It was a crisp autumn day as I walked up the lonely gravel road years ago near Colville. The sun shone brightly on the hillside; no smog dulled the atmosphere.
A chill hovered in the narrow valley, and I zipped up my wind breaker as I walked through the shadows that lingered along the stream.
Tall tamarack, Douglas fir and ponderosa stood like sentinels along the road and in the hills.
Though today the stream was bouncing and gurgling as it dashed over large boulders strewn in its path, I knew in a few weeks this same stream would be buried under a heavy layer of ice and snow.
The only animal life I found was one old porcupine waddling acrossthe road ahead of me and a couple ravens flying noisily overhead.
The road, hardly more than an old logging trek, wound up the valley as it followed the twisting stream. Reaching a fork, I left the creek behind and started up the steep hillside. I heard the wind as it brushed the trees, and a whisper from the creek far below - a calm penetrated by raucous cries of ravens.
Other than the crunching as I walked up the gravel road or rocks rolling down behind me, the world was void of human noise.
"Ah," I whispered, as I rounded a bend and stopped in a place where I had a panoramic view of the terrain around me. To my left I looked through a narrow ravine to the valley far below. I saw what could be described as a patchwork quilt - green pastures vying with the dull yellow of a harvested grain field and the brown of plowed fields. I saw a couple houses and an oldweathered barn, its once red siding faded by years of harsh weather.
Yet, what I had come to see was to my right. Turning, I saw one hill after another, each decked out in splashes of color worthy of any king. I stood just drinking in the view, knowing that one day this too would be gone and that I was determined to have a picture that could never be blotted out of my mind.
I beheld splashes of red, orange, yellow and green covering the hillsides. This was the time for tamarack, otherwise known as the western larch, to shine. They were dressed in brilliant gold and orange as they hovered between summer and winter. Scattered between their brightness were the darker greens of Douglas fir and ponderosa. Lower in the valleys were the yellow birch and red of the maple interspersed with the dark green of the cedars.
I drank in this beauty as my eyes passed from one place to another, searching from the valley below to the azure sky above. The sun was a ball of fire behind me bringing out all the beauty of the world.
Turning, I started back down the hill. I hoped I could visit this place again in a few days for I knew this beauty would be gone shortly. Soon those beautiful tamaracks would stand stripped naked as the wind blew through them and the snow fell around and over them.
I returnedhome, knowing that I would always remember this scene.
Maybe my doctor was right, though I continued to deny I would eventually go blind. But no one could take the picture of this scene away from me. And when my eyesight did indeed actually leave me, I still could see in my mind this natural splendor.
Now as I edit this story, I find I am leaving out a class of people, those who were born blind and have never seen colors. How can I help these folks understand what I am describing? I might use such words as "cold" or even "hard' to replace blue or black. I might use "warm" or "hot" to replace reds and orange, or maybe even use "smiles" for the sunshine. But these words just don't do it.
For you who are reading these words, however, don't forget to see what lies around you; even dreary winter days offer beauty.
Ernie Jones, a registered nurse who retired due to vision loss, can be reached at 529-9252 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.