New Magic, Old Ghosts, Good Times
I’ve been to Roslyn, Washington, more times than I can count. I’ve loved the town ever since the first time I went there in search of Northern Exposure artifacts. It’s much more than just a pop-culture landmark. The town has a certain magic. I feel a downright mystical vibe in that place, if I’m being honest. History breathes there in every building stone and pavement pore.
I’d become acclimated to the usual energy of the place, so I was surprised to find myself having such a potent visit on my most recent, which occurred on July 17, 2021, in the smoking aftermath of 2020 and the glimmering rays fighting the growing dark of an uncertain future. Such is this strange new world we find ourselves, I suppose.
Out of the Puget Sound Basin and into America
Living in an urban part of the Puget Sound basin, I often forget that the whole world isn’t full of angry people snarling about world peace and spitting on each other in the name of brotherly love. There are still places in this state where people live with a general human comradery and friendliness, places where people shamelessly love this amazing nation we live in. I found them in Roslyn.
What I experienced there can’t really be explained by the events alone. Before the madness of 2020 upturned reality, the things I did in Roslyn would have been trivial.
Yes, I had a great meal at the Roslyn Cafe (great and unique ragù). I once again explored all the historical buildings. I visited, for the first time, the amazing historic cemeteries (if you think cemeteries can’t be great destinations than you haven’t seen these…or been to New Orleans). I also hiked the Carlson Creek Loop, which is technically in Teanaway a few miles east of Roslyn, but still the same basic area.
These are mostly things I’ve done before or are at least the types of things that I’ve done before. On this trip, however, they took on a special magic.
The Human Circle
At the café there was no talk of politics. People flew American flags everywhere, and they did so shamelessly. The ’80s tunes on the café playlist were the same old hits I’ve been hearing since I was a kid, but they sounded life-affirming, this time, simple celebrations of this blessed gift of existence.
Part of this was, of course, the fact that we are coming out of the COVID lockdowns. It was good just to sit in sunshine and hear laughter, to share grins with strangers and banter with our most excellent server was more than that.
It was more than that, though. It was also stepping back into the warm sphere of shared humanity, one that gets filtered out completely by corporate and social media. Spend too much time on the screen and you start to believe that the whole world is full of doom, gloom, and hatred.
Certain places to indeed reflect that darkness, as well. I know this, personally, all too well, having experienced years of hatred spawned by political differences.
In Roslyn, Washington, however, people were just being people. There was a basic shared sense of humanity. A lot of people had come in to visit, and my guess is that the ideological mix was about representative of the nation as a whole. In that place, though, on that day, none of the differences mattered–just people being people, digging life.
It was the first time in a long time that I felt like I wasn’t a lonely ancient relic for loving the nation that I live in, for loving its people and its land, its bones and its spirit.
Simple Things Made Profound by Modernity
Kids laughed. People toasted beers. Servers smiled and cracked jokes. It felt like a Steinbeck novel made real. No, wait, more fittingly–it felt like a Northern Exposure episode made real.
I sincerely thank that little town for being what it is and reminding me that America isn’t dead. There are still good people in the world that just want to enjoy life with other good people, politics be damned (seriously, politics be DAMNED).
You want it? You can have it. It’s in a little town named Roslyn, Washington. United States of America, baby.
Happy nomadding, friends.
I’m going to close this out with Bobby McFerrin’s amazing “Common Threads.” Northern Exposures might remember which episode this was featured in. Drop it in the comments section and I’ll buy ya a drink of your choice. The song gives me goosebumps every single time.