Maybe I should have done this chronologically, but it made sense to start writing about the place I was immersed in. So let’s go back a week to when I was in Seattle for then 2014 AWP writer’s conference.
I enjoyed the conference and I learned a lot, but this post isn’t going to be about that. It’s not going to be about how Sharon Olds made me cry with every poem she read about separating from her husband. It isn’t going to be about the suitcase full of free books I took home.
It is going to be about Seattle and how it captured my heart.
I stayed at the Green Tortoise Hostel and met a slew of wonderful people. It was my first experience with a hostel where people actually hang out in a large common room and as a result I made some friends I would later explore the city with. But even outside of the hostel people in Seattle were unusually friendly. While waiting in line at Piroshky Bakery at Pike Place Market I talked to some locals who insisted I visit the Seattle Public Library downtown.
Thank God I did because it’s like a futuristic settlement surrounded by books. The non-fiction spiral with slanting floors was like a walk through an adult fun house. The architecture of the library was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
One of my bunkmates at the hostel invited me to join her on the Spooked In Seattle ghost tour where we learned about the history of the city. It started as a lumber town with the Yessler Mill. The only women in town were prostitutes and the men got drunk to pass the time. After the Great Seattle Fire (I see Chicago isn’t the only city with unfortunate luck) they decided to rebuild the city at a higher level. This was going to take two years for the city to get around to, so the residents started building their own houses. The city officials were angered. In order to regain control they built the streets a level higher than the houses. As a result the sidewalks were a whole level lower than the streets so in order to cross the streets you had to climb up and down ladders. When men would go out drinking on the weekends there would be ‘accidental suicides’ where men missed the ladders and ended up falling to their death.
We were able to visit one part of the underground linked with Spooked In Seattle to see one of the corners where there would be such a ladder. It’s incredible to think that the basements of many buildings in the Pioneer Square neighborhood are actually the first houses of Seattle.
Perhaps my favorite part of Seattle is their understanding of green, sustainable practices. Every coffee shop has multiple non-diary milk options: rice, hemp, soy, and almond. Vegan options abound. While trying to find my mother a souvenir I came across a booth in Pike Place Market called Moon Valley Organics where the owner and I got into a heated conversation about how terrible the chemicals and parabens are in our beauty products. How uneducated many people are of herbs like arnica that are used around the world to heal but aren’t considered a viable option in the United States. I listened intently, smiling, thinking: this is me in Chicago ranting and raving to my friends, family, anyone who will listen. This woman basically solidified my desire to want to move to Seattle.
But if that wasn’t enough, a trip to Discovery Park through the winding neighborhoods of mix-matched adobe, colonial and bungalow houses did.
It was rainy and foggy the day I decided to venture through Discovery Park which made it a bit eerie, but entirely beautiful. Every corner I turned through the woods, bluffs, and meadows looked like a scene of a movie. The fog gathered over the bay making the ships in the distance look like haunted ocean liners. I fell in love standing on the bluff, the mist curling my wild hair staring out at the mountains: dark shadows edging the bay.
You can see more photos on my Instagram: arianelizabeth