Seattle has been nicknamed “The Emerald City,” which is as gracious and apt a moniker as I ever could have thought up. Seattle is green, breathtakingly so, and whenever I fly back from anywhere in the world, I look out the airplane window in wonder as the vast expanses of forests, wetlands, and waterways unfold beneath me. It is a temple of growing, breathing, photo-synthesizing life. It is gorgeous. I always tell people who have never been to Seattle (with a bit of pride, I admit) that we are surrounded by mountain ranges to the east and west, the noble Cascades and Olympics, and that to the south, Mount Rainier rises up like some kind of protective mother, sometimes shrouded in modest clouds, sometimes brilliantly clear. I tell them that you can drive thirty minutes out of the city, and find sheer granite walls in the middle of lush, chirping forests that rock climbers and hikers flock to in the warm summer months. I tell people about Puget Sound, that sparkling expanse of indigo water that reaches from downtown to West Seattle, and out to Elliot Bay. I think about the Washington Coast, miles of stormy waters and driftwood strewn beaches, where children play and people fly kites. I tell them about the microbreweries, and the vegetarian restaurants. I talk about how much great live music comes out of Seattle, and remind them that yes, Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana all came from there. I imagine the summer months, camping in the rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula, or the deserts of Eastern Washington along the snaking Columbia River, and I feel my heart contract in love for the place that I am from.
Seattle is temperamental, yes. It clouds up, pouts and cries for at least seven months of the year. Which is kind of good, if you ask me, because it keeps all those sun-seekers away. Those of us who can tolerate the endless skies of gray are richly rewarded when the sun comes out in May or June, bringing to life tiny crocuses, parks filled with plants and flowers, summer eateries, and all of the people who have been hiding away for those sullen winter months. It’s amazing to see the transformation that a sunny day will bring- people out on roller blades and bicycles, girls in short skirts and guys with their shirts buttoned down, talking and laughing into cell phones, dogs tugging on leashes, joggers with their headphones on, people sunbathing in parks, restaurant patios open and full, boats out and sailing on the water. Seattle is a glorious place to be in the summertime. I have traveled a fair amount in my life and had the chance to see lots of big cities, and my conclusion is this: Seattle is one of the best. Top three for sure. I can’t think of many places that rival Seattle in the summer. Some little Swiss town, perhaps, where the chalets burst with flowers and colorful parachutes float down from the sky. Maybe Amsterdam, with its winding green canals and mind-bending parks. But really, after all this time and all these places, I don’t think there’s anywhere I’d rather be from May until September than our own lovely Seattle, where the sailboats race on Lake Washington, and the city bursts into life. It is one of my favorite places in the world. Literally.
Seattle is full of colorful, diverse neighborhoods. I spent most of my twenties on Capitol Hill, which is also where I spent several years of my childhood. My mother and father also grew up there, living side by side with gigantic Catholic families who populated the modest mansions of the hill, refusing to practice birth control. Those neighborhoods are just as stately today, but in a friendly, accessible way. I used to love to ride my bike up Aloha Street and through Volunteer Park, coming out on the other side of 15th, and coasting down through the blocks. Kids play on pogo sticks, and mothers get down on their hands and knees in the garden, huge sun hats on their heads.
In Wallingford, you can find every cuisine possible, from Mexican, to Thai, to Chinese, to Ethiopian. And if you like cupcakes, you’re in luck. There are multiple specialty cupcake shops lining 45th. Green Lake in the summer is flawless. Rollerbladers race around the lake with their shades on, and mothers push babies in strollers. People lay out on the green grass, and dip into the lakeside cafes for a snack. Dogs bound happily, and people lick ice cream cones. The sun always feels warmest at Green Lake, like it’s shining just for you. The U-District is funky with its runaway bums and organic coffee shops. West Seattle bustles and thrives, alive with smiling families. Queen Anne is stately and proud, looking down its nose at Elliot Bay and downtown with an amiable sort of superiority. Belltown thinks it’s the coolest thing that ever happened, and sometimes, on a summer patio when the music just right, it is. Georgetown is funky and hip. The ID is chaotic and exotic, frying spices and hawking potions. And downtown is downtown, where spontaneous parades broke out and bands marched down the street in jubilant joy the night Obama won the election.
Another thing I love about Seattle is that my friends and family are there. Many have moved away, but just as many have stayed put, and thank goodness for that! My parent’s house in the summer is a sight to behold, and I find myself thinking about it a lot here in India, where I often live in tiny rooms with a lumpy bed and no garden at all. Daddy cultivates a beautiful garden, and it comes to life in brilliant splendor as the summer months set in. The cherry tree blossoms, and the squirrels eat the cherries before they are ripe, but it’s beautiful, anyway. The garden beds, which Daddy and Brigitte have stuffed with marigolds, roses, clematis and impatiens, burst into colorful life, and the terraced vegetable garden starts to offer tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and corn. Daddy edges the lawn so that it looks like a park, and I love nothing more than to hang out on the front or back porch talking to whoever happens along- my brother, my mom, my best friend, my brother’s ruffian buddies. On Lake Sammamish, my best friend is probably taking her chihuahuas for a walk, laughing and talking on her cell phone in huge, glamorous shades. Across the lake, in Capitol Hill, I can find Brynn and Kat in my old apartment building, crafting, laughing, and trying on shoes. Over the water in West Seattle, Drew is probably puttering around The James, cutting the lawn or pretending to look for a job 😉 Kelly might be on Broadway, getting coffee with Mohammad, and if I call up Melba, we can always go out and suntan on the lake. There is something so priceless about being surrounded by the people you love. Trust me. Being out here in India, surrounded by lovely people I’m only just getting to know, has been an invaluable experience. It is teaching me to cherish all people, old and new, and to have theproper love and respect for the place you call home.
Ah. Seattle. I don’t mind telling you that I was completely bawling as I wrote half of this story. Remembering the beautiful sights of my city- Pike Place Market as the sun is setting over the water, Golden Gardens with its bonfires and barbeques, the lovely Eastside filledwith parks and people- had the tears streaming without restraint. And I’m not even PMS’ing! That tells you how good Seattle is 😉 It brought me to shaking, heaving sobs as I sat here writing, and picturing its lovely glory. So for those of you who are there- appreciate it. You are so very, very lucky. It is a clean, beautiful city, with all of the amenities you could wish for. Its people smile and offer you a pint of beer. Its mountains change from grey, to blue, to peach, to pink, depending on the light.
And I could go on and on…