Reach Out

I used to love to sit on my porch swing when I owned a house in Jacksonville, Florida. I could look out on the park across the street and take in a game of softball or lacrosse, or watch people come and go from the public library. I especially enjoyed seeing the various neighborhood dogs as they walked their humans. For such a big city, my neighborhood had a rather bucolic vibe.

One day I was drinking lemonade and lazily swinging back and forth, trying to kick up enough of a breeze to beat the stifling humidity, when this woman came down the sidewalk looking so shell-shocked that I had to ask her if she was okay. She looked at me for a second, and then pointed over her shoulder and said, “A guy… he just hung himself from a tree.” And then she walked away.

Wait. What??? I immediately jumped up. I remember hearing the porch swing chains clank. (It’s funny what you remember at times like those.)

And sure enough, when I looked down the street, about a dozen police cars were descending on a house about a block away. They had to cut his body down. I was never able to pass that tree again without thinking about it.

I didn’t know the guy. That house was a rental, and no one ever seemed to stay very long. But I kind of felt as though we had let each other down.

Clearly, someone within hollering distance of me had been in deep despair. Obviously, he wanted help or he wouldn’t have chosen to hang himself in his front yard across the street from a public library. I wish I had known.

If you need help, you have to ask for it. That was his responsibility. Mine was to keep my eyes open and my heart open to being a force for good. You speak. I listen. It takes two.

I wish he had spoken up. I don’t know what I could have done. I don’t pretend to be anyone’s savior. But maybe he could have sat with me on my porch swing. We could have talked about inconsequential things. Maybe that tiny bit of routine could have made just enough of a difference. Maybe I could have told him about the sliding-scale mental health clinic within walking distance. We’ll never know, now.

I’m not saying what happened was my fault. But it still makes me sad to think I was relaxing on my swing and sipping lemonade while he was throwing a noose over a tree branch less than a hundred yards from me. What a tragedy. What a waste.

Porch Swing

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Best Kept Secrets

I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I seem to have stumbled upon two of the Seattle area’s best kept secrets. The first is the neighborhood where I just bought my house. It’s a hidden little hamlet that most people do not even realize exists. Therein lies its charm. We don’t get a lot of visitors. The hubbub is kept to a bare minimum. It’s the kind of place where everybody knows everybody, and you feel like you can keep your doors unlocked. (But I resist that urge, in case you’re wondering.)

When I get within a quarter mile of home, it’s like I’ve entered an oasis after having spent weeks in a desert, and I’m about to plunge into a crystal blue spring. It feels good to scrub off the dust of the trail, figuratively speaking. Bliss.

The second is a public park within walking distance of my house. I never see many people there, and once you’re about a block off the highway, even though we’re not that far from the bustle of Seattle, it’s as if you’ve plunged into a forest primeval. Nature just runs right up to you and cradles you in its arms.

It is a place where you can soak your feet in a cool mountain stream on a hot summer’s day, or lie in a field, gazing up, up, up at old growth forest. I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am to have a getaway like this, practically in my own back yard. It takes my breath away. I can’t wait to see how it changes with the seasons!

And if you think for one second that I’m going to tell you where these gems are, you are out of your mind. Finding serenity and peace in this area is as rare as hen’s teeth. If you have a place like this, guard it with your life.


A book about gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving!

Exploring Seattle — Part Six

It was a beautiful day, and probably the last one for a while, so I wanted to do something outdoors. Feeling like a bit of a broken record, I went to visit yet another park. As I was driving there, I was feeling a bit ambivalent. Parks here are gorgeous. I mean, absolutely gorgeous. Kind of an embarrassment of riches. But I’ve seen several. I’m starting to feel jaded by all this beauty. I couldn’t imagine that this one would present me with anything more spectacular than the others.

On the freakin’ contrary.

Upon my approach to Seward Park, I was treated to a sweeping vista of Andrews Bay. Two things you miss out on in most cities are distant horizons and the feeling of open spaces. This view was fabulous. I sat on the rocky beach where swimming is allowed and I fully intend to take advantage of that next summer. The water is crystal clear.


After feeling my blood pressure drop considerably, I decided to wander over to the alpine-like building that houses the Audubon Center. There I had a nice chat with a gentleman who gave me some great advice about attracting more hummingbirds to my feeder. Hummingbirds live here year round. Something that’s pretty obvious but that I never thought about is that hummingbirds can’t walk. They expend a great deal of energy having to hover and fly at feeders, so it’s better to get one that has a perch that they can stand on and rest. So there will be a new feeder in my future. I enjoyed my chat with this guy. I was tempted to ask if he was single. But I chickened out, which is, if you think about it, rather apropos when talking to an Audubon guy.

After that I headed over to the Lake Washington side of the park to begin the 2.4 mile waterfront loop. And when I looked up I gasped audibly, which is what I always do when presented with Mount Rainier. I’ve only seen it three times since I’ve been here, and when I do, it stuns me every time. You don’t expect a volcano to sneak up on you like that, but somehow it does. BAM! There it is.


I sank down to the grass, which turned out to be wet but I didn’t care, and just gazed at this magnificent spectacle. I’ve seen a lot of gorgeous sights in my life, but this is right up there in the pantheon of magnificence, if you ask me. I was almost reluctant to start on the loop road because I knew it would eventually swing back around to Andrews Bay and the mountain would go back to where ever it is that mountains hide.

Incidentally, I’m itching, absolutely aching to get out into the mountains around here, but that would be no fun to do alone. Some day.

But I soldiered on, gazing at the million dollar houses that line the far shore, and briefly visiting a land of make believe where I actually some day get to live in one and wake up every morning to a view like this. How could anyone who lives in a house like that not be grateful every single day? I would be.

What I absolutely adore about this park is that this loop road is flat, flat, flat. Glory, glory hallelujah! I could walk it without having a coronary. But for the more athletically inclined, there are hilly, woodsy paths in the interior of this 300 acre park. For that day, at least, I was quite content to hug the shoreline.

Half way around, I passed an attractive older gentleman who said, “Lovely day for a walk, isn’t it?” Indeed it was, I said. I wish I could have said more without looking like a nut. He looked nice. Ah well. One has to hike before one can hunt, I suppose. 🙂

Seward Park is my absolute favorite so far. I have no doubt I’ll be back. As added incentive, there was a Baskin Robins on my route home. It wouldn’t do to burn off too many calories, after all. It was a delicious afternoon all around.

Bridge Goes Boom

One of my coworkers reminded me of an incident that occurred a few years ago on our drawbridge. I can’t believe I had forgotten about it. It was very bizarre. Makes me wonder what else I’ve forgotten. Hmmm…

Anyway, two workmen from the Department of Transportation were leaving the bridge after doing some repairs when they came upon a barnacle-encrusted hand grenade on the sidewalk. Yes, I really said hand grenade.


In their infinite wisdom they decided to pick it up and carry it to the park at the foot of the bridge. Getting smarter by the minute, they then tried to detonate it themselves. I’m sure the future branches of their family tree will be quite grateful to know that they were unsuccessful in their efforts. Finally they decided to notify the police.

The police had the good sense to take this situation a trifle more seriously, and they sent out the bomb squad, who determined that this was a Viet Nam era device. They managed to detonate it without harming anyone or anything, unless you count the significant crater that it produced in the park.

Based on the evidence, here’s what everyone assumes happened: Someone came home from the Viet Nam War with a souvenir. They probably put it in their garage or attic where it was forgotten about for decades. Then it was rediscovered when the owner was more mature and he realized that, hey, it might not be the best idea to have a live grenade in the house. But how do you get rid of a thing like that? He brought it to the bridge and threw it in the river, where it sat for another few years gathering barnacles. Then one day someone was fishing off the bridge and brought something unexpected up in his cast net. Realizing what it was, he took off, leaving it on the sidewalk like the responsible citizen that he is. Luckily a jogger or a dog walker or neighborhood kid didn’t come across it before the DOT guys did. That bridge gets a lot of foot traffic.

Just to be on the safe side, the city had divers explore the river in that area the very next day. It wouldn’t do to have a live ordinance dump rusting away under the drawbridge. Fortunately nothing further was found.

You wake up every morning assuming that your day is going to follow a certain routine. You just never know, do you? Sheesh.