors.
I looked and saw browns and grays mostly. The forest was lit with silver light. I noted the dark winter greens – the ferns , evergreen boughs, ivy, holly, and oregon grape. I delighted in the soft silvery green lichens. I enjoyed the lacey gray twigs, with the white berries, and the occasional flash of neon colored fungi, bright moss, strange litter. I opened my eyes.
Soon I admitted that I habitually shut my ears, as well, to the sounds of Bellingham while visiting our parks. Not David. He was quietly imitating the sounds as he walked; the bass booms and strange screeches, and he hummed the note at the core of the urban roar.
I once asked David what his favorite Pacific Northwest creature was and he told me, “The river otter.”*
“They don’t have to think about getting from here to there. You don’t have to find them, they find you. They make great designers. Their costume is their body; it is river mud brown, and it slithers .”
From the internet I learned that:
Otters are expert swimmers and divers, swimming at an average speed of seven miles per hour and staying underwater for up to 2 minutes. Unlike muskrats or beavers, the otter barely makes a ripple when swimming or splash when diving.” **
“Do they pose? You know, like cats pose. Do otters pose?” I wanted to know.
“They noses and poses.” David replied. He leaned close and peered calmly into my eyes with pure curiosity, alert for any possibility of fun in me. He wiggled his nose, sniffing happily.
“Otters communicate with their noses, mainly by smelling marked territories.”**
“They have fun.” I added, stating the obvious.
“Yes.” David affirmed quietly.
Towards the end of our walk, David picked up a leaf and put it on top of an old cement post. The leaf was soft brown on one side, silver on the other. Then he placed two small specimens of lichen beside it – one was fine spun, the other leafier, both were silvery green. Completing this arrangement David added a small, neon bright, carnelian orange, mushroom.
* River otters are an endangered species.