Photo by Peggy Sturdivant 
Saturday is for baby chicks.

At Large in Ballard: Pacific Standard Time

By Peggy Sturdivant

For the last three weeks I was in the same time zone as my family. Which is not the same as feeling that I belong there. I have always felt like an imposter of sorts in my childhood hometown. I was thinking about this even before I flew east at the end of April. In Ballard I’m always looking for familiar faces. In Topsfield I keep my head down, in part so townsfolk won’t think I’m my sister the resident, ignoring them.

There’s that adage that you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. For thirty years I’ve chosen Seattle as my hometown. But I do love to visit because it seems like time travel, from the October when I was there for the pumpkin weigh-in to ice-skating on New Year’s Eve.

Within hours of my landing in late April I was helping my sister host 14 teenage girls from the Junior Varsity Lacrosse team; all with swishy ponytails. By the weekend I had experienced an emergency room visit with my sister (kickboxing incident), become chauffeur (see Lacrosse), tried to fill my sidelined sister’s shoes (fundraising yard sale, hanging an art exhibit, feeding chickens), and visited the Essex Agricultural Co-Op three times in one day to look at the baby chicks for sale.

My favorite overheard line from the Co-Op was the woman asking the clerk about feeding her lawn. “I have a very big lawn,” she said. How big he asked her.

“Forty acres,” she said, “but really the lawn part is just one acre.”

I told you it was different than Seattle.

Meanwhile the town was making the most of removing what they claimed to be the second oldest tree in town, with Girl Scouts, naturalists and those running for local office in attendance. Alas, the tree didn’t appear to be as diseased as expected once cut, but on the bright side did not hit the 1650 Parson Capen House when the main trunk was airborne.

I confess to using the distractions of New England life to buffer the news from Seattle. When word came that the building where Walter’s Café has operated since 1990 was for sale I willed it away like a child who thinks they are invisible because their eyes are closed. I read about the recent tremblers, and too many homicides. Yet when I got my weekly “This Week in the Mayor’s Office” email I couldn’t help but notice that he was also filtering news; Murray made no mention of having ended his campaign for re-election.

Instead of plotting to save green space, Walter’s Café and worrying about the increasing lack of truly affordable housing in Seattle I tried to pin down a plumber and washed dishes in an outdoor shower. I was there to see my mother “ring the bell” for the last day of her radiation treatments. I practiced (and failed) at tick removal and doubtless caused other harm in my attempts to fit ‘a year of helpful’ into three weeks.

Well, I’m back. Ready to plant the heirloom tomatoes from Abundant Greens and be in Pacific Time. I’m also ready to learn more about local architect and planner David Moerhing’s outreach and efforts to balance Ballard’s growth with historic preservation, with a follow-up meeting on Thursday, May 18, 2017, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Bauhaus Ballard.

There’s still an opportunity for local asparagus I’m in time for a taste of local asparagus and the last croissants made personally by the owner/founders of Café Besalu (before they move to Besalu, Spain and their bakery changes hands). There’s been a lot of change in my three weeks out of town, but it’s time to admit that with or without a time difference, change is our constant. And baby chicks grow fast.

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