casting my spirit into the wind – and the streets of Tacoma

The town is mine.

This is my sentiment yesterday as I take to the streets of historic downtown Tacoma beneath sharp blue skies and perfectly balanced light.

I walk. The inner photographer and storyteller reach for a camera that does not exist.

I must get a camera. I am missing a part of my body and soul. Without a job, with what money?

The streets are sleeping, washed of their weekday activity and traffic. Perhaps Tacoma noticed that God rested on the seventh day and followed suit.

I take the road that stays a bird’s eye view of Thea Foss Waterway, a determined watery arm of Commencement Bay, to my left.

It’s a rare day when the sun is out and the sky is blue and the water blue instead of all saturated in a seamless dreary gray. There is spring in the air and in my step too.

I pass the spanking new condos on hilltops affording a magnificent view of the bay and port, condos that are a stone's throw from the from gritty historic buildings of the early 1900s whose weathered stones and bricks are older than any of us.

Juxtaposition. That is Tacoma through and through.

A graystone elk head up on the old Elks Temple, nearly 100 years old and in disrepair, catches my attention. His antlers are missing so someone has inserted branches. He stares fixedly into the world with naked eyeballs with nary a blink.

Again, my hands instinctively reach for a camera not there. I seriously must rectify that.

The elk speaks: “I have stories.”

I respond: “I know. One day I’ll return so I may photograph you and tell them properly."

The elk does not blink a yay or nay, rather nods me onward.

* * *

I’m in Fireman’s Park, which I’ve not explored though it's right there and I’ve had dozens of opportunities to do so.

Now I understand why the local banter about erecting fences.  

This narrow park follows sharp angles and juts of land that offer sweeping views of the bay and sailboats and cargo vessels and port equipment and railroad tracks and cars head to toe in their lot.

If you disobey the sign reading “Danger. Do Not Climb” posted on the 4-foot-high (121.9 cm) retaining walls around the park, you're standing on small wedges of land that drop perilously and unforgivingly onto a concrete freeway below.

Of course I disobey the sign – my instinctive response when someone tells me not to do something, I will want to do it.

It’s unnerving, standing on that open edge with such a terrific view outward and such an unattractive view straight down, one potentially grisly with a misstep or severe intoxication or suicidal impulse.

Though not a soul's around, I keep checking over both shoulders because in a book this is where a nefarious character appears and pushes me.

* * *

Styrofoam cups litter the park. I collect them and when I dispose of them in the metal trash can, I behold the sight before my eyes!!

Scattered amongst the layers of discarded paper plates and cups and plastic forks are cheesy macaroni shells! — the remains of a large picnic, based on the volume of trash.

And a patch of park is occupied by a good two dozen seagulls, who'll be all too happy to receive whatever I throw, with the exception, experience has taught, of brussel sprouts and raw cabbage.

I must appear quite the sight in my ragamuffin clothes with head sunk into a trash can while I search and scoop morsels of macaroni onto a plate. When it comes to feeding animals, I'll do whatever it takes, I feel no shame.

“Yack! Yack! Yack!” raspily broadcast the birds as pasta descends from heaven onto their grassy plate.

A threesome arrives with a camera; they take turns photographing one another with the bay as a backdrop. Meanwhile I go about collecting macaroni wondering whether they think I'm a homeless person scrounging for a lunch. Fortunately I'm not there yet

The two remaining cans I suss out yield jackpot! — more pasta and a quarter left in a large bag of Doritos nachos. A banner day for me and the birds!

* * *

My hands are sticky, gunky, I need to rinse.

Funny, there's this great big body of water before me and no way to get to it.

No water fountains either. No place downtown's open except a couple pubs. I'd feel badly walking in and out only to use the restrooms.

So I make due with what I've got, a paper napkin and spit. Water would be nice though. That way I could put my gloves back on for the nip.

I venture onward to wherever the wind takes me.

* * *

The wind delivers me three blocks away. In front of the Russell Grant Investment structure, a behemoth complex with — and I swear this is true! — water flowing down one entire face!

Sometimes the divine does answer and in a most surprising way!

* * *

I begin inching my way back for the evening meditation circle.

I traipse through historic Antique Row. Tired buildings hungry for business. Empty buildings hungry for tenants. One building jam-packed with antiques and cluter hungry for space.

An object on the sidewalk catches my eye.

It's a tarot card. Face down.

It's been a magical and blessed afternoon, a sacred journey into my town.

What is the message?

I retrieve the card and flip it as if I'm turning a page from the book of the divine mind.

Hanged Man.

What is your message?

Things on hold, in suspension. Yes, uh huh.

I flip it to its reverse position.

Let go and let God.

Strolling, I contemplate the card held in full view along with the single yellow daffodil plucked from a planter near the building with the wall of water. The daffodil had been leaning at a hard angle skirting the planter's edge so I reckon it didn't object.

* * *

I ascend the wide staircase that hugs the aged disused Elks Building with its ornate weather-beaten carvings along its top perimeter.

This spot built into a slope affords a view of the downtown buildings and skyline. I am in love with my town.

A seagull is aloft above the landmark clock tower of brick the shade of burnt orange.

Is the gull attempting landing but deterred by gusty bay winds?

Is he hanging on a voluminous wave of air for pure joy?

What shall he do when this moment of utterly perfect balance and moving stillness recedes?

He flies northward in the direction of the bay.

* * *

And a black bird nested in a bowl of a curved shell-like carving high up the old Elks Building eyes me with apparently the curiousity that I eye him.

We dance eye to eye for a while. He does not respond to my cluckings and whistles. Are they a foreign language?

He cocks his head. Is he attempting to decipher my mortal bird song? Or thinking: Silly girl, why do you do as you do?

I must move on. As I slip away, he steps forward to the edge of his bowl, revealing a second black bird tucked behind him.

I'm sure I could find some metaphor or allegorical omen in that if I let my imagination wander.

Are they mates? Parent and child? Two birds sharing warmth away from the bite and the chill that roll off the Puget Sound?

Perhaps I shall find that out on another day — that and a waiting story to be told by the elk head with branches for the antlers and the eyeballs that never blink.

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