The tweakers have been fighting over my sneakers.
As well they might. They are a sweet old pair of vintage Adidas that I used to wear to cut the grass. When my property fell into the ocean, there was no more lawn to mow, hence I would no longer need my mowing shoes, was my thinking. See what the mind does in a time of grief?
You will recall my solemn oath never to return to the Vagabond, but I’ve been twice since. On this particular day, the rusted-shut door was pried wide open, so I decided to pop in.
I had barely begun to trespass when a young woman named Shawna totally busted me, asking what I was doing.
She is staying in the trailer next to the Vagabond, formerly owned by Stanley and Resha and then occupied by Tweaker Leah. Now that Shawna’s here, neighborhood watch is back. “This is mine, or used to be, until I fell into the ocean,” I explained.
Shawna said that the Vagabond’s broken window had incited a lot of curiosity. She broke out the broken glass and cleaned it all up, because she didn’t want any passing-by dogs cutting up their feet. The window’s absence left my remaining belongings clearly visible.
“There has been a lot of interest in the shoes,” she told me.
There were several different tweakers who were jockeying for my Adidas.“I feel spirits, though I haven’t felt yours,” Shawna told me. Just the same, she had rounded up my remaining stuff and bagged it. She handed me the bag. There were a couple old bedsheets, my orange project towel, chunky with concrete, my rusty Fred Meyer chaise lounge chair, circa 1997, and, of course, the sneakers. “Blessings upon you!” I shouted and hugged her, shocking myself with this surge of unscheduled woo-woo.
But she had other concerns. Staying in Stanley and Resha’s trailer, she had come across some “Hindu stuff.” (I am guessing more likely Buddhist). She did not know how to dispose of it, not wanting to piss off any Hindu gods. I told her Stanley and Resha were talking about moving to New Mexico, Land of Enchantment, where there would be plenty of spirits already, and using her best judgment would probably be fine.
Shawna said she was hoping to stay for awhile, in that trailer on the edge, despite having no power or water. She is keeping warm with a nice cat named Spooky that likes to walk on the beach and layers of clothing, trying to get by with less in uncertain times.
Things in Seattle are uncertain too. I’ve lived here for 23 years and things have always changed, but this particular change seems to be happening really fast: cranes everywhere building high-rises; horror stories of “skyrocketing” rents, cool old buildings and legendary restaurants and affordable housing disappearing in a pile of rubble.
I rent a tiny house where I’ve built a big garden. With my beach property gone, this sanctuary is especially dear to me. But my place recently sold, and it is a large property in an urban location. The future is uncertain. All I could do is make the very best garden ever this year. Every day, I nurture it, savor it. I am paying extra attention now.
In a recent Gawker article entitled “How Amazon Swallowed Seattle,” the author blames the incoming legions of “brogrammers” and their lavish incomes on driving out the funky, the artists, the Wild-West character of the city.
“It was too nice here,” he mourns. “It couldn’t last.”
And it is very nice. In the beating heart of Seattle, I am lucky to have a great gardening job at Chihuly Garden and Glass, where magnificent plants and monumental glass sculptures coexist.
We have the best in-ground irrigation systems for the plants, but it has never been this hot and dry for this long here, and it’s been scary to try to keep everything watered. As I imagine they used to say in the Dust Bowl, “Drought Sucks.” The sturdy old war horses of the Northwest landscape, Rhododendrons and Hydrangeas, brown and burn. Elsewhere, the state is on fire. This, and the lack of A/C that was never needed before, has lent this summer a feeling of suffocating ominousness. I’m pretty sick of doom. It seems everywhere is Washaway now.
And then, in the midst of all this, are wonders more fragile than glass. There was a hummingbird nest in a highly exposed location at work. It was such a moving thing to witness at close range: to fear for the vulnerability of them, to feel the urge to protect them and worry about them, to not be able to help them, and see them still make it just fine and fly away.
Seeing that last bird getting ready to leave the nest, stretching and flexing and practice-flapping, is something I hope I never forget. The bravery and hopefulness of it. There is no choice but to jump.
The native people of Australia, the Aborigines, believe in Dreamtime. This is a place where ancestral beings, who resembled animals and plants, created the world, then turned themselves back into rocks and trees to sleep. The natural world has to be respected, for you never know who you might be waking up. This “Time out of time” or “Everywhen” is an active place, where the past and present coexist.
The food in my Dreamtime will be unparallelled, with all the Italian women. My Grammy will be serving chicken and polenta; my great-aunt Alvera will have spent all day making her signature Gnocchi; my Mom will have single-handedly come up with a Thanksgiving dinner, a pot roast, and a Buche de Noel all at the same time. In case you think I’ll be kicking back, eating and slacking, note that I’ll be grilling salmon in my fire pit, smoked with leaves from my Alder trees, with some sweet white summer corn. For dessert, I’ll grill some peak-season peaches with chocolate, also on my fire, because my fire pit will still be accessible, not in the Pacific.
You would think some piece of its substantial masonry would still exist on the beach somewhere. But what remains of my legacy are flip-flops. They are definitely mine. They have drill holes in them. Marcy and Bob have been attaching them outside the Airstream.
When I go about wishing, and I do, pretty often, really, I don’t wish for more or different stuff. I just want things to stay like this. If, as they say, the Dreamtime is what’s real, and the rest is a dream, then this won’t be too good to last. It’ll last.