The Blue-Skinned Host of Maryhill
By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
Welcome to my home. You might not find my presence familiar but, like the train trill in the Gorge below, I am difficult to ignore.
I have been told that my flaunting beauty is like the train’s
haunting rumble. The two of us decorate this land. I make little
noise, but the train will shake the ground beneath you as you sleep.
I have been told that my beauty makes me difficult to despise, but that I, as an omnivore, am like the train—programmed to dominate and control. I devour berries, flower tips, small rodents and leaves. If I’m hungry, I will eat away the boundaries between garden beds and perhaps state lines.
Speaking of state lines, how much do they matter when the line
is a river, tamed like the wild pheasant was in me? The river waters
vineyards and feeds human appetites. I adorn mansion lawns and
greet visitors. Borders are drawn for administrative purposes.
But I doubt the salmon, steelhead and sturgeon know those purposes
and I suspect the fishing boats don’t care.
I would like to let the river run wild.
I would like to condemn the dam.
But I am tamed and have a human appetite. I admire the sun shimmering on the river’s quiet seas, and the streams of water pouring through the dams. I delight in the quirky bridges that announce the lines between Oregon and Washington.
Like you, I am a foreigner. I have been told I am an exotic bird of India. Perhaps you too are a city kid and not a fisher, a logger, windmill operator, dammer or a cowboy coffee-drinking camper.
Despite my many years here, I am still not comfortable when the
wind blows my tail askew. On hot days, my layers of plumage weigh
me down and I would like to strip down to the attire of my friend,
the crow. I rarely voice such thoughts because, despite my brilliance,
I actually am quite shy. I know my guests stare at me, sometimes
with fear, sometimes with curiosity. I never quite know what to
say or do that will help them feel as if I am just one of them.
Wikipedia blames (or credits) my attire to “an optical interference phenomenon based on periodic nanostructures found in the barbules of the feathers.” I think that means I am beautiful, and that you should stare. People put me here—with the train, the bridge, the dam—for you.
So, please stare, as I welcome you to Maryhill Museum.
Himanee Gupta-Carlson is a Seattle-based writer. A question of “where and how one fits” informs her writing. She has explored that theme in her nonfiction work, including her manuscript Muncie, Indiana (a study of her hometown from an immigrant Indian perspective) and in new work on women in hip hop.