Tuesday, December 16, 2008
A Walk in the Park
You could say that Green Lake is north Seattle’s back yard, where we go out to play. In droves we walk, run, bicycle, scoot, or rollerblade around the 2.8-mile path encircling the lake. Sometimes we kayak on its surface or just watch racers sprint across the lake in their thin, high-speed shells. We picnic, practice tai chi, or just lounge on the grassy edges. It’s a utilitarian city park—heavily used, pleasant, always accessible when you need a walk and fresh air. But for one night each year it’s transformed into something special and magical.
When I arrive at the lake on this cold night, the second Saturday in December, snow is just starting to waft lightly out of the sky. It’s dark except for hundreds, maybe thousands of glowing luminarios lining either side of the paved trail around the lake. The effect is enchanting.
Instead of the usual focused runners and walkers, engrossed in their own worlds, tonight we’re all sharing the holiday spirit. Families and friends stroll, talking and laughing. Some have wrapped themselves (and their dogs) in strings of battery-lit lights. People stop and gather to listen or sing along with small groups of carolers and musicians interspersed along the trail. My favorite this year is the quintet playing medieval-style recorders just off the trail past the Bathhouse Theater.
I first discovered the Pathway of Lights around Green Lake when my brother and his wife lived just a block from the lake in the early 1990s. Since then a friend and I have made this an annual holiday tradition. Greenlake community volunteers fill the bottom of small white paper bags with sand and place a candle inside. (For the first time, the lights are LED instead of candles.) The bags are evenly spaced along the paved trail around the lake. On rainy years, half the candles go out quickly and the sopping bags fall over flat. But this year is just perfect. It’s snowing!
After walking, listening, a little singing, and getting cold despite being bundled up, we decide it’s time for a hot drink. Mab and I head to Chocolati’s Greenlake Cafe just across the street on the north side of the lake. We luck out and hit this cozy sweet spot when the line isn’t too long. My hot cocoa is creamy and rich. Mab’s decaf mocha smells divine.
Pretty soon I bump into a co-worker and her fiancee. Not long after that Mab’s brother David sees us while walking by and comes into the shop. I love that this big city really feels like a small town sometimes. It’s nights like this that make it a community.
When You Go
Mark your calendar for the second Saturday in December next year to catch the Pathway of Lights. The event officially runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wear your walking shoes and come prepared for the weather. Chocolati is one of numerous coffee shops or eateries around the lake where you can stop to warm up.