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· Better Than It Ever Gets ·

"A name can say a lot about a place, or nothing at all."

So begins John G. Mitchell's National Geographic article, Nature's Champion (July 2004). I cite it today since, though I'm only a denizen of Olympic National Park, its "natural" subject I can almost call home.

Olympic says a lot. It says that this is as good as it gets. Here, astride the pinnacle of excellence [Mitchell writes], stands the champion. Fitting, then, that mapmakers should borrow the modifier from mythology and stamp it upon this peninsula poking fist-like into the Pacific at the westernmost edge of the 48 contiguous United States. And if the word suits the peninsula, why not recycle it to the peninsula's national park, overlorded as it is by the mountain Olympus, named for the throne room of the Grecian gods?

 · Olympic National Park ·

Though I'm wary of his penchant for hyperbolic "excess," as Jeffrey Kittay once rightly said more generally of English descriptive nature writing (especially if it seeks some larger droit de cite [right of a citizen]"),* Mitchell is at least encouraging. I mean — if you think about it — his lavish praise is fitting since Olympians are, of course, typically washed by excessive rainfall.

So today I thought to let him continue:

The park is a throne room in its own right [he claims]: More than 900,000 acres (4,000 hectares) of icy summits and alpine meadows, rushing rivers and glacial lakes, fog-shrouded sea stacks and surf-fed tide pools; a sanctuary for spawning salmon and rutting elk; a seedbed of spruce and fir and cedar soaring above a rain forest as grand as any in the world. Who knows? Among American landscapes, Olympic National Park just might be better than it ever gets.

Naturally, Mitchell's stylish hyperbole should prompt a smile, but you might enjoy on this sunny day a handy, more-officially-approved photo gallery, while I, a bit lower on nature's food-chain, enjoy an Olympia brew.

You might recall, of this Northwest beer, its fitting motto: "It's the Water."

*Kittay's remark, from his 1981 introduction to Yale French Studies — entitled "Toward A Theory of Description" (Issue 61, p.i) — I include for added amusment, interest, and study:

We still operate very much within the Aristotelian concept of action, which suggests that description be viewed [he writes] as secondary, and purely functional, or merely decorative. Consequently, description is seen as something which must be kept in its place, functioning to fill in or to set up, and having a certain marginality or accidence, making it detachable or skippable; otherwise, if it does claim a larger droit de cite [right of a citizen] (as in descriptive poetry of the eighteenth century), it is seen to be uncontrolled or excessive or boring. This volumn discusses the qualities, tendencies and resistances of description, what our attitudes are toward it, what elicits it, how it works, what it satisfies and leaves wanting, and the strange kind of relationships it establishes with such concepts as space and time and action, perception and cognition, writing and meaning.

Again, I'm but a championizing denizen of Olympic National Park, not yet a full citizen.


P.S. Do enjoy Mitchell's added peninsular Field Notes, too.


And enjoy them we do! But be careful; you'll attract tourists.

Now, about denizen: Are you using it in the British sense, to mean a "foreigner granted rights of residence" (AHD3rd)? We, your loyal readers, think of you as our native guide to the Pacific Northwest.

Posted by loretta markle on June 29, 2004 02:04 PM

Alas, as a native Californian I'm forever a denizen, and a tourist.

When I renew my National Parks Pass later this month, likely in Eastern Wyoming at Devil's Tower, I may become more "naturalized," which is, I suppose, a form of citizenship.

Posted by
Styles on July 1, 2004 10:49 AM

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