The cool wind escapes the dense shaded forest as we zip through the North Cascades National Park in the Nissan rental car. It gives us a quick moment of relief from the beating hot sun. I stick my hand out the window to feel the cool air. A bittersweet sensation overtakes me as I glance over at the driver, one of my most dear friends, as her hair gently dances in the breeze.
It’s been over a week since our day-tripping adventure to Diablo Lake, Anacortes, and Whidbey Island. It was my last day in Washington, and I’ve since been collecting my thoughts, and reminiscing on my observations and Small Acts on that month long journey. Seattle abounds with, and almost defines, what it means to live a life of Small Acts.
They don’t bat an eye: Seattle’s every day life Small Acts
Seattle requires that citizens compost their food and yard waste. They enforce this in order to divert 38,000 tons of food waste from the landfill each year and help reach their goal of recycling and composting 60% of waste. This alone means a considerable reduction in green house gases generated by residents. The waste is composted locally and then used at local parks and gardens.
The public transit and alternate transportation systems are amazing, compared to some East Coast cities I’ve lived in and visited. Extensive bike routes (although sometimes a bit confusing with car traffic in certain busy areas) allow easy travel to just about any area around Seattle (even out to the mountains) that you’d want to visit. The buses run on time and get you to your destination the quickest with the least amount of stress.
Many, if not most, restaurants source their ingredients and products from local farms and businesses. There was one particular hot sauce crafted right in the Ballard area of Seattle that I became particularly fond of that I saw in many of the restaurants we visited. The restaurant scene is very trendy, and hip too; elaborate waffle creations, inventive biscuit sandwiches, and creative grilled cheese recipes. There were always several vegetarian and vegan options available on every menu.
There are several community gardens throughout the city. One of which I wrote about several months back and briefly visited along a bike adventure one day. Another on the roof top of the infamous Pike Place Market grows food and donates it to a local food bank and senior center. Gardens adorn many of the other rooftops and random street corners throughout the city, and I’ve never seen so many beautiful bee attracting flowers growing wildly everywhere.
The population is very eclectic, diverse and polite. I experienced this first hand at many of the street festivals that I happened upon. The Northwest Folklife Festival being the most rich, with various music genres of free music concerts and a huge variety of street food from African, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Australian, and Hawaiian authentic and inspired.
There is a farmer’s/street market nearly every day of the week where local small businesses can sell their crafts and products. Many of these producers had a strong emphasis on local, organic, sustainable and handmade. I became particularly enamored with the all natural products of a handmade soap crafter at the South Lake Union Saturday Market. The fragrant temptations of food trucks called to me as I explored the markets. It was almost a bit overwhelming to take it all in and decide where and how to spend a bit of money.
Exercise and the Outdoors
There’s a yoga studio on just about every corner representing the various styles. I tried out a couple around the city and settled in at Spira Power Yoga for the month I was there. The owner Dora, a Hungary native and now U.S. citizen, celebrates diversity at her studio and truly inspires you to play your edge while practicing mindfulness during challenging heated Vinyasa classes.
Hiking is abundant throughout the area. The Olympic Mountains and National Park stand tall a short ferry ride across the Elliott Bay and the Cascades await to the East of the city. Shorter hikes and plenty of wooded walks are available even in the city. Walking down a flight of stairs off the main road, I became engulfed in a large fir forrest right in the heart of West Seattle.
It comes down to love
The energy and vitality of the city make it a wonderful place to be and actually encourage you to practice Small Acts each day. Another incredibly rewarding aspect, and one I’d never experienced in this length, was the time with my close friend, Meghan. She is one of the sweetest, most considerate, generous and loving people I know, and I am forever grateful for her for giving me the opportunity to live comfortably in her home and city for my stay, and for being such a good friend at such a transitional period in my life.
When it comes down to it though the greatest Small Act I practiced in Seattle was one of self-exploration and self-love. When you exit a long term romantic relationship things can change dramatically, and the world can be a scary place. At the start of the year I wrote about facing my fears. I think deep down we all fear “being alone.” I didn’t set out the year intending to separate from my still good friend, Ryan, but that’s how things worked out.
Now I’m here with myself. Not “alone” necessarily, but learning how to have a healthy relationship with myself. My adventures in The Emerald City gave me the opportunity to explore what it means to be me, explore and meet others on my own, and get outside my comfort zone, which to be honest, was exactly what held me back in the relationship. I welcome this growth and new experience in life.
The Social Addiction
I think we become “addicted” to other people and the supposed feelings they “give” us, whether good or bad. I believe that’s the most important Small Act we can all practice right now: cultivating a strong sense of self-worth and individual purpose, and release the need for others to satisfy or gratify us in some way. Social media and the ease of communication make exterior “attention and gratification” that much more readily available, and I believe we, as a society, have lost sight of what it means to be individuals that know and truly love ourselves.
Knowing that I succumb to this habit too, each day I try to be mindful my thoughts and feelings, and manage them constructively. I take time to check in with myself, and be gentle with that inner child (that’s there in us all), and listen for what she’s calling out for or needs, and practice the Small Act of helping meet that need for myself rather than turning to something or someone else to satisfy it. Being in Seattle, often exploring on my own, really helped me cultivate this habit.