Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Heat Wave Strikes!

Seattle Breaks All-Time Temperature Record

What? I moved out here to escape this kind of weather! But now I don't even have air conditioning.


Days in Seattle with no rain yet: 14
That's a fortnight, folks. That's got to be a record of its own for this place.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's a small world.

Anyone who followed my study-abroad+travel blog may recall the fact that I ran into other Obies on three separate occasions during my weeks that I backpacked through Europe - at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, at a hole-in-the-wall vegetarian restaurant in Prague, and on my late-January flight back to the states out of Paris (both of us were in the middle leg of our flight connections home; she, from Madagascar on to Colorado, me from Amsterdam on to Kansas.)

Well, it's happening again. As I was walking down a random street in Seattle a few days ago, I passed a quaint little coffeehouse with an outdoor terrace, and there, working on his laptop, was an intramural soccer buddy of mine from Oberlin. Neither of us are originally from Seattle, so running into each other here was rather miraculous. I was in no rush, so I stopped there to have a muffin with him and catch up our respective post-Oberlin lives. Awesome.

He mentioned to me that there was going to be an Oberlin alumni picnic here this weekend. Though he couldn't make it himself, I navigated my way over to the beautiful Lincoln Park of West Seattle on Saturday. I couldn't find the group right away, so I wandered awhile before stumbling across them - and in doing so, determined the park to be my new favorite running/hiking/swimming spot so far.

The water, lined with mountains (difficult to see in this picture, but they're there...), is of course stunning:

And the woods, too:

And everything after that as well:

The picnic itself was good fun. Great weather, yummy food, lots of new people to meet from all generations of graduating classes, ranging from 1951 to recently admitted students who will start Oberlin in the fall. Also ran into at least one old, familiar friend from a brief overlap in Harkness (food co-op) several years ago. Very nice way to spend an afternoon.

Then, yesterday, I drove down to Olympia to vist two of my favorite friends from high school - Kyle and Allison. Kyle is working on an organic farm out here this summer, and Allison's in town with family to visit Kyle. The drive to Olympia alone is worthy of mention: no photos, but my first real look at Mount Rainier was amazing - a huge rainbow crested the top of it for several minutes of my drive, and I'm still in awe of how surrounded the highways are with towering evergreens, mountain ranges, views of the bay...

The three of us drove out to farm? ranch? the middle of nowhere, out in the genuine sticks. A sizeable plot of land, and upon arrival, we were immediately recruited to help bale hay.

A good group of the PSA-ers, as they're known, (Practice of Sustainable Agriculture) was gathering to have a big food-and-feel-good fest, involving all of the following: bread-baking lessons, informal composting demonstrations, vegetable seed planting, chicken coop building, guacamole, chili, coleslaw, and pasta making, cooking fresh jams on the stove from blueberries and blackberries the PSA-ers had picked in wild bogs earlier that day, football in the living room with a giant squash, self-brewed beer and homemade fermented wine imbibing, guitar and bongo drum circles on the back porch, and stargazing.

Aaand...turns out two of the PSA-ers are Obies as well! That was a fun coincidence. (Also, didn't mention it in the blog, but one of Shari's other ranger-intern friends at Glacier was an Obie, too! They're everywhere.) The skies in Washington are huge, like the Midwest, except here they're framed with mountains and trees instead of flat horizon.

The sunset took over the entire sky canvas above us, coloring all the clouds, lacing the tops of the evergreens like gossamer. Once it got dark, thousands of stars were visible, and save the happy din of acoustic guitar and conversation, stillness reigned. It was beautiful!

It was inspiring to be around folks doing the communal-living thing, happy and thriving off the land...knowledgeable about plants and the earth and living sustainably. The local foods movement is exciting to me, and low-key food-making is something I hope to develop more in the future. My first loaf of bread ever sure smelled delicious on my drive back to Seattle this morning!

Days in Seattle with no rain yet: 11

Take that, Northwest-poo-pooers.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New look

Changed my template here, obviously. Someday, when I teach myself some proper HTML and Flash and all that jazz, I can design my own blog. Until then, templates it is.

However: the picture of the mountains in the banner is my own.

Isn't the Northwest stunning?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The first week!

Apologies for the delay in updates! For being untethered, unemployed, and generally without friends here yet, I've managed to keep myself incredibly busy in my time in Seattle so far. But I do fully plan on continuing to post here, at least once or twice a week, about my new life as it unfolds and develops.

First of all, I think I'm completely disillusioned - in the absolute best of ways! Seattle feels like paradise to me - everything I ever dreamed it would be, and then some. The Blue Scholars song for which this blog is named, Inkwell, sums it up so well: Ain't nothing better than summer in the northwest. I know I'm getting a massively warped impression of Seattle, but so far, it has been sunny and ranged somewhere between 65 and 90 degrees every day here. Zero humidity. Almost no bugs or mosquitoes. I can see the Cascade mountains from my (screenless!) bedroom window. A vegetable garden with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and snap peas and herbs below. Flowers blooming left and right. Living within walkable distance of downtown Seattle, runnable distance of the fantastic 24-hour gym I'm going to become a member of for the whopping deal of $30/month, bikeable distance of anything else I could ever need, and less than a hour's drive from vast mountains and national forests.

Look how beautiful my neighborhood is!

And just as I remembered, the trees are HUGE! Seyeon demonstrates:

I seriously feel as though I live in heaven now. (I'm told the grace period for the Northwest can last up to five years, before the rainy, overcast winters start to get under your skin...we'll see how I'm doing six months from now.)

So, most of my time is being actively absorbed with my job search - a daunting process that wavers between zealous excitement and energy-sucking discouragement. As much as I feel that blogging about the process would be of comfort to me (venting about the disappointments, celebrating the small triumphs and hopes at this point), I'm scared of jinxing anything, and so will leave it alone for now. With that said, in other news...

I got together for lunch with Zephyr, one of my friends I met in Amsterdam on my study abroad program several years ago. She lives in the Seattle area now, and it was delightful catching up with each other. Living with Seyeon is ever lovely - we're both in somewhat uncomfortable limbos of our own at this point, but not without big dreams and hopes for moving more in our ideal direction - jobwise and otherwise.

On a very happy note, I've been in email contact with the publisher of an outdoorsy magazine out here for several months. I sent her an email on a whim months ago, thinking she'd never respond, but lo and behold, she did - and last week, I got a "Welcome to Seattle!" email from her. She suggested I come out to CycleFest 2009 at Magnuson Park, an annual event where thousands of bike enthusiasts gather, picnic, listen to live music, get free gear, eat, drink, and be merry, and come sundown, watch the Tour de France broadcast on a huge, inflatable screen outside.

My bike is still back in Kansas City, awaiting eventual U-haul transport out here, but showing up to CycleFest was a great way to see more of the city, meet local outdoorsy enthusiasts (they're not hard to come by in the Northwest!) and get to know someone wonderful whom I think is apt to become a bit of a mentor figure for me here in Seattle. As I drove back from Magnuson Park, the sun was just going down over the water - stunning as this place is. I am content.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Arrival!, or…The Epic Tale of the Table

The drive from Glacier National Park was scenic up through Idaho, but to my surprise (albeit, not without warning from those who’ve traversed these roads before), eastern Washington state is fairly dull. The biggest excitements along the way were: (1) a stretch of I-90 along which all crops being grown are clearly labeled on big banners on the fences along the highway (“potatoes”, “corn”, “alfalfa”, and so forth), (2) making pleasant small talk with a motorcyclist at a gas station, who was pumping gas on the other side of my pump, took one glance at my car, and laughed, “Wow, you hauling the whole household with you there?”, and (3) stopping at a Starbucks in the middle of nowhere to put a little juice in my phone and check my email, only to discover that Starbuck’s charges for their wi-fi (how is that possible, in a world where the going rate for wireless internet is FREE?). Fortunately, the taco place next door had wireless I was able to pick up.

About an hour outside of Seattle, I-90 veers into Snohomish County, and the road quickly starts winding into small mountains again. The sun was just going down as I got there, so the drive, naturally, was stunning. I crossed the bridge over Lake Washington and was greeted by a horizon of all the glittering lights of Seattle. It made me want to cry, it was so pretty – and so momentous! I am here!, I cried. 2300 miles later, I have arrived!

MapQuest did a stellar job carrying me all the way from Ohio, to Kansas City, through Nebraska and Wyoming, to Glacier, out of Glacier, and all the way to Seattle…and then, finally, for the first time in the history of Yitka Using MapQuest, my beloved online tool failed me: my exit was closed. And it was 10 p.m. and dark, and suddenly there I was in the middle of downtown Seattle, huge buildings and unfamiliar streets all around me…but something deep and intuitive triggered inside of me, as I told myself to stay calm and do my best to “feel out” my way to a place I’d never in my life driven before.

Miraculously, I found my destination without a single wrong turn. Seyeon was waiting for me on her front step, hungry after a long day at work, and so after an enthusiastic reconciliation, we went for a long walk to find late-night pizza. On our walk back, it became blindingly obvious to me that I am, in fact, the child of my mother. (Hi Mama!) Allow me to explain.

There, on the side of a curb, was something glorious: A beautiful kitchen table, in perfect condition, with a giant sign taped to it that said, “FREE.” Yesss, I thought, I must have this. (Because “hey, free table!” …kudos to anybody who gets that reference.) It didn’t matter that we were 12 blocks away from home, or that it was nearly midnight, or that the table was ridiculously heavy and required Seyeon and I to stop at fifty-yard intervals to rest our arms. What mattered was that having a silly adventure that resulted in free fort-making potential was worth it, and earned the cheers of various people drinking beer on their porches, watching two girls march through the streets of Seattle at night with their newfound treasure.

Yup. I think I like this place. More soon…

Friday, July 17, 2009

Glacier National Park

Lack of internet access (or cell phone reception!) in Montana has gotten me a couple days behind in blogging, but I'm doing my best to catch up now. The highways through Montana are long, winding, desolate, and absolutely breathtaking. They're occasionally punctuated with small towns that seem to be straight out of the 1940s, but mostly just roll and roll and roll over hills and valleys, all hugged by spectacular views of mountains and horizons.

After a long drive in from SLC, I arrived at Glacier National Park - a (literal) million acres of mountains, glacial valleys, lakes, and national forest - to visit my friend Shari, who's working there this summer as a ranger. Getting to hike with her and a couple of the other rangers, including their resident wildflower expert, was a real treat. I'm not usually a huge flower/plant person, but stopping to learn about them, as well as other small bits of insider info about the park, was fascinating.

(From top left, clockwise: (1) Indian Paintbrush, which comes in all sorts of vibrant colors, (2) Barbed wire wrapped around trees intended to snag bears' fur as they rub up against the trunk, in order to collect DNA for a bear study, (3) Glacier lily, which is completely edible and flavorful!)

The first day, we hiked up to Ptarmigan tunnel, which goes through a mountain pass to offer stunning views of two separate valleys for the price of just one hike - granted, a steep, treacherous, and once at the top, extremely cold, hike - but entirely worth it.

The next day, we took a shuttle to the opposite side of the park to hike from one trailhead to an old-fashioned and still-operational mountain chalet, and onward to a trailhead about 12 miles away from our starting place. We saw tons of wildlife, including a grizzly cub from just a few feet away (fortunately from behind the window of our shuttle), a black bear, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and marmots...Glacier has an edgier feel to it, in many ways, than Rocky Mountain National Park, or other parks I've visited.

Perhaps it was the total nothingness surrounding it, the hours and hours of driving through desolate landscape it took to get there, or perhaps it was that there was a mass power outage my second night, and my temporarily-heavenly shower turned to ice water in about 15 seconds flat, or perhaps it was just the sweat and grit and lactic acid of hiking 25 miles in two days...but something about Montana felt distinctly alive and rugged. Well worth the three nights spent there!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Driving into Utah, there was rain all over the horizon, but my little VW somehow managed to avoid ever actually passing through it. I arrived in Salt Lake City on Saturday evening - a somewhat last minute decision to visit a couple of my parents' old friends. They are the kind of couple who has always inspired me, in every way - they have fabulous personalities that complement each other, seemingly boundless amounts of energy, delightful senses of humor...they read a ton of books, spend a great deal of time lots of delicious, healthy, home-cooked food...and have a stunning house nestled at the bottom of a mountain, with huge glass windows that let in lots of natural light and give a spectacular view. What's not to love?

This was my first time to SLC in the summertime. I've been out here several times before, but it looked a little more like this:

Not that I'm complaining...but it was stunning to see "the city in the valley" steeped in greenery (heavy rainfall this June in Utah) and sunlight. And lots of it! This time of year, sunset doesn't really happen until around 9:30 p.m., and the sky retains at least some light until at least an hour later. I took full advantage of the beautiful weekend day and spend nearly all of it outside.

Bill and I spent Sunday morning hiking partway up Mt. Olympus - a rigorous hike that accomplished two things: (1) Reinforced my sense of unbelievable thrill that I'm going to live in the western half of this country (65 degree summers, no humidity, mountains all over, outdoorsy adventures to be had absolutely everywhere you go), and (2) Made me feel woefully out of shape. My leg muscles were trembling by the end of our hike. But...the foliage was beautiful, the babbling, snowmelt creeks music to my ears. Sometimes I forget just how happy and alive the outdoors make me feel.

My having given up vegetarianism since the last time I was here was also cause for great celebration. We grilled some yummy chicken quesadillas on their back patio for lunch once we got back...then onto an hour and a half yoga session with Nancy, which was great. Yoga is another thing (along with being on an early schedule, reading books for pleasure, and taking time to cook really great food) that's been missing the last few years of my life, and which I'm eager to reclaim once I start establishing my life and routine in Seattle. But first...onward to Montana!

Nebraska + Wyoming

I-80 across Nebraska is... to be completely frank... excruciating. It's unbelievably long, and the scenery never changes. Ever. No terrain, no real cities, no interesting little Mom and Pop places along the way... just nothingness. And eight hours of it - or something ridiculous like that.

I spent the night at a Motel 6 in Big Springs, which is near the corner where Colorado juts into Nebraska, and enjoyed a peaceful evening in. Woke up the next morning, had a mediocre breakfast at "Grandma Max's" (a chain!, I learned, to my disappointment) and was ready to tackle Wyoming. Well, and a couple more hours of Nebraska, still. I had memories (from a Yellowstone trip long ago) of Wyoming being excruciatingly devoid of anything either - but to my surprise and relief both, it proved quite scenic.

When I was little and my parents and I would drive out to Colorado in the summers, there was always a bag of M&M's promised to the first person who could spot the mountains on the horizon. Despite being an only child, I felt the competition was stiff - and so I sat in the backseat, leaning forward, eyes glued to the windshield, crying out in excitement every time I thought I saw something - most often, mistaking low-hanging clouds for snowy peaks - before catching sight of the real thing. (See if you can make them out in the picture below...)

Somehow, this time, seeing those mountains, I really felt like Wow! I'm driving west! That was a good feeling. Slowly but surely, I am making my way across this country.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The First Entry

1,544 days ago, I set foot in the city of Seattle for the first time. I remember flying into Sea-Tac, my nose pressed to the plane window, and sensing that rather than flying into a city, we were about to land in the middle of a lush forest. We descended into the sea of green, landed, and as I stepped out into the crisp air so characteristic of the Pacific Northwest, I thought, Yes. Perhaps someday I'll live here.

Seattle was a city that made me feel like I could be exactly who I wanted to be. Untethered, creative, passionately alive. I wrote in my journal:

"I have learned more about myself in the last six days than I have in all the months since I've returned from Stanford. Seattle. I am such a mess of imagery right now. My dreams will not be coherent tonight. I have grown and changed. I feel as if I have been reborn into a self sculpted purely of inspiration, creativity and beauty. Life is crazy..."

Tomorrow, I will begin my journey back there. I've visited in times since - but for the first time, I will be a part of the city I've been repping to anyone who'd listen for four years. I'm taking my time getting out there, stopping in places where people need to be visited, mountains need to be hiked...and this will be my chronicle - of my life (briefly) on the road, and onward.

The blog title is derived from the song "Inkwell" by the Seattle-based hip-hop group, The Blue Scholars, whom I was fortunate enough to see perform at my alma mater, Oberlin College.

just a little bit wetter and cold in the winter
proximity to water make the soul a little gentler
out of towners don’t be knowin about the best-kepts
ain’t nothing better than the summer in the northwest
microphone check 1-206

let me push my pen to create
beat, seat rhymes and life
each time i write the fire ignites
i light the sky
there’s an infinite inkwell high above the city
dip the pen steadily, sing the melody