Walking around the Seattle Art Museum, Bellevue Art Museum, Marymoor Park

I get really antsy sitting down all day. But last week was rainy, and the roads were too wet to rollerblade. So instead I walked around somewhere new each day.

I walked through the Seattle Art Museum. The museum had all kinds of exhibits: traditional Northwestern tribe art, glassworks, impressionist art, Islamic art, Japanese art, European art, Nigerian Art. The museum had paintings by famous artists, none of their best paintings, but representative of their work. There was a splatter-painted Pollock. There was one of Monet’s paintings of canoes. And there was a Rothko that actually used at least four distinct colors of paint. “What a radical departure!”, I thought. I must have seen at least five of his paintings and they are all a single stripe on another color. In each painting, I like the way the stripe fades in, and the overall mood that I get from the colors, but I was never a fan of his work. In my mind it is too simple, too easily reproducible.

I walked around the Bellevue Art Museum. There was a lot of art by local artists. Most of it lacked that certain timeless, genius quality. In fact, there was even an ordinary pair of leather boots on display. There were some clever wooden pieces, like this “Tank Chair”:

Tank Chair
Tank Chair

I was also impressed by Dan Webb’s birch sculptures. He carved birchwood into the shape of a pillow, a foil balloon, a draped tablecloth— it was amazing how he could make wood look fluid or soft.

I walked around the Bellevue Downtown Park, along reddish-pink gravel. The park’s ducks have grown accustomed to humans. One duck was standing by the edge of the waterfall area, scratching its head with its webbed foot like a dog. I squatted down and had a staring contest for a good minute, my eyes a foot away from the duck’s eyes, seeing the vibrant orange of its feet and brilliant deep royal blues of its feathers and all its various textures. Then an old man started feeding the ducks and the mallard ran off towards him.

I walked around Marymoor Park. First, I swung by the sturdy windmill. Then I walked along the river, through the off-leash dog park. There were a lot of dogs out. I smiled as I saw a group of dogs form a chain as they sniffed each other’s rears. Some dogs would approach me and lick my hands. If they were friendly I would pet them and scratch behind their ears. Then I walked through the Audobon Trail. To my delight, the trail lived up to its name, and I saw many birds. The trail has different sections, some purposefully maintained to preserve that ecosystem, like a prairie area where they mow the grass to prevent succession into forest. I walked through a trail of trees coated in emerald moss.

Marymoor Park Audobon Trail
Marymoor Park Audobon Trail

In the cottonwood trees along the Sammamish River, I saw birds roosting. At first I thought they were crows, but then when I saw them take flight, circle, and perch back on the tree, I realized they were great blue herons. I did not expect this; for some reason I assumed they nested on the ground by the river’s edge. They had built nests high up in the boughs. There were so many of them. In two trees, I counted at least twenty herons in each tree.

At the edge of the marsh area, the boardwalk jutted out into a lake. There was a beautiful view of Lake Sammamish.

Lake Sammamish
Lake Sammamish
Lake Sammamish Panaroma
Lake Sammamish Panaroma

I stared out at the lake for a few minutes. There was a flock of mallards floating near the left bank, and a gaggle of Canadian geese near the right bank. Suddenly, a pair of bald eagles appeared, with their white heads and lower plumes in sharp contrast to their darker feathers. One swooped down at the geese, the other at the ducks. The ducks and the geese flew away. I didn’t see the eagles catch any of them (do they even eat those birds?), I think the eagles were just harassing them. Then one of the eagles landed near the reeds by the right bank, while the other flew off out of sight. I stood there for a few minutes with an empty mind, staring out into the lake, then continued on my way.

Solitude: a Poo Poo Point Adventure

On Saturday I went hiking on Tiger Mountain. I felt like trying a new road, so I took East Lake Sammamish Parkway. It was a really fun drive. The road wound along Lake Sammamish, with the picturesque lake and mountains to my right. The road is a single lane, so I didn’t have to worry about merging or changing lanes or drivers to my side. I just blasted 90s pop and sang along over the smooth turns.

At the base of Tiger Mountain, I parked at Issaquah High School and started up the High School Path, then veered left onto Tradition Plateau. Power lines buzzed overhead. The line cut through brambles and all the other kinds of invasive species that typically grow in cleared land.

Then I doubled back and took the Poo Poo Point trail, three miles along creeks and moss-covered trees. At the end of the trail was a solar-powered lavatory. Suddenly the name of the trail made sense. I thought, surely this lavatory must be Poo Poo Point.

The Real Poo Poo Point
The Real Poo Poo Point

But thankfully it was not. I walked across a parking lot and arrived at the actual Poo Poo Point. Before me was an unobstructed view of Issaquah, Bellevue, Lake Sammamish, and the surrounding mountains. I sat down and ate a snack while watching paragliders float down the mountain.

Poo Poo Point Panorama
Poo Poo Point Panorama
Poo Poo Point
Poo Poo Point

Afterwards, I took Chirico Trail down the mountain and walked back to the high school on a road that did not have a pedestrian walkway. A. called and we caught up. And we talked about how people want the opposite of their current situation. Like how singles want to be married with children. And those that are married with children want to be single and free again (on occasion). I’ve got to be content and enjoy the perks of whatever my current situation is.

When I got back to my car, I felt like driving some more. So I drove around aimlessly next to farms and forest and fields. When I was ready to go back home, I checked Google Maps, and was told to take a gravel road that looked to be someone’s private driveway. There was a sign that said “Private Property / No Trespassing”. But I followed the directions and continued along the gravel path as it veered down a steep hill. At the end of the hill the directions said to turn right, but I could not because there was a wooden fence blocking the road. I felt really stupid, blindly following an app when I should have used common sense and looked ahead. So I put my phone away and followed the road signs to get home.

When I reflected on the day’s activities, I had this vague positive feeling. The day didn’t make me feel happy per se, like smiling-happy or funny-joke-happy, but I enjoyed myself. It’s like the feeling I got in college when I would rollerblade to the Point and stare out at Lake Michigan for a moment and feel how large the world is. I had not crossed over the fine line from solitude to loneliness; I would not have kept going out to the Point if it made me depressed. There’s just something nice about being outside, away from the crowd, without a care, thinking about big things. A solemn goodness. That is my solitude.

One More Thing book review

I finished reading One More Thing, by BJ Novak, a decent collection of humorous short stories. Some stories were extremely short― one story was two sentences about carrot cake. Some stories were really great, they made me laugh out loud. Others seemed like filler and the humor fell flat. One of the problems was with characterization. The characters all felt the same. It felt like they all had the same thought-processes, thought in that same modern, ironic, faux-logical voice. A lot of stories starred celebrities, like Johnny Depp or Nelson Mandela. I felt it was kind of lazy of the author, that with no effort or skill, merely invoking the name of the public figure immediately established the main character of the story, and the reader could fill in all the details of the main character’s persona based on what was read in tabloids. And then the story could get straight to mocking the main character in a completely ridiculous, contrived scenario. That is the defining feature of the book: ridiculous, contrived plots. Then the author would take one of his homogenous characters or a celebrity and put them into that ridiculous, contrived plot, and the result would be hit-or-miss. But I am being too harsh; I mostly enjoyed reading the book written by the writer/actor who played the temp from The Office.

Frye Art Museum

On Saturday I went to the Frye Art Museum and was impressed by what I saw.

Frye Art Museum
Frye Art Museum

The temporary exhibition, which takes up most of the floorspace, currently features Chinese calligraphy-influenced art. The exhibition featured three Asian artists and one Western artist. Prior to the exhibition, I did not hold ink paintings in high esteem. They were something cheap and lacking in any specialness, like American Chinese food. I remember in China, ink paintings were hawked on the sides of dusty roads for less than a dollar a piece. Even though their subjects were different (here a crayfish, there a bird, there a frog), the paintings felt generic and uninspired, lifeless black ink on parchment that failed to evoke any emotion in me. The exhibit broadened my ideas of what Chinese ink painting could be. In the paintings, I saw how expertly the width of the strokes were modulated. And the traditional Chinese calligraphy brushes hold a lot more ink in them and can create longer strokes than traditional European brushes. But unlike the soulless paintings sold by the street hawkers, these paintings elicited a feeling in me, despite also being solely black ink on parchment. I could see the different strokes used to outline figures, medium strokes to give shading, and broad strokes that did not even correspond to some equivalent seen in the natural world, but gave a perception of form and movement.

Postcard. Isamu Noguchi. Peking Drawing (man sitting)
Postcard. Isamu Noguchi. Peking Drawing (man sitting)

The Frye Art Museum also had an impressive permanent collection of European art. The permanent collection is one room, its four walls covered in paintings from top to bottom. I was kind of annoyed by this arrangement. I thought the paintings could use some spacing so that each painting could get the attention that it deserved. And also since the paintings were so crammed, the lighting was such that one could not simply scan the wall up and down, side to side, because of the glare. To see each painting clearly, I had to constantly move towards or away from the wall. I was impressed by the technical skill and detail of each painting, whether the painting was a portrait of a girl or a bucolic landscape full of cows.

 

Seattle St. Patrick’s Day parade

Afterwards I watched the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Compared to the revelrous boozefest of NYC, Seattle’s parade was very sedate and community-focused. Motorcyclists from the Seattle Police rode in lines that intersected and weaved through each other. There were pirates that fired a loud cannon. There were step dancing crews. There was even a group of ten or so DeLoreans.

DeLoreans
DeLoreans

A lot of the groups in the parade were in no way related to Saint Patrick or Irish culture.  But I can imagine how they could all be strung together in a D-Movie plot. Saint Patrick travels back in time in a DeLorean, dressed as a pirate, using step dance to assist his preaching, riding a motorcycle across Ireland.