Thursday, October 18, 2018

Kubota Garden

It's where Seattle goes on a sunny day ... or at least it felt that way last Sunday. There were lovers and families and dog walkers. The elderly in wheel chairs and walkers. Cameras with tripods, their earnest photographers snapping shots of engaged couples and even a bride.

Kubota Gardens is an oasis of green in the midst of the city. Even a city as green as Seattle, one nestled between water and mountains, needs the relaxation potential of an urban park. Kubota satisfies all the senses: the splash of water, the aroma of autumn leaves — and everywhere, flaming foliage, artful arrangements of flower and leaf and grass.

This time of year, Kubota is a riot of reds, oranges and yellows, as the Japanese maple, euonymus and  gingko flare up in their rich tones.

I did a lot of people watching on Sunday, a lot of strolling and stopping, a lot of deep breathing. It was just the respite I needed before a hectic week.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Other People's Houses

You can call it a bed and breakfast, an Airbnb or a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner), but when you come right down to it, you're staying in someone else's house. Someone you didn't know before and will probably never see again.

But while you're there (here), you become intimately acquainted with the play of morning light on window blinds, the amount of pressure required to turn the faucet, the location of the bathroom light switch so you can flick it on in the dark.

I'm a private person, one who doesn't take naturally to early morning conversation with strangers while making a cup of tea ... but somehow, this works for me.

It's calming to stay in a house rather than a hotel. It feels as if I'm part of a community and not just visiting. And indeed I am — just one member of a band of travelers who want to see a place from the inside out.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Peak Experience

The Chief Sealth Trail winds its way through southeastern Seattle for almost five miles. Though I'd read about it in my Airbnb welcome note and tried to find it on a map, it was proving elusive to pinpoint — at least in cyberspace.

In the long run I literally ran into it. Walking down 32nd Street, I saw a rise, an opening, a grassy meadow, a break in the cityscape. It was the trail!

I turned left, and the sight almost took my breath away. There was Mount Rainier looming large in the sunset sky.  I couldn't find an angle that didn't involve power lines, but there it was, Seattle's iconic mountain.
When I reached my place, I told Cris, Airbnb host, how excited I was to spot the peak. Oh yes, she said. But you can see it from our house, too. She led me to the dining room window, pointed off in the distance. And there it was again, only slightly less imposing.

Sometimes, peak experiences are closer than you think.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

A Walker in Seattle

We've been walking up hills and down, from Pioneer Square to the International District, then hopping a bus to Ballard where we walked some more.  We chugged up hills as steep as San Francisco's, and stopped at a local watering hole for sustenance.

I've already walked one route twice, from my Airbnb to Celia's place. And last night I finally found the Chief Sealth Trail (more about that later).

For now, I'll just say that Seattle has rolled out its grandest strolling weather for this walker in the suburbs. ... walker in Seattle, I should say.

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Coast to Coast

Speaking of "above it all," ... I'm about to take off for Seattle, a flight from Washington, D.C., to Washington State. In fact, I'm writing this at Dulles Airport while a history program on the popes of Avignon — "the papacy was more or less captured by the king of France" — drones on the television.

From one extreme  — an expanse of sky; the miracle of flight; a miracle, period — to the other, the absurdity of the particular.

Modern travelers are strung between these two. The wonder of the firmament outside, cramped seats and coffee inside.

Here's hoping that the miraculous part of this flight holds up its end of the bargain.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Above It All

A few hours before Tuesday's monuments tour, my colleagues and I gathered on a rooftop to share drinks and dinner. This is the view that greeted us.

I've lived here for decades and never before seen a rainbow over the Washington Monument. It looks like there should be a pot of gold buried somewhere at its base — but I didn't find it when we visited later that night.
It was the view that was golden: The city spread out at our feet, the low buildings, the honeycomb of highways, the late-day light.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Monuments at Night

Last night, a tour of the Washington, D.C., monuments at night. There was Lincoln, the great man's right foot protruding slightly, as if he were about to push himself up and walk out to greet the beleaguered citizens gathered there.

What would he say? What could he say? Seeing him made me long for a statesman or stateswoman, someone larger than life who will come to save us all, who will do the right thing no matter the political consequences.

The scale of the monuments only grows in the darkness. Darkness is what we had last night — a rich, warm darkness that meant we could stroll around in shirt sleeves the second week of October. But darkness is what we have in a metaphorical sense, too. And that darkness isn't as comfortable.

I took heart from the lights and the sounds, the throngs of people staying up late to see the marble and the fountains, those who — I hope — still believe.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Decluttering Times Two

Am I the last of a dying breed? Not just a dying breed, but a unique breed — perhaps one of the only generations that must manage both digital and actual files? I've spent part of an evening pulling photographs off an old computer that is less-than-accessible due to charging issues, and as I've been doing so, I've wondered, do we have any parallels in history?

Were there once people who had to contend with both stone tablets and papyrus? With the scroll and the codex?

As the pace of change increases, the pace of managing that change falls on the shoulders of those who not only have a crammed-full hard disk but also scores of musty, sagging boxes in the basement.

Where to start? How to proceed? One must be ruthless on both scores, I suppose, must pitch the papers and books — plus ancient computer files, too. Yesterday was a good day for that, with a sheaf of papers recycled at the office, and desktop computer files trashed at home. It's a bit like bailing out the ocean with a thimble — but it's a start.

(How many of these need to go? Quite a few!)


Monday, October 8, 2018

Creeping Numeralism

It was called the zoning improvement plan, but went by its chipper acronym, Zip. And it wasn't adapted quickly, wrote John Kelly in yesterday's Washington Post. Zip codes met with "pockets of resistance," he said, including from the White House, which omitted "20500" from its official stationery, even though President Lyndon Johnson had ordered federal agencies to start using the five-digit code a month or so earlier, in June 1965.

Americans may have been sick of numbers, Kelly said. Three years earlier they'd had to start including Social Security numbers on their tax returns. That same year, 1962, AT&T introduced "all-number" calling — which put an end to such notable exchanges as BUtterfield 8 and MUrray Hill 6. 

In fact, Kelly reports, there was an "Anti-Digit Dialing League" created to fight "creeping numeralism." 

I wonder what the anti-numeralists would think of life in 2018. Today I created three new passwords, all letter-number-symbol combinations. In the course of doing that I was sent at least four different codes that would expire in minutes or hours. Numbers were texted to me, which I then used to create new letter-number codes. 

As I wrote recently, the world has been heading toward numeralism for at least 400 years. Now we have Zip-plus-four. Put me in the words column, though. I'll fight "creeping numeralism" wherever I find it. 

(Mr. Zip courtesy Wikipedia)

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Saturday, October 6, 2018

Fading Beauty

The wedding was at 5 p.m., but there was time to meander along a Meadowlark Garden trail toward Lake Gardiner, to see the late-summer salvia and coleus, the asters and ornamental grasses.

It had been cloudy most of the day, but the sun had come out a few hours earlier and warmed the air.

With each turn of the gravel trail the eye took in another artful arrangement of fern and grass and frond.

What a balm for the spirit is a mellow fall afternoon, the air just warm enough, the scent of crisp leaves. After the frenetic growth of summer, the fading is welcome. The beauty seems to come from the fading. And there is comfort in that.

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Friday, October 5, 2018

Two-Walk Day

Walking early this morning and walking again later, I hope. The two-walk day is one I've come to appreciate. Walks like bookends, like brackets. Walks that hold you up, that wake you up, that keep you sane.

I've always felt this way, but lately more than ever.

For what is a life but the steps we take of it, the twists and turns we make of it. The people we help along the way.

The two-walk day gives me twice as long to ponder these truths and mysteries.


Thursday, October 4, 2018


Last night the pavement unfurled like a gift. It caught my feet and led me through the dark. It gave me room to breathe.

Earlier in the evening, October fireflies crawled up from the ground, blinking as yellow as the road marks I wrote about yesterday. If the fireflies could do it, so could I.

So I donned a headlamp and reflective vest and took off down the newly lined road.

The air was cool on my arms; it had the weight of summer air. It buoyed me as I strode past lamplit houses. It calmed me with its passage.

Last night, the road was my labyrinth.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Yellow Lines

The trees are starting to turn, just the first hints of yellow and gold. And Folkstone Drive is following suit. After weeks and months of being a work in progress, the road has two long yellow stripes down the middle of it.

It picks up the mood of the season. Bright yellow school buses, crisp orange leaves, and, if you're lucky, a stand of Black-eyed-Susans, though more far gone than these.

Yesterday's walk took me up and back beside the new yellow lines.

It was a still, warm afternoon that held me as I sauntered. It was good to be walking.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Green and Gray

Ireland seems like another world already. It is another world, of course, or at least another country. But it's one I'm going to imagine now, because the fields are so green and the stones are so gray and the two go so well together.

There was a feeling there that everything will be all right in the end. A strange feeling, when you think about the history of the place. But a cozy, warm feeling.

Maybe it's the gallows humor there or the expectations, which aren't as high as those on this side of the Atlantic. But whatever it is, I'm going to be drawing on it today.

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