Photo by Alistair Leigh.
Closing remarks by Peggy at PNA Village 5th Anniversary.

At Large In Ballard: Who knew?

By Peggy Sturdivant

It seemed like a good idea back in December. That’s when I was invited by a member of Phinney Neighborhood Village Social Committee to speak at their 5th Anniversary Celebration on April 23rd. Who knew in December that I’d be flying to Boston the day after the event, or interviewing participants at Seattle’s Science March one day earlier?

Who knew that what we’d feared for the last years would come to pass, that Rain City Video would close, that the building that has housed it and other small local businesses since it was built would come up for sale? Who knew that Seattle would break a 122-year-old record for rain or that Bertha would actually emerge from the tunnel? Who knew I would be traveling east to be here for the last two weeks of my mom’s radiation treatments but on day four spend the whole day in examining rooms with my sister after her knee went “pop.”

Last December seems so long ago now, how could I have even thought to commit to April? Early December was before the three-week virus began making its way through all of my social circles. It was before yarn shops sold out of pink wool. We knew that a new president was planning to take office with plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, build a wall along the Mexican border and run government like a business. We didn’t know the devil would be in the details.

I certainly didn’t know that on the first Saturday in February, when my goal was not to leave the house, that I would instead leave it to photograph and write about a beloved shop dog’s last day. Or that same day I would drive through snow to meet someone in a Starbuck’s to buy a laptop from a stranger. A casual exchange on weather led the retired Navy man to shared he’d just flown home, from Dover Air Force Base. As though it was a cloud passing between us that needed to be acknowledged he mentioned his flight was taking off as Marine One landed in advance of a C-17 returning the remains of U.S. Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens to his family.

The public didn’t know for several weeks that Owen’s father and mother had declined to meet with the 45th President and his daughter. The father Bill Owen was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying, “I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but I couldn’t in good conscience talk to him.”

As the weeks and months, now otherwise blurred, led up to rapid approach of the April date I wondered what could I say? Yet I kept coming back over and over to connections. I look for them every day. Mostly they bring me a sense of joy. Other times I’m struck dumb by the implausible connections of this world we live in now, in which a man can post a laptop on Craig’s List and transfer to me an image of a family waiting for the return of a fallen soldier.

Who knew last December, or even last week, where we would find ourselves today, whether worrying about North Korea’s missile test or whether pre-existing conditions would continue to be covered? Who knew my mom would be diagnosed with breast cancer?

I was simultaneously preparing to be out of town for several weeks, planting a garden beforehand and helping to organize a community outreach campaign about Seattle City Light’s proposed sale of a half-block in South Lake Union. Who could have dreamed last December that in late January we would lose our greatest ally in all things green, Cass Turnbull, who had long campaigned for community use of that parcel? Who knew I would attend a memorial that featured a procession of arborists?

In the rainy hours before the event I thought, this seemed like a good idea last December. But I also found myself thinking of all the connections I’d made since moving to Seattle, and even new ones made since December. By the time I was introduced I’d already reconnected with a new Board Member Jan Chalupny, not seen since my long ago days in the Biotech world. I’d reconnected with a Mapping Historic Ballard Volunteer. I had also tried to match up a Village member with a writing group looking for members I’d met through It’s About Time Writers’ Reading Series I coordinate.

Who knew last December that speaking at the 5th Anniversary of the PNA Village, especially at the time of its expansion to Ballard, would be one of the second highlights of year, second to the Woman’s March? I should have known. After all it’s almost always the personal connections that make life, at least my life, the most rewarding. A woman across the table shared that she had moved back from Utah because of the PNA Village. I should have known that despite all that we cannot know, personal connections still offer the possibility of hope, and joy.

Free presentation on Ballard’s new Village Program on Wednesday, May 10, 7 p.m. at Sunset Hill Community Clubhouse, 3003 NW 66th. The Village membership is open to all ages.

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