My unsolicited absence from the Methow Valley is now at six weeks, the past two of them in Seattle — which has given me pause for some perspective.
Although I grew up in Kent, I’ve always considered Seattle my “home town.” I went to college here, worked and live here for many years, and identified with the best aspects of the city. The setting, atmosphere, attractions and upbeat attitude (notwithstanding the attendant challenges facing a fast-growing urban destination point) made it a vibrant, engaging place to be. And I have enduring nostalgia for the city as I knew it growing up.
Now there are times when I’m not sure I recognize the place.
Navigating used to be easy. I knew my way around. I spent a year doing floral deliveries all over the city while in college. That gave me an internal GPS grid (including a system of work-arounds) that served we well for years.
These days, I’m almost afraid to venture downtown. Constant major construction turned streets into blocked, rerouted or reconfigured mazes that defy direct passage, or any. We’d rather take a Lyft to a downtown destination than try to drive and park. Depending on the time of day, any Seattle arterial can turn into an inexplicable gridlock. I’m more patient about that than I used to be, but still.
The evidence of Seattle’s homeless problem —an inadequate description if ever there was one — is shocking. Big chunks of unsightly landscape are easily visible. It’s simultaneously saddening and maddening.
Solutions are, not surprisingly, evasive. If it could be solved or at least eased more readily, it would have been. The homelessness challenge is a major focus of the local political campaigns here. Every candidate says they’ll do something about it. I’m not feeling sanguine about that.
Political leadership seems to have imploded into a deep crater where nothing of use is accomplished. I say this as someone who generally supports what has been the city’s progressive agenda. But defunding the police? A truly stupid idea that alienated a lot people, me among them. Seattle — and other cities — need to get the police out of the social services business and back to effective policing with necessary reforms, but you don’t do that by slashing the police force. You do it by funding the social service needs and the staffing required to deliver them. This city can afford it.
And yet — I also see resiliency and remnants of the Seattle spirit. In our walks around the neighborhood, we encounter friendly people (and their friendly dogs) with whom we exchange greetings and an occasional chat. The retail, restaurant and health care workers we encounter are friendly and courteous despite enduring more than 18 months of COVID-related stress. The things that make this city beautiful are still there and free to enjoy. The November elections may skew Seattle politics back toward a more practical course. Businesses are inventing or reinventing themselves. Civility may be at risk, but it has not disappeared. And there’s a National Hockey League team in town.
I wouldn’t trade it for the valley, and am anxious to set foot on the Methow turf as soon as I can. I miss everything about the valley, even the quirky or occasionally irritating stuff. The staff at the Methow Valley News is keeping me fully informed, and I’m delighted in the positive things I see happening such as the new leadership at TwispWorks and Room One. The community continues to find ways to sustain itself.
On that note, a quick personal update: I remain in Seattle waiting for the next round of treatment for the autoimmune disorder that laid me low. To reiterate, it is not COVID-related and is not something I contracted, nor can I spread it. But despite taking all COVID-protection precautions, my system is now compromised through no fault of my own, and subject to possible infection by any un-vaccinated, COVID-carrying person. Very. Unhappy. About. That. Not nearly enough said, but it’ll do for now.