Paradise Lost

Do you hold onto a double-standard that bears no logical foundation, and is more cantilevered than a Frank Lloyd Wright creation? Well, let me tell you about mine. Since I’m publicly confessing, it must give me some immunity from criticism, right? No? Okay, how about therapeutic catharsis at least? Let the healing begin.

Before my husband and I first discovered the Issaquah Highlands we owned a house in Sammamish with a peek-a-boo view of the lake, a quiet cul-de-sac and an ample backyard for our toddlers to charge around. Up close it looked idyllic and smelled idyllic, but it tasted like an island. Pulling out of our safely sidewalked and brightly streetlamped HOA-bounded neighborhood of 16 homes we encountered a steep sidewalk-less road, three miles from QFC, two miles from the nearest elementary school and a life-threatening 500-yard dash to the 7-Eleven. Going by foot to get a Big Gulp meant sprinting at top speed around tight corners typically cut by cars on a non-existent shoulder, then bravely facing speeding traffic and bicycles on East Lake Sammamish Blvd. By the time we returned with our Big Gulps we were ready to spike them with something stronger to calm our nerves. Living in this island utopia proved frustrating when trying to access “the mainland”.

After driving around the Issaquah Highlands we were hooked. We could acquire our utopia on a mainland. The neighborhood had streetlights, continuous sidewalks that didn’t suddenly stop when the builder’s property stopped, the school was within a mile, and we would be surrounded by beauty. Walking to Zeeks for a soda and a slice did not mean we had to say hello to that good night. Best of all, the home we were eyeing backed up to a greenbelt and bordered vacant Harrison Street lots that were not even listed yet. We were sold.

So, the thing about raising children next to empty lots means that the longer they remain empty, the bolder your false sense of privacy grows. Want to practice hitting a baseball? “Take it out to ‘the wasteland’!” Thinking about installing blinds in the rear-facing bathroom and children’s bedroom? “Who’s going to see us, the bears?” Did you already fill up the yard waste bin? “Toss the weeds into ‘the wasteland’!” Yup. We got a bit capricious and unconcerned as the years went by.

Around the dinner table while gazing at snow-capped Mt. Baker in the distance we’d joke to friends that we’ve been dumping all our toxic nuclear waste in the Harrison lot adjacent to our house to prevent any potential building permits from being issued. Who would want to build there anyway? I confidently asserted that the neighboring piece of land must be below the standard of the other pedigreed Harrison properties which boasted jaw-dropping views (and equally inspired property taxes). Our “extended backyard” would never be wrested from our delusional grasp. It most certainly wouldn’t be in anyone’s best interest to build next to our house considering its occupants’ penchant for gleaning land. Can we claim eminent domain?

Last week while starting a run up the hill toward Grand Ridge trailhead, I stopped dead in my tracks and exclaimed, “Oh no!” (Add octane to that expression.) “It’s the beginning of the end!” A four-letter word gazed innocently up at me, nullifying my past five years’ efforts to artificially manufacture elbow-room. “S-O-L-D” it enunciated clearly. It didn’t say, “Tami, you can still roll half-rotten pumpkins down the slope” or “I don’t mind if your kids think this land is theirs”. It said, in no uncertain terms, “I am taken, and I am not yours anymore.” Humph.

While I dig in my heels to the reality that my island with mainland access just got subdivided, most of my friends have greeted the six “SOLD” signs as beacons of an economic one-eighty. If the Harrison Street properties are starting to move again after a molasses-like five years, we must be pulling out of the recession. Like daffodil shoots poking through the ground in spring, that four-letter word on a stick brings optimism that more prosperous times are ahead. My friends can hang onto their vision that this burst of supply-and-demand is a sign of fruitful things to come. The cake that I had, and was going to eat too, just lost a giant slice.

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