I recently read about Leonard Lopate’s “The Story of New York in 10 Objects.”  The listeners to Lopate’s radio show in NYC created a list of possibilities and then voted, with the following 10 objects garnering the most votes:

  • Greek coffee cup
  • Subway token
  • Food cart
  • Oyster
  • 18th century ship excavated from the World Trade Center site
  • Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems
  • The Brooklyn Bridge
  • Wall Street sign
  • Manhattan Schist
  • Subway map

That list started me musing about which 10 objects might tell the story of my city, Seattle. Here is my own personal take on the Story of Seattle in 10 Objects:

1.  The Starbucks to-go, disposable paper coffee cup.  New York City might have its Greek coffee cup, but Starbucks coffee cups are now ubiquitous the world over.  Its world domination began in 1987 according to this article in Bon Apetit.  I took this photo outside Starbucks’ first retail store in the Pike Place Market.

The Starbucks to-go, disposable coffee cup

The Starbucks to-go, disposable coffee cup

2.  The Washington State Ferries.  The state of Washington runs the biggest ferry operation in the United States, and it is the third biggest in the world, transporting 22.5 million riders in 2013.  Several routes go in and out of Seattle.  They are part of the Seattle landscape.

Ferry arriving at the Seattle Ferry Terminal

Ferry arriving at the Seattle Ferry Terminal

3.  Seattle Public Library Card.  Seattle always seems to make it on those lists of “most literary” cities.  We like to read!  The Seattle Public Library has 26 neighborhood branch libraries in addition to its Central Library downtown and mobile services.

My library card, held up outside the Central Library in downtown Seattle

My library card, held up outside the Central Library in downtown Seattle

4.  Salmon.  Local and fresh, I am so glad that this native food is healthy, too.

Fish vendor at the Pike Place Market

Fish vendor at the Pike Place Market

5.  Space Needle.  The Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, has become a unique and recognizable silhouette on our Seattle skyline.  It’s been years since I’ve eaten at the revolving restaurant at the top, and I now consider it more of a tourist attraction than a destination for locals.  (It’s rather expensive even to take the elevator to the top.)

Seattle Space Needle

Seattle Space Needle

6.  Native culture and influence.  Seattle gets its name from Chief Sealth, a leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish native tribes. Several other tribes are native to the Seattle area:  the Muckleshoot, Snoqualmie, Tulalip, and Puyallup Nations.  We see their influence in place names, totem poles, powwows, heritage sites and museums.

Coastal tribes at the UW First Nations Powwow

Coastal tribes at the UW First Nations Powwow

7.  Microsoft applications.  We think of Microsoft as a Seattle company because its founders, Bill Gates and Paul Allen grew up here.  I can’t imagine going back to life before Microsoft Word (think typewriters and white-out).  I’m sure I use some aspect of Microsoft technology every day.

Computer addicted

Computer addicted

8.  REI hiking boots.  Seattle is home to thousands of outdoor enthusiasts.  The Cascade and Olympic Mountains with their miles of trails, campgrounds, and challenging peaks are just an hour or two away.  We are surrounded by water for boating and fishing enthusiasts.  The ocean is three hours away.  Last year I replaced my decades-old REI hiking boots with another pair which still don’t feel broken in.  I expect I will wear them for the rest of my life!

My old hiking boots from REI

My old hiking boots from REI

9.  Floating bridges.  Seattleites rely on two floating bridges to access the suburbs east of Lake Washington — Hwy 520 and I-90.  You can follow I-90 clear across the United States and milepost 1 is just on the west side of this bridge. It still amazes me that these major traffic arteries float on pontoons.

I-90 floating bridge

I-90 floating bridge

10.  I don’t have a clear object for # 10 on this list.  Should it be the Boeing 747?  A Douglas fir tree?  Chihuly glass?  Himalayan blackberries?  What do you suggest?

Or better yet, what 10 objects tell the story of your city?

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
— T. S. Eliot, “The Rock”

“The mobile device is our new magic.”
— Noble Smith, The Wisdom of the Shire:  A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life

Answers at the tips of our fingers

Answers at the tips of our fingers

“Mobile technology puts real time information in your pocket, allowing everyone to magnify his or her knowledge in any setting.”
— Michael Saylor, The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything

How quickly we have become used to finding answers almost instantaneously.  We carry smart phones and tablets and are never far away from the Internet and more information than we know what to do with.  It’s addicting.  I don’t know too many people who would want to give up the ease of researching on the web.  But I do wonder what effect all this immediacy has on our inner lives.

I remember (just a few years ago) when questions arose and we lived with unknowing.  We lived with a sense of wonder, open to multiple possibilities because the answers were not yet set in concrete.  Our minds and imaginations were called into play.  We learned to live with uncertainty.  Many times we never did find the answers to the questions that had cropped up in our conversations.  And we accepted that, too.

I don’t feel any smarter these days when information abounds.  Do you?  Where is the wisdom and understanding that comes from first-hand knowledge, direct observation and primary experience?  These days it seems as if the greater portion of our knowledge comes second-hand from reading about things, on screens or in books, rather than from personal discovery.

“I don’t know what’s the matter with people: they don’t learn by understanding, they learn by some other way — by rote or something.  This knowledge is so fragile!”
— Richard Feynman

Do you go to google for answers?

Do you go to Google for answers?

“Not all of the world’s answers are at the end of a Google search.”
— Don MacLeod, How to Find Out Anything

Google feeds the illusion that answers can be found to anything, almost instantaneously.  But just think about all of those answers that are unwieldy, jumbled and complex.  There are not always clear or quick answers to messy real-life issues that take a long time to fix.  Maybe we need more practice in how to live unsettled and with uncertainty.

“It so happens that a capacity for delayed gratification is correlated with intelligence and attainment in life.”
— Paul Martin, Counting Sheep

 

 

My work table, a mix of high and low tech

My work table, a mix of high and low tech

The Real Work
by Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

I get a bit anxious with the year-end reviews and resolutions, the tug between looking back (and feeling discouraged about lack of accomplishments and growth) and looking forward (and feeling hopeful about doing better this year).  Progress, if any, feels so slow, and I tell myself to be patient.  After all, it’s the journey that counts, and not so much the destination.  All of my little musings, struggles to draw and paint, wishes to take better photographs and to write better, flaws in my roles as wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend . . . everything all the time.  Yes, my mind is often baffled.

And that is why I find so much solace in today’s poem.  “The mind that is not baffled is not employed.”  Thank you, Wendell Berry.  Finding my purpose, figuring out what is important in my days — this is my real work — even when I don’t know what I’m doing or which way to go.

“The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

Yes.

“It is in the doldrums that our talents are most needed.  The best training for desperation is to know early the feeling of no guidance.  In photography the squeak of intention destroys serendipity.”
— Dan Torop, Draw It with Your Eyes Closed:  The Art of the Art Assignment

“Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.”
— Edgar Degas

“Sometimes confidence is overrated!  Questions and uncertainty are the stuff of artists! . . .  You need enough confidence to hold your paintbrushes, and to show up in the studio, knowing that you are not wasting your time — but after that, I would say uncertainty should prevail.  We can never be too sure.”
— Anna Deavere Smith, Letters to a Young Artist