Exploring the Cold Coast: Seattle, a Home for Artists and Adventurers – Dispatch #2

James Anaya, and Maggie Tweedy play music on a rooftop on the waterfront in downtown Seattle, Washington; Photograph by Max Lowe
James Anaya and Maggie Tweedy play music on a rooftop on the waterfront in downtown Seattle, Washington; Photograph by Max Lowe

From where I stood on the roof of my friend James’s building in Pioneer Square, I couldn’t help but wonder about the last time I actually slowed down enough to soak in a little winter sunset, count the dinosaur-like cranes towering over the port, or visit my sister, Susie, at Radicci to let her blow my mind with delicious food. Pioneer Square is the part of Seattle that really makes you feel like you’re in a city with all kinds of stories. It’s the oldest part of the downtown, and has become a delicious restaurant epicenter in recent years. After swinging through Emerald City Guitars where my friend JamesAnaya works, we decided to catch the view from the roof of his apartment building down the street.

I stood on the roof in the elevated company of my friend James, a singer-songwriter, and the ultra-talented Shannon Toomey. The winter sun sets early at this latitude … before dinner. With short days and undoubtedly unreliable promises of friendly weather, this sunny moment enjoying our view was serendipitous. My dear friend Max Lowe literally chose to explore Seattle in January—fortunately he arrived for the only sunny days of the month. The sunsets in this city, when they really happen, look like they belong somewhere in Monument Valley; The mist, fog, and low-hanging blanket clouds all make for an enormous expanse of prisms. When the sun filters through at “golden hour” everything looks like a watercolor painting. No time or place seemed better for James, Shannon, and me to bookend the day atop this 200-year-old building with good company and some bluesy folk music.

Maggie Tweedy and Shannon Toomey walk along the beach at Lighthouse Point at Sunrise in Seattle, Washington; Photograph by Max Lowe
Maggie Tweedy and Shannon Toomey walk along the beach at Lighthouse Point at sunrise in Seattle, Washington; Photograph by Max Lowe

Seattle has been my base camp for the past four years. After studying music at University of Puget Sound in neighboring Tacoma, I have become a creature of one of the fastest growing urban landscapes in the country. I love the pace of urban living. I need to be surrounded by people with different stories and rhythms of life, but I also love the easy escape provided by Seattle’s proximity to less populated places. Places like the Olympic Peninsula, Larrabee State Park, and the Cascades all offer breathtaking views and a quiet that is unavailable in urban areas—and they’re all reasonable day trips out of the city.

As a result of “home-basing” in an urban land, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with synth pop bands such as The Flavr Blue, singer-songwriters like James Anaya and Amos Miller, the Seattle Rock Orchestra, and local tech start-ups like Siren.

When we’re talking about a serious balancing act, that’s Seattle living. The various habitats I have acquired help to characterize me as multi-faceted. I am a musician, educator, and adventurer. I play strings-for just about anything … for hotel lobbies during the holidays, for hip-hop/pop/jazz/soul/disco instrumentals in studios, on stages, on video, in university practice rooms, classrooms, on boats, on ranches, on mountains, in bars, weddings, and radio stations. My life rhythm has a cadence somewhere between enjoying the enormity and relative permanence of mountains and the wonder that absolute solitude can provide while, conversely, allowing myself to be swept up in the mix of a vibrant, creative culture. I am a Montana native, so the extreme characteristics of weather, wilderness, and open space are familiar. A two-hour drive from Seattle in just about any direction can provide absolute solitude, allowing me to reposition my anchor in the intrinsic wild roots of my being. Playing music makes me feel like I can accurately communicate who I am. My identity is strongly correlated to performance art and the exploration of the wild spaces that surround me. As an artist and explorer, then, I endeavor to find fulfillment in the spaces I feel most vulnerable.

Maggie Tweedy walks along back alleys in downtown Seattle; Photograph by Max Lowe
Maggie Tweedy walks along back alleys in downtown Seattle, Washington; Photograph by Max Lowe

Breaking into the music and creative community in Seattle involved a lot of research, saying “yes” to things that came my way and at times, cutting my losses with things that didn’t work out. I get a thrill out of finding myself in scenarios where I have no choice but to move forward, because the alternative is not only mundane, it’s unacceptable. There is a delicate balance of knowing your actual limits and pushing yourself to do things you would have never thought of trying. It’s like any process of building what I like to call a “love tribe,” also known as a supportive network.

With the body of work and connections I’ve made thus far, I can say that from my current view, I can count on the creative community of the PNW to really pull through for me. I think you have to dig through a lot of oysters to encounter your own “pearl of enlightenment.” Sometimes you aren’t really aware of what it is you’re looking for, but one things is certain; you’re going to have to scrape your knuckles, hands, and fingernails and get beat up in the process. But that’s what it’s all about, whether you’re vulnerability is standing on a stage at Sasquatch Music Festival, taking a solo hike up Mount Washington, climbing up bluffs on the coast to avoid high tide, or showing up last minute to lay down some tracks at the historic Avast Recording Studio, it’s the climb. If you keep going up, around the next corner, or over the next crevasse on Rainier, you will always be presented with a new way of viewing your existence.

Up next: Adventures in Bellingham, Washington

Read all the “Exploring the Cold Coast” dispatches.

The Adventurists blog series “Exploring the Cold Coast” is sponsored by Sperry, which provided footwear and apparel for this adventure.

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