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Kat Marriner : August 24th, 2009

Trading Local Color for Efficiency

A Seattle Times article rather accurately describes a typical ride on the #7 bus running between downtown and Rainier Beach. It’s been part of our repertoire of transportation choices since moving to Beacon Hill where the 7 is a quick walk down the hill or the 36 is a quick walk up the hill. A ride on the 7 is gritty, diverse and full of stories.

When I last rode it earlier this summer, a young woman in traditional dress from some place I couldn’t identify was singing a sweet, sad tune before she started growling like a trapped wild animal. I was sitting in the first forward facing seat with my knees nearly touching her long skirt. Grossly fascinated and a bit intimidatied, I stole peeks at her performance. After about 10 minutes of this sing-song-growl not a person had complained or even moved away from her, but eventually the driver got out of his seat while at a light and told her to stop. It was distracting him. She clearly understood and stopped. I chalked it up to another day in the life of the lowly #7.

Today for convenience I would opt to take light rail downtown for it’s cool efficiency. But I’m missing the characters and stories. Not a complaint, but an observation. The #7 is a lesson in diversity, sometimes compassion, and always patience. The article reminds me what I am giving up for a fast ride.

Willie Weir : August 21st, 2009

Now THAT’s a Sidewalk


Beacon Hill sidewalk (Seattle, WA)

In the United States our city streets are so auto-oriented that we rarely think of what the alternative could be.  Consider the sidewalk. It is rarely continuous. If you are lucky enough to have sidewalks in your neighborhood, they are block-long segments, interrupted by the asphalt roadway. Every block, you cross through the the right of way of the autos to get to your next section of sidewalk. The law says that you, as the pedestrian, have the right of way. A car is supposed to yield to you. But everything about the physical environment says that the auto has the right of way. The road or street is a continuous flowing stream, while the sidewalk is chopped up into little segments.  That’s just the way sidewalks are.



Bogotá sidewalk (Bogotá, Colombia)

What if your city planners thought outside the “norm”? What if the sidewalk was a continuous stream, while the roadway was chopped into small segments? The above example is from Bogotá, Colombia. The pedestrian or cyclist continues through the intersection on a clear, smooth path—while the autos have to negotiate a ramp up and then down again. Visually and physically, it is the auto that is crossing the sidewalk, rather than the pedestrian crossing the street.

Believe me. It makes all the difference in the world. I’ll take the physical right of way over the legal right of way anytime.

Now THAT’S a sidewalk!

Kat Marriner : August 19th, 2009

On any given day

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t walk somewhere in our neighborhood. Walk to the grocery store. Walk to the library. Walk to light rail. Walk to a friend’s house. Walk to take a walk. And hardly a walk goes by that I don’t run in to someone and have a conversation … almost so much so that sometimes I walk off the beaten path to get lost in my own thoughts.

The other day was such a day that I wanted nothing more than to walk in my own space and soak in atmosphere. The dry summer heat had turned to cloud cover for a day or two, and as much as I am a sun seeker, the ch’i in the air was refreshing my body and soul.

So I walked to the Red Apple to pick up some wine for dinner and took a right instead of a left when I walked out of the parking lot. I was ready to wonder and my feet took me West towards the view overlook park. Student drivers cautiously gave me plenty of room as we both rounded the bend in the road where the sidewalk ends before the park begins. The park is usually a solitary place especially mid-morning on a weekday, but there in my favorite spot to sit and breathe in the city was a man and his bicycle. A twinge of disappointment darted into my heart.

As I approached, the man turned and smiled a genuine smile. We exchanged hellos before he said, Do you want to hear a poem? Yes. I answered matter-of-factly.

I stood beside the bench looking out across the city, Elliott Bay and beyond to the Olympics touched with mist.  Heavy sculpted clouds filled the sky, he read:

This is not a day for asking questions,
not a day on any calendar.
This day is conscious of itself.
This day is a lover, bread, and gentleness,
more manifest than saying can say.

The longer he read the more my heart filled with the ache of words mixing freely with the beauty before me. Swelling with love for this place, I listened to these words by mystic poet Rumi.

Spring, and everything outside is growing
even the tall cypress tree.
We must not leave this place.
Around the lip of the cup we share, these words,

My Life Is Not Mine
If someone were to play music, it would have to be very sweet.
We’re drinking wine, but not through lips.
We’re sleeping it off, but not in bed.
Rub the cup across your forehead.
This day is outside living and dying.

Give up wanting what other people have.
That way you’re safe.
“Where, where can I be safe?” you ask.

This is not a day for asking questions,
not a day on any calendar.
This day is conscious of itself.
This day is a lover, bread, and gentleness,
more manifest than saying can say.

Thoughts take form with words,
but this daylight is beyond and before
thinking and imagining. Those two,
they are so thirsty, but this gives smoothness
to water. Their mouths are dry, and they are tired.

By the time he finished, I released the deep breath with a somber, wow.  He laughed a nervous laugh of two people caught unsuspecting in an intimate moment. He said he felt the same way.

I never know what will happen on a walk, but I’m glad this happened. Thank you for reading the poem… I mustered hardly holding back tears.

Thank you for wanting to hear a poem, he simply said.

I smiled and walked away. Any more words between us would break a spell — this exquisite moment shared between strangers in a park on Beacon Hill. Magic can happen on any given day.