Seattle Part II – sulking garlic and a little craft beer………

‘Just living is not enough…… one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower’ – Hans Christian Anderson

One of the best things about Seattle is that it is a walkers’ city so pull on those comfy shoes and hit those cobblestone streets, brick paved alley-ways, paths and hills and enjoy.  We struck lovely weather whilst in Seattle, blue skies and sunshine which is a perfect combo for walking.  I was given a little tip too for venturing out and about which was ‘take a brolly’ as the weather in Seattle can be somewhat inclement.  Apparently, when it rains it rains……and then it will rain some more………

This city has a lot to offer but much of Seattle’s unique charm can be found in the underbelly of its quirky, often gentrified, waterfront and vibrant urban neighbourhoods with most so close to the city you can just stroll to them.   Here you will happen upon charming houses, parks and green spaces, sculptures, lovingly tended gardens and galleries and you will constantly catch glimpses of beautiful Puget Sound.

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Visit places like Belltown where it is all about the waterfront and for a little elegance try Capitol Hill and Ballard but if like me, you seek a colourful and passionate neighbourhood with a social conscience for activism then Fremont is the place to be (raise that fist and insert a rally cry at your leisure)…….YEAH!!

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I will always believe that the world can be changed by action, tolerance and humanity.  If you know something is not right then you have a moral obligation to stand up and do something about it!  And don’t just talk about it either.  Hollow words accomplish  nothing.  Actually DO something because change can only be achieved through your actions, not your opinions or comments.  And don’t turn to malevolence, hyperbole and anger either in order to fight your fight.  Leave that to other guys because that’s all they know.

Seattle and its neighbourhoods have an impressive food scene and every taste and budget is catered for.  You will find everything from street food, food trucks, casual cheap eats to high-end expensive restaurants.  Seafood is a big winner given it is so fresh and accessible but there is so much more on offer from the simple sandwich, vegan to duck fat dumplings to dry aged steaks and again, fabulous coffee abounds.

One of the big draw cards for Seattle is craft beer.   I think if you go to Seattle and don’t try a craft brew it would be like, I don’t know……. going to Seattle and not casting your gaze upon the Space Needle!   So line up those tasting paddles at any one of a number of very impressive micro-breweries, nano-breweries and craft beer houses and sit back and appreciate a darn good brewskie.

Now although I do enjoy a brew-pub, I tend to favour the nano-breweries.  These are the really small, independent operations which turn out impressive and high quality yet limited quantities of beer batches. These places are all about great industrial  spaces, people who love their product, milk crate seating and blackboard menus and when that batch of beer runs out, then it is pretty much gone for good.

These places have a ‘hip, kick back and chill vibe’ and we started to seek them out after one of our first encounters with one set up in a shipping container in South Carolina.  It was here we discovered ‘Bowens Island Oyster Stout’ and the joy of chocolate covered bacon.  And yes, bacon and dark chocolate is gold my friends 🙂   This oyster stout, made by Holy City Brewing, is my absolute favorite beer of all time.  I love it and I cannot buy it in Australia, nor anything remotely close to it and trust me, I have been working my way through some impressive stouts to find one.

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I am absolutely smitten with this defining image of the Seattle skyline.   The Space Needle…….

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Although this was built in 1962 for the World Fair I still think it is a super modern ‘Jetsons’ inspired symbol which I also happen to find super cool.  I love the colour scheme too – Galaxy Gold (which is actually tangerine), Orbital Olive and Re-entry Red.

I also found the architecture in Seattle stunningly beautiful.  I am a lover of all things art deco so some of the sculptured buildings, especially the Museum of Pop Culture, with its perfectly synchronised union between modern Avant-garde, deco and steel greatly appealed to me. I literally spent hours just marveling at the forms and shapes and designs.

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In all that I loved about Seattle, one of my favorite memories was of a roof top community garden.  One of the volunteers at the garden mentioned it has been referred to as the ‘secret garden’ as although the location is tourist central, right on top of Pike Place Market, the garden often gets little in the way of visitors.

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This wonderful urban oasis, manned by a dedicated team of volunteers, provides fresh veggies and fruit to ‘The Food Bank’ and the ‘Seniors Centre’.  Residents from the Seniors Centre also come to garden and to socialise which I think is really lovely.  With its raised garden beds of vegetables and flowers, fruit trees, container planting, random seating and its impressive views of Elliot Bay and the Seattle waterfront it is the perfect place to gain a little respite from the maddening crowds of the markets.

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I appreciate anything that can unite a community and this enchanting space, where moments of grace and kindness collide, will cure just about any affliction.   On good days, on difficult days and on all the days in between this garden would be a lovely place to spend a few moments each day.  Imagine more city community gardens and less car parks and concrete.  I certainly can.

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Some of my favourite moments in Seattle were those spent just quietly watching the sun wink off Elliot Bay and considering the beauty of the garden while deep in thought on that roof top space.  Life’s transition was taking place.  A dislocation between what had been and of what lay ahead in arduous and uncertain times all contemplated in the presence of small windows of hope.  The garden it seems, was symbolic in that it shows when you put love, energy and time into something it will grow, reveal itself and flourish.

Once settled in Australia, I made my own small oasis of solitude.  I have planted containers of flowers, herbs and veggies and it has become a little space to sit, write and to play a little scrabble every now and then.  Zoe loves this garden too and the sunshine cast upon it however my tip would be not to play scrabble with cheeky little cats as they tend to make up their own words.  I do allow it though, given she is so sweet……

Gardening is comparable to life in that you have no real control over it.   Currently here in New South Wales we are experiencing catastrophic bush fire conditions and merciless heat waves with temperatures at times reaching the high 40’s which is around 118 Fahrenheit.  Somehow though, my little garden is surviving the heat.  I have learnt some lessons gardening this way too such as my coriander will bolt straight to seed with little in the way of leaves to harvest and my garlic will sit sullenly in its pot with little growth however chilli plants absolutely thrive.

Sometimes perspective and hope are difficult to find, especially in the darkest of hours but when I think back on these terrible times I have for the most, a grateful heart.  As achingly painful as it has all been I have learnt so much but most importantly, I have learnt perseverance and to know that I have courage to never ever give up.  I have also learnt that you need to stay optimistic, focused and that you must always have hope.

Perhaps every now and then we all just need to find our small space in this big world and spend a little time in a garden, seek out some sunshine and a little flower or two to allow us to realise how truly fortunate we all really are.   And next stop, ‘The Last Frontier’,  Alaska…. xx

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Nothing says summer like glorious frangipani…….

 

 

Nearer my donut to thee…….

It is almost 12 am and I’m propped up in bed with the sweet little cat for company while trying to catch up on my blog.  Hold up like this I have the mood of a convalescing character in a Bronte novel, but this really is a lovely time.  It is dark, quiet and peaceful, save for the occasional rattle of the glass in my bedroom window thanks to a low pressure system which moved across our coastline earlier this evening.  I have just discovered too the difficulty in compelling one’s self to write something for a blog post, especially about nothing in particular.  So given this, I will just concentrate on the past week or so which has been kind of big.

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As I write this post I realise too that I have somehow slid very nicely in to my 50’s not at all feeling my age.  At this moment I am alert, happy and feeling a little invincible but that could also be due to the fact I was outrigging on the harbour again earlier this evening. And hand on heart I will say this – outrigging by moonlight is pretty darn wonderful!   Below you, inky deep water of the channels and above, a huge slice of a stunning night sky.  The evening air of Newcastle port, one of the largest and busiest working harbours in the world, smells deeply of the ocean too and little more. With over 90 million tonnes of coal shipped throughout the year and also being the passage for many large tankers and ships, it is undoubtedly an incredibly healthy and stunning waterway.

It really is a lovely time to be out but it is also bloody hard work.  Outrigging is challenging and physically demanding and holy cats, have I had some sore muscles and blisters to prove it.  It does however, drive me out of my comfort zone and it also necessitates me to mix again with others.  Not something most of my readers will appreciate, I relish with any enthusiasm.   Nevertheless, it is a worthy marker by which to test myself as outrigging appears to make one strong in so many ways.  Perhaps too it will also offer the opportunity to smooth down some of my occasional sharp edges and be the grease to loosen my often disquiet gears.

I first became aware of outrigging when in Hawaii last year after seeing the canoes drawn up on the sand.  Later that afternoon, I watched a group of men paddle one out but did not know that things would move and gather to where I would find myself in an outrigger almost 14 months later.

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I have discovered there is real discipline to this sport and a beauty within the liquid flowing movement required to pull the outrigger through the water.  It is the succinct union of mind and body, not always easily accomplished, which demands my attention to just being present, digging that paddle in and powering on.  I am learning much and I am deeply appreciative and respectful of my very tolerable and accomplished instructors as I am of the established yet welcoming paddlers already in the group.

Outrigging it seems, has become a notable fever that cannot be cooled even from the occasional dousing thrown up by the bow waves of the passing tug-boats or ferry or as with tonight, when a fortuitous thunderstorm drenched us to the bone.  I am yet to encounter one of the massive tankers while out on the water but perhaps fate will see our paths cross in the not to distant future.  In the mean time though, it’s about finding what you enjoy and just doing that……which brings me to donuts!

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Now they say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit and I am about to put that theory to the test as I have eaten more than my fair share of donuts lately.  To say I have over-indulged would be an understatement so given this, I am about attempt a little detox or if my resolve holds, a very good shot at complete abstinence from my donut addiction.

You see I love donuts. Donuts are both my comfort food and my go to celebration food.   My donuts however, as with most things, must meet some very strict criteria:

  1. They must be served hot,
  2. They must be rolled in cinnamon sugar once straight out of the boiling fat and the all-important third requirement,
  3. They must only come from Donut King.

And here is an interesting fact about donuts.  They are far healthier for you than crack cocaine.

The realisation of my donut affliction has been acutely pricked as recently I have experienced the joy of celebration and the sorrow of loss.  Changes are a foot and there had been some small but niggling worries which dogged my week.   The insensitive and intrusive use a mobile phone camera being one of them.

Mal, I have learned too is leaving to live in Queensland.  Notice of his impending departure has not sat easily with me.  Mal became my surf buddy after we met on a rock platform at Cowrie Hole shortly after my return from the USA earlier this year.  Although his lack of fondness for dairy and coffee is highly questionable, I will miss his good company.  We have a month and a half remaining so cometh those beautiful early morning waves.

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On a sadder note, handsome and gentle Bozo Bob has gone.  Bozo Bob was an incredibly sweet and lovely old dog who I had been walking for an elderly gentle man Mac.  This dear dog with his slow and waddling gait won himself plenty of fans and he was a treasured old boy to many.  I have such great affection for animals and I much prefer their company to that of humans any day. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way I am.  People very often disillusion however animals expect nothing more than the commonality of genuine kindness, love and quiet respect.

Bozo’s life could no longer be sustained.  To say it was a heartbreaking moment is trivial because the loss of a companion is never easy.  The silence of his soul leaving was deafening but it is the sound of sorrow which has filled the cavernous hole his quiet loss created that is most undeniable.  It is understated in the extreme to say Bozo is missed but I have profound empathy for Mac as he is suffering greater pain and sorrow than I at this moment.

We took Bozo Bob’s ashes to Horseshoe Bay early this morning and we let the gentle tide carry him out for one last swim. Standing with Mac on the sand I felt that strange mix of love and deep sorrow which seems to so intricately weave itself around those left behind. I realised too while standing there, that Bozo had a wonderful life where he was deeply loved and cherished which is something all beings should experience during their lifetime. Therein, I truly appreciate the importance of living a meaningful and almost breathtaking life and accept as heartwarming, a passing.

I don’t want to make any grand sentimental statements about loss because it affects everyone very differently but to me loss and heartache are very much like a dull bruising of ones’ spirit.  A penance of sorts that will sear its pain so deeply and acutely that you cannot forget it is there.  Death is one of life’s certainties and the loss initiated by it often drives me to seek answers. Loss and death are unavoidable in life and when that moment comes and is narrowed to its very sharpest of points, relinquishment of that soul is the only grace by which to move forward with.

Though there have been difficulties, they have sat side by side many other good things. I had some work published in an anthology collection. Viewing my work in print profoundly humbles yet it also bestows a deep yearning that is driving me to work much harder toward something I truly want to accomplish……and I will.

I also witnessed the immense goodness of people at a rally in Sydney to end live export. The merciless reality of this industry is not inescapable yet out of such enormous cruelty, inhumanity and brutal lack of compassion for animals came the elegant and strong voices for justice, comfort and reason. Always fight for what you believe in no matter the consequence!

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I know whatever life throws at me I will always come out on the side of optimism and hope.  Life will always hold with it loss, challenges and sadness but with that also comes so very much to be grateful for. Solace will beckon from your acknowledgement that you have had and will continue to have wonderful experiences, good people coming into your life, amazing opportunities, wonderful friendships and many donuts and from this alone, the elegance of gratitude and love will win out every time.

For me, the real beauty in any challenge or the change it brings is that you will find the person who begins a journey is never the same one to end it.   We all experience difficulties and challenges but it is what we do with these hurdles that determines who we are and who we become.  I am certainly not the same woman who set foot back on Australian soil earlier this year.  I know I am far more resilient and I am strong.  I have had the very great privilege of knowing and returning from what others fear most but more importantly, I no longer limit what my true possibilities are.

And from what I thought to be nothing much at all came a blog post and on that note, we will say goodnight and wish the world the very sweetest of dreams……. xx

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