A love letter to King County’s natural environment, parks and open space

We got this idea for doing a collection of love notes to our region’s natural resources from the local publication, The Evergrey. They wrote a love letter to Seattle. Reading that letter as inspiration, we put a call out for submissions for love notes about what residents appreciate most about our region’s natural environment, parks and open space.

It’s only appropriate that we publish your notes on Valentine’s Day. Most of your notes reflected on the beauty of our region – whether it’s a King County Park trail or one of Seattle’s urban parks.

Thank you for telling us how you feel.

I’d like to tell you about how much I love Volunteer Park. It’s like having a sophisticated lady as a neighbor; gracious, inviting, flexible. I love throwing a blanket down on the lawns and lounging away one of Seattle’s rare golden summer evenings. I love having a place where I can both make friends with all my neighbors dogs, and check out a world class collection of art. Volunteer Park, I love you. (Colleen Kimsey)

I love spending time in our gorgeous Parks, especially spending a day taking my time climbing up Rattlesnake Ledge. I can’t wait for the bleeding heart and yellow violets to show their colors again this spring, and the view at the top can’t be beat. Every photo I’ve taken never does it justice. (Ashley Wilson)

I absolutely love the forests trails with dark green ancient trees. On any sunny morning, sunrays shine just right. I always come home refreshed. (Nataliya Karplyuk)

No matter where you live or are you are only a few minutes away from nature’s natural beauty. (Liz Latham)

Please don’t go away, my love. Please stay with me forever! I can’t live without you. I need your gentle tears of rain, I need your warm arms of sunrays, I need your lively splash in the streams and singing of birds in the woods, I need your stories of legendary ancestors. I will fight for you when you are sick and protect you from invaders. (Setsuko Cox)

Breeze

Swiftly through my hair

Calmness produced in the incessant crash of your waves

the Puget Sound’s welcoming embrace

Alki Beach,

Discovery Park…

Humming as the spectacle of the hasty changes of the city’s silhouette

your arms expands across time

You are appreciated!

(Mayte Castro)

As an artist, what I love about living in the Puget Sound area, in the shadow of Rainier, is that I don’t have to leave home to find subjects for paintings. And we have just enough good weather days to enjoy painting our beauty en plein air. (Debra Rexroat-Swords)

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Shady Green: Green River at Flaming Geyser (Debra Rexroat-Swords)

Taylor Mountain, Crisp and Green; a sturdy mount…a rider’s dream!!!!!! A partnership to keep trails clear….there is no better place than here! (Jane Storrs)

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Ryan Brookman tagged us in some photos with the simple caption of Reflection – Moss Lake Natural Area, King County.

Ryan Brookman Moss Lake

Hello,

The Lake Washington Watershed Internship Program—a part of Pacific Science Center and based out of the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center and UW Bothell—would love to extend our deep and lasting affection for King County natural lands.  For as much as our high school interns work to nurture and restore land along the Cedar River, they, too, are restored and nurtured by the beauty of our watershed.   We all love to explore Cougar Mountain and grow in our appreciation and knowledge of native plants and local ecosystems.  The loveliness and resiliency of King County’s parks and natural areas inspire us as we work to educate others in our communities and become ever more informed stewards of the environment.

We can’t imagine working and playing anywhere else.

With so much gratitude for all those who take care of King County parks and natural areas. (Lisa Keith, Pacific Science Center)

KC Parks Love Note

Finally, Allison Cox, an author from Vashon Island sent us a short non-fiction piece about a staring contest of sorts with an owl in her backyard.

Island Afternoon

Allison Cox   Copyright 2014

I left work early that afternoon, wanting to escape all the traffic and concrete of the city. I was lucky enough to drive right onto the ferry just before it left for the island. Once home, I lingered on the front deck of my house, soaking up some rare warm Spring sunshine,  breathing in the scents of the potted flowers around me and the wildflowers in the surrounding woods.

Standing still, my eyes snagged on something large and white, moving through the tree canopy in the distant forest beyond my front yard. I hurried inside to grab some binoculars and was back out in time to see a barred owl land on a fir tree deep in the woods. Just like in my Audubon field guide, the immense bird had white feathers “barred” (or striped) with brown. One night, weeks before, I was startled by what sounded like a gibbon howling “Who cooks for you?” through the dark. I had searched to learn what creature may be responsible making such a racket and found the barred owl’s photo then. And this one in our woods was a big one, possibly two feet tall. Each time I raised those binoculars to have a closer look, it looked like that owl was staring straight back at me!

The massive bird launched again, sailing through the trees on a wingspan near four feet across, still watching me as he flew. As the owl was about to clear the woods – BAMM! A redheaded pileated woodpecker slammed into the owl from the side. The owl faltered, winging backwards to right himself as he landed on an alder branch at the edge of my long front yard.

The woodpecker was a great bird himself, sixteen inches high with shiny black wings over a foot long. His black masked face scolded as he darted in wild loops, his topknot a flaming red streak. Bigger than ever with his feathers puffed out, the owl flexed thick talons to steady himself while his head rotated to follow his attacker’s flight. The woodpecker finally dashed back towards his nest, still chattering angrily about staying the proper distance from his nest.

“Wow!” was all I could think. Giant owls and woodpeckers in my front yard! Nothing like this ever happened in Chicago when I was growing up!

While I was lost in amazement, the owl turned his attention back to me. He was obviously staring at me – no binoculars needed any more to decipher his intent. He hopped out farther on the alder branch and took flight – straight at me.

I heard a staccato “Mi-a-oww!” and glanced down to the driveway, four feet directly below the deck, where my tabby cat, Freya, stood frozen except for her twitching tail, as she watched the owl sailing toward us. Again she cried, “Mi-a-oww” – which I now know means, “Look out!” – for that owl was flying right at me.

My cat leapt a mighty leap, up, higher than the deck… for a moment, she hovered even with my head, nine feet off the ground. Freya swiped the air with her right paw in what seemed like slow motion as the owl barreled down on us.

And the great bird merely flicked his wingtips, lifting them just a fraction, and whooooshed by, inches above me. The backdraft pulled my long hair up into the air after him, a cartoon image of amazement. I turned to see the white and brown feathered giant soaring over the roof and beyond, disappearing over the old cedar forest beyond. Wow!

Later I wondered, “Should I have been scared?” It had never occurred to me in those moments that the owl meant to hurt me. So I asked a park ranger I met soon after. He told me, “Nah, probably no need to be afraid. That owl was just letting you know that he was setting up his territory in your front yard which is why that woodpecker took issue with it.”

But soon after this, I told the same story to an artist who shapes beautiful spirit owls from clay. This woman had welcomed owls into the attic of her art studio and observed them often. She told me, “What that owl did is simply this… that owl gave you his blessing.”

After spending some considerable time thinking about my afternoon adventure, I decided… they are both right.

 

“We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.” (Wallace Stegner, “Wilderness Idea,” in The Sound of Mountain Water, 1969).

 

Storyteller, editor and an author in The Healing Heart books and The Healing Story Alliance’s journal, Diving in the Moon: Honoring Story and Facilitating Healing. Allison Cox combines her training and experiences as a therapist, social worker, health educator and prevention specialist with her love of story to create a healing medium that connects across cultures and generations. www.dancingleaves.com/allison/

 


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