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Secrets of Seattle

November 12th, 2003 · No Comments

Ah, autumn in Seattle, City of Rain. But this year has been different. We had one intense week of record rain. The rest of the time it has been mostly sunny. Clear blue skies. Like a dream! It’s cold, frosting at night, but bright sunny days.

And it’s been a wonderful season, so far, to remember why I love living here in the Northwest. The views are even clearer and brighter, as the trees lose their leaves, revealing more of the Sound that surrounds us. The other day I noticed that now as I drive to downtown I can see the harbor much better in autumn, with the water shining like silver in the sunlight.

A couple weeks ago the girls and I went to one of the best parks on the island and we had it all to ourselves! I was amazed. Well, it was Halloween and during a school day. But I had thought perhaps some other preschool parents might be there too, enjoying the dry sunny weather. On warmer days, sometimes we are grateful to find a parking place but on that day we could have the whole lot.

Summertime on Bainbridge Island is a bit crazy, what with kids out of school and the flux of tourists downtown. I’m sure it was much more dramatic a generation or two ago, when plenty of people had summer houses here, living on the island for just a season. But I’m always reminded we live in a tourist town when summer comes around.

Seattle isn’t much better, as far as avoiding crowds is concerned. Especially if we walk onto the boat (rather than take the car) and then walk off at the dock on the waterfront. Summertime brings crowds of tourists to stroll along the water, eat ice cream and grilled salmon, and gaze at various attractions from carousels to sea otters to flying fish. Sure it helps the economy, but for me and the girls it is much more fun when we don’t feel quite so claustrophobic running around our favorite haunts. Add a Mariner game to the mix – they’ve even been doing well these past few seasons – and it gets a bit crazy around here.

Two weeks ago today my sister came with the girls and me to the Seattle Aquarium . It’s always great to go with my sister. I confess I like having the extra pair of hands and help with the girls, especially at this stage of life. But it’s especially good to go with my sister because she volunteered at the Aquarium for years and studied marine science and zoology in college. So she knows a lot about the creatures behind the glass, their scientific names and how to care for them – even sometimes the name of the person who cares for them!

After taking my sister on a couple errands in Seattle, I found amazing parking for 11 am – in a lot across the street with a parking meter. That would have never happened in the summer. (A Big Thank You to the new Guest Services desk inside the Aquarium – although my sister and I joked that it sounded like a hotel concierge, I sure appreciated it when they changed my dollars for parking meter quarters!)

Before we went inside, we had a little lunch at a picnic table outside the Aquarium. For our dining, I had taken the snacks we had planned to use on our cancelled road trip, and I improvised a baby blanket for a tablecloth on the well-carved wood. “I’ve never seen that before,” said Abigail, marveling at the graffiti. “JFK” had even eaten at the same spot! And no need to worry about clean up with so many gulls around….

starfish.jpg Life on the Edge is one of my favorite exhibits. The tide roars in, splashing us all, dancing over anemones, urchins, sea stars while little fish swim about. We admired the flounders camoflaged in the sand and the fragile orange sea pens. We touched sea cucumbers and sea stars. I had fun playing with the camera in focus mode and trying to catch a picture of sea star tube feet. My sister and I took turns holding up the girls so they could see and touch – it isn’t as accommodating as the Port Townsend Marine Science Center where the kids can climb up themselves, see and feed the animals. But it’s still fun.

The other exciting exhibit was the new Life of a Drifter , featuring a circle of illuminated jellies. I tried to catch a picture of some of them. jellies.jpgThere was also a new home for the octopus who had been absent on our previous visit last spring, during the remodeling. A cute tube for Octopus Crossing, from one tank to another, and a wolf eel also to share the place with the cephalopod. Multicolored octopus light on the floor that Michaela liked. And a long plastic table with running water on it, plus some simple tanks with questions and illustration/answers, such as “how does an octopus breathe?” Afterwards my sister pointed out that it could have been more intense with more to read and learn. I agree. The jelly exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium CA is probably better too, if I’m remembering right. But the girls and I had fun seeing the octopus change color and at this stage of life, I don’t think I could absorb a lot of reading while keeping track of the kids! It was fun to watch the creatures float past.

It was a quiet day at the Aquarium. We even had the entire sea otter feeding to ourselves at one point (yes and we got to see the rescued baby too!). It’s wonderful when the kids can see and don’t have to squeeze or be held up high for a view. We also got to see the octopus eat, and we came in time for the diver to feed the dome as well. Although I wouldn’t have chosen to be there between 12 and 3 or so, that’s what worked out with our schedule, and it worked out well with the animals’ schedules too.

After three hours the kids mostly collapsed, in need of naps, and we had to head home. But it had been a wonderful time. Reminding me why I love living here in Seattle, even when it’s not summer! Lots of people come here in the summer time but enjoying these delights in autumn almost feels like a guilty pleasure, like I’m hogging these wonders. As if I’m keeping to myself the secrets of Seattle.

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