Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gardens in Winter

Gardens are a beautiful place to visit, even in winter. In these darkest months of the year, they offer the evergreen promise of rejuvenation. The City of Tukwila was inspired when it designed a garden especially meant to be viewed in this season. If you haven't had a chance to visit the Macadam Winter Garden yet, this month is the perfect time to go. It's located at South 144th Street and Macadam Road in Tukwila, just one block east of I-5.

You'll see unexpected color and patterns in the branches of deciduous trees and shrubs, and beautiful clusters of snowberries, and even blossoms -- winter jasmine and heather are blooming right now.

Another lovely spot at any time of year is the Highline-SeaTac Botanical Garden. Push through this inviting garden gate and start exploring -- this site contains several different gardens. You'll see the Elda Behm Garden right away...

... and here are the classical "bones" of the Seattle Rose Society Garden. (Lots of weddings take place here in the summer.)

Make sure you don't miss the Seike Garden! It is to the east of the Rose Garden, tucked into a hillside and out of sight if you don't know to look for it. Both the Elda Behm and Seike Gardens originated elsewhere and would have been obliterated by the expansion of the third runway at SeaTac Airport. But thanks to the diligent efforts of many dedicated volunteers, these beautiful gardens were moved piece by piece to this site, which is directly across from the North SeaTac Community Center at 13735 24th Avenue South in SeaTac. For more about the remarkable history of the Seike Garden, check out the film by Ken Slusher called "The Seike Garden," available on DVD in the Northwest Collection at the Burien Library.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

There's Harp Music in the Air

There's music in the air this month -- and have you noticed that much of it is coming from harps? Harpists play all year 'round of course, but it seems that December programs tend to feature harp music -- after all, the harp traditionally has been considered the instrument of angels.

Harps really aren't as rare as some people think. There are plenty of local harpists, and they're playing on everything from troubador harps to pedal harps.

Here in South King County, we have several resident harpists. Maybe some of you remember the 8-piece "harpestra" that performed last summer in Burien as part of the "Pieces of Eight" event at B/IAS. Earlier this month, the Maple Valley Library hosted a holiday concert that featured an entire harp ensemble from Auburn.

At two concerts last weekend, harpist and long-time Renton resident Patty Warden performed with the Federal Way Chorale. Here's a picture of her taking a bow with Chorale Director Laird Thornton (photo credit Randy Inghram).

Patty and several other South King County harpists also participated in the harpathon at Seattle Children's Hospital last weekend -- a 12-hour harp-playing marathon that raised over $3500 for uncompensated care -- way to go! Then a couple of the younger harpists at the harpathon -- Clara M of Des Moines and Bethany E of Kent, packed up their harps and headed back to South King County to play at a party sponsored by a Renton bank. There were blisters and sore backs by the end of the day -- you have to be tough to be a harpist!

Several of the orchestras that belong to SoCoCulture have harpists on their permanent roster. In Enumclaw, Karen Reinbolt is the harpist in the Plateau Community Orchestra. Here's a photo of her performing in a duet with her daughter Cassie at an orchestra concert last spring. The Northwest Symphony Orchestra has harpist Melissa Walsh, and John Carrington regularly performs with the Auburn Symphony.

It would be fun to hear some behind-the-scenes stories from local harpists. Does anyone care to share?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Light in the Darkest Season

Your intrepid blogger headed out into the wind and the rain tonight to capture some of the light displays put up by different municipalities in South King County. Here's the scene in Kent, just across 2nd Avenue North from the Kent Regional Library (which is currently closed for remodeling). I'm sorry this shot doesn't catch the beautifully lit trees that line the perimeter -- cool blues and greens and purples make this a very serene display. And while the blustery weather made my holiday photo safari a bit damp and unpleasant, I love the reflective effect!

Next up to Des Moines. This is the display at Big Catch Plaza, right as you drive into town. This big tree is lit up every year and is a simple but nice way to welcome folks. Unfortunately, the top is not lit up properly this year. I know times are tough right now, but can't the city cough up enough money for one more string of lights at the top? I wasn't using a tripod, hence the "arty" shot. (UPDATE: As of 12/17, the top of the tree is lit, too! It looks so much better now!)

Des Moines will have another type of holiday light display this Wednesday, when the Christmas ships come into the marina. The City builds a big bonfire at Des Moines Beach Park and hands out free cocoa - it's a nice, friendly, small-town event. Details are on our SoCoCulture online events calendar.

On to Burien: the light display outside the Burien City Hall Library is tasteful but subdued -- alternating lightposts are wound round with sparkling red or white lights, and topped with lighted wreaths. It reminded me of swizzle sticks!

Finally I got onto 405 and did the stop-and-go commute to Renton. Plenty of red brakelights along the way -- but that wasn't really the type of light display I was looking for! I skipped going to Ivar's ClamLights at Gene Coulon Park tonight, because I plan to visit with my whole family sometime in the next week. If you've never visited ClamLights, make this the year -- it's fun to stroll through this delightful display!

I did, however, swing by the Renton Piazza. Check this out:

I couldn't capture it all in one shot -- there's much more to this festive scene. What a dazzling sight for all the bus commuters coming through this transit hub!

But while we're talking about lights and Renton, I have to mention the traffic light problem. I remember the bumper sticker years ago that touted Renton as the Unsynchronized Traffic Light Capital of the World. It's still true at the intersection of Logan and Third -- utter gridlock! (Maybe it's the work of the Grinch?)

Whether modest or extravagant, these light displays really do help to lift the spirits. I want to thank the cities, even in these budget-tightening times, for putting a little sparkle in our lives at this darkest time of the year.

Now I'm going to go brew myself a nice cup of tea and try to dry out!

Best wishes, Barbara McMichael/SoCoCulture administrator