We live close to the Locks here in Seattle, giant steel channels where boats squeeze together as the water rises or drops, depending on which way the bow’s facing. Without these Locks, Lake Union would bleed out into the Sound, its borders and depth forever altered, but with them, the two bodies of water stay mostly separate.
Salt water on one side, fresh on the other.
There’s plenty to see here, even in early spring. Crusty fishermen hoisting ropes, retirees sipping wine on their yachts, tourists snapping pictures—it’s a scene. Benjamin asks to be picked up and together we watch as the black water fills the cavity and brings a sailboat up to eye-level.
One moment just empty space, and then a boat emerges from beneath us like magic.
When we’ve seen enough appearing and disappearing acts, we make our way back along the catwalk, past the wall of churning, howling lake water flooding through what I can only describe as monstrous turbines. The sound is deafening. We stop for a moment, and I can feel his body against mine, feel it lean and pull a bit closer to all of that water, and something within me catches and I have to swallow.
I’ve been distracted all morning, and now I am awake. Totally in the moment. My brain hums with unthinkable possibilities. If he were to wiggle free, if he were to squirm his way out of my arms, could I jump in that black water?
I know the answer before I finish the thought. I am already eyeing the life preserver in its glass case. I am already calculating the icy water all around us. I not only could do it, I would.
In a heartbeat.
For anyone else, I might hesitate. But not for him, this precious son. I squeeze Benjamin tighter to my chest, and we keep walking through the icy spray kicked up in the breeze. When we are back on the other side, he wiggles out of my arms, racing towards the metal waves, an art installation he appreciates solely for the clang they make against his chubby palm.
I know the fish ladder will be quiet today, but I look anyways. It will be several more months before the salmon return to spawn. By August, this ladder will be teeming with would-be parents who will have evaded a sea’s worth of predators to get home.
Years ago I saw a young man outside the Greyhound bus station with a cardboard sign that said, “Please. I’m desperate to get home.” Looking down at this ladder reminds me of him, and I reach to pick up my boy again.
It’s funny how many thoughts rise to the surface each day, how many things are floating inside, just waiting for the right moment to make themselves known.
CLAIRE CAREY DEERING believes less is more, in writing and in life.