The magic rains of January

Now that I've taken down and recycled the Christmas tree, boxed the ornaments and stored away the wrapping paper, I'm finding my usual post-holiday blues haven't arrived. Despite the predictable Seattle rains during this time of year, I'm actually enjoying the normalcy of it all. After several years of drought- like winters, the wet stuff is making a comeback, ensuring a sufficient water supply for our region in the drier months ahead.

Last Saturday en route to the Broadway post office, I crossed through Cal Anderson Park, one of my favorite neighborhood corridors. Ever since the park's reopening last September, I've made a habit to visit the it as regularly as possible. The wide open space, the reflecting pool and the conical shaped fountain that resembles the white capped Mount Rainier to our southeast - all of it provides inspiration on clear and rainy days alike. I love the symmetrical rows of benches on either side of the water treatments and the steppingstones that children for a time dashed on in the warmer days of autumn.

In between

The park is a halfway point between where my partner lives west of Broadway and where I live east of Broadway. When I'm walking to spend the night or returning home in the morning, I purposely pass through the park usually with my dog Meggie who always discovers a provocative scent at the base of the orblike lampposts. Even in the night, it feels safe and contemplative, the sound of water spraying underneath the moonlight and glow of the city skyline.

A little over four years ago my mother spent the last remaining months of her life in a nursing home overlooking the not yet remodeled park. Jacobson House is soon destined to be torn down as Notice for Proposed Land Use signs announced late last year. After 9/11, I brought her there, a year after my father's death in Cleveland. While her stay was short, I remember the homey environment complete with a salty-mouthed parrot and children of the orderlies pencilling in their schoolwork at the front desk of the small, one story facility.

Meggie and I visited regularly and took my mom in her wheelchair on short jaunts around the reservoir at dusk, the orange and pink sky serenading us before nightfall. She died that November, just two months after her arrival. Soon thereafter the park was completly fenced in and closed for relandscaping and filling the reservoir until reopening this fall.

There's emotional weight in seeing this new space so full of vitality and spirit, knowing the old building where Mom spent her final impaired days will soon come crashing down. When Meggie and I walk across the green I think of my mother, who loved the outdoors, who always found the spontaneity for a picnic even on a gray day, and relished a game of tennis, her treasured sport, in the park while a ballgame played on in the background with the clank of a bat and the cheer of the crowd. The new playfield and park bring this all to the fore in my memory, creating happy, soothing thoughts.

The holidays

This past Christmas, spent with my partner's family in the snowy Oregon desert, encircled me with warmth and love. His mother, excited for our arrival, planned our meals with great aplomb. His brother-in-law and I talked about high school reunions and the keen eye and humor of David Sedaris while his sister and I took long walks on snow covered paths with no real destination other than the journey. In the wilderness you can get lost, but over those four days I discovered a home away from home.

Grief is a process. After the death of a parent, spouse, child, friend or pet, time takes over. You really don't have any control over where it leads you. I've yet to read the Joan Didion memoir "The Year of Magical Thinking," but I have no doubt why her treatsie on grief has landed on the best-seller list. We all, at one time or another, will take that journey of Magical Thinking. If we truly want to heal and move on with our lives.

It's been four long years, but I think I'm coming out on the other side. And for now in January 2006, the rain in its steadiness and surety no longer depresses, but comforts me.

Jack Hilovsky's column appears in the second issue of each month. He can be reached at editor@capitol

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