I am in the Pacific Northwest for a chunk of time and when in Seattle I take every opportunity to walk Phinney, the heart of my old nest, especially a few turns around Green Lake. My last few visits a man has been parked in the same place, a high knoll of grass above the path, his wheelchair heavy with mechanics, screens, tubes, his body completely still, alone. I silently applauded him, this was always my favorite side of the lake, a place where a heron often stands watching a fishing hole and beyond the trees the water teems with ducks, dogs on the loose, paddle boarders, kayaks. Olive loved to stand here, on the tippy edge of the wall, staring into the water. But recent conditions have changed this public space and and for the rest of those walks, I worried.
In the last eighteen months of covid and quarantine the foot, rollerblade, dog and bike traffic has increased on Green Lake to rush-hour conditions, all day long. Any open space between the road and the water are now thick with homeless encampments, generators humming, radios blasting. The trash cans overflow. The grassy areas that host open-air birthday parties, barbecues, frisbee competitions and hammocks at the same time shelter people sleeping under the trees. Gone are the quiet off-hour Olive dog walks of the past: humanity teems.
How does he get there over the bumpy ground so far from the walkways, can he feel the breeze so bundled up, should he be alone. Acutely aware I can walk away — of the rhythm of my feet, the roll of my hips, my feet below me — how safe is he?
But here is this small big story:
A few days ago I looked up to check on him:
A young man jogging ahead of me whipped around and said “I know, it makes my heart thump.”
I stopped right there and tilted my head up to the sky; watched some crows swooping into the tree tops, an eagle catch air and lift, witnessed the gigantic expanse of blue air above me. I wanted, with all my body, to go lie down next to him and say thank you for making me look up.
But I did not; he had this. And he showed me how to make the best of what we have right now.
Look up, friends. I miss you all.