Finding beauty in expected places, like headlights on I-5 | Taking Stock

By Tim Raetzloff | May 31, 2017

The first home that I remember was on Eastlake in Seattle. We lived there until I was 5 years old.

The Stewart Street off-ramp of Interstate 5 is there now. I was told that the front half of our house had been built in 1871; the back half added in 1889 to take in boarders left homeless by the Great Seattle Fire.

I was young, but I do remember that the front half of the house was better built than the back half. The front stairway to the second floor was wide and the steps were level and even. The back stairway was narrow, steep, and the stairs were warped. The front porch was welcoming; the back porch was shabby. Still, I used the back stairs and back porch much more often than I used the front.

I walked with my mother to the Pike Place Market while my sister rode in the stroller. We went there because it was cheap because the farmers cut out the middlemen, and it was many years before it became trendy.

We walked down Stewart, and came back via Olive Way and Howell Street. My mother probably did that to avoid the boredom of the task. There was also Mr. Olson's corner grocery where REI is now. I was sometimes allowed to walk to Mr. Olson's grocery with Rusty, our dog. I think Rusty understood the traffic light better than I did.

More than 30 years after we left the neighborhood, my work brought me back. I worked in the Marsh McLennan building that had been constructed between Stewart and Olive on 8th Avenue.

It was a relatively new 20-story building. My office was on the 16th floor, and I had to report to work at 5:30 a.m. to take buy-and-sell orders an hour before the stock market opened in New York. Occasionally my supervisor in Los Angeles would call at 5:30 a.m. to see if I was there, but more often than not they left me alone.

The office view looked southeast toward Mount Rainier. That was before Two Union Square was built and cut off the view. And I-5 was a part of the view – 300,000 vehicles a day passing by. Those 300,000 vehicles could look depressing. Imagine seeing them on a day when an accident had turned I-5 into a parking lot. Even on the days when traffic was moving, it wasn't a scene that most artists would decide to paint.

Because I got to work so early, during the darker months the lights of the cars were a part of the scene. Headlights came north toward me and taillights went away to the south. But it was those headlights that gave me one of my best memories.

Usually, the headlights were every bit as unattractive as the cars were for the rest of the day as I glared at the darkness. But I discovered that there was a time of day, a little before sunrise, that transformed those headlights. For perhaps 10 minutes every morning the headlights, as the sky was brightening, would become like a conveyor of sparkling diamonds rising up and over the rise at James Street and moving toward me.

After 10 minutes or so, the headlights were overwhelmed by breaking dawn and I-5 became just a boring conveyor of traffic again. But those minutes of diamonds left me with a lifetime memory.

Mount Rainier was beautiful, also, as it would appear on clear mornings. The changing light flattered its beauty, but I expected it to be beautiful. I had never expected I-5 could be beautiful, but it was. It gave me a lifetime memory, and a lifetime alertness to look for beauty in unexpected places.

 

Tim Raetzloff operates Abarim Business Computers at Harbor Square in Edmonds. What he writes combines his sense of history and his sense of numbers. Neither he nor Abarim have an investment in any of the companies mentioned in this column.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.