Excerpt: 'Driving Home' by Jonathan Raban
Cascadde Mountains, photograph by Nick Perla
From The New York Times:
In the spring of 1990 I packed up as much of my life in London as would ﬁt into a suitcase and four large plywood boxes and ﬂew to Seattle to set up house. It was a selﬁsh and irregular move. I had “met someone” and liked what I’d seen of the Paciﬁc Northwest during a two-month stay there the previous autumn. I liked the aquarium lighting, the sawtooth alps forested with black ﬁrs, the compact cities encrusted in dirty Roman esque stucco. Most of all, I liked the place’s wateriness. At forty-seven I felt cracked and dry. My new home territory was as rainy as Ireland, puddled with lakes and veined with big rivers. Seattle was built out on pilings over the sea, and at high tide the whole city seemed to come aﬂoat like a ship lifting free from a mud berth and swaying in its chains.
We took a house on the wrong side of Queen Anne, the innermost of Seattle’s hilltop suburbs. The tall wooden house, built like a boat from massive scantlings of Douglas ﬁr, carvel-planked with cedar, had been put up in 1906, in the wake of the Yukon gold rush, when the hill itself was logged. It had warped and settled through a string of minor earthquakes: the ﬂoors sloped, doors hung askew in their frames, and on a silent night it groaned and whifﬂed like a sleeping dog.
Barely a mile from the new banking and insurance skyscrapers of downtown, the house felt as if it were hidden away in the woods. Shaggy conifers, survivors of the original forest, darkened the views from every window. The study looked down over the Ship Canal, where trawlers stalked through an avenue of poplars on their start to the Alaskan ﬁshing grounds, eight hundred miles to the north. From the top-ﬂoor deck one could see out over the pale suburbs, like shell-middens, to the serrated line of the Cascade Mountains, still snow-capped in May.