Saturday, September 25, 2010

Green, mossy and grey

There's something about Seattle and the Pacific Northwest that's so different from Los Angeles. You would think, since I lived in Seattle for almost 20 years, and in Los Angeles for 13, that this wouldn't be a surprise to me.

But here I am, back in Seattle for the first time in about five years, and the differences really strike me.

First of all, it's damp. It's so damp moss grows on things. And it's dark. I took a walk through the Washington Park arboretum beneath the trees, and the shade blotted out the weak light from the grey sky.

The trees are so tall and grow so close together. Douglas fir, spruce and giant arching sycamore - not our California riparian sycamore that sprawls over the riverbed, but a real tree with shade so deep it darkens First Avenue South here in Pioneer Square.

Things really grow. Even along the widest highway, the most industrial roadway, or the shabbiest city street, the verges of the pavement or untended patches of urban soil burgeons with bindweed and horsetail and that perennial Northwest weed, blackberries.

Cedar fences darken and the fiber of the wood softens in the damp climate. Trees overarch neighborhoods, plants tumble, foaming over the pavement of sidewalks.

The light is what's different from California. Golden there, here it's cool. A pearl-like grey some have called "oyster," the light fills the sky.

And as the city climbs up the hills and falls away into the valleys, the sky and the mountains seem always to be there.

Even above the city skyline, seen here looking north from First Avenue South near Safeco Field.

Here, the wilderness past seems very close at hand, despite the modern setting. Even from the high hotel balcony overlooking the international airport, looking past the planes and parking garages, the motels and fast food joints and traffic lights, you can see along the horizon the peaks of the Olympic mountains and the unbroken line of Douglas fir treetops, the same spiked, green-black horizon that must have sheltered the Duwamish people, and filled the dreams of the American settlers that came - so many trees that, try as they might, they could never cut them all down.

It's good to be back here again.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Here, the wilderness past seems very close at hand, despite the modern setting.

I've only made it out to the Pacific Northwest one time, it was for a couple property inspections SW of Portland. I had the exact same feeling. (I almost wanted to grow some odd facial hair and start a grunge band, but not quite.)

Lovely pictures!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I was there years ago, and loved the place. Went hiking in the Cascades as well. It was heavenly.

CaShThoMa said...

Welcome Back to Seattle! Love your photos and descriptions of our oyster sky. Today, as you've noticed we are crystalline blue and those bountiful trees are shimmering in the soft breezes. Enjoy. Enjoy.

Susan B said...

I love that cool, mossy, green and grey landscape. I'd move there in a heartbeat, rain or no.

Anonymous said...

You have made me homesick. And today that is an impressive thing, because despite the stinkbugs, I think Virginia in the fall is fascinatingly beautiful. And yet here I am, wishing to be back in Seattle on a cold, cloudy day. Oyster Sky - perfect!

Anonymous said...

Condivido pienamente il suo punto di vista. Ottima idea, condivido.
Condivido pienamente il suo punto di vista. Penso che questo sia una buona idea. Pienamente d'accordo con lei.

unmitigated me said...

When I first started teaching 6th grade, I was surprised to learn that much of Washington and Oregon were a temperate rain forest. Not so surprised when I see these pics. And I am still working out a way to meet Mrs. G.

Jackie Owens said...

Glad you're back in Seattle for a visit! Have a great time!