Let me tell you why I moved to Seattle, you know, the home I just left for three months.
When I was around 20 I went with family to visit my stepsister in Seattle. When we went to Pike Place Market, a huge covered open-air farmers and craft market in downtown Seattle, I literally stood in the middle of the aisle and wept. The color, the life streaming by me in all shapes, colors and sizes, the sound of vendors, eager tourists, and locals buying their groceries all soaked into my heart and woke it up in a way that at that tender age of 20 I had only encountered one other time, and that was shopping in the little patisseries and markets in Brittany when I was an exchange student in France at the even more tender age of 14.
Apparently there is something about the way a culture shops that really turns me on.
Though, its not really that, its not consumerism in action that sets me a-tingle. It is the parade of humanity out to discover and to nourish themselves, it is the vibrancy of foods and goods put on display all shiny and bright, it is the flood of information that washes through all the senses, bringing them to complete attention that makes me happy to be alive.
Do I shop at Pike Place Market for my groceries now that I live in Seattle? No, but I do enjoy a visit every so often.
Ironically, it is the ability Seattle has to create a safe and nourishing environment for solitude that has fed and nourished me for many of the last 12 years. I have, in essence, been “finding myself”. This was possible because Seattle demands very little of its residents, not like New York or Chicago, where I'd lived for 5 years in my early 20's. In Chicago, I always felt like I was fighting to stay in my own skin, mostly because the city was so stimulating that I couldn’t settle enough to know who I was and what I wanted, all on my own.
In Seattle, one tends to be overcome with the energy and beauty of the land, but the people pretty much keep their distance. There is no great swell of humanity that accosts the inhabitants of Seattle when they walk out of their houses, and so when you live in the Pacific Northwest you are free to make your own energetic choices & I have used much of my time there to reach deep inside and to learn what it is that I needed to know in order to go out into the world again.
I have felt, at times, a bit at war with myself. The girl weeping in Pike Place Market was all akimbo inside, I think, because she understood that it was going to take 18 years to reconcile the parts of herself that were afraid of the world, that did not want to be seen, those tender feelings that made her want to hide from the very life and energy that her soul and heart were drawn to fought with the adventurous side that yearned to dive into far away places and cultures, into the sensual pleasures of different foods, smells, the feel of the sun on her face at exotic latitudes, the way the ocean smells on far away shores, the smiles on foreign faces.
It seems that I had to buy a house and make it into a home that had all the stability that the homes of my divorced parents’ did not. I had to sink into walls and gardens over which I had control, I had to learn how to nourish myself, to fall in love with my life before I could even think about letting the rest of the world in.
It is interesting to me that the life and vibrancy of Pike Place Market called to something deep inside of me, drew me to live in the city six years after I had first visited it, and then provided the shelter I needed to find firm footing within my skin so that now I can leave Seattle and soak my senses in the vibrancy and life of the wider world.
As I embark on my journey I feel as tender as I was that day I stood in Pike Place Market 18 years ago, but I am not scared. I am excited to open my heart to the miracles and love that await me, for I feel certain that many unexpected beauties lurk around each corner of every building and being. I feel ready to be bathed in the light and color, sounds and smells, the smiles of yet to be known faces. But I no longer feel akimbo; as a friend of mine is fond of saying, “I’m okay with it.” I feel ready to stand firmly in my own skin, I feel ready to meet the world and to look it squarely in the eye.