A Columbia River wind farm

windmills

From the roadside, they stand deceptively spindly, stark white rotor blades affixed to hubs teetering atop a troupe of toothpicks dotting a parched moonscape high above the river gorge, aloof and mesmerizing like ballet dancers as they spin cartwheel style converting a famous blow into electricity, kindred spirits with the giant Columbia dams that came before.

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In Seattle, where a walk in the neighborhood is threatened by more cars and less parking

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Walkway or driveway? My neighborhood strolls are often blocked by vehicles straddling the sidewalk.

I’m not talking about a quick pull-in to unload groceries or building supplies. Cars and trucks are parked overnight and often left that way all day. Some partially block the sidewalk, forcing walkers to squeeze between silver bumper and prickly shrubbery. Other cars are completely blocking the sidewalk, forcing school children and dog walkers out in the street.  Continue reading

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Honoring Civil War soldiers and sailors at the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Seattle

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Boy Scout Troop 100 spent Saturday morning at Seattle’s Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery cleaning the moss and dirt off of old headstones and planting flags in preparation for a Memorial Day ceremony.

It is altogether fitting and proper that the Scouts should do this. Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was originally called, started out as a way to honor the soldiers who died during the Civil War. The first such remembrance occurred shortly after the war ended, in 1865 in Charleston, S.C. A group of newly freed slaves decided to honor Union soldiers buried in a mass grave at a place called the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club, grounds the Confederate Army had used for a prison camp.

The newly emancipated African Americans dug up the soldiers’ bodies and gave them proper burials. They erected a fence around the cemetery and dedicated it to the unknown men who had fought to defeat the Confederacy and end slavery. On May 1, 1865, 10,000 people gathered at the cemetery and marched around the racetrack. Children sang “John Brown’s Body” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” Afterwards, the graves were decorated with red rose petals.  Continue reading

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Finding Depression-era history on an old sidewalk

wpa second photo2I was in my old neighborhood in Mount Vernon, Washington, and I wondered if I could still find the old marking etched in wet concrete from long ago.

I had told my son the sidewalks had historic marks because they were built by workers who got jobs with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. The sidewalk linked Lincoln School and Hillcrest Park Lodge, two of several big civic projects the city took on in the late 1930s with help from FDR’s programs.

My son scouted the sidewalk past our old house and found a well-worn mark that had been left in wet pavement: “WPA 1939.”

It was a New Deal then, and it seems like a great deal 77 years later. The sidewalk is still going strong, with few cracks and no buckles.

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Here are the signs that a Seattle neighborhood rocked by a natural gas explosion will bounce back

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There are signs that Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood is bouncing back from a devastating natural gas explosion that destroyed several businesses.

Firefighters, investigators and traffic police have been replaced by clean-up crews near the rubble in this North Seattle neighborhood.

But the biggest sign that the bombed-out street will be rebuilt with thriving businesses is the uplifting artwork that spontaneously appeared on walls and sheets of plywood temporarily covering shattered plate-glass storefronts.  Continue reading

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