Changing cities

15 Aug

In July we took a trip to Seattle for a mix of family and business. First family, then business. We spent a few days on the Eastside visiting my family in surprisingly hot summer weather. We had happy hour among blackberry bushes slowly trying to reclaim my mother’s backyard. We watched hummingbirds in her flowers and got chased inside every night by giant mosquitos. The area around my childhood home is still wild and undeveloped, it is deeply green and in such contrast from parched San Francisco right now. We drove a few miles down the road to visit a new-ish local farm in the pasture of a former dairy. As kids and then later as teenagers we’d drive by this dairy on our way to the river or the falls, and had to hold our breath as we passed this stretch of country road. Now the cows are gone, the dairy has been converted to another use and that farm-y smell is long gone.

We spent a few days north of Seattle visiting Intern’s family for a big family reunion and got caught up with all the aunties, cousins, new babies and family friends we haven’t seen or met in a long time. Our usual cooking lessons with Intern’s ammi were brief, the weather was hot and there was a big party to prep for. Our free mornings and evenings were spent digging through old family photo albums, hearing stories, and finally getting a good laugh and a hearty dose of some awkward photos of those uncomfortable teenage years that have until this trip, been hidden away with purpose. Other people’s teenage years are really endearing to look at, I felt so much love for my young lanky Intern and his sweet sister, during the baggy clothes years of the 90s. SO. MUCH. LOVE. I don’t think Intern enjoyed it quite as much as I did.

I spent some time at my mom’s house looking for two Rome books I wanted to bring home, and in the course of searching, found a few old boxes of mine full of high school and college photo albums and journals. I flipped through a couple sort of hastily, it brought up a mixture of nostalgia and uncomfortable embarrassment for me. I was suddenly feeling old but also feeling like all of that feeling was still recent in my mind. Reading old journal entries was just too much for me, I stopped rereading after a few very earnest entries, one about my first time voting in a general election, and another about an apparently very drunken college party… that was SO FUN. Hopefully older, older Kate will appreciate how much younger Kate documented her life in journals, cause right now it just causes me to cringe. I stacked all those journals down at the bottom of the boxes and repacked them again– I think it will be a few more years before I feel ready for a good trip into the past.

We said our goodbyes to family and spent some time in Seattle working and visiting shops before taking the train down to Portland for a few days of the same. Our conversation kept rotating around the same subjects: could we live here? Does this city have what we want and need? The purpose of our trip wasn’t to evaluate Seattle and Portland for possible livability– we have no moving plans, yet we couldn’t stop. Portland has always been the city that we’ve pondered and put in the maybe category. It seems to be some of Seattle, some of San Francisco, and a lot of other things too. Seattle has changed since our last visit, and even more since we left it 5 years ago. Portland has evolved too, as it will continue to do. San Francisco is racing in different directions of course, in good, bad and strange ways. Instead of accepting this, Intern and I have been busy dissecting it, like we are searching for something specific.

Cities aren’t the same once we leave them, and they don’t stay the same, even if we stay put. Our wise Portland friend Kanna reminded us so expertly, “That’s the thing about cities, they change, that is what they are supposed to do”… or something like that. What she said was succinct and so perfectly simple, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. We love where we live, and can’t imagine life in the suburbs or the country, because we believe life there moves too slowly. We crave change and movement, but at the same time we’re living in our chosen city and constantly questioning and critiquing the changes around us.  Why is it that we can’t come to terms with the very thing that we love about cities?



4 Responses to “Changing cities”

  1. TC August 15, 2014 at 2:22 PM #

    I recycled all of my childhood journals a month or so back. I had a day of reading through them and the cringe-worthy moments outweighed everything else. Nothing stays the same, not even the countryside which I’m reminded of every time I go home. I feel more uncertain than ever about a single-place I can see myself living the next 5 to 10 years, so I’ve decided to choose a “general area” instead and see what happens. :)

    • Kate Koeppel August 15, 2014 at 2:37 PM #

      Oh wow, that is brave to dump them all! I’d probably drive myself crazy with regret. Have you seen Mortified? ( I don’t think I could ever do it, but watching the documentary about it has changed my feelings about saving those journals. There is humor hidden in the horrible, angst-filled teenage ramblings… I’m just not quite there to see the humor in mine!

  2. Gianna August 27, 2014 at 3:00 PM #

    Mmmm I’m getting ready for a move, and it’s terrifying, exciting, and making me question why and where about it all. So allow me to question you – why move? What sort of things do you question about your city, and would you question about a city you would move to?

    I’ll eternally have a bit of Minnesota backwoods in me, but I’m feeling a move to a much more populated area. Shocking? Yeah. But intriguing. And they’ll have coffee shops there. :)

    • Kate Koeppel August 27, 2014 at 5:24 PM #

      Moving is very exciting! I sort of love packing and unpacking… mostly the unpacking part- though most people tell me that is crazy.

      I grew up in a rural-ajacent suburb in the woods of Washington– so for me, living in a city is often categorized by the things I thought I lacked when I was younger. Back then, it was sidewalks, other kids my age, pizza delivery… all those things I was desperate for!

      As an adult those city-needs have changed. I don’t want a backyard or a lawn to mow, I’d much rather live near-ish to a park, or have a little porch or tiny outdoor space instead. My city needs include walkability (for groceries, basic needs, exploration, fun) but diversity is also a big one for us.

      Good luck with your move!

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