As I youngster I liked to scurry about. Our backyard shared a fence with the high school track. We had a big yard. Our driveway was quiet. The family room was big enough and even had some couches one could dramatically leap over.
When you enter college you are supposed to try new things. Broaden your horizons, experiment, and find out who you are as a person. The only new thing I agreed to go was going with my best friend to Green Lake.
Green Lake is a fascinating place. In the ‘60’s it was quite the venue. Bob Hope and the Aqua Follies would perform in and around the man-made lake. While it has been trimmed down considerably, there used to be a coliseum-like shell structure capable of hosting thousands. The Grateful Dead played there and it has long been a go-to destination in Seattle. It is on the way to work for many, only a few miles from the University of Washington, and rubs up against a major road.
Green Lake serves many functions. There are almost too many to list, but I am feeling reckless. Let us give it a go.
The Many Tantalizing Choices that Green Lake Offers
-Go for a stroll. It is less than three miles. Plenty of elderly people have been sauntering along the loop for years. Strollers are plentiful, dogs get their walks, and folks take in nature while sipping on their coffee.
-Go for a run. This is what I feel Green Lake was created for. This is what I have been doing for years. I am not alone. Since the track just happens to be close to a 5k, almost every little run is hosted here. A turkey-themed race. A bells-on race. A girls-centric race where most are clad in Wonder Woman apparel. A candle walk. Anything short of a half-marathon will probably happen at Green Lake.
-Go for a swim. I have taken exactly two swim lessons at the indoor pool. You can join the community events or sit in the steam room.
-Go for a swim with questionable hygiene. Yes, it is a lake. A man-made lake, but a lake. And the lake is stocked with fish. There is plenty of wildlife to join you in the water. Green Lake is host to hundreds of ducks and geese. With that comes a bounty of feathers and poop. There has often been a struggle with toxic algae in the water. Whenever I see people on the beach-side of Green Lake going for a dip, I become a bit squeamish. “Suspect”, is my word for the lake. But hey, it looks pretty.
-Oh, the bunnies. I almost forgot. There is a post-Easter tradition. Once you have realized that those adorable little balls of fluff do not make fun pets? Then you go over to Green Lake and leave them there. Are you supposed to? No. Does it happen? Oh yes. You will always be met by a bevy of bunnies at Green Lake.
-You can park your RV for extended amounts of time (unofficially allowed). The pool has showers which are open to the public. There are restrooms every half mile or so. There is street parking. So yes, especially right now, there are plenty of people living at Green Lake. You hear their generators and smell the gasoline as you run by. You see a tent tucked away in the brush. You note a hammock pulled taut between two trees with a bicycle parked below. You may see a person pushing their grocery cart on the path, not really sure how far they are going.
-You can people watch. This is almost required. You see the uber-fit guy with his shirt off running with his equally in-shape partner in sports bra and short shorts. They have their eight-pack abs, perfect haircuts, and determination written on their face. They are out to conquer the world. There are the stroller moms. They gather in pairs or groups and eavesdropping on their new way of life is fascinating. And yes, there are the folks that push a stroller, sip from their cup of coffee, have a dog whose leash is taking up half the path, all while talking on the phone. (These people make my head explode. Too much going on!)
-You can embrace the neutral territory. Got a blind date and you want to be surrounded by people in a non-shady location? There are always people at Green Lake. Want to trade off the kids for the weekend? Separated couples can meet in the parking lot, exchange updates, and grab the kids’ backpacks.
-You can sit in the parking lot. Yes, there are the people that have taken up residence, but you do not have to go that far. Maybe you are extra early to an interview and need somewhere to go. Maybe you want a lunch break. Maybe your legs hurt and you want to look at your phone aimlessly. In every parking lot, you will find at least one person lingering in their car. A few of them are waiting for their activities buddy. Some never actually leave their vehicle.
Since college, it has only gotten busier. More strollers. More dogs. More people walking abreast in packs of four or five. On a sunny weekend day, thousands of people would occupy this plot of land. The parking lot became the ultimate game of musical chairs. You could almost hear the couples in their cars, “There! There’s a spot! Go go go!” One more reason why this is the perfect place to people-watch.
I am a runner. I want to go in my circles and go home. I am capable of weaving and avoiding the the crowds, but I would rather not. Oh, how I yearned for the Green Lake of twenty years ago when I could run around unmolested by others…
Then Covid happened.
Now I show up at 5 a.m. on a Sunday and I do not see anyone for the first mile. The current trend is that I will see two or three people on the outer loop during my run. On the inside loop I will spot roughly four people. After an hour of exercise, I have seen eight or ten people. While I do not like anything about the disease itself, this particular side-effect is fantastic. I can run multiple miles without having to dodge around groups.
Green Lake is back to how it once was. The old people are milling about. One or two guys are trying to stave off middle age, and there is a dog walker. A single bicyclist rides around and the geese have taken over any patch of cement or grass that they darn well please. Four of five guys have their folding chairs set up as they fish from the lake. In this sub-section of life, all is quiet.
I relish the moment. I embrace running around the lake because I know that eventually it will go back to normal. One day the sports fields will be bustling with soccer players again. One day the joggers will outnumber the water fowl. One day there will be myriad folks getting in my way.
I do not want anyone to be sick. Let us all get to a place where we do not have to live in fear. I would like the death count to stop. However, should Green Lake take a little time to get back to normal? The guy who likes to scurry about in wide open spaces would be just fine with that.