Run Down Memory Lane

There are parts of my past that almost seem surreal.  I know the memories are mine and the experiences happened to me, but for whatever reason when I recall them it’s almost like an out-of-body experience.  I can’t really explain it.  Maybe it’s that they happened so long ago that it takes a physical reminder to really remember them.  Or maybe it’s just that the experiences are so different from my life now that it’s hard to imagine that they are my experiences. 

As you know, I was in Seattle last weekend meeting the newest member of our family, my new niece Ella.  She is a beautiful, tiny and precious little girl.  It’s amazing to me how just holding her can make your day, or how you can stare at her forever and not get tired of it.  Nothing else seems to matter when you’re taking care of her. Heck, I didn’t even care about making my typically-required trip to Crate & Barrell while I was there.  That’s big people.  Huge.  I was content staring at a baby for four days….and I would have been quite happy to continue doing so for several more.   

However I did need to get a long run in while I was there because the Half is just 2 weeks away.  Eek.  So my brother-in-law mapped out a course that took me from Green Lake over to Ballard and back…somewhere around 11.5 miles.  I was stoked because Ballard was my old stomping grounds.  When I moved to Seattle in 2001 with my (now ex) boyfriend, we decided that Ballard was the place for us.  It felt like a small Montana town nestled in The Big City…which meant it had the benefits of both worlds for us small-town Montana folk.  I was pretty excited to spend some time over there, but what I didn’t bargain for were the emotions some of those memories would stir up.   A few of the things I stumbled upon during my outing:

  • The dog park we used to take Summit and Rudy (my ex’s dog) to.  Golden Gardens was one of our favorite dog parks because it was (1) close to our house and (2) tucked-away in this really neat forested area, so the dogs got to run wild around the trees, etc.  Seeing that dog park for the first time in several years made me miss Summit as a puppy.  It made me miss Rudy too.
  • The beach that we would hang out at in the summer.  It sucks to be in Seattle and not know someone with a boat; it’s like a cruel punishment to be surrounded by so much water and not get to cruise around on it.   And trust me, there is nothing more beautiful than Seattle on a sunny day.   But there’s a beach in Ballard that allows boatless-people (like we were) some satisfaction to feel as if they are somewhat “one-with-the-water.”  So we would at least go hang out on the beach and pretend that we were kinda cool.  We spent several summer days on that beach and also a few evenings walking and watching the sunset.   Running by that beach made me miss having the water so close and the amazing sunsets you get with it. 
  • The Canal restaurant that I always wanted to go to….and never did before I left.  Turns out I’m still mad my ex never took me there.
  • My old Aveda salon, Habitude.  I used to make it a point to get my hair done with Hailey (my old stylist) when I visited Seattle.  In fact I didn’t even have a stylist in Missoula for a couple of years after I moved back; it wasn’t until the time between my visits (and roots) kept getting longer and longer that I decided I better find someone in Missoula.  Because of that salon I’m now an Aveda snob loyal Aveda customer. 
  • One of my favorite Indian restaurants.  Indian food is my favorite ethnic cuisine, and I fell in love with it in Seattle.  Nearly half of my spice collection is now for cooking Indian meals at home because Missoula doesn’t have anywhere to get it.   Gazing in at the eclectic place made me miss having endless cuisine options at my fingertips.  Now if I want Indian food, I’m cooking it for myself.  Somehow it’s just not the same.
  • The bar I first saw The Clintons in and fell in love with their music.  To this day, they are hands-down my favorite band.  Ironic that they are actually from Montana, but I first saw them in Seattle.  Their music has meant a lot to me over the years and I have followed them since that first time I saw them in the Tractor Tavern.   In fact, the lead singer sang acoustic at our wedding and he also sang for my 30th Birthday party.  Running by that bar made me a little bit sentimental wondering what my life would be like without that influence in it. 
  • My old gym, The Ballard Health Club, where I would spend Friday nights doing Yoga.  Yes, Friday nights.  I found that it was the best way for me to unwind after a crazy week of working, commuting and getting stuck in traffic.  That memory actually made me feel grateful that I live in a place now that doesn’t require Friday-night yoga sessions to unwind. 
  • The bus stop I used to wait at every morning for the #17 Bus.  I remember having to be at the bus stop by 6:45 a.m. in order to be at work by 8…and I worked 14 miles away from my house.  Insane, right?  Actually it’s just part of the contract for living in a city.  I started taking the bus after I found myself getting less and less patient with driving across the 520 everyday.  I’m not really an impatient or angry person…but sitting in traffic on the 520 at 5:00 is enough to make any normal person go insane.  I found the bus was much less stressful…and also gave me the opportunity to perfect my knitting.  I could whip out an entire scarf on one day’s commute.   Seeing that bus stop and watching the buses go by reminded me how lucky I am to get to ride my cruiser bike to work every day in the summer now and leave my house at 7:45 to get to work at 8:00.  Now that’s more like it.
  • Our old house.  This is the one that really got me.  In my head, I remembered a cute little yellow house with a door that I had painted red.  I took great care of the yard and landscaping, and always had flowers out front.   Well.  At least the door was still red.  If I were writing this post solely about that house I could have titled it “Rundown Memory Lane.”  Seriously.   It broke my heart to see how rundown the house was; and I’m not sure if it was always that way (and I chose not to see it like that), or if it’s just a result of years of neglect.   Either way, it wasn’t really what I expected to see and it caught me off guard.   I expected to see the house that resides in my memory…a cute, happy little house.  The house I lived in for 3 years.  The house I called home.  A place I was excited to be.  The house I saw on my run is not someplace I can even imagine myself at now.  I can’t even imagine wanting to walk in the front door.  That cute little red door that I painted.  I guess it really bothered me, as if my memories from Seattle are all tarnished and rundown as well. 

I’m pretty sure I picked up the pace at this point even though I still had another 6 miles to go.  I wasn’t sure what to do with all of these memories and unexpected emotions.  So as I headed out of Ballard and back towards Green Lake, I got to thinking about all of these things that were once my life.  Things that were now foreign to me.  I can’t imagine sitting in traffic.  Riding the bus to work.  Wanting to go to yoga on Friday night.  Taking Summit to a dog park instead of on a hike.  Lying on a beach.  Leaving my house at 6:30 a.m. to go to work (and not getting back home until 6:30 p.m.).  All of these things were part of my life there; a very different life.   I guess that’s why I feel like it’s almost surreal – because it was just such a different reality than what I live now. 

But the more I ran and the more I thought about all of it…I decided that it’s not sad.  I shouldn’t look back on these memories and feel like they aren’t a part of me anymore.  They are mine and they are absolutely a part of me.  All of the people, places, experiences and events have made me who I am today.  The experiences are real and an important part of who I am.   

Looking back through that list, I have a lot to be grateful for:  knowing Summit has a better life now, getting exposure to a new cuisine that I truly enjoy, finding music that has provided the soundtrack to many important events in my life…and basically just having great memories from my time in Seattle.  The three years I lived there have given me an appreciation for so many things that I would maybe have just taken for granted, like riding my bike to work, having access to biking, hiking and running trails within 5 minutes of my house, never having to angrily sit in traffic.  

By the time I got to the top of Phinney Ridge (holy crap Lindan…really??  You run up that hill??) I felt a lot better.  I wasn’t sad or reminiscent of my old life.  In fact, I realized that part of the sadness I was feeling was simply because I miss it.  There’s a lot the City has to offer that I’ve given up to live in Montana.  But I’m glad that I’ve had the experiences because I can’t really imagine my life without them.   Like I said, they’re part of who I am and why I believe/act/react certain ways.  And I wouldn’t change it. 

But I would like someone to spruce up that little house on 20th Ave NW.  Oh, and maybe put an Indian restaurant in Missoula.

P.S.  You know….if I had a running partner…I’m sure my mind wouldn’t wander so much on these long runs and you we would all be saved from these type of posts.  Twelve miles is a loooooong way for me to be left alone to my thoughts.  Hint hint. 



  1. Oh the power of memories! They can make you cry and smaile all at once…just like this post! It’s a good thing we have those memories stored away, what would life be like if we couldn’t look back every once in a while and see our own road less taken that’s led us to where we are today? And I think where you are today may not be perfect but it is still a pretty amazing place to be.

  2. Janna,

    It is amazing how our lives, memories, and experiences are interwoven. We travel along this road called life and for brief moments in time our paths touch each other-good or bad mine has been a whee bit longer since I married your sister. My memories of Seattle that are in line with yours are from a trip Erin & I made out there. Though the time frame is fuzzy I remember your house, the fish canals(weird), and a night on the town were it was just Todd and I(that night I realized He was not the guy for you). Thanks for the run. Rob

  3. It’s the memories and experiences that make us the person we are today. The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s what you learn from them that counts. There are many memories that I wish that I could erase but many more that I carry close to my heart.

    Just think, if you didn’t move to Seattle and back home we probably wouldn’t have lived together which are some of my favorite memories of Missoula. I will always cheerish the two years we lived together. :)

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