I just spent nearly three weeks caring for my daughter who broke her leg skiing. She lives in an urban neighborhood in Seattle. I’ve never lived in a truly urban environment, one with stores and restaurants within easy walking distance, so this was a new experience for me.
While I was with my daughter, I walked almost daily to the grocery store or drug store, to the dry cleaner, to restaurants for bagels, chai tea, or carry-out Thai food, to church, to the library. I only drove when I needed to transport my daughter downtown to medical appointments or to her office.
Because I was on foot, I could only buy two bags of groceries at a time, so I could carry them back to my daughter’s apartment. No wonder I was at the store so often. And I had to take my own tote bags, because Seattle has an ordinance requiring vendors to charge for plastic bags for merchandise. (I usually remembered.)
I left my daughter with a full freezer and a stocked pantry. She will only need to ask friends to bring her milk and other perishables for the next few weeks, until she can walk the urban neighborhood herself.
At home, I lead a suburban lifestyle. I drive everywhere I need to go, and only walk around my neighborhood occasionally for exercise. Since returning home from Seattle, I’ve driven to the grocery store, the drug store, and to church. At the grocery store, I filled the back of our SUV with bags supplied by the store free of charge. And thought about the differences between my routine and a city-dweller’s routine.
True to Seattle’s reputation, it rained almost every day I was there. But most days the rain was only a light mist, and most days had dry spells. Those were the times I went out to do my errands. Only a few days were really wet.
And a few afternoons were beautifully clear and sunny, with blossoming trees and tulip leaves poking through the ground, reminding me that spring is not far off.
But during the whole time I was in Seattle, I never saw the mountains that ring the city. The miasma of grey never lifted enough for me to see the Cascades, the Olympics, or Mt. Rainier, even when the sun shone overhead.
Or perhaps it was just my wintry mood that kept me from seeing the horizon, as I coped with illness and injury in myself, my daughter, and other family members. I left home still recovering from a stomach virus, and returned home with a cold or the flu.
And I also returned to the depth of winter in the Midwest. My flight home was sandwiched between two blizzards. We had a foot of snow on the yard when I returned. More snow began falling Monday night, and it’s forecast to continue snowing off and on until mid-day Wednesday.
After two years of almost no snow, we can’t really complain. My grocery run to fill the SUV made sure we had food to last through the storm. I have no meetings for the next couple of days, so I can stay warm inside. The snow is just an inconvenience, not a catastrophe.
And yet, I am ready, so ready, for spring.
This winter has seemed interminable. Perhaps because of our ski trip in December, when we were thrown into grey skies and snow at the winter solstice further north than we were used to. The shortest days became shorter yet.
Perhaps because I’m in the doldrums with my writing, feeling unproductive and unmotivated. I essentially lost the month of February due to travel, and I need to spend March doing taxes. When will I get back to my novels?
As I sit here now, looking out the window at snow-laden trees and a driveway that needs shoveling, I remember the brave tulips in Seattle thrusting their broad leaves into the air.
And I hope that soon some signs of new life will appear in Kansas City.