Editor's Note: Crosscut, a nonprofit news site, is in the midst of its Spring Membership Drive. The article below is one of a series of essays about Crosscut marking this drive and our fifth birthday. Please consider becoming an Annual Member, starting at $35, and it's easy to donate online. Members get lots of benefits, such as this past week's Meet the Writers event at our newsroom, free to Members; along with ticket discounts and other invitations.
Those who donate today at the $100 level and above will have their contributions doubled, thanks to a matching grant of $1,000 from Doug and Kathie Raff. Sheryl Huston of Seattle is the winner of yesterday's drawing for two free tickets to a performance on April 28 of Vivaldi's "Gloria" at Town Hall, with the Tudor Choir and Seattle Baroque Orchestra. Drawing for this weekend's donors will be for two sets of four tickets to Bellevue Arts Museum, including the current hot show, "Making Mends." Grand prize drawing is for an Xbox Kinect.
There's an old saying that Seattle's soul is its neighborhoods. I'm not a believer in civic soul, but I think the truth in the statement lies in the fact that our neighborhoods are storehouses of civic character, and characters. We're a city that cultivates many civic souls.
We're a diverse city, never more so than now. Far-flung too. I was born, raised, and have lived most of my life in Seattle proper and am always amazed at how little I know. There's always an enclave, an unpaved alley, a sub-culture, an emerging scene, or a hidden piece of public lake shore to explore for the first time. And history too. Much of who we are is unrecorded, still awaiting discovery.
For me, Crosscut enables civic discovery. As a writer, it's given me entree to cool places. A story I wrote for Crosscut was largely responsible for my being made Writer-in-Residence at the Space Needle, where I had chance to work in a swirl of Seattleness where past and future meet everyday.
It was for a series of stories for Crosscut that I was allowed to snoop in the back rooms of the Burke Museum, where I stumbled across a new spider species and a mystery piece of Asian flotsam or jetsam that is getting the attention of researchers.
It was because of a Crosscut story about a park fence in Madison Park that I wound up on a committee advising the Parks Dept. on their plan to remove that barrier to the lake. David Brewster's notion of "solutions journalism" in action, though I don't plan to make a habit of such activism.
Crosscut is devoted to writers who likewise ramble to places I have never been. In recent weeks, I think of Judy Lightfoot's piece on people who live in their cars at local highway rest stops; the strip mall dining gems uncovered by Hugo Kugiya, or his visits to places like a Ballard kimchee factory; Eric Scigliano's reporting on the evolving South End communities like Rainier Beach and Kent; and Art Thiel's moving piece from Japan about the Mariners, baseball, and healing in the wake of the tsunami.
I could cite many more stories and writers — in the last five years Crosscut has expanded its range of stories as well as increased its readership. I've been with it from the beginning, but every day, I find something that's new and surprising that tells me more about the city and region, that answers questions I didn't even think to ask.
Seattle's soul doesn't reside in any one place, but the ingredients and energy that make this city spin are in evidence here with unique perspectives and reporting, thoughtful writing, and a sense of discovery in everyday life. It's like browsing in a good bookstore where you often encounter wonderful stuff you weren't necessarily looking for, which is the point. Such places are all too rare these days.
To me, that's the reward of reading Crosscut, and why it's worth supporting as a virtual Seattle neighborhood — a neighborhood of writers and readers — that touches so many others, a place you know that is always new.
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