For those of you fortunate enough to lack the brain wiring that enables one to clog up their mind with trivia, “in media res” is a literary term meaning “into the middle of things.” This device is used in books that start in the middle of the story being told, like my beloved Faulker, or any movie ever produced by Quentin Tarantino.
In the case of this blog, it means that there was a yawning gap between this post and the last, and the recounting of my six months as a resident of Bellingham will therefore be chronologically disjointed and invariably take more than a few posts. In other words, mind the gap.
The sappy, simple truth is that I have been busy enjoying our new life here in Bellingham: “The City of Subdued Excitement.”
I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it means; I just know that it sounds happy, contented and balanced. Which seems to suit the quaint but nevertheless bustling city that is Bellingham. It also describes the populace of friendly, liberal and kind folks (which is an interesting yet somehow workable mix of families and college kids.)
And speaking of liberal, I still cannot get over living in a place where the majority of the population are like-minded. As a person having spent almost all of my life in the south, it is like a huge universal weight has been lifted from my chest and I am free to breathe the not-polluted air. I am down with the zeitgeist.
Take for instance, the restaurants. The ones at which you bus your own table will inevitably maintain trash stations boasting at least five holes to sort your shiz: utensils, paper, compostables, aluminum, etc etc.
Respect for nature and sustainability are instilled in the youth, and people actually don’t want to pollute their waters or kill off their salmon populations. If your dog was to poop at the park and you didn’t pick it up, you might be subject to a public stoning. And not the good kind (though that is actually a subject to be determined in the upcoming election.)
I’m pretty sure that at night when everyone is asleep the trees actually come to life to do a little happy dance.
So let’s cut to the chase. The thing non-locals always ask when you say where you live (or in my case where we moved.) “Doesn’t it rain there ALL the time?!”
Let me preface this by saying that we have just now entered into the rainy season, so we have not had much time to be jaded. Season-wise, Bellingham is just exiting the most magical, beautiful and not-sweltering-hot summer I have ever experienced. And we saw nary a drop of rain. Apparently this was not a magic spell from a benevolent fairy; it happens like this every single freaking year.
We are now in the midst of autumn. It is also my very first real fall. In the last two months the leaves have changed into varying shades of fire: slow-burning orange, full-on conflagration red, heaven-light yellow, and possibly my favorite: deep-plum purple. Pure majesty excepting the maple leaves as big as my kids’ heads that now form a high-pile carpet on our porch.
The rain has started to fall with the leaves. Most of the time this rain is a little drizzle, and I see almost no one (who is not a tourist) walking around with an umbrella. You wear a warm raincoat and you go outside.
The fact that it is not a heavy rain would account for the fact that Seattle (our closest large US city so therefore why I am using it for the statistic; Vancouver is actually closer) is not even listed as a top US city for the most rainfall per year, or even the most rainy days, if you are splitting hairs.
However, since there are many days with light rain and overcast days, there is a resultant hefty amount of stoicism in this city. With chilling rain coming down for almost half of the year, you find yourself– like we did yesterday– taking your children out trick or treating in the rain and wind.
Personally, being of the sometimes gothic persuasion, I found this to be delightful and quite fitting for Halloween festivities. Interestingly, people trick or treat at the downtown areas here, or at the parks. We went with a fabulous group down to the adjacent town of Fairhaven (whose slogan I am unsure of but should be “The Cutest City on Earth, Pity the Fool who Denies It.”) The fun thing about trick or treating en masse is taking part in the type of excitement that can only come by being part of a crowd all excited about the same thing, whether it be a concert, a sporting event, or in this case, getting loads of candy.
There were some amazing costumes, and most very creative. I saw a child dressed as a shower curtain, a woman who used a clear umbrella and attached iridescent streamers to make it look like a jellyfish, two children in a huge Crayola box, and of course my two little guys. Who chose to be a dinosaur and a robot: a few of their favorite things.
At one point we went into Fairhaven Pharmacy, an establishment that has been around since 1889. This adorable little pharmacy, in which the pharmacist is referred to as “the druggist,” is a beloved tradition on the trick or treating route.
This is because they will take your child’s photo in front of a Halloween backdrop, and then it is later hung up in the pharmacy windows. Of course your kid will also get a candy. But not the typical fun-sized candy from a bucket. Oh no, your tot can select any candy from the pharmacy candy aisle. And there are a lot to choose from. Holden picked a roll of Starbust, and Casey selected dark chocolate M&Ms. Both acceptable choices in my book.
I mention this story not only because it is sweet, but because for me, wielding a mostly-adult perspective, it wasn’t the candy giving or even the picture taking that really struck me. Sure, both things are great and appreciated. But it was the presence of a very elderly man (who my Fairhaven friends say works at and/or owns the pharmacy) sitting aside the picture-taking flurry, and smiling and chatting with the children with such simple and pure joy. He seemed to draw such peace from just being witness to the happiness and excitement that children exude from Halloween; the beauty of being young and dizzy with the excitement of dressing up as a dinosaur, or a flower or a bee.
It was a reminder that these times are precious, that myself and my children will grow older. That one day they won’t ask me 20 times on November 1st if they can still wear their dinosaur costume. And how very lucky we are to all be together, trick or treating in such a beautiful place. A place that by happenstance we have landed, but with any luck we will call home for a very long time.
I wish all of you out there (especially in the NE) warmth and safety, and no post-Halloween belly aching.