Back in July we moved out to Bainbridge Island. I still can't quite believe that this life is real.
I've lived in a lot of different places in Seattle. Beacon Hill, the U-District, Columbia City, Cheasty, West Seattle, Maple Leaf, Greenwood, and Beacon Hill (again), in that order. As cities go, Seattle has a lot more green space than most, but it's still a city. I go downtown to work now (I never spent much time downtown). It's all tall buildings, litter, and it smells like piss, not to be too one-sided about it, but it is a city after all. The wind gets going off the water through those skyscraper canyons, up the mountainous hill climbs and it can feel downright hostile. I've never understand what it is that people get from living in a super dense downtown. I get the being close to night life and walkability part of it, but why chose to live somewhere where the only nature is stunted, token street trees. I suppose there are some beautiful views out over the Sound, with the islands and mountains off across the water. So why not go live out there?
The thing I will never cease to marvel at about living on Bainbridge is that this life exists at all. Here is my life right now: I wake up in our nice (expensive, rented), ground floor luxury condo, lay on the floor and stretch, dress in the dark as the first rays of light drift across the sky, feed the cat (who has been waiting patiently and rubbing against my leg imploringly), and walk out the door. I walk 3 minutes down to the ferry and straight on to the boat with the morning commuter crowd. This is my commute: I sit in a big comfy seat looking out across the indescribably beautiful Puget Sound on a giant boat for 35 minutes as we draw nearer and nearer to the picture perfect Seattle skyline. Sometimes I sleep, most often I read. I've seen seals alongside the boat and seal gulls drafting along just beyond reach above deck. When we arrive, everyone files off the boat and sometimes I pick up a paper that has been left out on the recycle bin to look over the headlines. It's a 10 minute walk to work through downtown. They're rebuilding the sea wall, so the waterfront is all torn to hell with construction and the bridge over from the dock always always smells like piss. I think people sleep under the viaduct there to stay out of the rain. Sometimes in the morning eager youth pass out free samples of yogurt or granola bars. Sometimes local politicians ride the ferry and invite people to chat. The Kitsap library system does some kind of ferry rider's book club. The ferry ride itself is basically the social forum for the island. I find out about all the events from fliers posted on the ferry, and anyone running for office, promoting a cause, or even one time the high school football team passes out leaflets to people boarding the ferry. Sometimes on the way home a woman plays a cello and every day on the 5:30 ferry a middle-aged-but-tough-looking Asian woman does yoga up on the sun deck. Some people frantically circumambulate around the boat trying to get their exercise in. There is a cafe on the main deck serving beer, wifi, a sun deck, and a quiet room upstairs, something for all types. On the way home, I've seen incredible pink-purple-orange-red sunsets, and days so desaturated that the mist blurs the water and sky as one slightly glowing solid, defracting the evening light and spreading it evenly in every direction. It's nice to have this transition period between home and work, and, for me, to have a time during each day dedicated to reading. Riding the ferry every day is kind of like meditating, taking a deep breath, a way to focus, and prepare yourself for what lies ahead.
The little town center on Bainbridge is very cute, wealthy, and walkable. In fact, this is the most walkable place I've lived in Seattle so far. There are 2 grocery stores within a mile, a free Art Museum, a local ice cream spot, nice restaurants, a monthly art walk, and a Performing Arts center that actually has good stuff. We just saw Hair the musical and man, I have never paid money to see so many naked people before. It was great. And then there is all of downtown Seattle, just a couple steps out the door. I simultaneously live in a small seaside town and have access to all the fancy jobs and entertainment of the big city. Is there anywhere else in the country like this? It is, in a word, incredible. Beyond belief. Beautiful. And I haven't even described the parks here. Well, I suppose you'll just have to come out and see for yourself. But if you do, you may not want to leave.