You’ve been living here for a year. Seattle. Mountain, water, trees. Rainbows. Coffee and computers. Sulfurous paper pulp. A few more grains drop through the neck of the hourglass. “I sometimes think there is nothing but time,” Paul Thek once said, “that what you see and what you feel is what time looks like at that moment.” As if all of this—Mount Rainer, you and me, the ferries pushing the Sound back and forth, the beans roasting at Lighthouse, the bricks in Pioneer Square—were a thin layer of relish sandwiched between dust and oblivion.
I might stand in the gallery a long time watching your spectral twins transforming wood into water. I worry about the falling sand, though. That it will bury me. There is an Edgar Allen Poe story where the narrator has a narcoleptic disease and lives in terror of premature burial. He collects stories about people who are buried alive. “A certain period elapses, and some mysterious principle again sets in motion the magic pinions and the wizard wheels. The silver cord was not forever loosed, nor the golden bowl irreparably broken. But where, meanwhile, was the soul?”
After visiting your studio, I went to the top floor of the library to look for ghost stories. I didn’t find any about 117 S Main Street, the building where Scott’s gallery is. I did learn that it was built in 1902 to house the Superior Candy and Cracker Company. They installed five huge black kettles on the fourth floor to boil sugar, and made crackers stamped with this esoteric mark:
I found out that there are a lot of ghost stories in Seattle. Is this because of the well-known affinity between ghosts and water? Or because our land was brutally taken from the Duwamish, the Snohomish, the Suquamish, the Nisqually? It was with ironic understatement that Chief Seattle once said, “Be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not altogether powerless.” His grave, by the way, is worth a visit. You take the ferry to Bainbridge Island and drive a little ways to a small Catholic church. When he converted to Catholicism he took the prophet Noah as his spiritual intercessor, which strikes me as wildly appropriate. There is a stone cross and a sculpture with two levitating canoes. Late summer, you can find blackberries nearby.
I collected some other recommendations for you from friends. Joey said you should visit Seward Park, if you haven’t already. “It's a nexus of many of your favorite things,” he writes, “like wood, water, time, sand, magic, and ghosts. A two mile loop takes you around the peninsula where you'll see Mt Rainier, old growth forest (some older than 250 years), bald eagles, a former fish hatchery (closed in 1978), CCC buildings, a clay studio, a gifted stone lantern, Japanese cherry trees, owls and so much more!” Gretchen also likes Seward Park, although she warns, “go with a friend, and don't go after dark, as there has been someone haunting the woods.” She adds, “I think there are ghosts in the trees in the Arboretum, the entrance where the main building is. Or at least, one approached me once, under a tree there. Walking around Lake Washington is the place for waves, they lap and smash on the low sea wall and the bare shore.”
More places to go: Heide puts in a word for the Korean spa for woman in Lynwood, to warm up during the winter cold. Especially on your birthday, when it’s free. I like the Chinese room at the top of Smith Tower. The hand-carved ceiling was a gift from the Empress of China and the view from the observation deck is better than the Space Needle. Jenny thought of the Weyerhaeuser Bonsai collection, just south on I-5. There are sixty perfect miniaturized fairy-tale trees. Wynne mentioned the Mima Mounds, a little south of here, near Littlerock. It’s a huge prairie with hundreds of completely mysterious rolling hills, like ocean waves. No one knows exactly how they formed. Burial mounds? Glaciation? Gophers?
Something else we talked about was Goya’s etching The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. A snoozing caballero slumps on a table and chair (like the ones you’ve set afloat in the gallery) while a wild assortment of winged beasts rise behind him. This image is often read as an emblem of Enlightenment thought. Rationality must remain eternally vigilant. However, the winged monsters are as cute as they are fierce, cute bats and owls joined by a sweet-faced cat. The fearful symmetry of Blake’s tyger is also that of the purring housecat. I think Goya is suggesting that monsters should be loved—at least as much as any creatures born of reason, which is to say with a good measure of humor, doubt and affection. With “some close swirl of mirth and terror” that keeps us “whirling around the abyss without scattering or dispersing” (Mallarmé). Twin children sit in a corner across a table from each other, reason and monster, wood and water, pushing the waves back and forth to form our flooded land. The deeper mysteries, pursued to their end, turn out to be something incandescently mundane.
I know it can seem hermetic here, emotionally distant, introverted. As you put it, there is an ease of withdrawal from company about this place. The damp and cold, the northern latitude, the labyrinth of water, the oddity of the flooded land, the wakeful dead obscuring the reservoir of the living. I have found, however, given some time, this place and its people unfold, and—like your delicate hands on the wall—reveal touch, warmth, and communication.
It’s Tuesday, around 3:00pm. Winter solstice: a moment caught between dark and light. Last night was even darker with the lunar eclipse. The sound of the falling sand is like the sound of traffic in the rain, or the ocean. It’s the sound of the Sandman visiting your bedroom, the sound of gravity, the sound of time driven forward becoming the past, the sound of the dead and the living suspended.
Yours in admiration,
Contributors: Gretchen Bennett, Wynne Greenwood, Jenny Heishman, Heide Hinrichs, and Joey Veltkamp.