New York City's High Line

New York City’s High Line

On my first visit to NYC, one of the highlights was walking the High Line.  On this visit, I spent time on the High Line on three of my six days of exploring the city.  I love this park, reclaimed from a defunct elevated rail line in the Meatpacking District, for its interesting combination of nature, botany, people watching, and art.  I walked parts of the High Line in the early morning, on a rainy day, and on a warm fall day.  Sunny, warm weather brings people out in droves.







Human Statue, Jessie by Frank Benson

Human Statue, Jessie by Frank Benson











“I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Two chairs for friendship

As much as Thoreau appreciated solitude, he said of himself, “I am naturally no hermit,” and he welcomed visitors.  I admire people for whom hospitality is an ingrained virtue.  Perhaps because I struggle feeling comfortable in large groups and among strangers, I greatly esteem those who can extend a warm welcome to visitors.

“If it were not for guests all houses would be graves.”
— Kahlil Gibran

“The ornaments of your house will be the guests who frequent it.”
— Author unknown

I find that I can take large gatherings, even of beloved family, in small doses.  I am a better friend in one-on-one situations.  I am afraid that the following quotes resonate too well with me:

“Fish and visitors smell after three days.”
— Benjamin Franklin

“Visitors are insatiable devourers of time, and fit only for those who, if they did not visit, would do nothing.”
—  William Cowper

“Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were.”
— Author unknown

Perhaps I should rid my house of all but three chairs, so that, like Thoreau, when I have visitors in larger numbers, they stay only as long as they can stand!  I’m joking, of course.  One of my tasks in this life is to learn to be more gracious, and this includes making more of an effort to become a better and more welcoming host to any future guests.

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
— Hebrews 13:2

I had three chairs in my house:  one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

One chair for solitude

“Many of our houses, both public and private, with their almost innumerable apartments, their huge halls and their cellars for the storage of wines and other munitons of peace, appear to me extravagantly large for their inhabitants.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

How much is enough?  We have 21 chairs in our house, not counting sofas or camping gear or folding chairs and broken chairs in the basement.  Most of them sit empty, day after day.  And even if most of these chairs were acquired at no or low cost, having this many chairs is an extravagance.

And chairs are just one category of household goods — is it fair to say that we have too much of just about everything?  Too many cake pans, too many bath towels, too many pairs of shoes . . .  I think, in general, Americans live in houses that are too big (just think of the wasted energy to heat them) and filled with too much stuff.  And I am as guilty as my fellow citizens.

I think that the middle of the Christmas shopping season is a great time to think more mindfully about stuff and whether we should be buying more of it.  In this era of overabundance and consumerism, I am struggling with what gift-giving means.  So few of us delay or defer buying what we want, when we want it.  And how do you buy gifts for loved-ones who already have everything?

I support the trend toward “No New Gifts” holidays, and all of the creative alternative gift ideas, such as the gift of consumable foods, the gift of experiences, and the gift of shared time.  This is a step in the right direction.

What I like about Thoreau is that he has a defined use for each of his three chairs.  He reminds me that there is more work to be done in tackling the abundance of stuff that surrounds me in my everyday life, stuff that is unused for most of the year.

“The vast majority of us simply have too much stuff — more than we can possibly keep track of, much less thoughtfully possess . . . Unless we employ conscious strategies to streamline and slim our living spaces — and put clutter-control mechanisms in place — our homes have become virtual sinkholes of stuff, clogging the flow of energy and movement in our lives. . . . Job No. 1 for most of us is paring down what we have to a set of possessions we can thoughtfully own.  (Part of responsible stewardship of our possessions involves redirecting what we no longer need to worthy recipients.)  Once we’ve purged our systems of the excess, the focus will be on creating lives that are dynamic and streamlined, where the carbon cost of a thing is weighed alongside its dollar price tag, where the focus is on usability rather than ownership, where we seek to reduce our personal waste streams.”
— Wanda Urbanska, The Heart of Simple Living: 7 Paths to a Better Life



Costa Rican beach, 2008

“The beach is a good spot for spending that transitional hour between day and night as the waves roll up and slide back, tugging out some of a busy day’s wrinkles.”
— Sonny Brewer, A Sound Like Thunder


The distinctive yellow food truck, Hallava Falafel, in Georgetown

Hallava Falafel is another of the food trucks recommended by Heather Shouse, the author of Food Trucks:  Dispatches & Recipes from the Best Kitchens on Wheels.  And it’s located in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle, which I’ve been wanting to explore.  So last week my friend Carol and I adventured there by bus for a lunch date.  Oh, it was very good indeed.  Carol had the falafel sandwich, and I had the shawarma, which had grilled meat instead of falafel.  The pita bread was overloaded with good things — very messy to eat.  But we were prepared and brought extra napkins.  Carol ate half of her sandwich and saved the rest for another day’s lunch.  I stuffed myself and ate the whole thing.

This was an off-the-beaten path experience that I will repeat.  And soon!

Carol's falafel sandwich

No tables, just this seating area.


Outdoor dining in Post Alley at the Pike Place Market

After enjoying lunch at Maximus-Minimus in downtown Seattle, I took a stroll through the Pike Place Market.  Here are some photos of my visit:

Vendor selling mini- Tom Thumb donuts

Flower stall with many varieties of vibrantly colored tulips

Flower vendor making up a bouquet

Painted table outside Three Sisters in Post Alley

Chef at Piroshky, Piroshky preparing a new batch for the oven.

Virtual Coffee

March 22, 2011

Seattle is known for its coffee.  (The very first Starbucks store is still in operation here.)  Here is a virtual trip to Zoka’s, my neighborhood coffee shop:

Barista prepares fresh drip coffee.

Steaming milk for a latte

Barista presents an embellished latte

A literate, cafe society

Empty chairs, a temporary lull

Isn't it time for a coffee break?

Famous Chairs

February 25, 2011

Vincent's Chair with His Pipe, 1888

Certainly among famous chairs is this wooden and straw chair, painted by Vincent van Gogh in 1888 to brighten the walls of the yellow house in Arles that he shared with Gauguin.  And what American doesn’t know about Thoreau’s three chairs at his little house on Walden pond:  “I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”  What other famous chairs can you recall?

My favorite chair, a garage-sale find

Watercolor sketch of my favorite chair

Summer Afternoons

August 17, 2009

Deck chairs on Lake Washington

Deck chairs on Lake Washington

“Summer afternoons — summer afternoons . . . the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
     — Henry James