Dropped off at the Park&Ride on Mercer Island Saturday afternoon. A steep island, with a high spine, rearing out of Lake Washington, but it seems to be much more School Island than Pleasure Island (for those of us who like that sort of thing), and if you don't have kids, you will feel very, very lonely. My relative-hosts have two - one just out of HS and now in a highly selective film program, and one a daughter in her 2nd HS year (who loves ATHF as much as I do). There are no movies and only 4 Starbucks ("Used to be five." the daughter told me, without much regret, or perhaps with mild irony). I was touched that the family kept their Kerry/Edwards signs up in the parking turnaround at their house.
Some house. 3 stories built into a slope, front door at the back, balconies at the front, lots of light, and air (good, as the a/c was down), and nearly every room was some kind of studio - made for stimulation and work. Mom and Dad, in this case, work from home (he does the images, she does the words), and they are pretty prosperous and pretty independent. Also always busy.
Earlier this summer they were two weeks in El Salvador, an ongoing church project, chopping and laying rock for roadbeds in a village they work with. This was Doug's and Diane's second stint there, and we talked about the aid philosophy behind the project - no one-offs, build infrastructure, build community resources, keep support teams coming. They know the pitfalls of privately sponsored aid work, and so do their beneficiaries, who were surprised (and it seems very pleased) to see them return. Not blind to history, either - some of the people they are helping used to be with government forces, in the day; some were guerrillas, now they are neighbors. Stitching the society back together has to be part of the process. But having a roadbed not drowned in caleche is even more immediate - can't get the crops out without it.
The pic of their pastor with a cerveza and a cigar was pretty heartening, too.
There was an opportunity to meet some of their fellow congregants that first afternoon, but I missed it - crashed for nearly 6 hours, then a few hours up (that's when I got the El Salvador briefing), and two nights of uninterrupted, baby-monitor-free sleep, in the wake of which I still ride.
There were many felicities in between. House is full of paintings - I was especially taken by a bunch of thumbnail studies Doug had done to get his hand back in oils - just details from late-19th/early 20th century french subjects, but fresh and lively and skewed to his bright rich palette. I know some of the sources first-hand, and these were good.
On Sunday morning, sitting on a balcony, you can listen to the passing conversations of groups of bikers on the road below - bits of local gossip, business advice, kid talk - you hear it first, catch a glimpse of the speakers through the trees, then hear it fade, but it hangs together. My hosts like it, too. And I jaunted down to the lakeside - big houses, also some shacks, sound of kids splashing in a backyard pool, public beach, some older kids strumming guitars at the head of the stairs leading to the water. Sheltered, a bit remote, but minutes from Bellevue, from Downtown, from Cap Hill. Once the kids are well-launched, they'll move back into Town.
My old boss (not a native speaker of English) would have said that Doug and Diane, "work like 10 dogs." They do, and they did, in order to escape the commute, and nannies, and to maintain their family on their own terms. When they moved to Mercer Island, it was actually cheaper than other parts of greater Seattle. They were hit hard by the slump after 9/11 - couple of years of just scraping by. They have clients they have never met face-to-face, but they have brains and talent and clear heads and guts. Just being around them was a tonic to me. And I still grin when I think of those gallant Kerry/Edwatds signs.