Sunflowers and Hope

August 30, 2014

The face of a sunflower

The face of a sunflower

“Alm0st all lives are small.  What enlarges a life is the inner life, are the thoughts, are the sensations, are the useless hopes . . . Hope is like a sunflower which turns aimlessly toward the sun.  But it is not ‘aimless.'”
— Clarice Lispector,  The Streams of Life

Buckets of sunflowers, Pike Place Market

Buckets of sunflowers, Pike Place Market




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?







“The simplicity of walking — the essential humanness of putting one foot in front of the other — made a deep kind of sense.”
— Nick Hunt, Walking the Woods and the Water

Ferry arriving at the downtown terminal, Seattle

Ferry arriving at the downtown terminal, Seattle

This segment of my Seattle periphery walk would make a perfect day hike for tourists because it bypasses some of the city’s most iconic spots.  I resumed my trek at the downtown ferry terminal.  Commuters were already making ready for their day’s work.

Then I detoured up two streets to the Pike Place Market, where fish, food, and flower vendors were just setting up their stalls.  I dropped by the historic first Starbucks store for a cup of coffee.

Seattle's Big Wheel

Seattle’s Big Wheel





I returned to the waterfront and headed north to my next destination, the outdoor Olympic Sculpture Park, which is open from dawn to dusk.  Admission is free.  The views and art are priceless.



The Elliott Bay trail, a multi-purpose biking and pedestrian path, follows the shores of Puget Sound toward the Magnolia neighborhood.  I stopped to look at the amazing Amgen Helix Bridge, a pedestrian bridge to the Amgen campus.



The trail continued past the Pier 89 grain elevators.  Looking back toward downtown, Mount Rainier shone brightly on the horizon.




Now the path took me through another industrial area. Decoupling trains clanked in the railroad yard.  Rather than cross into Magnolia on the Magnolia Bridge, I decided to continue up and around on the trail to Smith Cove.  I thought I would find a way to walk up from the marina there to the Magnolia bluff, but I discovered this was a dead end.  I had to backtrack and get on the Magnolia Bridge after all.

Elliott Bay trail toward Magnolia and Ballard

Elliott Bay trail toward Magnolia and Ballard

Smith Cove marina

Smith Cove marina

Walking on the Magnolia Bridge

Walking on the Magnolia Bridge

View from the bridge

View from the bridge

Once I reached the Magnolia neighborhood, I followed Magnolia Boulevard toward Discovery Park.  Although I was walking through a residential area, there were nice sidewalks and public areas on the bluff overlooking the Sound, and the homes were across the street.  This neighborhood did a great job accommodating walkers!




I finally reached Discovery Park and entered on 43rd Avenue West.  This Seattle park is still relatively untamed, with dense trees, ravines, and a shoreline, all cut with steep trails.  I followed the loop trail to the West Point lighthouse and then to the north parking lot.








Exiting the north parking lot, I made a short left on 40th Avenue West and then a right on West Commodore Way.  This street took me to the Ballard Locks, where I was able to cross the Ship Canal.  The fish ladders, which are ludicrously active during salmon spawning season, were empty of fish this time of year.  The locks were busy as usual, with boaters navigating from the salt waters of Puget Sound to the fresh waters of Lake Union and Lake Washington.

Boats waiting to enter the locks

Boats waiting to enter the locks





I ended my walk at the Ballard Locks and caught the Number 44 bus back home.

Estimated walking distance:  11-1/2 miles


The character of old Seattle still graces the ambience of the Pioneer Square area of Seattle and along Western Avenue to the Pike Place Market.

The Smith Tower

The Smith Tower

The 42-floor Smith Tower was the tallest building on the West Coast when it was built in 1914.

The 42-floor Smith Tower was the tallest building on the West Coast when it was built in 1914.

Totem Pole in Pioneer Square

Totem Pole in Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square totem pole

Another totem pole by the Iron Pergola

Another totem pole by the Iron Pergola

Ink sketch of Pioneer Square totem pole

Iron Pergola, Pioneer Square

Iron Pergola, Pioneer Square

Vine-covered wall along Western Avenue

Vine-covered wall along Western Avenue

Man hole cover on Western Avenue

Man hole cover on Western Avenue

Along Western Ave

Busker with duct-taped accordion, Pike Place Market

Busker with duct-taped accordion, Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Sketch of rock fish

Sketch of rock fish

Olympic Sculpture Park, Space Needle with Calder’s Eagle

My siblings are a far-flung bunch, and I always enjoy their rare visits to Seattle.  Out-of-town guests give me an excuse to play tourist in my home town and to re-visit my favorite places. It’s no surprise that I’ve blogged about most of these excursions already (links to past posts included below).

Here’s a list of things I did with my sister and brother-in-law — what else would you have included?

Watching the sunset from Golden Gardens beach

Flowers at the Pike Place Market

Busker outside the original Starbucks store in the Pike Place Market

  • Savor the flavors of the Pacific Northwest.  We enjoyed lattes from Zoka’s Coffee Shop, salmon, steamed clams, fresh peaches and cherries from the Olympia Farmer’s Market, dinner at the Green Leaf Vietnamese Restaurant, Fran’s chocolate Gold Bars and truffles, homemade blackberry pie, and pizza at Tom Douglas’s Serious Pie (among other things).

Morning lattes from my neighborhood Zoka’s

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”
–Alice Walker

Pale purple gladiolus

A purple trio of geranium flowers

Purple pansies all in a row

Purple poppies

Lovely magenta poppies


Somewhere between purple and red, knautica macedonica

Plum-colored hydrangea


Clematis vine

Late season lavender

Fuchsia-colored foxglove, purplish pink

Purplish-pinks and blues of sweet peas

Plums, Pike Place Market

Bing cherries, Pike Place Market

This concludes our walks along the color wheel.  Hope you enjoyed the rambles!

May your summer be filled with red letter days!

Lucifer crocosmia

Two pots of strikingly red geraniums brighten this yard.

Hummingbird feeder, no hummers

Ethereal poppy

Boat rentals at Green Lake

Ubiquitous red stop signs

Rainier cherries, Pike Place Market

Raspberries, Pike Place Market

Fire engine red

Red chairs in the pavilion at Olympic Sculpture Park, with “Encounters with Water” wall art

The Seattle signature (muted) wardrobe brightened by a red beach bucket






Flower vendor at Seattle’s Pike Place Market

It’s always a treat to play tourist in my home town, and yesterday I wandered through the Pike Place Market with my niece and her kids.  The Pike Place Market is open year round, but it is especially colorful right now with so many cut flowers vying for your attention.  The vendors were busy assembling gigantic bouquets for sale at just $10 to $15.

Flower vendor and bucket of peonies

This bouquet was selling for $15

Another vendor’s fresh bouquets

Buckets of lupine and irises

Vendor putting together a bouquet behind an array of glorious poppies

Kerchief camouflaged among the flowers

Flower stall through plastic window

Pike Place Market flower vendors

Fallen sweet peas by the vendors’ stalls

Seattle’s Gum Wall

September 6, 2011

Gum wall in Post Alley, Pike Place Market

In all the years I’ve lived in Seattle, I had never been to this unique tourist attraction — the gum wall in the Pike Place Market.  You can find it in Post Alley down from the Information booth at the market.  It was an amazing site, and if you bring a wad of gum, you can contribute to its growing mass.  From now on, I’ll bring all of my out-of-town guests to see it.

The gum must be inches thick in some places.

Seattle icons, a ferry and the Spaceneedle, rendered in gum.

Preparing to make a new deposit.

Braiding blue gum for the wall

Young gum chewer and budding artist

“I have never found a city without its walkers’ rewards.”
— John Finley, “Traveling Afoot”

Common sight on urban walks, waiting for the walking sign

I so enjoyed my first long urban hike across the I-90 floating bridge (see yesterday’s post), that I’ve planned several more.

I set out on my second long walk, a journey of 8-1/2 miles, from my home to the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle.  I hiked 3-1/2 hours, including stops for photos and coffee and a picnic breakfast, along a route with scenic trails.  Here are some highlights:

6:00 a.m. on the path at Green Lake: notice my long shadow in the early morning light

Summer morning at Green Lake

First stop: the Woodland Park Rose Garden at 50th & Fremont Ave N (unfortunately, the gates did not open until 7 a.m.)

I could still enjoy the roses viewed through my zoom lens!

Tree-lined walk down Fremont Avenue N

Waiting for the Interurban sculpture at Fremont & N 34th Streets. It's a Seattle tradition to decorate these statues.

Trees line the Ship Canal between the locks and Lake Union. My walk took me along the Ship Canal Trail.

Rowers on the Ship Canal

I crossed over the train tracks on W Dravus Street after stopping for coffee at Starbucks.

Mount Rainier seen from the Elliott Bay Trail

I took a short detour off the trail to check out the Amgen Helix Bridge.

The Amgen Helix Bridge is a pedestrian bridge to the Amgen campus.

Looking across Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains from the Elliott Bay Trail

Totem pole along the Elliott Bay Trail

Small rose garden along the trail, with Spaceneedle in the background

Lovely yellow roses

The trail runs along the Olympic Sculpture Park.

I walked along Seattle's waterfront to the Hill Climb to the Pike Place Market.

Flower vendor at the Pike Place Market

Truck at the Pike Place Market