Gladness in the Flames

November 27, 2015

“We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of the world.”
— Jack Gilbert, poet

Poinsettia, sometimes called Mexican flame leaf

Poinsettia, sometimes called Mexican flame leaf

Poinsettias at Swansons Nursery, Seattle

Poinsettias at Swansons Nursery, Seattle




“The last few miles were like a bad dream, but I’d reached a state where somehow, perversely, it was harder to stop than to carry on.”
— Nick Hunt, Walking the Woods and the Water


I’d reached the point in my encircling walk of Seattle where I was ready for it to end.  I suppose we encounter this type of mental hinderance many times in our lives, when tasks have lost their sense of newness or joy or wonder.  Perhaps my energy was flagging a bit because, unlike my other segments which I started bright and early in the morning, I hit the sidewalks this day after working four hours at my job.  It was past mid-day when I resumed my walk at the Ballard Locks.

The walk started pleasantly enough with a trek past Shilshole Marina to Golden Gardens.  This is another of Seattle’s popular beaches for summer recreation on the Sound.






From Golden Gardens, I tried to stay relatively close to the waters’ edge as I walked north, but I found this difficult.  First I had to climb up several sets of very steep stairs up from Golden Gardens to the bluff above.  I was back in a residential area with labyrinthine streets, no sidewalks, and ravines that resulted in plenty of dead ends.

One of the stairways up from Golden Gardens

One of the stairways up from Golden Gardens

After walking in what seemed like loops, I finally hit NW 100th Street and decided to follow its straight path to 15th and then 3rd Avenue NW.  The walk became a slog.  There were no long views across the Sound as I was now heading back inland.  I perked up when I saw Swansons Nursery — suddenly I knew exactly where I was.  I put one foot in front of the other, watching the street signs go up incrementally to 145th Street NW, which was the northern city limit.  There I turned west for my final few blocks to Aurora Avenue North, back where I started my journey.

Walking in NW Seattle

Walking in NW Seattle

Swansons Nursery

Swansons Nursery

Back wherre I started, 145th and Aurora Ave N

Back where I started, 145th and Aurora Ave N

Estimated walking distance: about 7-1/2 miles

I’d accomplished my goal — walking the boundaries of my city, about 70+ miles.  There were some exceptionally lovely parts, but even the uninteresting, normal, or ugly parts were worth it because they took me to areas of the city that I had not seen before or that I would have bypassed in a car without a thought.

I learned that Seattle is larger than I knew, and yet, walking revealed a series of neighborhoods that were knowable on a smaller scale.

“How excellent it is to see the world reveal itself to one who goes afoot — and how much larger it is.”
— William Least Heat Moon, Here, There, Elsewhere:  Stories from the Road

It felt good to be an explorer in my own backyard:

“On occasion, . . . I go out into my home territory and try to travel it as if a stranger so that I can see familiarities in a different light and from a new angle, commonplaces viewed freshly and examined closely.  The point is as much discovery as rediscovery.”
— William Least Heat Moon, Here, There, Elsewhere: Stories from the Road

Now I will have to plan for new activities and explorations.  I have at least three things I want to return to — walking Seward Park’s loop trail and using the Elliott Bay Water taxi to get to West Seattle. I’ve fallen in love with Seattle’s RapidLine transit routes, and want to catch the RapidLine C back to West Seattle someday for breakfast (I saw many good looking bakeries and coffeeshops).The summer is still young!



Finding Serenity

December 26, 2012

Koi fin like an angel wing

Koi fin like an angel wing

Undulating fin

Undulating fin

Detail, koi pond at Swansons Nursery

Detail, koi pond at Swansons Nursery

Are you ready for a few moments of peace and tranquility?  Seeing the koi at Swansons Nursery in Seattle reminded me how much I enjoy the Japanese sensibility and their ability to hold on to serenity in a crowded, busy world.  The changing shapes of these koi fins brought the northern lights to my mind for some reason.

Colorful koi

Colorful koi

A child at the koi pond in Swansons Nursery

A child at the koi pond in Swansons Nursery

There is a beautiful child’s counting book, called One Leaf Rides the Wind  by Celeste Davidson Mannis, that celebrates the pleasures and tranquility of the Japanese garden.  I like the illustrations by Susan Kathleen Hartung.  Leafing through this book gave me a brief respite from the noise of my day.

A book about counting in a Japanese garden

A book about counting in a Japanese garden

The page for "nine glittering koi"

The page for “nine glittering koi”

Koi illustration by Susan Kathleen Hartung

Koi illustration by Susan Kathleen Hartung

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
— Charles Dickens

Wreath made of colorful ball ornaments

“I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays – let them overtake me unexpectedly – waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: ‘Why, this is Christmas Day!'”
— David Grayson

I like the idea of parceling out the special treats of the Christmas season over the entire year, but especially during these final days leading up to Christmas Day itself.  I will take each Christmas-y moment as it comes, and try to attend to its unique colors, sounds, and scents.

Here are a few moments I captured with my camera at Swansons Nursery in Seattle, still early in this year’s holiday season.

Young shopper at Swansons Nursery

Amaryllis in bloom

Pine cone and squirrel ornaments for sale

Luminous pear ornaments for sale

One of the reindeer at Swansons Nursery

A garland of bells

Decisions, decisions

Red bows

Radio Flyer shopping “cart”



“It’s good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas.”
— Charles Dickens

Captivated by the model trains at Swansons Nursery

Nose pressed to the glass — the wonder of a child

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
— Laura Ingalls Wilder

When is the last time that you pressed your nose to glass to better enter an enchanted world on the other side?  When I saw this child so captivated by the model trains at Swansons Nursery that his nose was just about glued to the glass, I was touched by his childish wonder.  It was a good reminder to hold on to a bit of childish delight myself as I go through the sometimes hectic and imperfect days leading up to Christmas.

“The earth has grown old with its burden of care,
But at Christmas it always is young . . .”
— Phillips Brooks

” . . . Christmas Day in the company of children is one of the few occasions on which man becomes entirely alive.”
— Robert Lynd


“It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.”
— W. T. Ellis

Poinsettias for sale at Swansons Nursery

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
— Norman Vincent Peale

I try not to get stressed with all of the messages crying buy, buy, buy during the holiday season.  But I have to admit that I appreciate the colors, lights, and scents of baking and pine trees during this most dark time of the year.  I can hardly imagine what December would be like without the glitz, commercial or not.

So I made a pilgrimage to Swansons Nursery in Seattle to feed my eyes on the reds and greens of the season.  The poinsettias alone offer such a variety of colors that put Christmas in the air.

Pretty pink poinsettias

Red poinsettias speckled white

Mostly white with a valley of pale pink

Pretty in pink

Poinsettia display at Swansons Nursery

Yesterday for lunch I met an old friend at Alexa’s Garden Cafe located in Ballard’s Swansons Nursery.  Our table was next to the koi pond, so we could enjoy watching the well-fed and friendly fish as we ate our sandwiches and salad.  (My Reuben sandwich was excellent!)  I was especially taken with the reflections of the foliage in the water.  Here are some photos:

Reflections of palm fronds in the water of a koi pond

Reflections with tail fin

Undulating tail fin of white koi

Lovely reflections with iridescence

This reminds me of the northern lights, which I'd like to see one day.

Koi pond at Swansons Nursery in Ballard


“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”
     — Francis Church, from The Sun of September 21, 1897

Santa at Swanson's Nursery in Ballard

Young child visiting Santa

Sitting on Santa's knee

The gift of a candy cane from Santa

"Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever."

“The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”
     — Francis Church, The Sun of September 21, 1897

The local nurseries are especially festive this time of year.  Here are some photos taken at Swanson’s Nursery in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle:

Shopping for a wreath

Live reindeer at Swanson's Nursery

Camel at Swanson's Nursery

Pink poinsettias

White poinsettias

Red poinsettia

Santa ornaments

Red ribbon

Young shopper at Swanson's Nursery

Season's greeting sign