Friday, June 30, 2006

How I came to live on Tiger Mountain

The summer I was nine years old my mother and I took the train--the Great Northern Empire Builder--from our small town in western Minnesota to visit relatives in Seattle. We traveled coach class, slept in the reclining seats of the vista dome, and carried our own food (the dining car being too expensive), and of the journey itself I don't remember much except that I saw for the first time in my life mountains, meteor showers, and black people.
Of Seattle I remember riding the electric buses from Ballard to downtown, eating my first seafood at Ivar's Acres of Clams, the late afternoon alpenglow on Mt. Rainier, and visiting a house that sat atop a tunnel (oh, how I wanted to go down into their cellar to see if I could perhaps catch a glimpse of the cars whizzing by underneath). The electric buses, seafood, Mt. Rainier, even the tunnel, still have the power to trigger a memory of the feeling I had, that I was having the best summer of my life that year.
But it was a few days spent with other relatives, living deep in a cedar forest in the Cascade foothills east of Seattle, that really changed everything for me. Walking along a trail in the early summer mist, I knew that this was where I was supposed to live and that I would never feel completely at home anywhere else. Back home my parents convinced me that one did not move to another place simply because one loved the smell of the cedar forest on a rainy summer day.
So I lived lots of other places--east coast, west coast, midwest, great basin--and they were all good in their own way and some of them even felt like home for a while. Then one day, after a marriage and two children, I was about to finally graduate from college and the husband and I wondered where we should live next. We had moved to Santa Cruz so I could get an education so I could get a decent job, but the job offers were in places that didn't excite us--Silicon Valley, Rochester, MN, Austin, TX. We decided that where we lived was more important to us as a family that what we did for a living, so we looked for a place where we wanted to live. Which brought us to Western Washington.
Within a week one of us had a job and within a month we were both working and on weekends we explored Seattle and the area around our small community. One Sunday afternoon our exploration took us down a winding country road, the most interesting (read economically diverse) neighborhood we'd seen in the area, more typical of the communities in the Santa Cruz mountains. Near the end of the road we noticed a run-down farmstead with a small "For Sale By Owner" sign tacked to a maple tree at the end of the driveway. When I rolled down the car window to have a better look, that smell hit me and a year later that rundown farmstead on Tiger Mountain was our home.