Mischa Downing is a writer based in Seattle, Washington. Here she writes about her love of rain and the creative jewels of the Emerald City:
I didn’t know that The Sublime still existed until I moved to Seattle. Green is everywhere, even more ubiquitous than the notorious grey skies many equate with the Pacific Northwest. On a clear day, layers of snow-capped peaks jut out from beyond the seemingly infinite horizon and the landscape resembles a German Romantic painting. Words like “noble,” “majestic,” and “surreal” don’t do justice to the actual scenery, but I will try my best to convey that feeling of indescribable awe in the face of the natural world. Seattle is a city full of world-class restaurants, cutting-edge design, and vibrant art communities, but what inspires me most are the places without walls. Here are some of my favorite spots to daydream, ruminate, brood, meditate, and simply be in the Emerald City.
Mt. Rainer, one of the world’s twenty known supervolcanoes, provides a mystical backdrop to Madrona Beach. Grab a freshly roasted organic chicken and some bubbly from Leschi Market beforehand and go for a swim after you’ve had enough champagne to dull the perpetually chilly waters of Lake Washington. Stick around for sunset on a gauzy summer night or one of those wintry gloamings and watch the glaciated peak turn a dreamy shade of pink—there is no better feeling in the world.
Seattle is one of the last bastions of American literary cities—go visit its patron saint of independent bookstores, The Elliott Bay Book Company. The store—airy, loft-like and hardwood floored—has the quietly charged atmosphere of a cathedral. Hushed concentration and solemn reverence is highly encouraged—preferably with an espresso (or four) from Café Pettirosso coursing through your bloodstream. A couple of blocks away, Twice Sold Tales’ ensures a more relaxed vibe, as well as 25% off of any book in the store during their daily “happy (cheap book) hour”—browse to your heart’s content as the store’s fluffy mascot perches over the counter and poses in corners, watching you ever so indifferently. BYOB.
On some levels, Seattle is not the easiest city to live in, (at least for this particularly mercurial author) because when the sun goes away and the lake freezes over, no amount of zesty pho or ethically sourced cups of coffee can keep the darkness entirely at bay. That’s perhaps the best time to take advantage of analog filmmaking classes at NWFF—learn from established locals, experimental directors, and guest lecturers how to shoot your own short and, well, why not submit it to Local Sightings or SIFF while you’re at it? If you volunteer long enough classes and rentals are free of charge—just be prepared to support a new addiction. Not ready for a habit just yet? Take an exotic tintype photography class at Photo Center NW instead; learn how to solder silver or carve stone at Pratt Fine Arts Center. When the mean reds and the grey blues roll in, I find that a screen-printing class at The Vera Project, or a poetry reading at The Hugo House is even better without the glorious distraction of the sunshine I crave. There’s a word for the person I have become since surviving the misty November to May doldrums: ombrophiliac—lover of rain. See also: ombrophily–the capacity of some plants to thrive in the midst of copious rain. Also called hydrophily. — ombrophilic, ombrophilous, adj.
The crown jewel of Seattle’s cultural crown, however, belongs to the Seattle Public Library’s steel and glass Central Branch. At first glance, the 362,987 square foot Rem Koolhass-designed structure looks like disco ball origami or a fourth dimensional death star. Sharp jagged platforms seem to float and angles pierce through geometric shapes like blades. Thousands of diamond-shaped windows catch the light and seem to ripple like water on a sunny afternoon. Take the escalator all the way up to the top for 360-degree eagle-eyed views of the city street below and the bay beyond. Don’t feel bad if you can’t get any work done in a building this glorious—just write that screenplay in a juice bar like everyone else.
My Creative Scene is an insight into different creative & cultural happenings in cities where our members and readers live. Browse through more insider guides here or contact us to write about the arts scene where you are.