Though I live in a major Seattle neighborhood, the city sidewalks end two blocks south of me. This is rather a point of pride for some of us. In my case, it gives my street as it runs north alongside Crown Hill cemetery a country feel. I can see the street from my studio window (if I dis-lodge a cat) and whenever I take out the garbage.
Cemetery Lane is my favored route when I visit—keep in mind I live in a major Seattle neighborhood—the sheep, the geese and the ducks. The sheep I found one day as I turned down 92nd. There they were, two of them with their little curly horns, munching grass and giving me the once over. For several years they wintered in the city and summered in east King County, but they’ve been gone for a while and the land was sold and bulldozed. I still walk by their former pied a terre on my way to the duck pond.
The duck pond at 95th and 4th takes me back to the 1980s when three piano students – called The Three by the child whose lesson followed –rode bicycles to their lessons on Friday afternoon. The Three always came via the duck pond and every spring, they gave me duckling reports so I knew when it was worth a special trip to see the babies.
Currently there are geese in the yard across the street from the duck pond. Great honking geese, waddling around, practicing their arms sweeps. I like to stand still at the edge of their pen and let them give me the news of the day. I try to stay until one of them flap his wings but I am usually the first to blink.
Two blocks south of the geese and ducks and across busy Holman Road is Art’s Food Center. Art’s was a family-owned, local grocery store, but it’s been a QFC for some time now and some of us still resent it. There’s a 50 foot pole with a lighted ball that used to illuminate the word Art’s and it was cool. Now that it reads QFC, it’s just tacky. I got into a tacky squabble with someone at the QFC a few years back. I asked a woman to stop bellowing into her cell phone and we exchanged a few choice lines ending with her telling me my pants were stupid. That wouldn’t have happened when the store was called Art’s, partly, I suppose, because that was before cell phones.
Beyond the QFC is Carkeek Park, one of the loveliest of Seattle’s preserves. Though the entrance is a paved road, there’s a walking path on the QFC side. Leaving all tackiness temporarily behind, the path takes you immediately into the woods with choice of trails blazed by the boy scouts, the city and neighborhood volunteers. The main trail takes you through the lovely Piper’s Apple Orchard and –tackiness returns–past a smelly sewage treatment plant, over the railroad tracks and finally to a sandy Puget Sound beach.
Carkeek is a walk for a warm day because it’s cool in the woods and cold at the beach. During the cold weather months of November and December you can’t do better than a brisk walk to 90th and Dibble to see the giant Nutcracker. I happened to pass by one January when some guys were dis-assembling it and I got the whole story. It’s a prop from an old Maurice Sendak production of The Nutcracker. The set had been dismantled and this particular nutcracker was destined for a landfill. My Dibble neighbor went down to Seattle Center at three in the morning with a flatbed truck and rescued the fiberglass artifact. It’s been a holiday fixture in my neighborhood for years.
It’s a damp, cold February day in Seattle. If I had a dog, I’d have to walk whether I liked it or not. But my cats are demonstrating that it’s just as nice to be warm and still and to watch the world go by the window. And so here endeth my series of one mile out in the four directions.