Green Lake, Seattle

Green Lake, Seattle

“The moon and the sun are travelers of a hundred generations.  The years, coming and going, are wanderers too.  Spending a lifetime adrift on boat decks, greeting old age while holding a horse by the mouth — for such a person, each day is a journey, and the journey itself becomes home.”
— Basho

We are all journeying through life, whether covering vast distances on the road or staying close to home.  I love hearing about where friends, family, and colleagues are going on their vacations, and sometimes I have trip envy.  I’ve never traveled for such extended periods that the road became my home.  All my life, I’ve had deadlines to return home and resume my job.

Perhaps these time limits are why I really love to travel when I get the chance.  While I appreciate my travels, I do like spending time at home, too.  I can rationalize the advantages of staying home and making a rich life of my ordinary days.  That’s why this poem by Billy Collins brings a smile of recognition to my face:


How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon’s
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.


I love that we have complex and sometimes competing rationales for traveling or staying put.  Here is another poem that asks whether we should have stayed at home:

Questions of Travel
by Elizabeth Bishop

There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
– For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren’t waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
– Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
– A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.

– Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr’dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages
– Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds’ cages.
– And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians’ speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:

‘Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there… No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?


I’m glad that there is room in my life for occasional big trips and also comfortable days at home.  I can find beauty and interesting things almost anywhere.

So here are a few photos from a local jaunt to Tacoma, just 40 minutes from Seattle:

Chihuly glass chandelier in Union Station, Tacoma

Chihuly glass chandelier in Union Station, Tacoma

Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Tacoma

Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Tacoma

Staircase by Tacoma Glass Museum

Staircase by Tacoma Glass Museum


Folding Paper origamai exhibit at Bellevue Arts Museum

Folding Paper origami exhibit at Bellevue Arts Museum

Yesterday I travelled by bus across Lake Washington to see the origami exhibit at the Bellevue Arts Museum, which is an easy stroll from the Bellevue Transit Center.   The exhibit, “Folding Paper: Infinite Possibilities of Origami,” runs through September 21st.  I love papercraft of all kinds, and this exhibit showcases the intricacies and magic of folded paper.  Many of the pieces on display were constructed from a single sheet of paper.  I can’t begin to comprehend the vision, engineering skills, and artistry needed to create such amazing art objects.  I was astounded and delighted by these imaginative works.

Paper dress and shoes

Paper dress and shoes

Pli Selon Pli No. 2 by Koshiro Hatori

Pli Selon Pli No. 2 by Koshiro Hatori

Twirl Rhombuses by Kystuna and Wojtek Burczyk

Twirl Rhombuses by Kystuna and Wojtek Burczyk

The Plague by Siphon Nabone

The Plague by Siphon Nabone

Square Limpets by Polly Verity

Square Limpets by Polly Verity

Giotto's Circle by Andrea Russo

Giotto’s Circle by Andrea Russo

Frog on a Leaf by Bernie Peyton

Frog on a Leaf by Bernie Peyton

Mother and Child by Christine Edison

Mother and Child by Christine Edison

The staircase at the Bellevue Arts Museum is very origami-like, too, don't you agree?

The staircase at the Bellevue Arts Museum is very origami-like, too, don’t you agree?

I learned that paper folding has real-life applications that go way beyond creating art objects.  Scientists who want to transport large objects, like sun shields or telescope lenses, into space might engineer a folded apparatus to save space during the haul, only to be unfolded at its destination in space.  Or doctors might transport tiny folded repair materials through a blood vessel, to be unfolded and applied as a heart stent.  Think of the miraculous properties of the air bags in your car — another piece of origami-like engineering.

You can read more about the origami in this exhibit in a book, Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami by Meher McArthur and Robert J. Lang.


Strolling along tall cedar trees, Washington Park Arboretum

I made a special visit to the Washington Park Arboretum yesterday to experience Paths II: The Music of Trees, a series of seven sound installations by composer Abby Aresty.  She is a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington, and this outdoor music project is her dissertation.  She recorded natural sounds at these sites in different seasons, and then used them in compositions, which are broadcast in three-hour “concerts” on Wednesdays and Saturdays in October. You can read more about this remarkable project in this Seattle Times article.

I didn’t want the month to pass without checking out this unusual art project.  Armed with a map from the Visitor’s Center, I strolled the paths looking for the seven listening sites.  As always, I enjoyed wandering among the many tall trees of the arboretum.  And the unique soundscapes made this visit especially memorable.

“Twisted things continue to make creaking contortions.” (Gaston Bachelard). At Site 1, twisted plastic tubing becomes “mutant” branches.

The path near Site 1: The Music of Trees

Staircase under Japanese maple, Washington Park Arboretum

Walking beneath the rhododendrons at Site 4, where the sounds featured raindrops on leaves

Rhododendron bud

Site 6 used hanging sculptures like wind chimes, and the music incorporated the sounds of falling leaves.

Looking up into the maple tree at Site 7. I couldn’t hear the sound concert because a maintenance crew was blowing leaves down the way.

Washington Park Arboretum

Light-dappled curtain of leaves


Colorful Japanese maple against evergreen

Cluster of oak leaves

Bench, Washington Park Arboretum

Street light, Washington Park Arboretum

Reading Room at Suzzallo Library, University of Washington

This week is National Library Week, and I celebrated by visiting a few of the libraries on the University of Washington campus.  The UW Visitor’s Center has a map of the various libraries on campus, some of which are housed in their departments.  I didn’t have time to stop in at all of them.

Grand Staircase, Suzzallo Library

Hanging globe, Suzzallo Library Reading Room

Atrium, Allen Library, University of Washington

Hanging raven sculptures, Allen Library

Rack of foreign language newspapers, East Asia Library, Gowen Hall, UW

The Music Library has a magnificent view of the cherry trees on the quad, University of Washington

Cherry blossoms, UW

Cherry blossoms on the quad at the University of Washington

Cherry blossoms in the morning light, UW

The Christmas Almanac, holiday reading

I spent some time this weekend reading a new (to me) Christmas book called The Christmas Almanac, edited by Natasha Tabori Fried and Lena Tabori.  I especially liked the Victorian-looking illustrations that accompanied the short stories, recipes, songs, poems, and other tidbits compiled in this anthology.

An open book, The Christmas Almanac

 One of the stories, “The Miraculous Staircase” by Arthur Gordon, recounts the legend surrounding an itinerant carpenter who solved a seemingly insurmountable engineering problem regarding access to the choir loft of the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe.  This mysterious carpenter built a spiral staircase, whose design even today puzzles architects and structural engineers.  After reading this story, I’d someday like to travel to Santa Fe to see the chapel and its miraculous staircase with my own eyes.  You can read more about the chapel at:

The story started me thinking of other extraordinary chapels I’d like to visit someday, including the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas ( and Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp Chapel in France (  I am drawn to these buildings, beautiful works of art and light.  I’d love to photograph their light-filled interiors.

Dreaming about future travel destinations inspired by this book

I just started browsing through National Geographic’s Sacred Places of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Peaceful and Powerful Destinations, and I’m sure this book will give me more chapels to add to my “Must-See” list.

Someday I’d like to return to the Matisse Chapel du Rosaire in Vence, France (  My daughter and I saw it in June 2002.  I remember the blues, greens and yellows of the stained glass windows.  I didn’t take pictures of the interior (perhaps photos were not allowed), but I have my memories of sitting in that magical and sacred space.

We are very fortunate to have an awesome chapel in Seattle, the Chapel of St. Ignatius on the campus of Seattle University, designed by Steven Holl.  I love stopping by this light-inspired place for a few minutes of quiet contemplation.

Interior, Chapel of St. Ignatius, Seattle University

What special places have sacred significance for you?  Care to share?

The Reading Room at Suzzallo Library on the University of Washington campus

“The library is often the place where you can find the spirit of the monk:  in silence, the lustre of old woodwork, the smell of ageing paper, reading, retreat from the world, rules and authorities, tradition, volumes of wisdom, catalogues for contemplation.”
     — Thomas Moore, Meditations

While I was on the University of Washington campus viewing the cherry blossoms, I stopped by Suzzallo Library just to experience the hallowed atmosphere of one of my favorite libraries.  I suppose that it brings a taste of Hogwarts to the current generation of undergraduate students, who grew up with the Harry Potter novels!


Stairway to the second floor Reading Room, Suzzallo Library

Softly lit staircase, Suzzallo Library

Church-like ambience of the Suzzallo Reading Room

Grillwork, Suzzallo Library