Off topic alert. As in this post has little to nothing to do
with politics, but if you go to the Seattle Times story you can
read some political conversation into it.
My first experience with the Pacific Northwest came when I was
11, but it didn’t really take for me until I came up here eight
years later in 1981. Turns out I first fell in love with this place
in the former home of a poet.
My mother discovered she had a sister up here. Actually it was
my aunt who did the discovering. They wrote to each other for a
couple years, then Mom went up to visit.
The next year Pauline and David came down to our neighborhood
with their two girls, my cousins, to take in Disneyland and some
other So-Cal sights. A couple months later we returned the visit.
We were going to Utah, by way of Seattle.
We stayed in their home. For us it was considered Seattle. For
Seattleites I guess it’s Lake City. It’s an older home set on a
fairly busy street, but it has a nice yard, is well maintained and
has a classic or traditional feel to it, without feeling
The home has a character so lacking in today’s too-perfect
houses. The stairways are narrow. The cozy bedrooms upstairs are
served by a bathroom with a pitched ceiling so if you stand up too
quickly off of the toilet you’ll smack the back of your head. But
that house is so, so comfortable.
One night on that first visit I stayed up late and had my first
HBO experience. We went to the Ballard Locks and toured the
underground city. I dug that express lane that changes directions
everyday, thinking Los Angeles should try something like that. The
skies were blue most of the time and temps were bearable. I didn’t
leave thinking I’d live here, but I sure wanted to come back for
lots and lots of visits.
And so, beginning in the mid 1990s, I did. My aunt and uncle
still live in the house. I’ve stayed there several times. I stayed
there when I was looking for work here. My dad and I were there
that weekend for my first Safeco game, the one where Mike Cameron
made that catch robbing Derek Jeter of a home run. I can’t count
how many times I’ve been back to the locks. Sitting in that house
my own family watched my cousin open her wedding presents a day
after her wedding and two days before 9/11.
Now that my aunt and uncle are empty nesters, I have asked them
if they plan to leave the house, to downsize. She is not so
willing. It would make sense to me if they decided to leave, but
secretly I’m glad they don’t. It might only be once a year or so I
get over there, but apart from my own place here in the woods of
University Point it’s where I feel most at home. It’s family, but
it’s the house, too.
It turns out that house has a history far predating my
relatives. Environmental poet, a Pulitzer Prize winner no less,
Gary Snyder grew up in that home. He stopped by the old place
Tuesday and the Seattle Times was there
with him. Writes Lynda Mapes:
“Back before all the asphalt, the cars and the strip malls, this
was a forested glade, where Gary Snyder, the Pulitzer Prize-winning
poet, would beat a path into the woods to his secret camp, to snug
down with the quiet night, dreaming a fifth-grader’s skinned-knee
Snyder will be reading poetry at Benaroya Hall tonight. Pauline
and David will be there.
I know next to nothing about Snyder’s work. In fact, all I know
is what I’ve learned in the last couple of days. But I know some
things about that house, about the people who live there now. If,
somehow, Snyder’s presence as a boy left a lingering spirit that
had an impact on David, Pauline, Michelle and Danielle, then what
I’ve seen leads me to believe I better read his stuff. Perhaps what
I feel in that home, then, will make even more sense.