My West Seattle home is a small cottage with a huge fireplace next to Lincoln Park, 137 acres that I count as my back yard. My neighbors include a bald-eagle couple who for the past few years have made love enthusiastically and publicly, but have yet to successfully raise the next generation. Two years ago an eaglet made it almost to fledging before we found it dead at the base of the nest tree. But the adults keep trying.
My neighbors also sometimes include J Pod, the orcas who roam the Salish Sea from Olympia to the Georgia Strait, and once a small humpback whale who spouted and surfaced twenty yards from the park’s shoreline. Clumps of entranced adults and kids gathered, summoned from Facebook by cellphones until the whale disappeared north toward Alki Point.
My home place in West Seattle shares a living boundary with our huge urban neighbor: the Duwamish River, once sinuous, now straightened, with its Superfund status and official signs warning residents not to eat river fish. They do anyway. As you cross the West Seattle Bridge in springtime, the newly brown water below announces that snow has started melting on The Mountain, cloud-obscured to the southeast.
In urban Seattle, peregrine falcons sometimes nest downtown and salmon swim before tourists’ eyes at the Ballard Locks, built to help ships reach lakes whose levels we lowered by dissolving hills, reversing drainages and shriveling rivers. Still the salmon return, helped by schoolchildren who every spring release fry into local streams, hoping.
Beyond Seattle, we’re nestled in central coastal Cascadia, land of the great trees: Western Redcedar, Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock. Land of the long rain, and the perfect, exhausting summer in which we all run outside to play, and finally of November. Beautiful November, when we sigh in relief because the air has again become blessedly wet, and the soil finally softens, and we can sleep again to the sweet rhythm of rain dripping from dark needles.
Then a new year begins and the eagles start collecting nest branches to try afresh, in my plucky, irrepressible home.