Heading Back to the Emerald City–

View from the Pike Place Market, which is always on my must-do list when visiting Seattle.

–Or, I have a feeling I’m not in So-Cal anymore!

Recently, I decided to throw caution to the wind, and throw the shoestring budget I’ve been on out the door, so that I could head back to the place I called home for nearly a decade: Seattle.

The Emerald City. The Pacific Northwest and all that.  Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but for me, mine will always be firmly entrenched in the city nestled on a gazillion bodies of water, between the Cascade and Olympic mountains. Lush and green, and a far cry from my current dessert-like home, where the weather may be gorgeous all year round, but limited rainfall makes it a largely brown and arid region.

For those who have read my Road Taken saga, you’ll know that I moved to Seattle to be with my ex, who wasn’t an ex back then, but rather, a boyfriend, and then a husband. The “ex” part came long after we left Seattle. Which does make me wonder, what if we’d never left Seattle at all?  Hmm….

Seattle is green in so many ways. What struck me is how many people grow their own vegetables and the like, right along the sidewalk. So resourceful!

Anyway, I still have friends there. Good friends, who I don’t see often but when I do, it’s just like old times. Friends like Pam, who was the subject of three entire Road Taken installments.  There’s also Pat, my highly-organized, pays attention to every detail, kindred spirit. She loves to write and watch soaps—we were both hooked on Dallas and Knots Landing for years—and Tom, my quiet friend who prefers to call me by my alter name, “Della Wolfe,” and who drives me to drink with his flair for making tantalizingly addictive, Galliano Sours.

And, then there’s Clare.

Clare is a published author, whose latest book, Soccer Dreams, was inspired by a project we once worked on together. She also is a performer and songwriter (when in Seattle, you have to catch The Righteous Mothers in concert, and you’ll see Clare singing and on the piano). She’s been helping me tremendously, with my half-baked attempts to write my memoir. She’s like my coach and she’s very critical. When others keep telling me they like my stuff, Clare sees right through my charade and shenanigans, and tells me, I could do better. She pushes and pushes until I’m up against the wall and ready to cry, “Uncle!”

Mother’s Day proved to be a beautiful day for a three-mile walk around Greenlake.

But, in the end I have found, Clare knows best, and she’s really a lifesaver, helping me put together something that is cogent and actually tells a story.

It was Clare that suggested I come up to Seattle and take a Life Story seminar, with her mentor, Brenda Peterson, author of a memoir titled, I Want to be Left Behind, about life with her Southern Baptist family as they eagerly prepared for the Rapture.  I’d never taken a class on memoir writing before and I learned all sorts of interesting tidbits in this one, which I’ll be sure to share in a future post. In the meantime, please enjoy these photos, taken during my visit to the Seattle of my heart.

This photo of one of Pam’s daughters exemplifies how green Seattle is, and also at peace I feel when there. It is like a green cathedral.

This dog doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. He’s going places but has no idea where. I wanted to get his owner in the picture as well, but they were going too fast!

This is one of Clare’s favorite spots for contemplating and zoning out: The Japanese Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum. Too beautiful for words!

If I moved back to Seattle, I’d want to live in this spectacular building. A work of art, if you ask me!

Pam’s Yorkshire Terriers. Aren’t they adorable? I wanted to scoop them up and bring them home.

View from Fremont neighborhood. Look closely and you can see Mt. Rainier in the background. Breathtaking!

58 thoughts on “Heading Back to the Emerald City–

  1. I lived at Ft. Lewis and then in Lakewood (Tacoma) for several years. Honestly, I hated Washington. I am a California girl who loves the sun and the Califonia vibe. For me, Washington felt foreign and strange and unwelcoming. BUT…I know many people love it up there. We all have a special place we feel at home. I’m glad you got to visit again!

    • Michael Ann, You might have felt differently had you actually lived in Seattle instead of Tacoma or even Ft. Lewis, which is kind of removed from everything. I lived there before I moved to So-Cal, and I must say, I do like it here. One thing I did lament there was how cold the lakes are for swimming and then if you can make it to the ocean, how bitterly cold the ocean is. Not designed for swimming in at all. And the beaches are covered with huge driftwood. It’s a whole different world out there!

    • Thanks, Jodi. Yes, it’s been wonderful having someone in my life who can see the big picture and guide me to it. I’ve already had a few “Aha!” moments, thanks to Clare. 🙂

  2. Nice pics! Thanks for sharing. I spent twelve years (my first) in San Jose and am not happy in life because of it. I think it’s interesting how responsibilities keep us (at least, me) rooted in a place that’s not my home. Some day. 🙂

    • Elisabeth, first I want to thank you for stopping by and commenting. So sweet of you. I moved to Seattle by chance. Found a job pretty quickly and then stayed for eight years. Would have stayed longer. Was happy there. But my ex’s career necessitated that we leave. I would have stayed if not for that. Sigh.

  3. Seattle is a city I would one day love to visit . . . Clearly a mix of memories for you, but the lure of such good friends, coupled with the ’emerald’ aura, would seem to be a pull that’s hard to resist.

    • Visiting my friends in Seattle is like going home. There’s no place like it. It was never my dream or plan to move there, but I did it for my ex (way back when) and I fell in love with it and how different it was from the only home I’d known until that point, New York and the east coast. Maybe I’ll have to retire there someday…

    • It is a peaceful place. Going back there is like finding yourself all over again, getting away from the clamor of life and escaping into your own zone. I love it, which I’m sure you can tell.

  4. Thanks for sharing your pictures. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest (Portland) so I have a large spot in my heart for the area too. I can’t wait to hear more about the seminar too. Good for you for splurging on yourself!

  5. Monica, I loved this post! The photos are great and you really give us a glimpse of what the Emerald City is really like! I’m with Kim–I want to click my ruby red slippers too! And steal one of the Yorkies in the process! How adorable are these furry friends! The one on the bike hitch made me sigh. Gorgeous! I can understand why it’s easy for Pam to zone out with scenery like the one in the shot. I can practically breathe in the fresh air! Sheer delight. So glad you had the chance to go back, chica! 🙂

    • Don’t you just love the Yorkies. They are so cuddly, too. Me thinks, though, Henry and Roxy would be none too pleased. I loved my visit so much and miss it already. Sigh.

  6. I’ve never been to Seattle. Your pictures make me want to. Now. What a beautiful place — especially love the Japanese garden! Glad you decided to go for the writing seminar, the reconnecting with friends, and the much-needed break from routine. Glad you’re sharing your trip with us!

  7. I love flying in and out of Seattle. Mr. Ranier is breathtaking. I definitely want a window seat as I just stare at it, completely mesmerized. I remember, I watched in the plane the last time we left…so immense it is, it was 30″ into our flight until I couldn’t see it anymore.

  8. Monica it seems like you had a wonderful time in Seattle. It is nice to catch up with old friends and pick up like you never left. We’ve never been to Seattle but it looks nice. Also, one of our favorite movies is Sleepless in Seattle. 🙂

    Bella and DiDi

    • Seattle is grand. When I first moved there, I had no concept of what it would be like. But, turns out, it is a breath of fresh air. Down to earth, genuine and sincere. I learned not to mind the rain. Great place to hunker down in. 😉

  9. How funny, I was at a writing conference at the end of last week. Just home now. Seems we were both on shoe string budgets, chasing our dreams, although yours came with kindred spirit visits and mine was all about being ‘on’ and getting over the silliest of nerves (which went away immediately). Your photos are lovely. I’ve only been a day tripper to Seattle, maybe the odd night here and there so my perspective is limited. You’ve painted such a beautiful picture with words and connections, it’s hard not to love the place through you. Could you see yourself going back to start another chapter of your life?

    • Thank you, Brenda. I’m so glad I could convey my feelings for Seattle and my friends in this post. Would I consider starting anew there? In my heart, yes. But reality keeps me grounded right here where I am. I love my job, my home, my friends here. For my kids, this is home. But I would love to have a “second” home in Seattle. Of course, this is just a pipe dream.

  10. There’s nothing like being back in your hometown with long-time friends. I’ve never been to Seattle, but I watch Grey’s Anatomy. Does that count? Lovely photos.

    • Watching Grey’s Anatomy totally counts! For many years, the only TV series set in Seattle was “Here Come the Brides.” I learned a lot about the Evergreen state watching the travails of Jeremy, Jason and Joshua, three brothers in search of brides. So yes, Grey’s Anatomy is great way to visit the city! 🙂

  11. I love the greenery in those pictures. You could write chick lit of you and your friends.

    Growing food on the sidewalk? Now, that sounds like something southern folk would do but I’ve never heard of such thing ’til now. Learn something new everyday, I suppose.

    • Totsy, growing food on the sidewalk is fascinating concept, making use of every plot of land, even what was once reserved just for strips of grass. My friends are so cool and it was such fun to be around so many accomplished women. 🙂

  12. Mt. Rainier is stunning Monica. If I didn’t live in San Francisco, I would choose Seattle in a heartbeat. I love that they grow their own food on the side walk. How fantastic is that? We are all about it here in Northern Cal. too and I see so many similarities. Love how lush and green it is. My kind of city. Of course I would move to the Amalfi Coast or Florence in a second too 🙂 I just need a farmhouse in Tuscany.
    I would read your memoir anytime. I am so glad Clare is in your life, it’s great when someone tells you the truth and makes you work harder because they believe in you. I love our President for saying his wife laughs at him, when everyone else laughs along with him at his lame jokes, she keeps him grounded.

    Your alter is Delta Wolfe, I love it. Mine is Juliet Buckman – ahhhh! the anglophile that I am…

    • Gazing upon Mt. Rainier is humbling. So majestic and awe inspiring. I bet SF is much like Seattle in many ways. You folks up there are also very environmentally conscious. Maybe you could start the trend of growing vegetables along the sidewalk. I even saw a guy who was keeping chickens in a little coop on the sidewalk in front of his house! Talk about industrious! My alter is Della Wolfe and Tom’s is–dare I say it? Dernab Swarren! Now, that’s a name!

    • Annie, the weather was perfect. Everyone kept telling me that I brought the good weather with me, but I don’t know. I think Seattle’s weather is pretty nice, even in the rain. 😉

  13. Glad you made your way to Seattle again, Monica! But alas! I would love to have met you in person and swapped more than a few stories with you. Sounds like you’ve come and gone already, yes?

    You’d feel right at home here today. It’s a gray, overcast, drizzly day in Seattle – the perfect weather for writing!

  14. Beautiful photos, Monica! Seattle does sound peaceful (though Bitty is a true So Cal sun lover). We are heading up north to San Francisco this summer, which is as far north as I can get my sun goddess to travel!

    • Thanks, Heather. You should try to find a way to hookwink Bitty into visiting. It’s a short plane ride. Plus you could say you have to go to accept an award they’re giving you and she needs to be there to see you accept it, etc. Yeah, that’s the ticket! 😉

    • Carl, you were there when I was there! And to think, so close, like two ships passing in the night. In my estimation, it’s so much better than Miami, which I’ve visited a few times. The weather, for starters, as I’m not good with excessive heat and humidity.

  15. Oh, that green tunnel of trees!! Green surroundings are a must for me. Absolutely breathtaking.

    I wonder what they want for rent/purchase in that amazing building??

    • Seattle is such a relaxing city with so much of it focused on the outdoors. You’d definitely enjoy it, Eloise! I have no idea how much the rent would be. Good question. 🙂

    • These folks were mostly my friends before the split, seeing how I met them through my work. But, yes, I am lucky to have them in my life after all this time. Seattle’s a great city. Certainly worth experiencing at least once.

  16. Though I’ve never actually lived there, I, too, love Seattle. Thanks for sharing the name of the workshop you attended. Brenda Peterson’s memoir sounds fascinating, especially since the non-mafia part of my story is about religious fanaticism.

    By the way, just posted a a draft of chapter one. I”ll be curious to hear what you think! Happy Monday, Monica!


    • It’s funny, Kathy, I thought of you and your story when Brenda was describing hers to us. Might be worth reading to see how someone else handles their religious story. I will be stopping by to check out your new version later this evening.

  17. Have a great trip, Monica. For those of you who want to read some great Pacific Northwest fiction, check out 2011 Pulitzer nominee Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams.”

    • Renee, my words exactly! I truly love being there and wish I could bottle it and bring it home with me. Alas, I am determined to make it back to Seattle at least once a year! Okay, maybe every 18 months. 20, tops. Sigh. Curse you, shoestring budget!

  18. What a lovely place, it looks so peaceful.

    I think we all have a place we call home and want to go back to irrespective of where we live now.

    Some I suppose may call it a homing instinct.

    With regard to writing I learnt long ago to never ask somebody I know for their opinions as thet will rarely be honest and more concerned with not upsetting my feelings.

    In life I believe though we know many people we know few real friends, those who would help you at the drop of a hat without question and who are there for you on bith the good days and the bad days. Those people are few and far between.

    • How about you, Robert? What place is home for you?
      Writing is the most fun thing I do, and also the most challenging. It takes putting down on paper lots and lots of words to come up with something worth sharing, especially when it’s something as personal as a memoir.

      • Home for me I suppose is a place called Solihull, just SE of Birmingham where I was born and spent the first 30 odd years of my life.

        Remind me sometime to tell you of the place I would like to live if I ever have the money, it will surprise you!!

        The book I am writing which I mentioned in a recent email is proving enjoyable for me and certainly challenging, though as it’s a fictional version of a place I work at on weekends it’s difficult not to merge the two into one which I don’t want to do.

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