Writing by the Columbia
by Kerri Buckley
You don’t always get to change or choose locations for writing a book, but last summer I moved to Astoria, Oregon, to write in a room that overlooked the Columbia River — the huge, legendary, Lewis and Clark marine highway. The Columbia spills into a bay that connects to the Pacific, and the view of the sunset from my room was spectacular. At night I could literally see ships pass in the night, and small fishing boats illuminated as they bobbed on the river. Not only could I watch the river, but four miles across were the misty blue mountains of Washington.
This view was everything to me as I worked. I put together my first collection of poetry with the river always in sight and in mind. The room was a few stories up in a hundred-year old building on a hill, and I’d frequently look up from my computer or paper to see factory-sized ships painted in bright colors floating up or down river.
Sometimes I’d jump in my car, grab a chai, park facing the river and write for hours. When I needed a break, the path along the river was the perfect diversion–full of bicycles, dogs and wild flowers. The fishing boats drifted in and out; sea-lions yelped their constant barks to one another, and the sky over the river changed color and hue from moment to moment—from clear to a cold, mysterious fog. And then, shortly, a rainbow arced down into the river through sun-filtered clouds.
There was always a breeze, and through the window in my room, I could hear strains of The Magic Flute, or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, as the musicians and performers of the Astoria Music Festival rehearsed at the nearby Liberty Theater. The Liberty, opened in 1925, was grand inspiration itself, beautiful, elegant, and undergoing extensive and careful renovation. I could cross the street to a flower shop, walk a few steps and duck through the alley to The Rusty Cup, a coffee shop next to the Liberty that always welcomed writers, artists and creative projects. Sunday mornings I could hear the crowds down below at the Sunday Market, and the distant bells of the trolley. Always, though, there was the river–the perfect writing companion: moving, changing, reflective as I wrote, revised and rewrote.