A Long Time Ago on the 550

I went to Bellevue for brunch recently. Such is the lure of friends.

Years ago, I was on the 550 four days a week. There and back, sitting miserable in my coat next to some other sad commuter, staring out the window and wondering what had inspired me to let this be a part of my life. I’d read, or, more often, I’d write furiously in my journal. I’ve never reread the entries from that period. I should.

There was one bright spot. It was this.

mount rainier from the i-90 bridgeOh. Hi there.

It still snaps me out of whatever I’m thinking about on those now-rare trips on the 550. “Need to get groceries, I wonder if Bellevue Square is the mall I’m thinking of, I need to call my parents… Oh. Hi, Rainier.”

It was a good interruption. I could fume about so much of my young life being spent on a bus or get angry again about something from my increasingly ill-fitting job. And then… mountain. Perspective. Hello.

It made even going to and from Bellevue kind of ok, for a minute.

But even in Bellevue, the gated community of the Pacific Northwest, nature finds a way.

in the parking garage at bellevue squareTo feed the soul, to shed light in the dark spaces, to remind us of the glories of being human: that is what art is for.

Spring Break at Age 30.93

I have been looking forward to this fortnight for two months. Through class and projects and presentations and weekends and evenings full of meetings and analyzing data and ALL OF IT.*

So here we are. What am I going to do? Well, here’s what I’ve been fantasizing** about.

  • Reading
  • Reading at a tea shop
  • Working on my novel again
  • Coming home from work or dance class and just flopping on the floor and staring at the ceiling
  • Reading
  • Writing a million blog entries

It’s that last one that leads me to report this here. You’ll notice it’s been quiet lately; I don’t like it either, but I’m about to sort it out. I still have another quarter left, so it’s not likely to be the last quiet time… but I’m going to chase the echoing silence away for a while, at least.

That’s for tomorrow. For today, for you, I have promises. And also this picture of the orange peels left after some fruit experienced the Rapture next to Bobby Morris field.

two orange peels, empty, in Bobby Morris Field in Seattle

*In the hours outside of my regular-person job, I mean. To be clear.

**No, seriously, this stuff has been the fodder for flights of fancy for some weeks now. Spring break is different when you’re moving into the middle part of adulthood.

Purgatory: Delayed Flights, Airport Captivity, and Holiday Travel

The hanging bird sculpture thing at SEA AirportWhen I booked my ticket to see my family in Florida for Christmas, I knew the travel experience would be a little mind-bending. The only workable itinerary I could find left Seattle at 6:10 am on a Sunday; as that would be long before the light rail started running, I figured that meant a good five or six hours spent lingering in SeaTac, wraithing about until I could finally get on my plane and snooze my way south. As it happened, my kind-hearted neighbor gave me a middle-of-the-night ride to the airport, sparing me the hall-wandering I’d pictured.

That and using my Global Entry card to zip through the pre-check line were the sole bright spots of the day. And I started all of this with so much hope; I read this before I left and thought, Yes. Yes, I can do that. And I think I want to be that woman’s friend.

holodeck artThis looks like a game Q would use to prove a point to/torment Picard. It is, rather appropriately, just outside security at SeaTac.

Early in the morning, when the ultimate bleakness of things had not yet revealed itself, I started a little narrative that I thought I’d turn into a pithy blog post. Sample entries:

3:15 am: The United desk finally opens. Everyone is too exhausted to have any reaction to anything. They should spray tranquilizers from the ceiling like soma; flying would be easier for literally everyone.

3:45 am: I make the strange yet sort of logical choice to sit and wait for the pre-check lane to open, rather than going through the not-very-long regular security line.

4 am: I’M IN.

4:08 am: I’M OUT. And all my shit stayed in my bag, and my shoes stayed in place, and I felt less like cattle than I have during any TSA interaction for the last 12 years. Could this be love?

4:45 am: I am plunked by my empty gate. People are beginning to be animated, a change that lines up nicely with the Coffee Bean and Starbucks gates going up.

Cute. Optimistic. A touch banal, but I was operating on zero sleep after about 20 hours of being awake, so that’s to be expected.

Then:

  • Alaska caused my arriving plane to be late.
  • My late plane caused me to miss my connection to Fort Walton Beach in Houston.
  • A Florida storm caused at least half of the subsequent Fort Walton-bound flights to be canceled.
  • IAH Airport’s excruciating program of adult-contemporary holiday renditions from a darker ring of hell inspired mass homicidal ideations.
  • United‘s dire understaffing caused hundreds of people to stand in line about five times longer than necessary as diligent, unsupported employees untangled mass mayhem caused by terrible corporate choices, weather, and fate.
  • A solid 12 hours of travel process nested in approximately 30 hours of nearly continuous wakefulness caused me to touch the edges of my usually boundless sense of humor.
  • The whole ordeal caused me to write a freaking novella in response to United‘s chirpy request for customer feedback.

Pant, pant, pant.

I talk to you from the other side, clearly. It’s the only way it could be  – by about two hours into my seven-hour stay at IA-bloody-H, I’d lost the ability to create words and could only half-assedly read and watch bursts of Adventure Time – between bouts of furious texting to anyone who would listen to my pain.

scary magician art at seatacConcourse D, SeaTac. More terrifying up close, as it is life-sized.

For once here, I lack a pithy aside or a warm observation. It’s two days out from the day itself; I am still flattened from the experience. This is not a story; this is a hand reached out to all the other people who get devoured for a few days or a week by family travel, travel that is completely unlike anything else undertaken by those of us cut by wanderlust. We go to places we would not ordinarily go, perhaps under any circumstances, except that people we love choose to live there, and so we choose to use some of our limited and so very important vacation time and money to go see them. And we hope that this regular journey is read as the profound, bone-deep, unshakable expression of love that it is. I know it is for me, and I also know how lucky that makes me.

pillsI took this picture at SeaTac too. (I took no pictures in Houston. Some things are better left undocumented, dissolving in the memory with time.) I think whatever creative team came up with this needs to live a little, or perhaps to get better pills.

Whether you’re snug in your own home, crouched on the guest couch at a family member’s place, or making an easy commute to your parents’ house a mile from your own, I hope this finds you well. I hope you’re in a good place, a safe place, and that if you can’t be happy today, you can at least feel secure. If things aren’t happy for you, take a little solace in this and know that it’ll pass.

I’m with you in the suburbs
          where you’re madder than I am

I’m with you in upstate wherever-you’re-from
          where you must feel strange

I’m with you in your abandoned hometown
          where you laugh at this invisible humour

We all get there eventually. And the only cure is leaving, again and again, after we gain, one more time, the clear understanding of what caused us to flee in the first place – and what causes us, over and over, to return. The joys and sorrows, the obligation and choice to oblige it. The peculiarly reassuring alienation that can only come with returning temporarily to a place you left behind.

I got here. And on Sunday, I’ll boomerang back – minus the purgatory, one hopes – and time will flow forward again. For me and for you.

Know Thyself

Since getting a camera in August (my beloved Canon PowerShot SX280, thank you), I’ve had regular and accumulating evidence of the things my eyes are drawn to. The shortlist:

  1. Trees, foliage, and other plant life
  2. Street art
  3. Birds
  4. Urban weirdness
  5. Repeating patterns
  6. Small, easily overlooked details

You can know these things about yourself. I’m a fairly visually oriented person and fairly self aware as well. Even so, you don’t quite get some things until you see them collected.

trees

1. Victoria Maple, 2. victoria branches, 3. Allen Library, UW, with foliage, 4. yellow, 5. Tree by Diamondhead, 6. UW campus, early Saturday morning

I likes trees. No, not those trees.* Just… trees. Looking up at them, all flora unfurling above me.

What else do I enjoy? Well.

We all have our preoccupations. I just hope yours bring you as much happiness as mine bring me.

P.S. This grid is brought to you by this handy little site. If Deviation Obligatoire becomes a plague of photo mosaic grids, you know who to blame. (Me.)

*Ok, those trees too, but that’s another subject altogether.

My Favorite Art in Capitol Hill

It’s on a wall facing the patio of the twice and possibly future Online Coffee on Olive Way, just north of Boylston.

I lived very close to here when I moved to Seattle in 2004, and I ended up at Online Coffee a fair amount as I worked to get my life set up – as I waited for my wireless router to arrive so that I could get actual internet access in my actual apartment.

Coming as I did from a place I regard as sterile and artificial, I felt it deeply when I looked up and saw this, just idly sitting next to people sipping lattes at metal patio tables.

i will always love the false image i had of you“My god,” I thought. “Look at this vibrant, kind of weird place I find myself, that I found for myself. I’m among other people who do things because they want to – and who think of things like this, and who want to put them somewhere public. To share.”

Here‘s a picture of it from 2003, minus the chip it currently sports.

I imagine a good 70-plus percent of the people who have seen this would be able to say what I’m about to say, but: it became part of my background, appreciated but benignly ignored, and then a few months after we were first introduced, it exploded with new and deeper resonance.

“Damn right,” I’d grumble. “We’re all fools, every one of us.”

21.

A conversation I’ve had with myself for the last couple of years has centered around two things: at what point will I make my departure from Capitol Hill? And what Capitol Hill mainstay would break my heart if it were pulled into the grind and churn of all the development?

I still don’t know the answer to the first. Maybe February. Or maybe later, when I decide to leave the city altogether.

The second has had a few answers. Six Arms, the Stumbling Monk? I like those places, and very much. Good memories there. My current yoga studio’s days seem numbered, but I soldier on, so it’s not that. The Egyptian, or Broadway Grill? Apparently not. This coffee shop, that store, that theater, that house’s perfect garden.

Nah, I think it’s this. One of the first things that told me I’d made the right choice and had a decent chance of finding my people.

I made this blog to explore, but also to see. Today I saw my past.

On the Return of SAD Season in Seattle and Elsewhere

be-vulnerable-or-go-away

Be vulnerable or go away by Clara Bee Lavery, via Bossy Femme

My curious superpower, which turned out to be vitally necessary in this region where I’ve chosen to spend my adulthood so far, is that I am emotionally unaffected by the changes of light and season.* Am I glad it’s dark before five now? No, but only because it means I have almost no free time during the daylight five days a week and because it makes the streets less safe for more time. But I persevere and feel generally ok through til spring, and my adaptations are mostly just to eat more soup, drink more tea, and wear more sweaters. And I like those things anyway.

It’s not thus for many people I care about, and I admire them so for crafting careful plans to get through approximately half of each year. Online and real-life friend Bossy Femme has created a smart roundup of things to be grateful for and things to keep close during this tough transition to a tough time. Follow the included links too – they are killer.

And as for the rest of you SAD people – may you have a happy lamp, a sympathetic friend, and a warm place to be when you need it.**

This will probably help too, considering that all 15 of the top 15 cities with the least sunshine are in Western Washington.

A post-script: here, we do not have groundhogs. Here, we have the guy I saw walking down Third yesterday, reading his Kindle, its screen illuminated by the pull-out light of its case. SIX MORE WEEKS (MONTHS).

*Lest you think I am a blase sort, here is a selection of things I am emotionally affected by: my art and craft, my job, my friends, triumphs and defeats, hopes and their fruition or dashing, the goings-on and well-being of my cats, fates of favorite fictional characters, dreams, imaginary conversations in my head, obligations, whether I feel I’m accomplishing all I want with this blog, choices, advice from Free Will Astrology, revelations and epiphanies, trial and error, longing, heartrending advice columns, the arrival and departure of cheap squash and figs at Trader Joe’s, the enormity of the world and its possibilities, the narrowing of our choices that’s concurrent with the broadening of our wisdom as we age, the possibilities and limitations of being fragile mortal beings, the quality or lack thereof of the upcoming Star Wars movies, and the constant indescribable beauty and horror of this world we find ourselves in. In short, my blood type is feelings.

**Fun fact: this was originally the stub of this week’s Hither and Thither, but I had more to say than I thought. Hello!

One of the Most Beautiful Things I Saw This Weekend

the best sign of the timesMy god, it’s full of stars.

This was taken at the bus stop at Queen Anne Ave and Roy, just in front of Kidd Valley. Do you know how I have longed for this? Do you know how I have envied other cities this? Even One Bus Away is far from infallible.

Years ago, on my first visit to San Francisco, I was surprised to find that the thing I was most awed by – the thing I longed for the most in retrospect – was not the interesting culture or the beautiful houses or the great food (though those are all, of course, mighty fine, and continue to have their own gravity for me in these uncertain days).

No. It was the “bus is coming in X minutes” signs and the easy-to-understand, readily available bus route maps. Seattle, at the time, was still claiming that making a bus route map was technically impossible, a claim that was just insulting to all involved.

Because of that clear information, we were able to get around the city via the bus in a pre-iPhone era, even though we had no idea of where we were going. And, at the time, such a thing would’ve been just about impossible for a newbie visitor to Seattle.

So yes, this makes me happy. And it was accurate the whole time I stood there. May the lord bless thee and keep thee, Seattle. You’re getting there.

Though Sunday found me sick and coughing, I still had the good fortune to see a variety of beautiful things this weekend before the plague claimed me. The various short features at Hump fell within this category – or FAR WITHOUT. As is the way of the thing.