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:

Consolation

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

 

Tacoma's Museum of Glass with clouds

Tacoma’s Museum of Glass with clouds

Of course no trip to Tacoma is complete without enjoying some glass art.  The Tacoma Art Museum has an impressive collection of Chihuly glass, and Tacoma’s Museum of Glass is another big draw.  We were able to see a lot of glass art in the outdoor public areas adjacent to the Museum of Glass without paying admission.  Here are some photos:

Fluent Steps by Martin Blank was inspired by the "elegant movement of steam rising from his teacup"

Fluent Steps by Martin Blank was inspired by the “elegant movement of steam rising from his teacup”

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Tacoma's Bridge of Glass with stunniing glass works by Dale Chihuly

Tacoma’s Bridge of Glass with stunning glass works by Dale Chihuly

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Two red umbrellas, Tacoma

Two red umbrellas, Tacoma

 

 

 

Daytripping Tacoma

October 8, 2011

Bridge of Glass in Tacoma with Chihuly glass forms in the ceiling

I took my sister and niece to Tacoma so that they could see some Dale Chihuly glass sculptures.  They were fortunate to be able to see the Dale Chihuly’s Northwest exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum before it closed.  I feel lucky to live so close to Tacoma and its glass art, which I’ve seen several times and have never tired of.

Tacoma's old brick buildings near the U of W satellite campus

Exterior, Museum of Glass, Tacoma

Bridal party having photographs made at the Museum of Glass

Union Station, Tacoma, with Chihuly glass forms hanging in the distant windows inside

Dale Chihuly's Northwest exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum

Grand staircase at University of Washington Tacoma campus

Chihuly chandelier at U of W Tacoma Library

 

 

Unusual orange calla lillies

While we were in Tacoma, Carol and I stopped in at the W W Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright Park.  Last year I was enthralled when I saw pink calla lilies for the first time.  On this visit to Tacoma’s conservatory, I was amazed to see calla lilies in purple and sunset orange colors.  They were enchanting!

Purple calla lilies on display at the W W Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Tacoma

Purple calla lilies

 

Sunset orange calla lily, W W Seymour Botanical Conservatory

Calla lily

Calla lily close up

Pink calla lily, W W Seymour Botanical Conservatory

Pink calla lilies

W W Seymour Botanical Conservatory, Tacoma

Watercolor sketches of calla lilies

Watercolor sketches of calla lilies

Woodblock print artist with letterpress, Wayzgoose Extravaganza

Yesterday I drove down to Tacoma with my friend Carol to attend Wayzgoose, a letterpress and book arts celebration.  It was a small, but lively, community of artists and lovers of book and paper crafts.  Several vendors had small letterpresses on which we could make our own printed keepsake.  Outside, a Caterpillar steam roller pressed oversized block prints.  And if you had the foresight to bring a tee shirt with you, a cadre of volunteers silk screened it for you.  It was a fun event!

Inking the letters for a letterpressed poster

A vendors wares at Wayzgoose

Linoleum block on press

Inking the block

Placing paper over the inked block

Pressing by hand to transfer the image from the block to paper

Getting ready to pull the print

My very own Wayzgoose keepsake, a rabbit print just in time for Easter!

Silkscreen printing on a tee shirt

Drying the silkscreened tee shirt

Inking a huge, oversized block

Pressing with a steam roller

Pulling the oversized print

Steam roller print!

Day Tripping in Tacoma

March 9, 2011

Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Tacoma

Seattle and Tacoma are just 32 miles apart, but I have spent very little time getting to know my neighboring city.  So after seeing the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum with my friend, Carol, we decided to explore a bit before returning home.  We admired Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures along the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, picnicked at Point Defiance Park, enjoyed Puget Sound views from the Five-Mile Driving loop, and were entranced by the animals at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.  Here are some photos of our adventures:

The Chihuly Bridge of Glass gives new positive meaning to the term "glass ceiling"

Pagoda roof at Point Defiance Park

Racoon along Five-Mile Drive, Point Defiance Park

Beggar racoon

Mountaineer Tree, a grand Douglas Fir more than 450 years old

Spectacular display by a resident peacock, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

Huge walrus making eyes at a zoo visitor

Inches apart through glass, walrus and friend

Sumatran Tiger cubs, born last May

Sounder Commuter Train between Tacoma and Seattle

On Thursday my friend Carol and I went to the Tacoma Art Museum and decided to make the journey more adventuresome by using only public transportation.  The Sounder Commuter Train runs twice in the morning and twice in late afternoon, during peak commuting times, between Seattle and Tacoma.  We didn’t want to spend too many hours in Tacoma during the middle of the day, so we decided to take the 594 bus from downtown Seattle to Tacoma ($3.00 fare), and then return on the Sounder.  This turned out to be a good plan for a fun day trip.

The 594 bus dropped us off on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma within a block of the Tacoma Art Museum.  The museum had a special 75-cent admission on Thursday in celebration of its 75th anniversary.  It is a gem of a museum, and the current exhibits featured Japanese woodblock prints, some Impressionist paintings, and “Mighty Tacoma:  A Photographic Portrait,” in addition to an ongoing exhibit of Dale Chihuly glass baskets.

Dale Chihuly's 40 Niijima glass floats on Stone Wave by Richard Rhodes, Tacoma Art Museum

Detail of one of Dale Chihuly's glass baskets

One of my favorite Japanese woodcut prints, Night Rain at Oyama by Tokokuni II, Tacoma Art Museum

Special photographic exhibit, Tacoma Art Museum

Mighty Tacoma: Photographic Portrait, Tacoma Art Museum

Interactive exhibit. The museum's photographer-in-residence took pictures of patrons to add to the Mighty Tacoma exhibit.

Picture Yourself Here, interactive exhibit, Tacoma Art Museum

A Tacoma artist-in-residence takes photographs of patrons for the exhibit.

After a delightful museum visit, Carol and I ate a leisurely lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant, walked through the University of Washington Tacoma campus, and then caught the free link (light rail) from the museum district to the Tacoma Dome Station.  There we walked across the street to the Sounder station where we caught the commuter train back to Seattle ($4.75 fare).  We enjoyed a relaxed ride with the recurring sound of the train whistle reminding us that this was quite a different journey than driving down I-5.

The Sounder approaches the Tacoma depot.

Interior of the Sounder Commuter Train (free wi-fi, bathrooms, luggage racks)

The Slow Road to Tacoma

September 2, 2010

The usual route from Seattle to Tacoma down I-5 is not very picturesque — heavy multi-lane traffic is the norm, and it’s an urban and suburban landscape all the way.  I decided to put on my explorer’s hat and meander down to Tacoma the slow way, following the Puget Sound coastline as much as I could.  I was distinctly underwhelmed by the experience!

For one thing, it was just one of those days when things didn’t go quite right.  I packed a pair of sandals in case I was inspired to walk along a beach to two — turns out I grabbed two different sandals from two different pairs!  They were a set of right and left shoes, but it turns out that I did not use them anyway. 

The beach at Saltwater State Park, my first stop, was nothing spectacular — some picnic tables and benches with water views.  I think that Golden Gardens Park in Seattle is nicer (and much closer to home).  I ate my breakfast picnic — cornbread with butter and honey, a sliced peach, and coffee — while gazing at the water.  Then I headed to my next stop, Dashpoint State Park.

This is another state park right on the waters of Puget Sound.  There is camping at Dashpoint, which might be something to consider if you ever head to Seattle with an RV.  But again, I did not think the beach was anything special. 

So I headed south to Brown’s Point lighthouse.  This is a small lighthouse with a rather boring shape, but it functions.  I did learn that the Lighthouse Keeper’s house is available for rent by the week, and if you stay there, you become an honorary lighthouse keeper.  (You can find out more about this at www.pointsnortheast.org.)

It was at Brown’s Point that I discovered my wallet was missing.  I suspected that I had left it at home, but I wasn’t sure.  That made me feel uneasy, so I just decided to head back to the freeway and come home.  I’ll leave Point Defiance Park in Tacoma for another visit.

I got home without incident, found my wallet, and ate the picnic lunch I had packed.  So much for exploring!

The beach at Saltwater State Park

Gentle waves on a pebbly beach, Saltwater State Park

Brown's Point Lighthouse and Keeper's house, near Tacoma

Curtains in the Lighthouse Keeper's House, Brown's Point

Lovely hollyhocks in the garden at the Lighthouse Keeper's residence