Tuesday, April 14, 2020

2020-04-13 Meadowbrook Pond and Thornton Creek

Meadowbrook Pond, Seattle, WA
For yesterday's walk I visited Meadowbrook Pond in north Seattle for the first time, continuing on a short trail along Thornton creek and then just taking in parts of the neighborhood.

Also yesterday, in order to fill the federal leadership gap, Washington, Oregon and California announced a joint plan of action for managing Coronavirus responses and reopening businesses, which New York and several other eastern states did earlier in the day. In response our frightened and confused president announced in a "news conference" that he has "total authority" to rule when various governors' orders will be rolled back.

Meadowbrook Pond, Seattle, WA
Also yesterday, after reviewing options for live sod, I decided to put in artificial grass in the back area by the pond, started research and supply purchases, and preparing the area.

Trail from Meadowbrook Pond along Thornton Creek

Saturday, April 11, 2020

2020-04-10 Matthews Beach Park

Matthews Beach Park, Seattle, WA
Today's walk was around Matthews Beach Park in the Sand Point neighborhood east of us, and a portion of the Burke-Gilman Trail from there north. Today the U.S. surpassed 20,000 coronavirus deaths, and overtook Italy as the country with the most such deaths in the world.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

2020-04-08 Warren G. Magnusen Park

Magnusen Park, Seattle, WA 
For today's walk I went to Warren G. Magnusen Park, along the shores of Lake Washington in the Sand Point neighborhood of northeast Seattle. The drives into the park are now cut off from cars, and the number of people is presumably way down for a sunny, 60 degree, weekday afternoon. This and the broad walk near the water and alternative paths made it easy to follow social distancing guidelines.

We are three days from the projected peak in medical facility needs for the virus, and four days from the projected peak in deaths in the U.S. In Washington state we are now past those peaks, and redirecting badly needed medical supplies to areas like New York City and New Orleans.

Monday, April 06, 2020

2020-04-06 Bitter Lake, Haller Lake Park, Northacres Park

Today's walk took me two lakes and three small parks between our house and the northern Seattle city limits. Also today, the U.S. death toll attributed to Covid-19 exceeded 10,000 and British PM Boris Johnson was moved into the hospital and then into intensive care, exactly three weeks after he and the UK government determined that their previous plan of limiting social distancing and allowing it to spread among younger people and thereby building herd immunity might exceed their healthcare capacities 8 times over and result in up to 250,000 deaths. Yesterday the U.S. surgeon general projected that this coming week will be equivalent to Pearl Harbor or 9/11, as known infections and deaths continue their arch upward, and U.S. trends look particularly bad under our incompetent, childish, and incomparably self-centered president.

In the U.S. changes in the past few days include recommending that people wear masks when they are in situations where they may not be able to consistently maintain the minimum six feet from others. Mid-day Monday foot traffic at Bitter Lake Playfield, Haller Lake Park, and Northacres Park was low, with walkers crossing the street and stepping off paths to make room, and masks on perhaps ten percent of them. Both of these small lakes are hidden in very average Seattle suburbia, with just a sliver of public access and surrounded by fortunate homeowners.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

2020-04-02 Commodore Park

Nesting blue herons at Commodore Park, Seattle
At Trista's suggestion, today's walk took me a short drive south from the immediate neighborhood to Commodore Park, on the south side of the Ballard Locks. The locks, with their pathway now gated off due to Coronavirus, are the busiest in the U.S., taking boats from fresh water to the Puget Sound and Pacific ocean, while maintaining Lake Union and Lake Washington 20 feet above sea level (8 feet less than they were before the locks were installed.

Commodore Park itself is small, but since 2013, when bald eagles eating their young chased them out of Kiwanis Ravine a bit to the south, the trees here have been home to 40 to 60 blue heron nests. At this point the herons are building or rebuilding their nests, with a continual flow of orange-beaked males flying in nesting material in propositions to the females -- who often aggressively make the point that the offering is insufficient.

There are few people and no vessels in the area now, leaving the sights and sounds to the herons, geese, seagulls, crows, Barrow’s Goldeneye, and occasional osprey. As the walkways along the locks and canal are unavailable, my walk takes me up West Commodore Way toward Discovery Park, passing houses whose grand views make me wonder for a few seconds whether I shouldn't have attempted a path to upper management. On this day, I have no employment at all, although technically I still work for Expedia, who will pay me through the end of April and extend my health benefits through the end of May. 

My change in status had been announced on the morning of Tuesday, Feb 25, by an meeting invitation from the new lead of the security team at Expedia, the suspected purpose of which was confirmed when I verified that a few teammates did not receive the same. The location of the meeting was in a room on the basement floor of the new headquarters, where many rooms in a row had been reserved for the day as various managers gave similar news to some 500 employees. "You do so not belong in this room," said one of the others as I entered, but whether or not that was the case, the manager who had told me how important my experience was in an email a few days earlier and a representative from HR lugubriously explained the details, and handed us each a manila envelope with our names on it and more detail inside. We had a couple hours to gather our things and say our goodbyes, we were informed, but our key cards would stop working shortly and this would be our last day in the office.

In the north Interbay area of Seattle, where the herons nest some four miles north of the Expedia campus, it's about 46 degrees and gray as I return from a short but hilly walk. I make a mental note to come back when the sun is out and the herons better illuminated.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

2020-03-31 Washelli Evergreen Cemetery

Washelli Evergreen Cemetery, Seattle
I've thought several times recently that I'd like to start recording a few thoughts and experiences during this unusual time we are in, using my daily walks as a sort of marker. I recoiled at the thought of all the background I'd need to recount, but at length I've decided to just get started, and catch up on context as we go.

As I walked today I remembered a time many years ago driving near my neighborhood with my co-worker Geoff. The subject of our conversation was my wife, who had passed away, and with whom my co-workers at our company had been especially kind. Talking about this never bothered me, but people generally assumed it would, and at some point Geoff decided to lighten the topic by asking about the neighborhood. "What's that?" he asked, pointng at a medium-sized building. "That's a hospice," I informed him. "Oh geez," he said, then gave it another try. "What's that?" he said pointing at the park-like space on the other side of the road. "That's a cemetery."

Washelli Evergreen Cemetery was my walking destination today in part because it is one of the most scenic parts of our neighborhood -- at least among those not still busy enough with other people that I could properly follow the "social distancing" guideline of staying beyond six feet of all others -- partly because it felt appropriate to revisit the military graves as I was reading a book about Churchill at war, and partly out of simple attempt at some randomness in avoiding repeating any one route too often. To minimize encounters with other humans, as we are obliged to "flatten the curve" and slow the spread of the Coronavirus to mitigate overwhelming hospital resources, I cross Highway 99 near our house and walk a block behind it before turning northward. Thus I pass behind the long-closed pet shop, hair salons, and tattoo parlors, as well as the still opened pot shops, which, to the considerable relief of several of my friends, are classified as "essential," along with the grocery stores and auto repair shops.

Ries Niemi's Light Bulb Bench
Seattle City Light North Service Center
Drama is rare walking down the residential streets, but I do encounter a bit on this first stretch. Ahead of me a man walks out of a house, pulling a suitcase behind him as he heads down the street in my direction. For a while we engage in this new element of such walks, where we each wonder if the other might turn before we pass, and if not, who will be the first to cross to the other side of the road, or if necessary, walk down the middle of it, to maintain the currently required distance. After I cross the street and pass him, a young woman rounds the corner still ahead, perhaps from the bus stop there, and yells at the man, "Really, Mark?!?!?" She flips him off as she walks without a response from the man, and repeats, "Really, Mark?!?" before conceding, "Okay, just go!"

I should like to be empathetic to the personal struggles behind this little episode, but I confess to also being grateful for breaks in the monotony. Today marks 5 weeks since I was let go from my position at Expedia Group, about 4 weeks since most people in the Seattle area who could work from home were advised to do so, and imminent major events began to cancel, 3 weeks since the first of a series of plunges in stock market values, and 8 days since the governor of Washington made the social distancing guidelines more formal with an executive order, now forcing the issue of preceding guidance, closing non-essential businesses, and requiring all state residents to cease leaving their homes except to conduct "essential activities" and "essential business services."

The grounds now called Washelli Cemetery have served as burial site for European settlers in the Seattle area since 1885 and beginning with members of the "Denny Party," the very first of white people who founded the city. The military portion of the grounds are now home to the remains of over 5,000 American soldiers, from the Spanish-American conflict onwards. A very few others roam the grounds at mid-day, making it easy to abide social distancing guidelines. My wife, who passed away some 35 years ago now, is not among those buried here. She made such arrangements herself once her prognosis became fatal, to spare me the anguish, and she disliked the haughty attitude of the officials there, eventually settling on a family-owned plot on Queen Anne Hill overseen by an offbeat and less fussy elderly woman, much more her style.

Heading back home toward my house and my now fiancee, the pleasantly gray skies suddenly darkened an opened up with a torrential rain and hail storm, drenching especially my feet and legs. I resolved to check my weather app before tomorrow's walk.