In Bloom

From the living room I watched as the breeze ripped through the densely vegetated slopes, rattling the tree branches and tousling their fragile new leaves.

In the distance, the Space Needle glowed torch-like and I stared on until the gusts died down and the wind-bent trees rebounded into place, cluttering the view ever so slightly. Built in the early 40s, Gay Gardens had had quite a view of the growing Seattle skyline, even before the 1962 World’s Fair raised the city’s most iconic building. And gradually, the view narrowed with the enveloping canopy, and the little rotting cottage became isolated behind a nearly impenetrable green wall of blackberry bushes and aged rhododendrons.

JoJo dozed in my lap, and I focused on the mediocre movie I’d snagged from the Renton Goodwill a few weeks prior. The wind howled again, and a thud echoed across the roof, rousing JoJo who woofed and scampered around searching for the offending noisemaker.

The next morning, as I made my rounds ripping up weeds, I noticed one of the chimney caps had gotten dislodged from the windstorm. A few weeks prior, the same thing had happened, and some wee beast had made its way into the attic, startling me and JoJo awake with what could only be described as zombie-inspired guttural cleansing. So as I clawed my way up onto the roof, I worked quickly to carefully re-center the cap, ensuring there was no available point of entry. In the process, I eyed a rogue brick that’d dislodged from the chimney stack—clearly the thud-inducing culprit from the previous night. I shoved it back into place, completing the puzzle.

With the spotty clouds opening up between intermittent rain showers, I had an unobstructed view of Elliott Bay and a faint rainbow. Just below me, pale pink buds studded the branches of a gnarled tree clinging precariously to the back slope. Glutted with promising effulgence, each one dripped and glistened in the rapidly clearing grayish mist.

I took a deep breath and slowly took stock of my little home, feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for having the opportunity to play a role in reviving this oasis.

A little slice of paradise.

And in my bones I felt something familiar—the sense that Gay Gardens will be where I celebrate many life-changing moments, each of which will become a part of this Eden, adding to the narrative of this secret long-held by time.

Oh, Canada!

For approximately three minutes, I reveled in the low cost of Joanna’s first boarding experience. But then the intake technician returned from the back and said that the doctor would like to chat with me about JoJo’s stay, adding quickly that everything was fine. After retrieving the lil bean and hearing about her explosive diarrhea and vomiting that morning– and watching my bill double from her antibiotics and an injection–I scooped her up and took her home.

Following two unsuccessful attempts at hiding her antibiotic in treats, I finally smeared enough of the smelly prescribed food over the pill for her to stomach it. Seated at the kitchen table, I barely reached my tea before she jumped up and burrowed into the knitted blanket covering my lap.

As I felt her little body rise and fall under the blanket and scratched between her ears, she poked her head out, looked up lovingly, and waited until we were nose-to-nose to burp in my face. A few minutes later, I had to surrender all motion as her series of snores grew louder, an occasional fart interjected for good measure.

Outside, the cloud-cluttered sky did its best to obscure the fragments of bright blue behind them. The heater clicked on, and I let the steam from my tea writhe up under my glasses, fogging them slightly. On the last day of my vacation, I looked forward to nothing more than a quiet day at home. I hadn’t had a true vacation since my honeymoon, and I’d forgotten how cathartic it could be. Albeit just a few days in Canada, this mini-vacation was just what I’d needed.

***

As I stood about 250 feet in the air, the Capilano Suspension Bridge began swaying from the tourists herding onto it like fleets of cattle. I clutched the thick cable railings and figured that I’d plunge to my death screaming, “I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN!”

Capilano Bridge. It's only slightly (terrifyingly) high.

Capilano Bridge. It’s only slightly (terrifyingly) high.

I’ve never been comfortable with heights, but my friends had been very persuasive in selling this particular excursion. Despite my expectation of a horrific death by falling, I took heart in knowing that, at the very least, on my way down I’d have a great view of the beautiful scenery.

Ah, the cathartic sounds of a waterfall.

Ah, the cathartic sounds of a waterfall.

After traipsing across tree house-style catwalks and chatting about the sexual promiscuity of middle-schoolers, we scampered along a few more cantilevered walkways. Soon enough, we were in the gift shop, and I capitalized on my adrenaline rush by consuming a hearty supply of fudge.

Like the evening before, that night’s dinner was filled with laughter and conversation, and more than a few drinks. Feeling heady from all the booze, I happened to look over at a nearby table where a bromance was unfolding with every pint they knocked back. The more vocal one put his arm around his girlfriend’s shoulders, but didn’t break his gaze from watching his single friend’s Adam’s apple rock up and down with every gulp. After they returned from one of their multiple bathroom visits together, I happened to catch the eye of the single guy. The “family” resemblance was instant—as it often is—and his gaze quickly ricocheted off of me to settle on my friend seated beside me. Had this happened a decade ago, I’d have quietly cried into my cocktail. Instead, I chuckled to myself and tipped my glass ever so slightly in his direction before whispering to my friend that he had an admirer.

Self-acceptance isn’t an easy thing—but with the past year’s revelations, I’ve found that having a sense of humor is vitally important in propelling me forward. I don’t know what’ll unfold in the coming years, or where I’ll be or with whom—if anyone—but no matter what, I intend to keep on laughing.

***

On the ride back home, I melted into a playlist of Radiohead and David Bowie and Brandi Carlile, and absorbed the passing landscapes—letting the welcomed sun warm my arms and face.

About an hour outside of Seattle, the sky darkened and hail began raining down. I slowed and watched a few cars pull off under bridge overpasses. Instead of joining them, I putted along and kept myself focused on the brightening road ahead. Before long, sun enveloped the car and Seattle’s skyline came into view.

Sitting at traffic lights, I rolled around sea glass collected from Stanley Park’s shorelines, feeling the worn surfaces abrading my palms; tossed and turned through tumultuous currents, their jagged edges had softened into something timeless.

I felt revived—like I had the necessary confidence and fortitude to push ahead. Like the beginning of a love story, not every vacation needs to be a lengthy sonnet. Sometimes, a haiku will capture it all.