January 27, 2013

One Mile Due West

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The other day was stunningly beautiful here in Seattle, a day so fresh, it smelled like both snow and spring.  I stayed in all day, feeling puny but longing to be out of doors.  Today when I feel like a walk, it’s overcast and raining. So I will imagine a walk one mile to the west of me.

First stop: Crown Hill Cemetery.  The old (1903) and privately endowed cemetery had openings 15 years ago but I believe they are currently sold out and cemeteries being what they are, will continue to be.  There aren’t any scalpers at the 11th St entrance.  Over the years I’ve gotten used to the sound of the grave digger being hauled out of its shed, and the sight of burials in progress.  Not too long ago there was a bagpiper at a burial.  I opened a window to listen.  A burial is as good as a meditation session for focusing on the here and now.

When I first moved here, I had a gate put in my fence so I could walk in the cemetery anytime I wanted to.  I used to run a spook house every October in the cabin behind my house.  One year the tour ended with the victims being left, blindfolded, in the cemetery while the gate clicked shut.  When I walk west, I always start through my gate and into the cemetery.  Sometimes I walk straight through to 11th, sometimes I circle the grounds, past some familiar headstones, and past the repository of dug-up dirt that we’ve sledded down during the six hours of snow we sometimes get here.

West of the cemetery I might meet up with Tamara and Callie, the Border Collie.  Tamara is another work-at-homer.  Her business, Palm Presence, includes massage, process oriented body work and retreat consultation.

Tamara and I met shortly after the book launch of 99 Girdles on the WallThe Secret Garden Book Shop had suggested I make a blow-up of the book cover to put in their window prior to the launch.  I had the poster made but as it turned out, it didn’t get much display time.  Because I felt disappointed and because the friggin’ thing cost $75, I put it in the front window of my house for two weeks.  Tamara saw it as she was walking Callie.  She went home and found me on the Internet.  Now I join them for a walk as often as I can.

Callie reminds me of my five-year-old self, bursting with energy and excitement about the world as it changes minute by minute, yet confident in the predictability of where the treats are.  With me, it was the home of Borghild Ringdall and her stack of Tupperware dishes to segregate five different kinds of cookies.  With Callie, it’s me.  She greets me with a leap up, and with wags so energetic they almost turn her whole body around. She sits but continues to pulsate as she nails me with her eyes until she gets her biscuit.

OK, so far I’ve walked six blocks.  I’ve passed the United Indian’s Youth Home for homeless Native American boys with the great campfire area in their backyard.  I’ve passed the two great hopes of the shrinking middle class: Grocery Outlet and Value Village. I’ve crossed 15th which takes me out of Crown Hill.  In a minute I will go back in time to enter Olympic Manor, but I have to stop and admire the tea house.

 Zen Dog Tea House  is the most flamboyant house in the neighborhood, maybe in the city.  The yard looks like the lobby of an elegant hotel in Hong Kong or Taiwan.  Huge, red Chinese lanterns hang from the trees like Christmas ornaments, and at night they are illuminated.  So the place may look at little “out there” but it oozes humanity.  Larry, the owner of the house and curator of the business within (art, tea) is a great guy.  I’ve toured the house and been served tea. I’ve been to readings there, and taken Tai Chi classes.  We need more people and more places like Larry and Zen Dog.

Finally I turn into Olympic Manor to visit Joan, my friend with the theological chops.    Olympic Manor isn’t the throwback to the 50s that it used to be but it still seems a little retro because there hasn’t been a new house built there in 60 years.  I think homeowners sign a covenant in which they agree to have no color whatsoever in their front yard, no tricycles on the sidewalk and no more than one child per house visible at any one time.  But at Christmas every house rivals the Zen Dog Tea House for flamboyance, and Halloween is a kid’s paradise.

I visited Joan one Halloween and thought I was in hell.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if I had walked over.  Every parent west of the freeway had driven an SUV full of kids to trick or treat in Olympic Manor.  I had to weave between rows of costumed children and squeeze past double-parked, bloated American vehicles to park a quarter of a mile from Joan.  We got no theology in that night because the doorbell was rung every 30 seconds by tiny children in ill-fitting costumes with eyeholes that didn’t line up with eyes, who didn’t know to say “Trick or Treat” and who apparently didn’t, for the life of them, know why they were being made to do this.  They looked like they were in hell, too.  Or perhaps I project.

Joan shows up in a lot in my blog.  Hey, here’s something you could do: you could read all my blog posts from the past 2 ½ years and leave comments and recommends to people who haven’t discovered Local Dilettante Studio yet.  Or you could read this early post that features Joan:

In any case, it’s lovely to have two friends, a dog, and affordable food and clothing within walking distance of my house.  I didn’t make my provisions for eternity before the cemetery filled up so in the event of my death, someone is going to have to drive me.


“Homage to Charles Adams” from a Crown Hill Cemetery scene





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