Don’t Give Up
by Peggy Sturdivant
Ballard Senior Center Director Carlye Teel never gives up. “Please tell people about our auction in September,” she said to me through her office window. “Donations are way down.” Their major funding source was wiped out not once, but twice. Their annual “Spring for Seniors” was scheduled for March 2020.
I’d finally been able to deliver a sheath of Ballard Market receipts, so that almost 20 months of purchases could trickle their pre-tax 1% into the Senior Center.
Don’t give up, I thought driving farther up the block, past the sign calling for “your best silly walk.” Zita Niemeyer never gave up in her 50 years at Ballard’s hospital, or in retirement. One of Ballard’s brightest lights went out on July 22, 2021. She was known for saying, “You can do anything for a year.” The day before her death she was still offering encouragement, telling her son Joel, “You look so good.”
When COVID-19 first arrived, did we think we would be shutting down for over a year? We didn’t give up, but it wasn’t always easy to see the good. In fact you had to look beyond the statistics.
Two years ago, at the last Art in the Garden at Ballard P-Patch on NW 85th it was desperation time as they needed to raise almost Two Million dollars in order to purchase the land. They didn’t give up and now thanks to the community spirit that still exists in King County they will celebrate wildly (as gnomes do) with the 19th Annual Art in the Garden on August 7, 2021, from 10-5 p.m.
Closer to home, there are bright spots as well.
City Fruit harvested 30 pounds of apples from my neighbor’s gnarled tree. Every year the weight of the apples bends it closer to the ground, but the fruit keeps coming.
The neighbor who didn’t first sign up to tend the traffic circle has become its main gardener. In addition to her husband she has finally acquired a helper. “I’m Lisa,” said the tall woman with a smile bright as a daisy center. “I always used to read your column.”
“Back when there was a paper,” I said. Already thinking, if I was still writing a column I would need to write about Lisa, who told me she grew up on The West Seattle Herald. How she thought that she was busted at the traffic circle when caught adding seeds. Instead was recruited to work alongside the most diligent keeper of this garden, this verdant circle that brought an end to the car collisions.
“I contacted you once about a story,” Lisa said, “and you were Johnny-on-the-Spot.”
Which sounds like another flower, like Love-In-The-Mist or rocket plant, but much livelier than I feel.
“Will you be able to do a Ballard Writer’s Book Basket for the auction?” Carlye called to me from the other side of the window screen at the Ballard Senior Center.
“Of course,” I promised blithely. I try not to give up. I’m organizing the annual Ballard Writers Collective reading for November 11, 2021, along with “It’s About Time Writers’ Reading Series,” still online, with the Ballard Branch of Seattle Public Library. I’ll keep sharing my Morello cherries and promoting writers.
I have friends who are facing losses with their hearts wide open. Surely I can keep finding the bright spots and not give up on Ballard, on my students, on accepting change.
When I moved here there was not a traffic island where the wide streets intersect, just too frequent accidents. Now there’s a round garden, a thriving (thanks to neighbor) collection of plants provided by the City, my donations of garden misfits, and rare beauties from the master gardeners down the block.
Four nights ago from my porch I saw two people walk by carrying chairs. When I next saw them they had set up on the traffic circle, writing on pads of paper, green space at their back, looking out over Puget Sound and the Olympics.
The next evening it was three people with wineglasses, sitting on the curb to watch the sunset. It’s a nightly occurrence. I’m both charmed that the traffic circle has become a destination, combining view and garden, and saddened that a public green space is just a traffic island.
I went down to talk to the man and woman who had carried their chairs, along with note pads. “I have to ask…” They told me they lived up on 32nd NW and were brainstorming ideas to prank their roommates.
Suddenly I was happier than I had been in years, since at least March 1, 2020. There will be Art in the Garden, and tons of fruit and vegetables going to the food banks because of P-Patches and City Fruit. There will be a chance for those who adored Zita Niemeyer to share their memories at the home of Joel and Filina Niemeyer on August 8, as well as the return of Art in the Garden on August 7.
Ballard Senior Center is still serving up lunches and somehow the community will once again rally to refill their coffers.
“Don’t give up,” those sidewalks signs reminded me, and we didn’t. Ballard P-Patch didn’t. Zita Niemeyer never did.
Which just leaves those unseen roommates of my new traffic circle friends. When it comes to those pranks their roommates are plotting, they probably should give it up now!
Mark your calendars for Art in the Garden on August 7, 2021, 10-5pm. On August 8, there will be a celebration for the life of Zita Niemeyer at her son Joel’s home at 11a.m. (open to all who adored her).
Think donations and tickets for the Senior Center Dinner & Auction on September 19, 2021. https://ballardseniorcenter.org/