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Search for the Soul of Seattle: Just a nice day

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Photo by AV Eichenbaum
Photo by AV Eichenbaum

A warm 65 degrees near Cal Anderson. Nobody ever talks about how beautiful Seattle is this time of year. Don't tell the outsiders that every day is nearly perfect for meandering, hands in pockets, trying to fight writers' block.

If anyone bothers you while you're staring deep into the middle distance, just tell them you're a writer. I've had two panhandlers apologize today alone. One offered me a dollar.

I've been spending a lot of time this spring wondering if it hurts a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly.

I mean, it must, right?

Their entire body dissolves and reconstructs itself. The process is absolutely gruesome. And with Mother's Day just passed, I've been thinking about other gradual changes in my life, like how I used to have to practice my smile in the mirror as a kid. My folks told me I "wasn't doing it right" in family photos. I didn't smile much growing up.

Lost in thought on a beautiful day in Cal Anderson. It wasn't so long ago this area grabbed the nation's attention as the CHOP when the East Precinct fell. Wasn't so long ago there was tear gas and pepper spray in the eyes and clothes of the protestors gathered here. They were fighting against inequality and injustice just under a year ago. And what do we have to show for it?

Some dead hashtags and some more heavy-duty police uniforms.

How much more dissolving and pain has to happen before we start to build something beautiful? What is the metamorphic cycle of a city?

I had Nicorette for breakfast, in case you were wondering.

I'm doing great, thanks.

Even through the murk of my own mood, it's impossible to miss the laughter in the air. People playing fetch with their dogs. Kids on the basketball court. The joy is infectious, and I find myself smiling under my face mask. The real one. Not that anyone can see.

Maybe the city's already rebuilding itself here. There's enough fresh construction to make that argument. But, more than that, the scars left by the protests are nearly invisible — on the surface, at least. Butterflies retain their memories from when they were caterpillars. Memories of cars on fire and medics being hit with tear gas canisters still live on the back of my eyelids. I know it's the same for a lot of people, especially around here.

But it's a nice day. If you hadn't been there, you'd never know the difference. Maybe everything around me is already on its way to the next stage in the cycle. I'm not there yet, but it's days like these that remind me of the warmth hidden beneath Seattle's infamous Freeze, and that helps.

There's a group of kids nearby playing some sort of game where they yell, "WAKE UP!" at the top of their lungs several times. It's incredibly off-putting, and several people — myself included — have decided it's a good time to leave. My train of thought leads me to that old Taoist parable, also a meditation on change. Specifically, I'm reminded of the philosopher Chuang Tzu's ending thought:

Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.

I take this as a sign to start getting more sleep and to get over myself.