Pike Place Market: A Love Story

Flickr CC Travis Wise

Flickr CC Travis Wise

It was fall 2010 and it was raining — a light misting rain. The tourists pulled out their umbrellas undoubtedly feeling as if they were getting the full Seattle experience, while the locals pulled their hoods up and hunched their backs to protect their newly purchased treasures and others walked on completely unfazed. We strolled down the street, a busy and tangled mess of cars and tourists darting into traffic in an attempt to get the perfect iconic shot in front of the glowing red Pike Place Market sign. Just below the sign a gathering watched the men in white aprons at the seafood stall tossing fresh salmon the way a street performer tosses juggling pins.

Just a few shops farther down on the right side of the street a women’s-restroom-sized line waited to set foot inside the original Starbucks, money for lattes and coffee-themed memorabilia likely already in hand.

As we continued swimming upstream, pausing to listen to a busker here and there, some of the people we passed were carrying brown paper bags in various sizes containing home-made jewelry, fresh Washington apples, expensive kitchen gadgets, and previously loved books; many of them juggled bouquets of freshly cut flowers, some of which sported bright, chubby sunflowers.

We stopped at some of the shops long enough to really admire their wares, but mostly we just breathed in the scent of hand-made soap mixed with the smell of leather journals and overpriced organic produce. We breathed in the relaxed yet upbeat rhythm of the city. We breathed in the colors and the sounds. We breathed in every moment together as if we were savoring the fresh, fleeting smell of rain.

We found an often completely overlooked alcove just outside the market, sandwiched between a Tully’s Coffee and something I can’t recall. The aesthetics mainly consisted of concrete and a few potted trees. But when we stood right up next to the fence, peering over a manicured bush, we could see the freeway and, beyond that, the Seattle skyline — complete with the Space Needle and a ferry on its way in. You wrapped your arms around me, and we stood together — for the first time that close together — breathing in the moment.

I fell in love with you there, standing in the rain.

As the cars on the freeway below us hurdled by and tourists hurried for shelter from the rain, as no one watched or cared, you and I became us. It happened slowly and then, when I wasn’t expecting it, all at once.

As we left our spot, forever that will be our spot, you reached for my hand as we walked towards the pier. Only a few minutes before my hand had been empty but now it was laced with yours.


I’m Not Lost

I don’t need your yellowed maps
For I’m not lost.
I left the trailhead long ago
In search of scorching magic,
Fire, and freedom.

I don’t need your midnight prayers
For I’m not lost.
I left the straight and narrow
In search of succulent beauty,
Life, and freedom.

Save those worried maps and prayers
For I’m not lost.
I’m a traveler, a wonder
And at last I’ve found my name,
My voice, and freedom.


Verbal Polaroid: Don’t be a Stranger

 

The green and yellow bus lurches to a stop, the doors swing open with a whoosh of air. “Good morning!” I beam at my usual driver as I step on the bus, monthly pass in hand. The doors close behind me. “You know, I think you’re the only person on my route who looks like they might actually like mornings,” he says shaking his head in amusement.

As the bus lunges forward I walk down the aisle with one hand over my head as I lightly finger the bar overhead. After several years as a proud strap-hanging public-transit-riding commuter I’ve earned my sea legs; the jerking and swaying doesn’t faze me as I make my way to my usual squeaky leather seat. I always sit where the rows of bus benches face each other because it provides the best view of the entire bus.

A few sleepy heads look up long enough to acknowledge me but not long enough to say anything.

The woman directly across from me is reading a well-highlighted leather Bible. Once, when she wasn’t reading she told me she worked at the Starbucks headquarters; she’ll get off at the transit station in order to transfer to the northbound commuter train. The preteen girl sitting next to her with her earbuds in—the universal bus sign for “No, I do not want to make small talk actually”— is clutching a pink backpack on her lap; she’ll get off at the middle school. Several other students are also lugging around heavy, bulky backpacks on their way to high school or the local community college. Sometimes they read their textbooks or flip through flashcards, always with their earbuds in.

The man next to me is sipping his regular morning coffee, obviously still trying to wake up. Sometimes he’ll nod a “G’mornin’” but that’s about the extent of his 6:30 am socialness. Several riders are slumped up against the windows, likely still dreaming of the pillows they had to leave too hastily. The only sounds are the creaking and whooshing of the bus doors and the occasional contagious line of yawns.

When an older gentleman steps on the regular riders audibly groan. He’s hauling his weekly recycling: a giant neon-orange cloth bag with pictures of jack-o-lanterns all over it. The person next to me mumbles, “Better pull your legs in,” as the man walks down the aisle with his scary Santa sized bag bumping along behind him. It barely squeezes down the aisle and when it gets stuck he gives it a tug, which elicits more moans from his fellow riders as the can-filled bag has a run in with several people’s knees. He sits down, and then the bus is quiet again.

I pull my black Beatle’s tote bag, complete with Bob Marley pins, onto my lap to make room for other passengers. A man in his late thirties slips a CD into my hand as he walks past. “I burned it for you because I saw your bag,” he says shyly before continuing down the aisle. The CD reads in blue hand-written ink: The Moondoggies. I’ll later find out they’re a local Seattle band. The album is entitled Don’t be a Stranger. (The title likely isn’t ironic because the next several times I’ll run into him on the bus he’ll ask for a date.)

As I slip my new CD in my tote bag everyone else is still slowly waking up. They read, catch up on podcasts or listen to their favorite songs, drink their coffee, and stare out the windows as the sun is just beginning to yawn and stretch right along with them.

They are close enough that I could touch them, but they are always in their own little worlds. So many potential acquaintances, friends, and lovers just within their reach. And they never know. I’m surrounded by people—sometimes uncomfortably close to people — but alone just the same.

As the bus rolls on I continue people watching and when I happen to chance on someone who is awake enough to visit, encourage them to not be a stranger.


You don’t have to

You don’t have to be good.
You don’t need to emotionally flog your tired soul
when you don’t meet your own definition of perfection.
You don’t have to be right.
Your theology doesn’t have to pristinely answer
all of your lingering, haunting questions.
You don’t have to be certain.
Your waves of doubt aren’t going to drown you;
they’ll help you to finally begin to heal.
You don’t have to be pure.
You’re not some white gown that can be spoiled;
you’re an enchantress, a body, a soul.
You don’t have to be devout.
Your beautiful life isn’t measured in how many
holy books you chant or prayers you whisper.
You don’t have to be tame.
You’re wild like the wind and fierce as fire,
you just don’t know it yet.
You don’t have to be selfless.
You’re a creature of worth and dignity,
and you deserve your care and kindness, too.
You don’t have to save the world.
You’re not responsible for saving more than one person,
and that person is you.

***

The first line, “You don’t have to be good,” was taken directly from Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem “Wild Geese.” After reading the first few line of her poem, I felt like I wanted to make a list of what I don’t have to do or be; I so often need to be reminded.


Wild Mystic

Come,
Come into the forest
You’ve walked that dusty path too long

Come,
Come into the forest
That colorless track is not your home

You’re a wild mystic
An untamed artist
An enchantress wrapped in spiritskin

You’re a wild mystic
A fire dancer
A colorful poet drenched in danger

You’re a wild mystic
An erotic soul
A holy hellion with a hidden flame

The fire is calling
Dance, dance

The wind is calling
Dance, dance

The moon is calling
Dance, dance

Come,
Come into the forest
Put one trembling foot in the forbidden grass

Come,
Come into the forest
That narrow road is not a mystic’s path


Girl

Don’t show cleavage it’ll will make the boys stumble
Don’t wear spaghetti straps it’ll make the boys lust
Don’t bend over without bending your knees,
it’ll remind the boys you have an ass
Don’t wear prints or logos,
it’ll remind the boys you have a chest
Don’t you care about your brothers in Christ?

Don’t be too assertive or they’ll know you’re not submissive
Don’t dress too boyish or they’ll know you’re not a lady
Don’t neglect your appearance,
it’ll make the boys think you’re lazy
Don’t spend too much time in front of the mirror,
it’ll make the boys think you’re vain
Don’t you care about your reputation?

Don’t wear red dresses or they’ll know you’re not a nice girl
Don’t take off your purity ring or they’ll think you’ve lost it
Don’t go for a car ride alone with a boy,
it’ll make him think you’re the slut you’re so bent on becoming
Don’t wear bikinis,
it’ll prove you’re not really a nice Christian girl
Don’t you care about the fact you’re a Christian woman?

Don’t give away kisses meant for your future husband
Don’t have sex or you’ll never marry a nice man
Don’t hug boys,
it’ll make them think it’s okay to touch you
Don’t lean on boys,
it’ll make them believe you’re promising them sex
Don’t you care about your sexual purity?

Don’t ask boys out or they’ll think you’re forward
Don’t flirt or they’ll know you’re not a good girl
Don’t feed a crush,
it’ll compromise your emotional purity
Don’t date unless you’re ready to get married,
it’ll lead to making out in the back of a boy’s car
Don’t you care about how you handle your relationships with boys?

Don’t forget that the point of college is to find a husband
Don’t become too educated or you’ll scare off potential suitors
Don’t read too much about theology,
it’ll intimidate the boys
Don’t be too opinionated,
it’ll seem unladylike
Don’t you care about getting married?

Don’t wonder what sex is like because that’s a sin
Don’t learn about your anatomy because that’ll lead to temptation
Don’t touch yourself,
it’ll show you mistakenly think you own your own body
Don’t make out with boys,
it’ll prove you don’t value Future Husband’s property
Don’t you care about God’s beautiful gift of sex?

Don’t go too far or that white dress will mean nothing
Don’t move in together or he’ll never marry you
Don’t forget to marry a man you can rely on,
it’ll be up to him to make all of your life decisions
Don’t sleep with your fiancé,
it’ll ruin the relationship and he might leave you
Don’t you care about your future marriage?

Don’t enjoy sex because that’ll mean you’re unwomanly
Don’t say no to sex because then your husband will stray
Don’t lead while having sex,
it’ll show you’re not a submissive wife
Don’t skip the sexy bedroom attire,
it’ll prove you’ve forgotten your goal is to please him
Don’t you care about God’s gift of sexual oneness in marriage?

Don’t be like those family-hating feminists
Don’t forget that a woman always puts herself second
Don’t put yourself ahead of your children,
it’ll show you’re selfish and a bad mother
Don’t disrespect your husband even if he hits you,
it’ll show you’re unsubmissive and a bad wife
Don’t you care about God’s design for the family?

Girl, don’t you care?


When Self-Care Means Not Apologizing

Flickr CC Tara Hunt

Flickr CC Tara Hunt

Some days the apartment looks all cute and vacuumed but on other days I suggest we buy a few more packs of socks and underwear so we don’t have to do laundry. (When it comes to the art of organization, Lorelai Gilmore is pretty much my spirit animal.)

My organizational inspiration comes in waves. Sometimes the state of the apartment reflects how we’ve been feeling. Everything is in its right place because that’s how life is feeling, too. Sometimes it’s evidence that we’ve been busy or sick. And there just wasn’t enough energy  for putting away the clothes that’s currently piled up on the dryer. Sometimes it says we chose going on a date, spending time together, over doing the dishes.  When we’re laughing and talking and breathing in a beautiful, relaxing moment together, the dishes can wait. And sometimes it shows that we just didn’t get around to it.

As the female person in this relationship, I know that the state of my apartment indicates to people my mad (or nonexistent) housekeeping skills. I know people would never think “Kelsey and Ian are fantastic housekeepers” if things are all neat and shiny. Nope. So it only really, as far as our society is concerned, says something about me. And that causes me anxiety, as if the organizational state of my apartment is somehow a direct reflection on personhood and my ability to adult correctly.

But it’s not. (I’m going to need you to remind me of this regularly.)

Recently I was thinking about how we needed to figure out how to be more organized. “Maybe we need to buy one of those home organization books,” I thought. Books. The home organization genres has become a cottage industry. Why? Well, apparently Lorelai Gilmore and I are not the only ones who have yet to master the ancient technique of staying up on the laundry. Perhaps there are a lot of us who never really “figure out” this organization thing.

And you know what? Maybe that’s okay. Maybe I don’t need to freak out and hide all the clutter and dirty dishes when a friend comes over. Maybe I don’t need to feel ashamed or even embarrassed. Maybe sometimes it’s good to see how people really live, not just what things look like once I’ve grabbed that wad of clutter sitting on the kitchen table and hid it in the spare bedroom. Maybe seeing the messy bits of people’s lives makes our hidden parts feel more welcomed. Maybe it helps us know we’re not alone.

Julia Child gave me the best advice of anyone when it comes to cleaning (even though it didn’t specifically relate to cleaning). In her book My Life in France, she retells an incident where she made some godawful eggs when a friend was coming over for lunch:

I made sure not to apologize for it. This is a rule of mine.

I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts with self-deprecations such as “Oh, I don’t know how to cook …,” or “Poor little me …,” or “This is may taste awful …,” it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admission only draw attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings)  … Maybe the cat has fallen in the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed — eh bien, tant pis! (p. 77)

I’m trying to learn to say “whatever” and  “oh well” right along with Julia as a radical act of self-care. I’m trying to stop automatically spitting out, “Please excuse the mess.” My apartment looks lived in. It doesn’t look perfect. And that’s nothing to apologize for.

There’s something that’s been freeing about not apologizing for the state of my apartment; not offering quick explanations or excuses. Just saying: Welcome. This is where I live. It’s my home. And it looks a lot more like a home than an add in a magazine. And I’m okay with that. Or at least I’m starting to become more okay with it.