In the last month, I’ve been walking. A lot. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a few of my nutrition rotations at a place right here in West Seattle. So every morning, I leave my house in comfy pants, my comfy Dansko clogs and an umbrella tucked into an outside backpack pocket (in case of an unforeseen deluge), and walk 35 minutes up two humungous hills to work. I love it.
The sun has begun to put on its pretty sunset show earlier and earlier. Now, if I stay too late at work, I walk home in the twilight. At the top of the highest hill in West Seattle, I begin to walk down… down… down …with a view of the Olympic Mountains backlit by pink and sapphire. The view of the city stretches out before me opposite those twilight colors, trying to compete with its own sparkling lights and the space needle’s orb glowing orange.
With the darkness coming so early, my days find me inside from four o’clock until bedtime. I don’t know how many times Mark and I have said to each other after a five-thirty dinnertime, “it feels like midnight!” There isn’t much room to spread out inside the bamboo hut, what with one bedroom and one living/kitchen room and a thinnish wall in between. We end up spending our dark evening hours with our noses in books, our faces in computer screens, or squinting at magazines in the poor reading light. I’m feeling the need to rebel against the darkness. It’s time to get out.
So I’ve been walking. More. I put on a heavier jacket, my Danskos, and leave the umbrella behind like a good hearty Seattlite. With all the hills, winding back streets and bridges, our part of the city is perfect for urban hiking. I set out right as dark falls and climb up streets that belong in San Francisco. I wind around roads that are only traveled by those who share its address, I breathe heavy as I use my legs to carry me to places both physically and mentally distant. I breathe. I gaze at the panoramic view of Seattle in the fog. I feel the mist slowly and surreptitiously soak my forehead and eyebrows, and I dream.
After dark all the houses are lit from the inside. Big picture windows that frame living rooms and warm kitchens glow into the darkness, allowing anyone to peek into their secret world. Tonight I walked by a mansion of a home, strung with colored Christmas lights. I could see their Christmas tree all in white lights inside. At another home, lit from within, a long paneless window revealed a complete dinner scene – with grandpa, mom and dad and two kids sitting around a long table, serving salad out of a large bowl. I also peek, with some amount of guilt, into the grandest of homes, to get a glimpse of their modern furniture and perfect lighting. I feel transported, taken out of my body and away from my life to enter the worlds of others. I can imagine stepping onto their plush rugs, sitting on their pristine furniture, sharing a meal around a perfect table. I’m a Pisces, so I’m doomed to be a dreamy sort, I know. But if I cannot dream and escape then I cannot create something greater for my life. As I imagine what could be, I create it and bring it to me in some way.
About a year and a half ago, when I first began spending lots of time here with Mark in West Seattle, in those dark cool evenings I would walk up those hills to 35th Street, as it afforded the most spectacular view of the port and the skyscrapers of downtown. For some reason I was drawn to those hidden residential streets around 35th and Harbor Avenue below. They were quiet, labyrinthine, and felt to me, well… dreamy. I admired the modern homes with their tall narrow design, to take advantage of space vertically because horizontal space was so precious. I pictured Mark and myself in one of those homes, with a view of the city laid out like a giant photograph in some coffee table book. I could feel it, rising in my chest.
About a year later I would walk again on those streets, on another urban hike on some lazy summer day and find a spacious modern home, empty and for sale, that I labeled ‘dream house’. Whenever I was feeling depressed, or when Mark and I would be feeling feisty and hopeful about the future, we would drop by the dream house and peek in the windowed front door. It was magical, it was for sale, and it was entirely out of any price range we could imagine…but it was somehow ours.
A few weeks ago, after months of online searching in the For Rent ads, I stumbled upon a notice for a place that looked spacious, full of light, and within our price range. The address read 35th Street, West Seattle.
It was the first place and the last that we looked at in our search for a new home. We signed the lease last Saturday after a visit and a chat with our landlords who live upstairs in the house. She works in organic gardening. He’s an architect who loves cycling. They both exude a kind and loving energy for people and for their home.
In two weeks we’ll be moving up to 35th, to the top of the hill, where our evening glass of wine will be shared with the lights of the city, the ships going in and out of the port, and the Sound with her wet fog and chill. We’ll gaze out the windows of our living room onto that view, warm light stretching out into the darkness.
Maybe a passerby, on her walk, will guiltily peek inside our not-so-perfectly furnished dining room on the hill and dream about living way up high.
A toast to moving on, and moving up, and the power of visualizing the life you wish to live. May I see you all around our dining room table in the coming year, sharing a meal in a home, lit from within.