In the Land of the Blind, a one-eyed artist is King. But who wants to work in the Land of the Blind?
Not this girl. The protesters would gather outside the gates, chanting their poems into a bullhorn. They loved the rhyming couplets, those Union poets:
“Monuments to corporate greed! That’s not the kind of art Seattle needs!”
But no “Guest” ever failed to spend their 25 dollars, nor did any iffy labor practices ever change. All it did was irritate the Gardener, and there were many other irritants there.
So, in May I quit the corporate sideshow of the One-Eyed-One and His Incompetent Do-Nothing Clown Hyenas (*new band name!*) and got myself a nice “Seasonal” job with the Seattle Parks Department, one of the nicest things I’ve done for myself in a while. It seems that I am not cut out for the corporate environment. Which is a problem, because Seattle itself has become corporate, but we’ll get back to that.
I set my work pants on fire for Marcy Merrill’s photo series, “Formal Wear Worn Inappropriately.”
When I was scheduling my interview with the Senior Gardener, we arranged to meet in the park. “I’ve got white hair and a big white truck,” she told me, and my heart began to sing. Because some things, like a lifetime’s work, cannot be faked.
Allow me to express the sheer delight of working with knowledgeable, capable, talented, experienced landscape professionals, who had things to teach me, who were respectful, helpful, and who always had my back. For all the bullshit “Team” talk over the past few years, it finally came true. It has been a very long time since I’ve had such a privilege.
So I set about to having the best summer ever, in what would turn out to be my last summer in Seattle. My commute from my house to the lake took nine minutes. There, I worked on restoring a weedy, overgrown wetland salmon habitat.
Of course, there were still bullies and crowds.
Every day I would find clothing, especially socks. I decided the park was like the Ganges River in India, the holiest place for socks to die. I took it seriously, a steward of sacred ground. Yet I wondered how so many people made it home without pants. One time I found a lone go-go boot in the lake.
One morning someone dumped five bunnies and a chicken in the park, and Animal Control came to help rescue them. “I’ve herded cats. It’s harder,” the guy said. Catching a bunny bare-handed was one of my proudest accomplishments this summer, a true resume builder.
Be vewy quiet! I’m hunting wabbits!
On the fourth anniversary of my Mom’s death, I saw a turtle laying eggs, so Moms were present. A coworker told me that they are a sacred animal to the Sioux because the turtle is always home. Later that morning, I jump-started the vehicle of a nice young man who had moved to Seattle from Texas and was living in his car. He wanted to buy me coffee, give me money. I declined and told him, “She would want this.”
I liked the Parks Department very much, and they liked me, and tried to keep me! But the decree came down from on high: Seasonals Are Seasonal.
But that turned out to be OK, because meanwhile, I was delivered a sign.
“To construct a four-story, 50-unit apartment building in an environmentally critical area. Parking for 18 vehicles to be provided in below grade garage.”
It was not a complete surprise, as I’d gotten a letter from the City addressed to “Resident” that I thought was some malfeasance with the electric bill, and was in fact about the “Urban Village” coming to my back yard, with its “high liquefaction soils” notwithstanding. The blackberry brambles had always made it very private. But the ‘liquefaction” is no joke. I made a dock out of rugs and doormats from Ross Dress For Less for the months of standing water in the rainy season. With all that concrete, how would my place not flood? Never mind the um, lack of privacy of the cranes and the Urban Village?
Against all common sense, I posted in the Columbia City Facebook page, a notorious pit of vipers and trolls. “Does anyone know anything about wetland preservation?”
“That’s the perfect place for some urban infill development!”
“Yay Urban Density!”
“Oh, the poor endangered blackberries!”
“Yes in my back yard!” Which is easy to say when it is NOT ACTUALLY YOUR BACK YARD.
So Seattle is Washaway now. Seasonal. I don’t want things to change, but nothing will ever be the same. I have been here for 25 years, half my life. (You do the math!)
When I moved here from Virginia in October 1992, it was raining, and the neon, ‘”fire-red, gas-blue, ghost-green, shone smokily through the tranquil rain,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about the “blue hour” in Paris. Everything seemed so clean and fresh, so full of hope and promise, Mount Rainier rising over it all like a mirage. My friend Ed told me, “Move here, just move here. You can make a mark on the world because the lines are shorter.” And, for a glorious time, it was true.
As you have surely heard, Seattle has since been bought by a rich and powerful man who promised Fulfillment delivered by flying monkeys. But it turned out to be the Devil’s bargain, The Monkey’s Paw:
” ‘Bring him back,’ cried the old woman… ‘Do you think I fear the child I nursed?’ ”
Rents skyrocketed, homelessness exploded, every piece of property became a gold mine.
The very businesses that made it quirky or funky or unique or fun in the first place got developed into big box luxury apartments. Yay Urban Density! We have sold the soul of the city I loved, its beating heart. I am not the only one looking at all these cities humping the corporate Leg, courting to be the “HQ2” and thinking they are total dumbasses.
The only viable option is to get out now. But how, and to where? So my love sold his condo and we got a beautiful, tiny place together on the Kitsap Peninsula. Once again I moved in October, except this time it was dry, which was handy for moving velvet furniture and countless plants. It was the most beautiful Fall in recent memory.
Here, there is a view of sparkling, shimmering Puget Sound, which I’ve always thought is much cooler than the lake. There are soaring mountains and a peekaboo view of Mount Rainier. We are on Nipsic. I like to think that’s an acronym for Nothing In Puget Sound Is Cooler. It’s very quiet. My neighbors are older, which is glorious. You can hear the seals barking, which is my kind of barking.
So there has not been much time to go to the beach. It is with great sadness that I report the loss of one of my favorite former beach neighbors, Ray Miller, whose cancer returned.
He called me Kiddo and was always helping me out. “Anything you need, Kiddo, just holler.” He had drills and ladders and could fix a cheap chain saw. He taught me about Bar Oil for the chain saw and gave me some. He got me out of plenty of messes, roaring his raucous laugh all the time. He would honk at me as he drove by, openly laughing at whatever project I was attempting. He always had a spotless car and wore a gold watch. He was utterly devoted to all the beings in his care: two good wives and several good dogs.
Ray and Chuy
So I hollered and arranged to have Ray cut my grass on his riding mower for $10 and a six-pack of Bud Lite per service. What a rewarding investment that turned out to be! One time my car broke down and I was surviving off the dubious provisions of the walkable convenience store, the Minit Mart. Ray brought me, in installments, a piece of Chinook salmon, two Yukon Gold potatoes, and two beautiful ears of Yakima corn.
“Where’s my dessert?” I asked.
Ray Miller, 2007
Ray had three properties at Washaway over the years and they all fell into the ocean. He had a sign on his last place that read, “We Hope Our Ship Comes In Before The Dock Rots.”
Next month, December, will be three years ago that Ray, all my neighbors and I lost our properties when they fell into the ocean. I still miss my sanctuary terribly. Why did Ray have to be Seasonal too? Why does everything, and everyone? I think it sucks that “nothing gold can stay.” I find it very upsetting to let the good eggs go. As always, now is the time for savoring, if you can still breathe. As my friend Regnor pointed out to me while he was going through chemo, laughing is the best oxygen.
I remember asking my beach neighbor Stanley, “Don’t you want this to last forever?”
Stanley and Ray
“It already has. Today,” he told me.
But change does bring some of the old pioneer hopefulness, and hope is currency right now. There’s an excitement to new frontiers, the unknown. Things will be different, the only certainty.
As soon as I get these boxes handled, I’m going to the beach to unpack my head.