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Kat Marriner : October 23rd, 2009

Walking My Hill

When we first moved to our little house mid-way on the hill of Beacon Hill, we quickly met many of the old-timers living within a block or so of our house. We met them because they walked.

Nora raced by like clockwork on her way to and from work every day until she retired 2 years ago. She still walks by, but now often with a friend and they catch a bus to a casino for lunch, or just out to get exercise. Kenny, the old time piano player shared a stage with Ray Charles in the early days, still puts on his blue crossing guard hat and orange vest and meets up with Ed at our corner on their way to halt traffic as the elementary school kids and parents go to and fro. We called Papa Joe “Th Inspector” for his unannounced visits to check our handiwork in the house as we remodeled–an old tile-setter, we learned that “checking the tile” was a great euphemism we use today with humorous memories of Joe. Alice walked up and down the hill past our house, until she could only walk down, always stopping to complain about her knees. She kept going though, until she needed those knees replaced, and after her surgery she never returned home. Judy never went further than the sidewalk space in front of her house, but she walked it back and forth long after gout had taken over her life and stopped her from growing bok choy in the patch of yard.

These folks and many more were the regular passers by of our little turquoise palace in the early days. There was one walker, though who didn’t just stroll around the block. Marsha walked with dignified purpose. Beautiful, birdlike Marsha with a lilting sing-song “oh, hello!” as she passed by with her empty grocery bags on her way up the hill and her two, balance grocery bags on her way down. She was always immaculately dressed with her “face on” as my grandma would say. Marsha took great pride in walking up Hanford street—I should add that at one point in the hill climb the grade is 22%. That one block still takes my breath away after walking it for over 12 years. Marsha walked it well over 60 years.

A few years ago Marsha linger and chat over the garden fence, I finally asked her how old she was. Some how it came up naturally in conversation and I was floored to discover she was 93 at the time.

Before I moved to Beacon Hill, I don’t believe I knew any older folks who walked with great regularity. Suddenly I was surrounded by them. I was inspired by them! It was easy to see how important those regular walks were to the health and vitality of my neighbors.

We’ve lost some of those neighbors since we first moved into the neighborhood, but all have lived long and active lives well into their 80s and even mid-90s. Walking has connected them, eased their pain,and perhaps eased their isolation.

It had been months since we’d seen Marsha, and admittedly we can’t remember when we last saw her walk the hill. The past couple of years she had slowed down… let her jet black hair finally turn it’s natural shade of gray. The walks weren’t so frequent and this summer we didn’t see her out with the push mower cutting her lawn. Family would come and go, and we saw less and less activity at her house. A couple days ago Willie spotted her daughter’s van parked out front and went to inquire about her mother. Marsha had moved to a care facility and unfortunately she no longer remembered much about her life. The decline seems remarkably fast.

Without conscious imitation, I found myself walking up the hill to the store and returning with two balanced bags. Lift ten reps, then lift the other in time to my steps. Getting my real world workout … and thinking about 50 more years walking my hill.

Willie Weir : October 9th, 2009

Spring in Seattle–A Small City Garden Celebration

This is part one of a project of photographing our small city garden for a year. Life without a car means living closer to home. At times we miss jumping into our old Subaru and heading out for a hike on the spur of the moment. But we’ve also loved the fact that we’ve learned to appreciate our neighborhood and our city at a slower pace. So rather than heading up to the Cascades or the Olympics for a photography tour, I stepped out my front door and into our garden, day after day. What a pleasure to visit such a small and beautiful world so intensely. On my knees or on my stomach, straining to get the tripod in just the right position.

I also hope that this exercise in extreme local travel will help make me a better world traveler. How often I’ve been thousands of miles away in an exotic location, only to have my eyes and ears not truly take it all in. Wasted opportunities passing me by.

The photos in the show were all taken in our small city garden with no flash or filters. Take some time to soak in the beauty, then go out and take a walk. Travel is a state of mind and is only a few steps away.

Willie Weir : October 7th, 2009

First Impressions: A Tale of Two Train Stations

Portland Train Station

Portland's Train Station

Seattle's Train Station

Seattle's Train Station

Two cities. Two train stations. Two completely different vibes and messages.

Portland’s AMTRAK station:
Walk outside the doors and you see the Greyhound station 500 feet away. A light rail train glides by. Bike paths with signage pointing you toward downtown are clear and highly visible. Wide sidewalks too.
The message is clear without a word being spoken. The physical surroundings announce, “Welcome to our city. Come explore. We assume you don’t have your own car. In fact, thanks for not driving.”

Seattle’s AMTRAK station:
Walk outside the doors and … you are greeted by an ENORMOUS parking lot for Qwest field. A few taxi’s are waiting at the curb. Yes. Seattle has bike lanes and local bus service, even light rail. But where are they? I guess you have to be a local to know that the Greyhound station is across town. No easy bus connection and a very long walk with baggage. The bus tunnel and light rail are a couple of blocks away … but that appears to be privaleged information as well.

The physical environment screams, “You’re on your own. Take a cab and remember to drive your own car next time.”

First impressions? As a cyclist or pedestrian, Portland embraces you … while Seattle tolerates you.