Kage Baker quite liked Seattle. She liked its use of stone and glass and metal; she liked the precipitate streets and the enormous expanse of the Sound constantly in the corner of one’s eye. She liked that it had kept its old buildings, and she liked the challenge of the new ones reaching up to the sky.
Especially when you glanced up a street and got a glimpse of Mt. Ranier gazing down thoughtfully at its once and future domain … that gave Kage an interesting frisson of terror. Also an admiration for the casual courage of the average Seattleian.
Washington per se, though, rather unnerved her. While Kage loved plants and loved to garden, forests made her nervous. They were the deep blue sea to one who had learned to dive happily in warm tropical shallows: things lurked there. They were fascinating things, and Kage always hoped for a quick peek – but the possibility made her shiver nonetheless.
She gave that half-frightened fascination to the Children of the Sun, and made them nervous, too, in the thick trees. And she peopled the trees with the beautiful, enigmatic Yendri, and demons with various forms of OCD and poor impulse control for the Children to be afraid of. In Bird of the River, she wrote an entire sacred grove for a shrine of the Children of the Sun: where every leaf on every tree was made of gems and metal.
That was her sort of forest: either viewed from a safe distance or transmuted into a more familiar garden. When we drove through Big Sur, she would hang out the car window and dare a demon to snatch her away.
Me, I love the green gloom of forests. And I love the cool grey light of Seattle, which is often unfairly reviled for its constant rain and clouds. But the sun shines here! It just never shines in your eyes, and doesn’t bake your brain. Wandering through Seattle, it felt to me last week like there was a crystal roof over the place, that softened the sunlight and eased the heat, and let the sea winds concentrate themselves against the hills.
Now I am a ways inland, in Kenmore. Which is a tiny town. I think. Most of it is the proverbial wide place in the road, in this weird state where all the roads have two appellations and then run in a third one altogether: 140th Street North East, which runs to the South … most of Kenmore is huge trees and hill-sized mounds of blackberries.
And automotive businesses – there are more car-related businesses here than along Van Nuys Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley. (My previous standard.) There aren’t that many cars on the roads, but they must all run perfectly. You can get them serviced, replaced, repaired and detailed in some shop on every block.
Kenmore also has several edges of Lake Washington, and an unusual airport cum cement plant. Little planes with pontoons come swooping in over the chimneys and silos and chutes full of gravel, to land in the lake and coast gracefully away like the landing pegasi in Fantasia. Kage would have loved it, especially the way the planes swoop down right over the road close enough to see the pilots’ plaid shirts through the windows.
Today, Linn the agent and her redoubtable assistant Kear drove me around a bit. For the life of me, I am not sure what towns we passed through or paused in – they’re all wide places in the road, and all the roads are lined with enormous trees and reefs of blackberries. Kage would have been giggling nervously through the whole drive, staring up hillside after hillside of deepening green. It was just the sort of backroads drive she loved best.
The ladies also introduced me to a wonderful thing that Kear called “a sushi go-round”. It’s a restaurant full of booths, amid which winds an endless miniature railway filled with plates of different sushi items. I’m told these are all over Washington and many other states, but I’ve never seen anything like it. And it’s great! You take what you like, and at the end they count up your plates for the charge. Amazing! And fun! And hilarious, to see amongst the eel negiri and tiger rolls, the plates of brownies, custard and key lime pie …
I am in an alien land, here. And it’s delicious.