Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tour de Here: wasting time on 18th Street


It's only later - when I arrive at another meeting and am asked - "So you just- what?- hung around town between meetings?"  - that I come to think of this as wasting time.  At the moment, in the moment, I am on a mission.  To put a cyclist into the townscape.  To see what is overlooked in a town some consider unsightly. To be the change I want to see.

It's lunchtime.  I have an hour and a half.  Where should I go?  In earlier posts, I have focused on the more obviously picturesque.  What about - for today - an ordinary street? 

First the practicalities - getting there on bike.  In years past, the narrow bridge, between where I start today and the so-ordinary 18th Street I'm aiming for,  meant much glancing back over the shoulder, much frantic risk-assessment, then sudden boldness taking the lane, pedalling like bats are streaming after. 

It's not nearly so exciting lately since they've built the biker's bridge.  The wood still smells new.  I can pause and look down into the creek.  I think someone in this town loves bikers.


At the corner of 18th is the entrance sign for one of our city parks.  The flowering bulbs that are no longer here in the spring have been dug up over the past few years, since their planting, by people in town who think that public property means it belongs to them - Joanie Q. Public - as in, they can take whatever catches their eye and make it private at their whim.

This is not what living in a community looks like.

But this is: around the corner is a clean-faced Dutch Colonial, very tidy and definite - though if pressed I would have to admit it is probably the seven dwarf bushes alongside I like best of all:



And then - what riches! - right next door is the house of butterflies.  Notice that both these houses are yellow to yellowish.  Which color on houses I have all the time before moving to the Great NorthWET abominated with a clear and pure abominating hatred. 

Now though, when February rolls around and my eyes have become saturated with grey - fog grey, soggy rain grey, low dark sagging sky grey - for day after day, seriously I live from yellow house to yellow house.  I arrange my errands to take me past the best yellow houses.  I pause in front of them.  I take pointless pictures of them.  I point out their bright and cheerful sunniness to anyone within earshot.  Yellow houses are lovely in a grey landscape.

Houses with giant butterflies and windchimes and bird feeders lining the eaves may not be lovely but they have an authentic place on an Ordinary Street.





A block down is the wavy-roofed library.  The immense green roof reminds me of thatch roofs or French country-house roofs - a roof that says shelter from rain.   A roof that bids you come in under its overhang.


Meanwhile, the roses and Oregon grape and native grasses out in front have interesting color and texture all through the year.


The two most interesting buildings ("Pink" and "Green") on this street each deserve a post of their own (check back tomorrow and tomorrow's tomorrow) but there are many quiet everyday virtues on an ordinary street like this one.

On this street is my nomination for Tidiest House in Town.  The pale green paint, the crisp white trim, the manicured shrubs,  velvety grass.  In a town where too many houses have slid into stages of dereliction, this neat perseverance begins to partake of the heroic.

Though I am not immune to other, less ordered charms: a  front garden blooming with pinky-red fallen leaves - the perfect color to set off not only the spring-sky blue of the house but the bluebird blue of the cooler left out on the front porch.
At the end of the street, before the business zone begins and where a connecting road tees, is a yard with always some kind of yellow flower blooming - even now at the first of November:


So if I was indeed just hanging out this hour and a half, it was hangin' with a purpose. 


Trying to see.

1 comment:

Lisa B. said...

More power to you, for seeing and showing. Love this post.

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