On July 23, 2011, I recited these design stories at the Boston Globe for my friends at Ink, stories inspired by the work of Frederick Law Olmsted and the impact his legacy has had on my life in particular, and three American cities – Seattle, DC, and Baltimore – in general. Each story takes place in a natural urban setting influenced or designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. This is the third essay in a collection of eight.
Skipping. Running. Jumping. Playing. It was sunny. The mountain was out. Right there, Rainier in the background. Me and two young Weimaraners in the foreground. To know me is to know a woman with two gray sidekicks. Where ever I go, there they are.
The fountain is huge. Built for the grand exposition, it’s one of the pivotal points on the University of Washington grounds, built to exploit magnificent views of one of the country’s most famous peaks. My grad studio was clear across campus, past the computer science building, through Red Square with Suzzallo Library, gothic, stone, and old, presiding like Gandalf over collegiate elves. Take a right turn there. See the cherry trees? They make the Quad famous. A cotton candy wonderland when timed right in the spring. Hell, I know people who decided to go the UDub based on the beauty of the campus alone. If it were a beautiful woman, well…its beauty would have no equal.
The fountain is huge. And there I was, two dogs off-leash, one of them running along the edge of the fountain. You’re not supposed to have dogs off-leash of course, but I did. I swear, if I end up in hell, it’ll be the damn leash laws that will have done me in. Because other than breaking leash laws, using the F-word more than I should, and smoking a clove cigarette every now and again, I’m a pretty law-abiding person.
I forgot to mention Grieg Garden. You have to pass that on your way back to the studio, too. Will and I got married there, one fine September afternoon back in 2003. A lovely little spot, secluded from campus, flanked all around by hemlocks and rhododendrons. Plush, green, demure. They call it the peanut because it’s shaped like one. One time, post-matrimony, of course, I had the Weims off-leash there, too. Scared the crap out of an Asian woman and her little boy. It was dark and she just stood there screaming. Mies just stood there barking. Barking. Screaming. Barking. Screaming. Mies, come! Oslo, it’s okay. She won’t eat you and you won’t eat her. C’mon, let’s go home.
There weren’t that many people in attendance, maybe 50 in all. But the Sun was there. In Seattle, the sun is the most coveted guest of all.
Mies, if you fall in, I’m gonna laugh my ass off, you crazy dog. Flash. Tip. Splash. Swim. Hot damn, there he went! Bending over, reaching in. I couldn’t reach him. Stretch, stretch. Hot damn, there I went, too. Oslo, help me. The sides are too high.
The fountain is deep. It’s a good thing I’m tall. Could you please help me? Please take my dog, he’s only a puppy. Oslo, stay!
What a nice man. Hoisted, dripping, sopping, embarrassed, grateful. I leashed the dogs and took them home.