community · environment · happiness · Me · Nature

Appreciating the daily commute

South Lake Union, Seattle, Washington 2
South Lake Union, Seattle, WA. Image by tedeytan via Flickr

I originally wrote this essay as a response to the daily prompt at StoryPraxis, a very cool project that encourages people to write for just ten minutes a day. The particular prompt inspired me to write about my current hometown, Seattle, and how enriching its natural environment is. For example, I probably have one of the prettiest commutes in the United States. You can read the original post here.

Seattle is probably the prettiest city to have to commute through. You drive over lakes, over sounds, past mountains, past forests. You cross microclimates, and probably experience at least three kinds of weather in 20 minutes or less.

Cresting over one of the many hills the Olympics suddenly burst out onto the horizon in front of you, the bright morning sun making the snow caps shine just below the cloud layer so it looks like a clear, sunshine day “over there.” The sky above you is filled with gray clouds, but today they are more textured than a gray blanket, allowing the light to bounce off creating interesting shapes and textures.

Each neighborhood you pass is very distinct, either due to geographical divisions like water or hills, or more cultural markers like Buddhist prayer flags mixed with solar panels on 1950s bungalows which two blogs later transform into modern condos with Priuses parked out front.

Coming up over the I-5 bridge you’re now high above the city, the commercial waterways 100s of feet below. From here you can see almost all of Seattle’s signature neighborhoods in a 360 degree view – University district, Wallingford, Fremont, Ballard, Queen Anne, South Lake Union, Downtown, Capitol Hill. You see the Olympics on your right, and now the sun is reaching its fingers over the Cascades on your left, injecting the gray clouds with pink and purple, adding bursts of color to the gray sky above.

The freeway has ivy and trees growing over the sides, threatening to spill onto the roadway. You merge onto one of the eastbound bridges, and suddenly you’re cresting over a giant lake, now so close to the water you’re almost floating. To your right off in the distance across the water is Mt. Rainier, shooting its head above the clouds, fighting to keep them from swallowing it whole. A great blue heron casually floats over the morning commuters, and a bald eagle stands vigil on top of one of the lamp posts dotting the bridge.

You pull off your exit, the trees and shrubs now practically enfolding the off ramp. On a sunny day they call to you, “come climb in my branches, come run through my meadow fields.” It’s good that it’s so damp and gray today, or you’d never get to work. The tulips and crocus popping up in the road dividers, almost weed-like in their determination to grow anywhere and everywhere, add some color now that the sun has risen above the clouds, taking the pink streaks with it.

You’re sad to go inside, but know you’ll have a literal birds-eye view into the trees growing just across the street of your office building.

You’re thankful to have one of the most beautiful commutes in the world, and just sad you have to experience it all from a car.