Today it's raining here in Bellingham. Yesterday when I was out and about with Maica riding co-pilot, the line at the new Fro-Yo shop down the hill was winding serpentine around the newly bricked, now-trendy-looking shopping center, folks sitting in the sunshine chatting at tables, at the edge of the curb, just standing in line talking to their neighbors. Maica and I didn't stop. We drove down to the park on the Bay where people were walking their dogs on the well-kept paths beside the sparkling water, drinking iced coffee outside of Woods coffee stand at the water's edge, and throwing frisbees on the grass while children played on brightly colored play equipment. We didn't take the walk I'd intended, though, because Maica took one look at all those dogs and began cowering in a corner of the car. (She's afraid of dogs and doesn't know she is one)
Instead we drove through Fairhaven, an old part of town where one of the bookstores in the whole world lives. Yes, it lives. Village Books is a living, breathing place. A dog-friendly place, I might add. Bring your kids in, bring your pups in. Come in, sit down in a rocking chair and read whatever strikes your fancy. Go up to the second floor where the fiction dwells, get an espresso or a cup of soup and stare out at Bellingham Bay where you can watch ferries bound for Alaska leaving port. Watch the sailboats. Or read a book you haven't even bought yet. Or, if you'd rather head down to the lower level, check out the used books, regional books, and stop by the Calaphon Cafe, which might just be one of the best eateries in town. Outside that lower level is the Village green where, on summer nights, bands play or movies are shown against a wall. There's market day on Wednesdays. And any day, the village green is a lovely place for meeting friends. Just like it was intended.
A block over is our favorite Tea Shop, where a traditional English high tea is served every day, complete with scones and clotted cream, tea sandwiches and Cornish pasties. Oh my, how hungry I am thinking of it.
I didn't stop in Fairhaven, however. Maica and I had a date to meet Beve at the REI sale. So we drove up the hill dotted with old Victorian homes, down the other side past Western Washington University (some of the views from those dorm rooms are of the bay and islands and likely the Canadian Rockies...I'm telling you, I'd be staring out the window more than studying anything--even a subject I liked!) and pulled into the crowded REI lot where I found a space under a tree for Maica. REI is a destination spot in this neck of the woods. Especially during the sale. Even on a perfect northwest day like yesterday, when, surely no place on earth is any more beautiful than this, all these outdoor-loving people were lined up hiking-boot to hiking-boot, like they line up for coffee or fro-yo. Beve in his mowing shoes and I in my Crocs fit right in...trying on Tevas and Keens like we're the Pacific Northwesterners we are. And yes, we both have Birkenstocks, have both worn socks with them, don't use umbrellas (except to watch outdoor sporting events).
And yes, it does rain a lot here. It does. People from other parts of the country ask about the rain all the time. It's the second most popular question. The first is, "Have you ever seen the President?" or something else District of Columbia-related. The answer, OF COURSE, is "WRONG Washington!" Even when someone from these parts says, "Washington State," to a person from another part of the country or (more likely) world, we get these questions. So most of us simply answer, "Seattle" to the question, "Where are you from?" (By the way, I live about an hour and a half straight north of Seattle) And then we hear the inevitable second question, "Doesn't it rain a lot there?" And, as I said, it does.
But speaking on behalf of rain, I'd like to say: it's also a whole lot green. And stays green all year round. And I'm here to tell you, you don't melt, soak up, mold, or mildew from rain. It can't hurt you (unless there's too much of it--and around here, our floods come more from too much snow in the mountains than too much rain in the lowlands). The benefit of rain is plenty. Even I who grew up on the dry side of the state, can see this. Can see how lovely the green is. And how things grow here--from grass to flowers to weeds (darn it!). Now, I won't lie and say don't get tired of endless weeks of rain. Of course we do. We crave sunshine. CRAVE IT. In the long gray days of winter, we crave sun like some people crave chocolate.
But this also means we don't take the sun for granted. We know what we get to see--glorious blue sky, sparkling water, temperate temperatures--when it does. We get to play in this place, where forests and mountains and lakes (two right here within our city limits) and rivers and salt water all meet in this place we call home.
But please, don't tell anyone I've told you all this. We try not to let it out because after all, we wouldn't want the whole world in on the secret that all the rain doesn't add up to much in the face of living in Bellingham, Washington (State)--my now-hometown.