photo (7)On our last day there--as with most vacations, it seems--we had the best weather. Which is to say, the sky turned a brilliant, crystalline blue for about thirty minutes before the rain resumed its relentless battle against the earth, and gray sank back down over the city. But for that thirty minutes, we were in the right place at the right time. We drove up to Kerry Park, a spot my parents had brought us many times over the years, because the view is that good. The Seattle skyline is nice and tidily packaged off to the left, the Space Needle jutting out proudly amid the skyscrapers, and the Sound spreads out to your right, tiny whitecaps reflecting the sky. Normally, the Olympics provide a nice contrast to that huge expanse of water, an imposing reminder of the might of earth against the ceaseless force of water. Mt. Rainier will sometimes then loom over all of it, and that's a real sight to see. But we didn't get that lucky. Lucky enough though to squint into the sun at the skyline, buffeted by wind, lucky enough to walk down the road to the next viewpoint and admire the houses, dare to dream that maybe someday it would be a house like that we could own, that some stranger might see and say--maybe some day I'll live in house that beautiful! They were pretty magnificent, although how each of them didn't have floor to ceiling windows in every room to capture all that view I don't know. At the next spot, a bluff overlooking more of the Sound, we see an eagle circling overhead, high enough that he isn't being ruffled by the wind. The water is blue for a second, mirroring the sky. Yesterday when we stood in Pike Place Market behind the old, leaded glass streaked by rain, the water was a steely, melancholy gray. That's how it seems a lot of the time, I think--the next weekend, I come back with my family and my sister Rachelle keeps telling me we're in Gotham City. She may be right.

This time though, it's just Darren and I--we're here for Valentine's Day weekend, only sort of purposefully. It's well-documented that I am not, on the whole, a Valentine's Day believer. I like love, but the kind not celebrated with themed steak dinners and a faux Saint--forgive me, we've been through this before. The weekend picked itself for the trip, the way they do, and then there we were on Valentine's Day, eating breakfast for dinner at Lost Lake Cafe on a triple date with my younger sister. It was perfect. Later, Darren mentioned that Sam and I had a lot of inside jokes. To put it mildly, I said back.

Then, in what should be considered true Valentine's Day fashion, we went and got ultra competitive at an indoor bocce ball court where we owned these two guys who dared to challenge us. Did we all recognize that this was the sport of old, Italian men, and that in the grand scheme of things it meant nothing as to our true athletic prowess? Of course not. The Olympics were on, emotions were running high, we had to win.

We walked home in a haze of glory and delight, as the wet streets and bright lights mingled enchantingly. The walk home has always been one of my favorite parts of a night out—not because I don’t enjoy the dim lit interiors of bars, no, I rather like being among all those people in a crowded, noisy place, or sometimes a quiet one, where you can lean your heads together without feeling bad, just depending on where you go and how you feel. I like all that, but I really love the walk home—going back to a warm, cozy place where my pajamas are waiting, slipping into a dreamless sleep, and waking up with a head full of the laughter of the night before. So this is the way it was on this night too, but with the added layer of magic that a new place brings.

The next day, and the day after that, had the same kind of feeling. Seattle is big and rainy, the market is loud and full of smells, with too many colors that seemed out of place against the gray. When we went into the market from the street we were right next to a tulip stand, heralding against all odds the start of spring, and across the street wasa man playing piano under a large umbrella. He was good, but not as good as the guitar guy further down, singing Led with a bluesy, Americana twist. I gave money to both of them, I have a weak spot for street musicians. It was madness, in a way, but you didn’t realize it until you were out of it—we had one quiet moment on a little balcony behind the Pike Place Market sign, sandwiched between all that water and the dark outline of one of the most iconic signs of my life, we had another in a glass capsule over the water on the Seattle Great Wheel; I begged to go, and though it was cold and wet and there were no sign of the Olympics I still loved it because it was as if the whole city had been laid out at my feet, waiting for nothing, moving for nothing. On the wheel it was nearly silent and very still, and I got to look and look at the lights and the Sound.

And then on the last day we had the best weather, up at Kerry Point. We drove from there to the Chihuly museum, after we saw the houses and the eagle and the blue water, and immersed ourselves in a different world of one man’s imagination—he seemed kind of crazy to me, but in a good way. His glass was unearthly, twisting against gravity, standing in a solid fragility that was, although clichéd, breathtaking. On our way out we watched a short movie about him and he was shown throwing his big glass bubbles into the water—the thing that immediately came to my mind was the day Sam told Rachelle, who was hesitating to jump off the roof of the treehouse, that no one lives forever! She was 6 at the time. Watching both incidents, I think, had the same startling effect.

So that was that, and we went home, no steak dinners and all despite a Valentine's Day in there. A fine trip.