Farewell, Seattle (After AWP)
My husband and I are moving to Spain. Soon. Like next week. The idea had been in our heads for a year and the actual visa process was in the works for months. But when the visas arrived in the mail sooner than we imagined and we realized we needed to apply for our residency cards in person within thirty days of the visa start date, the frenzy began.
We have spent the last couple of weeks scrambling to divest ourselves of most of our belongings. Not that we had a lot since two downsizings in the last five years necessarily made minimalists out of us—to an extent. I was still able to fit six bookcases, seven really, in 524 square feet of apartment. They and the 900-some books they accommodated had to go. It was painful at first but then I turned businesslike and dispassionate, sorting the books into paper bags and cardboard boxes as if they were mere objects and not stories and lives and truths. After setting aside some bags for friends, I drove around the city for several days, delivering the rest to various book places. When I dropped the last grocery bagsful at Couth Buzzard Books and the Greenwood Branch of Seattle Public Library, I sat in my car and cried. Just a little because I’m trying to practice detachment from things or at least from having lots of things.
We are unfettered. Unburdened by belongings. Or are we unmoored? At sea, so to speak, without a chair or coffee table to our name to anchor us to a place, a home.
Both my husband and I have lived in Seattle most of our adult lives. He came in 1970 from Eastern Washington to attend the UW. I came from Southern California in the spring of 1977 when I was 23, never thinking I would spend the next 46 years here. But it became my city, where I became me.
Seattle is where I met the two friends I’ve known the longest since leaving California, Kathleen Alcalá and Catalina Cantú. In the early ‘80s, we were members of the Seattle chapter of MANA, Mexican American Women’s National Association. The chapter dissolved, but not our friendship.
Seattle is where —
- inspired by Kathleen’s example, I became a writer.
- my first writing community was the Latino writers’ group, Los Norteños, which used to pack the Elliott Bay Books basement for our annual Day of the Dead reading.
- with much gratitude, I received grants multiple times from 4Culture, Artist Trust, and Seattle Office of Arts and Culture.
- I browsed and bought books, and attended and participated in readings at Couth Buzzard, Phinney Books, Third Place Books, and that center of the book universe that will always have my heart, Elliott Bay Book Company, whose Pioneer Square store was my lunchtime haunt for many years. Happy 50th anniversary, EBB! I wish I could be there for the celebration in June.
- I’ve been in a writing group with Allison Green since 2006 along with others who came/went/stayed over the years, including Wendy Call, Jennifer Munro, Alma Garcia, E. Lily Yu, and Jen Soriano.
- I had the privilege of being curator in 2009 for the Jack Straw Writers Program and working with beautiful writers.
- I wrote book reviews for Seattle Review of Books and International Examiner.
- I participated in many lively community events with Seattle 7 Writers.
- I had the honor of being in conversation with amazing authors through the Seattle Public Library and Seattle Arts and Lectures.
- I wrote and had published three books of fiction.
- my book Living Color: Angie Rubio Stories was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award.
- writer and Seattle Public Library librarian Linda Johns and Washington Center for the Book librarian Sara Peté nominated me for the Library of Congress PALABRA Archive.
- I worked for King County for thirty years in recycling and resource conservation among many co-workers dedicated to public service and the community good.
There are too many people, groups, and events that have had an impact on my life in Seattle to name them all. But can I just namedrop a few? Like that time I shared a stage with famous people, reading with Charles Johnson and Jess Walter and being introduced by Nancy Pearl at the Humanities Washington Bedtime Stories event. Or the time I read as part of Ampersand Live at the Moore Theater and I felt like that stage was the top of the world. (Thank you, Florangela Davila, for inviting me to be in the show!) And there was the time I participated in the staged reading of Claudia Castro Luna’s Killing Marias. It was sorrowful, hopeful, and magical, and a privilege to read Claudia’s words and feel their power.
There are many upcoming events I am sad to miss. Most immediate is Equivox, the annual Hedgebrook celebration and fundraiser on March 19. I cherish the times I spent in residency there and Equivox is always an inspiring afternoon. Go, if you can, or just donate!
I’m also sad to miss the local celebrations for Jen Soriano’s debut essay collection Nervous due out in August and Alma Garcia’s debut novel All That Rises in October. And there’s Claire Dederer’s latest book Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma in April. And lots of others I won’t be here to celebrate, but I will rejoice from across the Atlantic and my virtual self will still be here on social media.
My physical self will be in Malaga. And how will I fare in that birthplace of Picasso, home of Antonio Banderas, city of eternal sunshine famous for the sardine and anchovy?
Will I finally become fluent in Spanish? Will my brain’s refusal to use the vosotros form turn the locals against me?
Will I learn the metric system and the Celsius scale or just blunder and bungle when it comes to distances, weights, and temperatures?
Will I find any good Mexican restaurants in Malaga?
Will I set my fiction in Malaga?
But before I leave, there’s the AWP 2023 Conference, which I really expected to miss because we initially thought this whole Spain thing was going to happen last fall. AWP was last held in Seattle in 2014. It was my first time attending this conference described on its website as “the annual destination for writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers of contemporary creative writing,” and I’ve attended most years since, often participating on panels and in readings. The conference is back in Seattle this year and I have two events on Thursday, March 9. I’ll be part of a panel called “Out of the Boneyard: Keeping Dead Manuscripts Alive” at 12:10 pm in Room 447-448 Summit Building, Convention Center. Later at 3:00, I’ll participate in a reading at Caffe Ladro at 801 Pine St.
I’ve been able to say goodbye in person to a few people so far and hope to catch many writer friends during the chaos of the conference for a hug in the hallway, a kiss blown from the far side of the book fair, a wave from across the street.
I’ve lived so much of my life in this city, met many wonderful people, and have a temporal lobe stuffed with memories. Farewell, Seattle. Until we meet again, friends. You have enriched my life and I am grateful.
Thanks for these memories and so many more!
Donna, how exciting for you and inspirational on so many levels. I love that I am able to read your blog and stay in virtual touch with you. Spain isn’t so very far away.
Thank you, Dorothy. I wish I could say goodbye to you in person. I’m glad to be in touch with you virtually!
Another bold adventure for you. All the best to you. I look forward to your sunny Malaga fiction and know your new community will be enriched by what you bring and share with them.
Thank you, Tina! Love to you!
Best of luck Donna! Look forward to reading about life in Spain!
Thanks, Jennifer, and I’m looking forward to writing about life in Spain!
Thank you for sharing this adventure of a life you bring to us with this post of farewell, filled with loving memories, and I commend you for sharing this reality to help the ones who remain behind to imagine what leaving could look life – thank you, thank you, thank you, and may farewell mean that the door is never entirely closed.
Thank you, Denise. The door is definitely not closed. Seattle and the people I’ve met here will always be part of me.
What a cavalcade of goodness and love! I am sad to be losing you physically in our community but you will always be a part of it. AND I am thrilled for this new adventure. How brave and wonderful. I wish you bon voyage and a wonderful next phase.
Thank you, Tina. I am sad to be leaving so many wonderful folks in Seattle. Wishing you the best in your writing and art.
donna- i know what you mean about giving up books. when we moved from our 3rd floor apt. where we had lived for some thirty-odd years to a basement apartment in the same building, i had to get rid of hundreds of books. i had two used bookstores come by and pick through and it still wasn’t enough. i even got rid of my asian american collection and my native american collection. i stuffed the neighborhood free library stands weekly with books and bagged what was left over and gave them to friends to take to goodwill. finally we could move into our new basement apartment but when i looked, the new apartment still looked like a used book store. maybe i’ll have to move to another country like you to really be free of possessions. there is a freedom you feel though when you are free of material things though. we came into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing. here’s hoping you have a soft landing in spain. do you know the filipino american artist romson bustillo from seattle? he has a studio in barcelona and spends part of each year there? maybe he could be a good transitional friend to have? safe travels and thanks for writing for the IE all these years. keep writing! it IS important. best, alan
Oh, Alan, parting with books is hard. But you’re right, there is a sense of freedom from not owning a lot of things. I know of Romson Bustillo but I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting him. I’m sure I’ll be in Barcelona at some point and hope to have the opportunity. And I do plan to keep writing! Take care. It’s been such a pleasure.
Your post was exciting just to READ! You can add courageous to your long list of accolades. What a huge adventure awaits. I am thoroughly impressed and looking forward to posts and stories from Spain. Godspeed.
Thank you, GiGi!
Donna! I am SO excited for your next adventure!
You and your writing have inspired me for decades in Seattle.
Thank you for shining your light on so many of us in the Emerald City.
Much love, and the very best wishes!
Thank you, Ann! I can truly say the same back to you, that you and your writing have inspired me! Thank you for your friendship.
Muchas Felicidades Donna!
Que emocionante, que gran cambio. Solo puedo ver gran crecimiento y grandes sonrisas en la futura Donna.
Pronto usaras vosotros mejor que yo. Mucha suerte, te mando un abrazo muy fuerte.
Si, estoy muy emocionada pero también un poco triste. Su hubiera tenido más tiempo, habría tenido una fiesta de despedida así que pudiera ver mis amigas/os una vez más. Dudo que tengo un cerebro capaz de aprender vosotros, pero lo veremos. Gracias por tu amistad, Isabel. Visítame.
Mucha suerte y un abrazo. Bendiciones. xx Judy