I had a commitment in Eastern Washington this weekend which necessitated a little family road trip to the hot, sunny, dry part of the state. When we returned Sunday night, we followed I-90 west, eventually climbing up the Cascade Mountains to the summit at Snoqualmie Pass and returning back down to the cooler, greener side of the state.
As locals know, the urban sprawl of the greater Seattle metropolitan area arrives shockingly quickly once you begin your descent off the pass. After hours of driving through sparsely populated scrubland and no-stoplight towns and green-and-golden rolling farms, the appearance of large corporate office parks pushing ever further up the mountains announces the approach of an urban hub with bittersweet tenor.
With a crying 11-month-old in the car in dear need of a nurse and a clean diaper, we pulled off the road in Issaquah, a once rural-town about 17 miles east of Seattle that is part of the great sweep of software gigantism that has claimed the lands east of the Emerald City.
There was, naturally, a Starbucks there.
One clean diaper, a nursing, two Frappucinos, a pumpkin scone and a single-serving, ultra-high-temperature-pasteurized, organic-vanilla-milk-pod later, the whole family was feeling revived.
As I sipped my Frappucino, I heard the barista explain to a customer that “Grounds For Your Garden” was not a blend of coffee, but rather used coffee grounds, available free to anyone to use as a soil amendment.
There were a lot of smartly dressed Asian people and a few black people with phenomenally hip hair, all enjoying their expensive caffeine fix. I’m pretty sure the soil-amendment-explaining-barista was gay, and 50% of the women were wearing yoga pants.
God it felt so good to be home.
Nick and I had played the “what if we bought 20 acres in Eastern Washington” game on our roadtrip. It’s a fun exercise, a way to envision a real stepped-up homesteading. Urban Homesteading, sans Urban. Room to really go for it.
As I sat, surrounded by my creature comforts and an ethnically diverse (but, it’s worth mentioning, not particularly socio-economically diverse) cafe population, I realized I didn’t want sans Urban. For all that I occasionally resent those aspects of urban life that seem to push people towards consumption and unthinking consumerism, there’s something to be said for urban living.
I like hip dreadlocks on a well-dressed professional. I like extra fabulous baristas. I like yoga-pants girls with their soy lattes and gluten free muffins. I like that they can get their soy latte and GF muffin. I like that coffee shops give away soil amendments.
I like good Vietnamese food and going out for Sunday brunch at the Indian buffet or the Dim Sum place. I like people out riding their bikes and jogging around lakes and socializing over power walk-and-talks. I like museums and aquariums and music venues and farmers markets and all those things that tend to happen only when you get enough people in one area to support them.
I guess I just like my city.
We left the Starbucks and in the next 10 minutes – no joke – the following things happened:
- Our car was overflown by a Boeing 747-8 on a flight test.
- We were passed by a Smart Car with a bike rack and a Coexist bumper sticker.
- The acoustic version of Smells Like Team Spirit by Nirvana came on the radio.
Seattle, man….that’s Seattle.
One day my anti-social, introvert, hermit-like tendencies may get the better of me. Maybe I will want to flee the crowds and periodic irritations of urban living (honestly, more suburban in our case) for a legit 40-acres and a mule.
But for now, home and surrounded by my family, my vegetables and my chickens, I feel like I’ve managed to stumble into the best of all worlds, and I’m so grateful.
Are you rural or urban, and would you ever want to trade?