Friday, July 22, 2011

Art on the Walls; Art in the Streets

SEATTLE IS QUITE A BIT COOLER THAN BIRDLAND AND I'M GLAD I packed several sweaters. Ellis has taken to wearing his brother's fedora. My youngest would fit right into the Seattle fashions, especially with guidance from Chad. While my oldest worked, Ellis and I had to find our own amusements. Luckily Chad had provided us with a hand-drawn map. On it a star marked the restaurant that Chad proclaimed “the world's best donuts,” so of course we had to make a detour and see for ourselves. They had pretty good coffee, too, and 40 foot ceilings with simple but elegant maple shelves full of books up to the top. It made me feel smart while I ate my donut—the most delicious old fashioned maple iced donut I've ever eaten. But I don't think anyone reads those books. They were nicely bound, and sharply lined up, but I think they were decoration. They looked like sets of encyclopedias picked up at yard sales. Chad says that they are standard d├ęcor for coffee shops.
 After the donuts we went to the Seattle Public Library, where people do read the books. Chad put the library on our list because he wanted us to see the unique architecture, and it was a little like walking into an industrial Hogwarts. The fourth floor is all red—the walls, ceilings, floors—and seems to be made of molded fiberglass with smooth, glossy walls and weird hallways. No book shelves on that floor; it is all meeting rooms and we wandered around through curving hallways until we felt like we were stuck in a dream. In one wall was a plexiglass window bolted over a hole that looked like it was smashed in the wall. Inside we could see faces projected onto big egg shaped, so the eggs themselves seemed to be making faces or engaged in silent conversation. On the other side of the wall was an escalator, and we watched people going up and down in pursuit of knowledge. Most floors had tables and tables of computers, and most computers were occupied. We went up to the top and discovered an atrium. People were reading in the sunny room in comfy chairs or at the tables arranged around the central stacks. We discovered there that the floors seemed to spiral down, so you could follow the square down, browsing the stacks along the way, perhaps all the way down to street level. We took the escalator, so we could see the egg heads again from the other side. Yep. They were still talking.
 Back on the street we make our way back up to Capitol Hill, but we keep our eyes open because in Seattle artwork is everywhere, from the manhole covers which have whales and fish stamped into them to the yellow bricks laid into the bridge. The bricks are stamped with words of poetry written by local high schoolers and glazed with clay dug from the site of the bridge. In Chad's neighborhood is a colorful mosaic of broken crockery and china plates surrounding a tree between the sidewalk and the street.

Chad calls us from work to ask if we'd like to go to the rock climbing gym, and of course we do. I sit on the padded floor and crochet while I watch my boys ascend the blue wall with the color coded toe holds. Different colors signify the degree of difficulty. Chad's friends are there too, and they all share encouragement and hints for each problem. (A particular path up the wall is called a “problem.”) In Seattle, even the climbing gym has a garden and I wander over to the deck to check out this one—burlap bags filled with dirt hold tomato and basil plants. The sun is beginning to set and the breeze blows lightly over my face, and I watch my boys helping each other solve problems.

Ascend in Beauty; Descend in Peace; Blessed Be.

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