The Joy of Rediscovering
Sometimes the most amazing discoveries are right outside your own front door. And if you slowed down just a bit, opened your eyes just a bit wider, it’s possible you’d rediscover them over and over again — and be amazed every time.
I use the universal you, but I’m speaking of myself. I’ve been slowly learning this lesson since moving away from Seattle, and perhaps most earnestly since returning to Los Angeles after our recent travels.
Each time I return to Seattle, which I do every other month or so, I am struck by this city’s incredible bounty, it’s beauty and natural abundance. And all of it — the parks and forest trails, the mountains, the Sound — was here for all of the 30 years it was my home. The thing is, I simply didn’t see if fully, didn’t grasp the depth of that abundance, until I left.
Or really, until I returned with the open eyes of someone who’s felt a piece of herself missing.
Today’s reminder was a walk through Interlaken Park on Capitol Hill.
One of the things I love most about this town is that a lush, forest space like Interlaken can be found right in the heart of the city. There are other, more popular, woodland walks and hikes within city limits and even more if you take a regional view. But Interlaken remains one of my favorite places to disappear into perhaps because, compared to those other busier spots, it feels like a secret.
And I’ve always treated it like a secret too.
My kids and I spent many a long afternoon under the green canopy of Discovery Park in Magnolia and waiting for trains to pass by the beach in Carkeek Park in north Seattle when they were growing up. But beyond the few times I bundled up my brand new baby girl 21 years ago and waddled down this path, I’ve never taken them to Interlaken. This place has always been for me alone.
Over the years, in any season, this walk has been a meditation, a release for pent up emotion, a thinking spot. Even though it's a favorite haunt of walkers, hikers and bikers, it seems ever-quiet. I know there are more people in these woods, but it rarely feels populated beyond the one person passing on the dirt path or steep roads that lead through the greenbelt to Montlake or the University of Washington Bridge.
It’s a hidden gem that was created by the Olmsted Brothers (most famous for their design of Central Park in New York City) and one that has played a big part in Seattle. According to city historians the park and Interlaken Boulevard that runs through it was the principal bike and buggy path linking Capitol Hill with Lake Washington. As such, it was one of the city’s first efforts to design bicyclists into city road development.
The buggies are gone but the bikers still love the challenge of muscling their machines up a great and lengthy hill. Away from the road, nature lovers are drawn by Interlaken’s constantly changing forest environment. In a fog it becomes a mystical forest, a place of filmic mist and mystery; in the rain, it feels almost tropical, despite not a tropical plant in sight; With the light dappling through evergreen boughs and slow-changing maple leaves, it is a kaleidoscope of color and life in every season.
I’ve walked this path a hundred times at least. And yet today when I walk here I notice things more intimately. A small mushroom on a dead log or fern clinging passionately to a fence post like a vanquished lover. I hear birds more crisply, picking out each specific bird and its song, and it’s as if I were sitting in the front row of the symphony.
Walking out of the greenbelt my heart leaps at the shy blooms on a dogwood tree just begining to unfurl their petals, just starting to become a part of this tableau,
I stroll up the road to the Volunteer Park Cafe, which sits just a block away from another very popular Seattle green spot, Volunteer Park. Unlike Interlaken, there are hundreds of people in the park today, milling on the grass or passing through the greenhouse or jogging around the water reservoir or practicing Shakespeare or frisbee or Tai Chi. I sit on a bench and eat the most delicious scone — maple and nut. The Cafe is known far and wide for its coffee cakes and muffins. and it’s hard to meditate up the steep Interlaken path without stirring a pang.
All of this jumps out of me — the sights, the sounds, the taste of fresh baked scones — as new and wonderful, despite having been here and seen it all before.
When I told Joe about my “re-seeing” Interlaken, about the acuity of color and intense detail that struck all my senses as I wandered down the trails, he expressed some trepidation. Wasn’t this another round of me resigning into that uncomfortable nostalgia that has, at times, made me bereft that I ever left Seattle?
He had a point. I’ve compared the cities mercilessly for five years, almost always tallying my hometown as the “better” place. And this has, very often, sent me into a spiral of despair and missing and longing.
Thankfully, the answer today is no. Longing was not what I felt strolling through Interlaken Park. Instead, said it was the simple joy of seeing with every sense, of rediscovering what used to be right in my backyard. And quite the contrary to my partner’s fears, I was struck with the understanding that there are a million discoveries waiting for me in the place we now call home; places that, like this park, would blow my mind if I stopped comparing, stood right where I was, and truly, deeply looked.
As I transition this blog to my ordinary life, away from exotic places I don’t live (exotic to me anyway), I aim to slow down just a bit, open my eyes just a bit wider, and while discovering new things and places in my day-to-day life, also leave room for rediscovering all of it, every step, with a sense of wonder and amazement.