Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Passionately Moderate Suburban Seattleite

Olympic Mountains across Puget Sound on Elliott Bay
September 19, 2011
In Seattle for a work meeting brings me to a theme I have thought about a lot without any definitive answers. Seattle is a beautiful place, yes, even in the rain. And there is a calm, easy-going, positive personality to the place and the people. Having grown up in the suburbs of Seattle, I wonder how much a place can shape personality. Were my formative years in the Seattle area a factor in moderating me?

Obviously my parents had the strongest influence on me. And that was mostly for good. My parents were solid LDS or Mormon and raised us that way. Their politics were conservative but mainstream, even of a moderate Republican bent. They pretty much voted straight Republican ticket yet they did not like Goldwater and were excited by Governor Scranton with the Stop-Goldwater movement (to no avail once the party got to the Cow Palace). We knew a few Bircher families in the church but my parents didn't want to get involved with that.

I end up as a moderate Democrat and none of the rest of my family is. And I think that had something to do with my upbringing in Western Washington. My parents have even gone a bit more conservative these later years and we'll leave it at that. My brother and sister seem to be much more conservative than I am. Yet I was the one who spent my formative developmental years from four to nearly seventeen here in the Seattle area.

I've already explained  Seattle kids' TV from the 1960s. And I also had a nearly full dose of public education in Lake Washington School District 414 (that number is branded in my brain from listening to school closings on rare snow days.) In the 60's we sang "folk" songs: "500 miles," "Where Have all the Flowers Gone." "Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore." In Fifth Grade, my teacher read the lyrics to "The Impossible Dream" from "Man of la Mancha" after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy - one doesn't forget those sort of things. I don't think it is any of these specific, historical details that are important, though. And I know my few readers out there don't want to sit through another psychological self-analysis.

Yet in those days up to my junior year in high school when I was old enough to have gotten into a lot of trouble, I was still a fairly conservative person both in lifestyle and political views. This sort of made sense to me yesterday walking through the Pike Place Market with all the quirky little shops in the lower floors below the fish and produce stands. I loved the exotic and distant things. I had the ability of observation even if the ability to describe often fails me. I saw friends and strangers engaged in activities that I would not participate in but could watch with interest and tolerance even if I did not enter in. I've had my indiscretions, but I never got into serious trouble because I chose not too but without condemning harshly. Maybe it was because I was able to see without having to experiment. I have been blessed to note the outline of things. I take the full picture into view. And to see the peaks of my life's adventures even if the details are almost always blurred.

This came yesterday with an early morning walk to get high enough on a hill I could see to the east with the dawn coming up behind the Cascades. On the rarest of days in Seattle when it is not overcast, the foothills are a blur and the outline of the jagged peaks are seen dark on the horizon. The same is true generally for the Olympic Range to the west across the Sound. There was one point on my Seattle Times paper route where I could stand and see both ways. (90th Ave. N.E. and 139th on the edge of Finn Hill if any of you Seattle Suburbanites want to go check it out when it's not raining.)

Seattle Skyline from the Bremerton Ferry
September 20, 2011
(Note the jagged outline of the Cascades behind the City)
Then yesterday evening, my wife and I rode the ferry across the Sound to Bremerton to meet some dear friends for dinner. My wife has only been to Seattle a few times and she jokes how I say it rains all the time because it never has when she has been here (!) It was so clear yesterday that not only the outline of the Olympics and Cascades could be seen, but even distinct mountains, glaciers and crevices among the peaks and that was such a stark surprise. Yet as the mother of mountains, Rainier, came in to view a ways further down the Sound to the southeast, I noted how it still rose above the blurred foothills as it appears to float above the world.

Mt. Rainier from the Bremerton Ferry on Puget Sound
September 20, 2011
It is nature itself that gives this big picture of peaks while blurring the details of the foothills below. The foothills in life are not easily navigated. But the peaks, while seemingly the bigger challenge, are always easy to determine even if they take a lifetime to conquer.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting thought. I grew up in Puyallup (not quite Seattle suburbs, but still close enough), maybe I'm subject to the same influence. Regardless, I sure miss it sometimes.

    However, my entire family grew up there, and are all much more conservative than me (and, really, I'm quite a conservative guy), so maybe that throws water on the whole theory :)


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