Saturday, August 29, 2009

In which I go on a World Tour and meet "Greenwalks"

I know it may seem like the summer was all drunken squirrels, flaming dryers, and junky closets here at the Bike Garden, but there were a couple of good days, too. No wait--maybe there were three…

My point is that life has its bright spots even when smoke is filling the house, and if you are staring directly into the flames, this may be truer still. Such extremes are not always necessary, however. Witness a bright day in Seattle this past summer when the Big Walu and I got to meet fellow blogger Karen, of “Greenwalks.”

Karen was kind enough to pick us up at Pier 91 when we docked in Seattle after a trip to Alaska…oh, did I forget to mention that part?

Well, after Walt and I went to Chicago at the end of May:

Walt and his brother Sasha at Millennial Park.

Millennial Park (top and bottom photos)

Street scene, Chicago (Look at all those commuter bikes!)

Walt and his sister Becky at Chicago's legendary Jazz Showcase.

And I went to a conference in Victoria, British Columbia, in early June:

Finnerty Gardens at the University of Victoria.

We took our first (and probably last) cruise ever to Alaska for my birthday:

The handsomest man on the cruise ship, trying to get his iPhone to pick up a signal. They charge extra for that, you know.

Now I’m sure cruises are lovely things, and we did have a grand old time. But they aren’t for us. Too much food for one thing. And not enough running/cycling/walking/hiking/canoeing/gardening/environmental awareness/natural history lectures about things that weren’t whales (there are other “nature” things out there, you know)/good jazz/good books/meaningful sightseeing that didn’t involve tourist shops for another.

But Walu says the coffee was pretty good. After he paid extra for it.

Still, it was interesting to try it once. I do love boats and water, and I loved being on a boat on the water. (How I dearly would have loved to cross the Atlantic on a real cruise ship “back in the day.”) Plus, I ran a lot of laps on Deck 7 and identified many great seabirds that the ship’s "naturalist" probably figured were too boring to learn about.

So when we waddled off the ship all bloated and numb from too much eating and too little doing, it was a joy to see Karen drive up in her wagon with a sign, freshly made by her daughter, welcoming us to Seattle.

We didn’t have a lot of time, but Karen took us to lunch, where I had some great tacos (best food I’d had all week, and I’d just gotten off a cruise ship—and you know what cruise ships are famous for: that’s right, food!), and then to tour some gardens. Here’s Karen and me standing in a little pocket public garden (sorry I can’t remember the name of it; maybe Karen will chime in and tell me) at Olympic Sculpture Park:

That's Karen on the left. Look how bundled up I am--in June!

And then Karen indulged my special request to see a Japanese garden at Washington Park Arboretum:

I love Japanese gardens. They are quite possibly my very favorite garden style. I’d have one myself, but Japanese and xeric are not exactly compatible, so whenever I’m in a place that has one, I make a point of seeking it out. In fact, here’s one I found in Butchart Gardens in Victoria:

Me, having my spirit restored in the Japanese garden after American Airlines lost my luggage.

And somewhere in there we even managed to see Karen’s personal “greenwalk,” a source of inspiration for my own humble hell strip. Hers is far lovelier than mine:

Karen is an amazing bundle of energy and just about as nice a person you’ll ever meet. And I’d say that even if she hadn’t rescued us from Pier 91 and given us some normal food. Or taken me to a Japanese garden.

Karen's is one of the first garden blogs I ever ran across, and I was taken with it right away. Although she started it as a way to highlight what clever people do with the "hell strip" (that thin strip of wasteland between the sidewalk and the street), it routinely branches out into other aspects of gardening as well. The writing and photos are lively and entertaining, like Karen herself.

I don’t have any photos of the rest of her garden, but I would describe it as reflecting her personality. Informal, sprawling, friendly, and wildly energetic. It probably even plays the cello and fights injustice, just like she does.

After packing all this sightseeing into just a couple of short hours, Karen dropped us off at the Elliot Bay Book Company in downtown Seattle and we said goodbye. I meant to come right back to LBB and tell y’all all about it…

But then the dryer caught fire.


  1. Oh Susan, you are far too kind! Thank you for the lovely words, and I have to congratulate Walt on his photo skills and/or editing, for making me and the hell strip not look half as bad as usual. It was such a delight to meet you, I'm only sorry that the rest of the summer wasn't as fun as our brief time together. The pocket park is the Olympic Sculpture Park, part of the Seattle Art Museum and full of native plants that we didn't really take time to ID (next time!) The Japanese garden is part of the Washington Park Arboretum. When you return, Kubota Gardens will blow your mind - sorry we didn't have time for it this trip.

  2. You met Karen - Fantastic! Isn't it great how blogging makes these connections? :)

    I'm not so keen on cruises either - there's always somewhere you'd like to stay at for much longer and somewhere else you wish they'd never bother with at all.

    So glad there was some sunshine amongst the storm clouds for you this summer.

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  4. Karen: I had a blast! Thanks so much for taking me on the tour. Maybe we'll have more time next time around.

    VP: Isn't the blogosphere great? So many interesting people out there in the wide world. And ditto on not enough time in interesting ports on the cruise. I don't feel like we really had a chance to see Alaska.

  5. Great post Susan - I was looking forward to reading your post about meeting up with Karen.

    What a summer you have had!


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