When we were in college in the early 1970s, my future husband and I used to take the bus to downtown Seattle and walk through the city, visiting 5 and 10 Antiques sometimes, where my mother worked part time. I have a necklace from that shop. We always went to what Gary called the “Pubic Margaret.” Then we worked our way down First Avenue pawnshops, looking at guitars. That was our Saturday habit for ten years.

The Christmas Cactus clearly indicated it planned to bloom by Christmas—not on Christmas but soon. By New Years Eve, it had begun opening buds. It is still in full flower. Gary’s plastic dinosaur is Marc, named for Marc Bolan of the band T. Rex.

In the Public Market (aka Pike Place Market) we poked round shops and had lunch at most of the cheaper restaurants. We bought produce, of course, and though this was before the Market became famous for fish-throwing, sometimes we bought local seafood. A Filipino woman served oxtail soup. An antique store sold me a little bowl with yellow chicks around the inside. Our most consistent purchases were at an Italian grocery that sold dried fruit from massive glass jars, the original Starbucks store that sold spices and chocolate (neither of us were yet coffee-drinkers), and the Athenian Inn that served our favorite lunch. The richly marinated “Athenian steak” was perhaps 4 ounces and served with a small green salad and hash browns. It was a treat for us, though it cost only a couple dollars each. Sometimes we could barely afford bus fare and we did not purchase a thing. [This was a couple years before I began shifting away from meat. Both of us have been vegetarian of decades now.]

When we moved to Oregon, Starbucks was still in the hands of the founders, and their coffee was roasted in Seattle near where my studio had been. When we began drinking coffee, we had a standing weekly order that came on Fridays and had been roasted the day before. A new manager took over that company in the later 1980s and moved the roaster out of Seattle, and we cancelled our order.

Starbucks doesn’t sell chunks of those huge 10-kilo bars of imported chocolate anymore. Not for decades. The little packets of dried herbs and spices are long gone too. We drink organic dark roast coffee from Costco. Two cups first thing in the morning are enough for me. We drink tea, but that’s for later in the day. Gary is fond of a Welsh tea I order from Churchmouse which also sells particularly beautiful yarns and marvelous knitting patterns. They are on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound and a ferry ride across from Seattle. This used to be a destination for Gary and I—a long detour—but they no longer have a storefront. (I can’t help thinking that the local Chamber of Commerce should have bent over backward to keep that store open. Many people made the trip primarily to visit Churchmouse but then bought lunch and shopped local businesses. It’s what we’d done for many years, and now we have no reason to make that trip.)

The world changes. A few years ago, my alumni magazine from the University of Washington did a nostalgic story about “long-time” businesses that had recently closed on University Way, The Ave. As I read I realized that none of those “long-time” businesses existed when I was a student in the 1970s. I was still missing The House of Rice, La Tienda, Cerulean Blue, and Puss and Books. The men’s clothing and head shop, Bluebeard’s with its great sign painted by the Splendid Sign Company is long gone; so is the sign company. The wonderful pizza places and favorite clothing stores of my youth were disappearing by the time our children were being born. The University Book Store where both Gary and I worked during college was buying up the block on University Way even then. It’s still a powerful presence, but we don’t know any of the current employees. Shiga’s Import Shop remains the notable holdout, though Andy Shiga, a No-No-Boy, has passed on. The more things change…

For all the years I was teaching, I took a shower and washed my hair every morning so that I would be fresh for school. I am trying now to shift over to evening showers and washing my hair every five days or so. My hair and skin are drier, and Gary has always showered in the evening.

I stopped running in 2011 when my feet were in such bad shape I could barely walk.

I had begun running because our oldest, then in 8th grade, was running with the high school team. I admired the spirit of camaraderie among teammates who encouraged one another. The girls teams had several choir members who sang during warmup. The coaches did not bully.

Running was an important element of my childhood. I ran through the woods, ran around the playground in grade school, ran through the halls at school right up till high school. I had tried running from our house toward the zoo in the 1970s and gave up. But on April Fools Day of 1995, at age 42 (I have to figure this out every time, so maybe the previous year?), I did my best to run a half mile. Utter failure, of course. I was hopelessly out of shape and could manage part of a block at a time, lapsing back into a walk over and over. My cross-country-bound son was horrified. However, I had been reading Runner’s World in the high school library and especially an advice column which urged new runners to run every other day and gradually increase distance. That is what I did. By June I could run a mile. By August I was running six miles every other day. I am 70 years old and grateful to run two miles every other day without undo effort. I am not “sucking air” as the head coach used to warn. I can run a third mile or take walking breaks and run many miles and tire myself out, but I usually don’t.

The strategy of running every other day works very well for me. One day to work muscles, one day to rest them and allow them to heal. This allows the runner to gain strength. Pick a short distance and run what you can of it—as I did the half mile—and then when you can run that full distance, add distance—a block to your distance, then quarter miles. Stick with this, gradually adding distance as your body is able, until at about three miles, you will realize you are genuinely in shape. That was great advice. I was never sore the next day and I suffered no injuries while building my running distance.

The bad advice I was given: “Runners do not need anything in the way of special equipment.” Yes, yes you do. You need excellent, well-fitting shoes. I ran in shoes that were a size and a half too small for years. I am still paying for that mistake. A woman needs a proper sport bra. Leggings are not just nice but necessary if your thighs touch (mine did). Go to a good running store, get fitted, and buy the shoes there. (You owe the store that purchase and you won’t find them cheaper online.) Accept that cotton is not your friend when you run; that was a difficult shift in my thinking. Your complete outfit—shoes and tights and socks and bra and long sleeve top—will cost you, but not more than they are worth. When I started running, I did not trust I could continue and decided I needed to earn proper gear. That was a mistake. I suffered chaffing and bouncing and blisters and bleeding on my toes as a result of not starting with the right gear. If you can’t afford much, buy shoes. Buy the freakin sport bra! You will always be able to wear both even if you decide not to run further.

The other bad advice I never believed: “No pain, no gain.” I call BS to that. If it hurts, slow down or stop running. If it hurts, stop doing it. Walk. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that you are doing damage. Damage will not make you stronger. I injured myself during the years I ran with and coached the cross country team only when doing everything the team was doing. My first injury resulted from a long trail run with a dancer, Jennifer. My rule: Never try to keep up with dancers! They are in extraordinary shape and, as my psychiatrist-friend Kitty warns, Dancers have an unhealthy relationship with pain. Failing to respect the message of their own pain is a mistake of many top athletes, and if you do not consider dancers athletes, you need to reconsider.

I began running again for a few hundred yards after I’d lost weight. I was careful. I was old and again distrustful of my own abilities, but I found I could do it. I began running incrementally longer distances every other day, just like I had at the beginning. Last fall I met, for the first time, runners older than I am now who are still able to run. We each covered ran our 10k, slower than we did decades ago, but we finished. That experience has taught me a lot about myself and about change.

Some things beyond our control may change, we choose to change some things within our control, and some things go pretty much right along regardless.

In the mean time, we walked to three places and finally had to drive to mail a package. The lot that the child on the tricycle watched being razed now has six stories, the bottom two concrete and the top four in wood. The local Post Office that was torn down recently now has three stories supported by spectacular massive glulam beams. I wondered who could afford such pricy construction. I walked over to read the signs: it’s going to be a bank. People are preparing in our Portland condo for the new repipe vote. On the coast they are all paranoid about worker housing. More people actually lived locally instead of merely monetizing homes into short term rentals… Fear is spreading. Blame and paranoia. sigh

We walked west down the south side of Flanders this morning and I commented about that. It seemed odd. Gary reminded me that it’s because a mean guy used to have a tent clear across the sidewalk where we were walking.

That reminded me.

I am worried about our local people sleeping rough. There is a man I have unkindly referred to as our “night zombie” because he walked up and down our block screaming F-you F-you etc. at the top of his voice most nights between midnight and 2am. After a few dozen nights I could half-hear him and then sleep right on despite his screaming. But we haven’t heard a peep since the ice storm in December and that is worrisome. He was nice enough in daylight. I’d often passed him while on my runs, and a tall Black man used to buy him a chocolate muffin for his breakfast.

Even more worrisome is the older woman who spent her days around the corner the last year and a half. I’d talked to her several times and also said hello whenever I saw her. She is missing too. We hope these folk found shelter.

I watched a distressed man trying to sort out a piano that had been tossed beside the road. I offered to help him set the case upright, but he was too absorbed to respond.

Another unsheltered person called “Good morning” to me on my run, I said good morning, and we both smiled. “Keep it up,” he said about my running. “Looking good!” That made my day.

Some people are so concerned about having and keeping their money, about public praise and popularity. It might be that we have other concerns. We talked to our younger son yesterday, but he’s working. We stopped by to visit his brother this morning. Three Sisters sold me some dried polenta. I so rarely interact with people, I treasure these exchanges. The world has worn us out lately.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, after serving since 2017, recently announced she was leaving office because she said she “no longer had enough in the tank” to do the job. She also said she hoped New Zealanders would remember her leadership, “as someone who always tried to be kind.” I would like to be remembered that way.

A public figure who values kindness.

Yes, I am careful and not overly naive, but seeing that the world has possibilities, that people can be kind, and that hope is possible—that’s what keeps me going.


  1. My daughter’s favorite bookstore in Seattle is Twice Sold Tales. It has books, yes, but also cats, which is really what attracts my daughter. She asked about a job there and was told by the owner that she might be hiring in the spring but that University Bookstore was definitely a sure bet and would treat her well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bookstores should always have cats.

      I read your comment to Gary and he laughed. Ah, well. Did the University Book Store treat us well? Gary was punished for trying to unionize, but despite it all, Gary says it was his best job. He worked in Receiving and with students before he became one himself. The flexibility was true for Gary, who worked between terms and during Rush.

      I was paid much lower than new full time hires, even when I had five years of experience on the theory that my work schedule would be fitted around my classes, which it never was because I worked in a small department.

      All this was so very long ago.

      Working in a book store… It was an education to be around all those books. I suppose this might have been because we were eager to learn.

      I was in a Seattle chain book store looking for a rather famous novel by Jane Smiley. The person at the information desk did not know that “novels” are fiction. Once, at Powells’ Book Store here in Portland, Gary commented to the clerk checking him out that Ursula K. Le Guin had just entered the store. The clerk said, “Who?” That was a low point. Gary says he couldn’t breathe.


  2. And in the distance, I can see an old friend from Wales.
    Thank you, Spencer Davis.
    Hearing all this from now, then and someday,
    it is true—music is love.
    kiitos David Crosby kiitos

    Liked by 1 person

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