COVID-19 Nonfiction Observations Reflection Seattle

The Things We See and Don’t See.

It was my father who alerted me about the “white lives matter” protest scheduled today in Huntington Beach, California.

“I’m so glad you don’t live there anymore,” I sighed. We both knew that this protest would likely occur around Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street, an intersection we had crossed hundreds of times in our lives. When I was a child, each parent grasped one of my hands and ushered me across PCH to access the famous Huntington Beach pier. As a youth, I rode my Schwinn 10-speed bicycle underneath the pier, usually my father ahead of me and my mother behind me. As a younger adult, the three of us walked to the end of the pier, where my parents had scattered the ashes of my paternal grandparents. Six months after my mother died, my father and I, along with a few other distant relatives, scattered her ashes into the rolling waves.

In high school, I learned to avoid the pier after dusk because skinheads were often around Main Street. At the time, I did not fully understand their beliefs nor the danger they represented. Now, as I read about the recent KKK propaganda and white supremacy violence from the years I lived there, I wonder how much racism we experienced during my youth that neither my parents nor I recognized. There was (and is) great pressure to assimilate. For many years, I attributed my discomfort to personal defects. Perhaps ignorance is bliss: Had I recognized and acknowledged the atmosphere of white supremacy, would I have done anything different? Could I have done anything differently?

The pandemic has forced us all to view everything through a different perspective. We recently got a microscope in an effort to offset the crushing psychological weight of illness, isolation, suffering, and death. The microscope also forces a different perspective.

Here’s an image of fresh seaweed from Puget Sound (400x):

Here’s an image of garlic skin (100x):

Plant cells continue to build organized structures; chlorophyll continues to convert sunlight into sugars; carbon continues to cycle in and out of life forms. The seasons will continue to change; this season of grief, loss, and sadness will also pass.

Homelessness Nonfiction Observations Seattle

Leaves of Remembrance.

Throughout Seattle there are small metal plates in the shape of maple leaves that are embedded into the sidewalk. These are “Leaves of Remembrance” that “bear names of homeless women and men who’ve died, so that every person will have a place to be remembered”. People walk on and around them all the time, unaware of the purpose or significance of the leaves.

Only a few people were on the block that morning. It was not yet 8am, so the offices were still closed. The door to the corner store was open, though no customers were inside. A man was leaning against the building on the far end of the block, smoking a cigarette. The light of the sun was just starting to break through the grey clouds.

A man was squatting on the ground, inspecting the Leaves of Remembrance surrounding him. Near him was a styrofoam container of Cup Noodles, the lid removed. He dipped a white napkin into the ramen cup and rubbed it on a metal leaf. He leaned forward to inspect his work, leaned back to change his perspective, then wiped the entire leaf clean. After rotating his body, he began washing and wiping the neighboring leaves.

I’m not sure if he ever lived outside, though he has had his own apartment for years now. Does he recognize the names on the leaves? Was this his way of commemorating someone he once knew? Was this his way of helping to beautify the neighborhood? Is this part of his routine and I simply had not noticed until that morning?

He looked up when I walked past, though he did not recognize that I work as his psychiatrist. I did not greet him, though thanked him silently for his act of kindness during this time of calamity.