I understand how hard it is to be in downtown Seattle. There was a deepening problem long before coronavirus and there will be one long after. To see trash in the street, tents in doorways and people roaming the streets mumbling incoherent sentences is hard. Someone wearing a full-head cat mask was screaming something at me from a bicycle as I walked between storefronts. It’s hard, no doubt.
I can’t articulate my feelings well enough to share any thoughts about that problem. That revelation, both to you and to myself, will have to come later. Today, I just want to talk about art.
Kelly fully indulged me this morning when I asked that we leave the house before 5:30 to do our own auto tour of downtown Seattle and Ballard. I’ve seen photos. I know how it made me feel to see them, but what if I saw them in person ? What if I stood where they stood ? What if I let the full force of these beautiful expressions wash over me ? Would I, you know, “get it” ? To have the visual experience is powerful and I hope I have shared that in a meaningful way with you. To have the sense of being a part of it, though … how could I know if I didn’t go ?
And so we began, up one side and down the other of First Ave. At 6 am it is pretty quiet. A few birds still managing a song, a few “essential” vendors offloading trucks, a bit of chatter from the population along the sidewalks that truly call this home. I had just one encounter and I gave what I had in my pocket. I don’t get to judge beyond the moment when my whole body said, yes, give. Of course I did. It’s what we do.
To walk these streets was to awaken to a world that emerges when the usual safety nets disappear. There was nothing desperate or vulgar or angry. There was hope. Hope in a hundred colors. It jumps out at you like the art itself. It was at once positive and uplifting. It doesn’t solve any problems. That isn’t the job of art. Through art we both lose and find ourselves. There is a kind of exchange that happens that acknowledges the gravity of this virus, in these times, and it pulls us together. It exposes in living color those things we know to be true.
Something I read on one of the walls gave me pause. It simply said “Hate us til you need us”. Touche’. The artists responsible for lifting up our city have been ridiculed and arrested in the past until, of course, we needed their unique skills. If we’re lucky, the “new normal” will include a new definition of both art and value. No place is that importance more obvious than in the city right now.
Art Saves Lives.
I’ve shared before that I know we aren’t all in the same boat, but we are traveling the same path. Paddling along in the swift river. That path is the one in front of us. That path is through the gate. And we get there one step at a time, one moment at a time.
I suppose, as with everything, you will always find what you go looking for. Look for darkness and you will find a moonless sky. Look for light and it will surprise you. It will sneak up on you, rising up through the cracks. I don’t need one more person telling me that the cracks are indicative of broken places. I see them too. The difference is I see them as the places where the light gets in.
Here is some of Seattle’s light …♡