Monday, April 10, 2017

University of Washington Cherry Blossoms: The Quad in Bloom

I've always been very sensitive to my surroundings, so it wasn't out of character that I chose to attend the University of Washington. A beautiful campus is not a good reason to pick a college, but there you have it. It played into my decision.

For starters, there's that burst of cherry blossoms that rim the Quad each spring in an exquisite cloud of pale pink.

When I was a student there, I looked forward to cherry blossom time each spring. But I didn't think about taking pictures of them (it was the pre-smartphone era)

In the years since, it has become a Seattle thing, with hundreds of non-students crowding the Quad to see and shoot them at their peak. They even have their own Twitter account now (@uwcherryblossoms).

So last Friday I stopped by the campus on a rainy morning right before a windstorm that would blow down most of the remaining blossoms, already past their peak.

We arrived right after 8:30 classes started, so the Quad was pretty empty. Puddles were scattered around the wet brick walkways. With each gust of wind, delicate pink petals floated to the ground beneath the trees like spring snow.

These Yoshino cherry trees came from Japan, and many are quite elderly for such trees. They were originally planted in the 1930s at the nearby Washington Park Arboretum and moved to the Quad in the 1960s

“The cherry blossom represents the fertility and beauty of life,” said recently retired UW Professor Tetsuden Kashima in 2014. “In [Japan], the blossoms are a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful, but it is also tragically short. When the cherry blossoms bloom for a short time each year in force, they serve as a visual reminder of how precious and precarious life is.”

I'm sure the thousands of students and sightseers dashing around on campus are hardly thinking such poignant and weighty thoughts. But in a Japanese art history class at UW (coincidentally, on the Quad), I was introduced to this concept, which the Japanese call mono no aware.

And as the years go by, this concept does resonate with me more. So it was especially sweet to visit these old friends, gnarled and aging, perhaps even more beautiful than in their youth.

As my girlfriends and I, long past our university days, walked past the trees, a student noticed me taking shots with a big camera in hand and came over.

"I'm about to graduate and have never taken a picture of these trees. Can you take some shots of me with them?"

I was happy to oblige.  


How about you? Have you been to see the cherry blossoms on the Quad, or somewhere else?  Jump in with a comment below and make my day. :)
Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.   

When You Go

While the Quad is lovely any time of year, the blossoms are mosty spent for 2017. It's still worth a trip, though, to see the tail end of the blossoms.  Click here for a live streaming view of the Quad (and indeed there are still some blossoms left on the trees as of today). Here is a link on how to get to the UW Seattle campus, which has a link to over 60 bus routes to campus.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Good Pacific Northwest Spring Rain

Outside a persistent, early spring rain is falling as I write this. Big puddles are overflowing and western red cedar boughs are weeping delicate tears.

A vigorous spring rain makes it feel like all is right with the world.

Author Timothy Egan perfectly captured it in the title of his 1990 break-through book: The Good Rain. Which is exactly how I've felt about our will-it-never-end rain this past week.

I usually do a "celebrate the rain" blog post each spring, but this year I'm especially feeling it. We're coming off our 9th coldest winter on record and a record-breaking rainfall in February. Signs of spring are late and especially welcome.

The first bloom on my camellia. Some years they start to flower in January.
Tiny raindrops cling to spring green chives shooting up in my garden.
Unfurling of skunk cabbage, a true sign of spring in a NW coastal forest.
 With the spring rains, unlike a bone-chilling winter rain, bird calls accompany the drizzle. I know by the particular cadence and songs that they're spring bird songs. I can't name all the birds, but I know their seasonal songs.

The little guy on the right refused to smile for the camera. :)
One of my earliest memories is wandering in the rain in my rubber boots, splashing in puddles. I think I gave my mother a scare once by wandering off alone in the rain.

Raindrops in puddles

So really, that's all I wanted to say. I'm grateful for our rains this year in face of drought elsewhere, climate change, and increasing threats to our environment. 

A good rain feels life-affirming. Falling asleep to a steady rain last night and waking up this morning to the same was like a balm to my soul.

And I didn't have to imagine it last night.

And how do you feel about rain?

Welcome to spring!

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.  

BTW, apologies for some font issues on this post! Blogger is being difficult. :(

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Keeping it All in the Family: Georgia's

Georgia Kazakos, founder of Georgia's Greek Restaurant and Deli

With the rapid transformation of Seattle from a mid-sized, affordable city into an expensive big city, I regularly see small businesses in humble little buildings slated for demolition. Within a year, they're replaced by big multi-story residential/retail units. 

These teardowns can drive small shops or restaurants out of business through months of displacement. I know, change is inevitable in the face of our booming economy and thousands of job openings that bring people here from all over the world.  

 But today I'm paying homage to a decades-old small family restaurant that's still in business despite the new pressures.
When I moved to Crown Hill/Greenwood in north Seattle in the late 1990s, it was NOT a hip area. That bothered me a bit because many of my "yuppie" friends could afford homes in more upscale neighborhoods with chic cafes. (I was younger and cared more about things like that back then.)   

The first time I wandered into Greenwood's
Georgia's Greek Restaurant and Deli for breakfast, I wasn't impressed by the industrial blue carpet and decor. But when the food arrived, none of that mattered. The signature Georgia's omelette with spinach and feta, soft warm pita bread instead of toast, and crispy/tender oregano-seasoned potatoes was just perfect.

So for years now I've stopped by for meals in and to go. For parties, I'll buy a big container of their tangy, excellent revithosalata (hummus). When I've got a cold and need some mom-like comfort soup, their creamy-lemony chicken avgolemeno soup with warm pita is what I crave. 
It's not fancy schmancy, but it's solid, savory Greek food that tastes like it was made with love by your favorite aunt, grandmother, mom, or foodie dad. In fact, namesake and mom Georgia Kazakos is often seated at the small counter up front, enjoying the goings on. Today her friendly son Laki owns and runs the biz.

Laki Kazakos
On some weekend evenings, live music and dancing get the place hopping, but I'm partial to those amazing breakfasts.

"They have the best breakfast potatoes in Seattle," says Neal, the son of a friend.

Opa! Laki finishes an order of saganaki with a dramatic flourish.

Somehow I missed several years ago that Guy Fieri stopped by and featured Laki/Georgia's on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Well deserved! (But they didn't talk about the breakfasts.)

Laki admits that a closed and fenced-in property next door hasn't helped business the last few years. But I'm happy he's still there, with mom Georgia stopping by and his daughter serving tables.

So if you're in north Seattle, swing over to Georgia's in Greenwood for a meal that tastes like home. Or grab some of their deli specialties like their organic quince jam or honey sweet baklava.

Apologies for being away so long. Look for more Pacific Northwest adventures, insider tips, and reflections in the weeks ahead.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news. 

When You Go
Georgia's is on NW 85th Street about a half mile west of the main Greenwood Avenue business district. They're open every day but Tuesdays and serve breakfast until 3 pm.  Check out their hours here. For take-out orders, call 206-783-1228. Health bonus:  Those tasty omelettes and potatoes are cooked in olive oil, not butter.