Friday, May 12, 2017

Sleepless in Seattle: Ode to Life and Stories

Sorry, это эссе только на английском. Вы можете перевести любой мой пост на любой язык - просто выберите интересующий вас язык в окошке Translate справа.

* I've just realized as I finished writing that this is my 400th post (in less than 4 years of this blog)! Wahoo! 
It makes my today's post even more special and celebratory.

 You knew I had to do it sooner or later, yes? Tina mentioned in her comment just recently that all she knew about Seattle before my blog was Sleepless in Seattle, the 1993 movie with Tom Hanks, and I wasn't surprised at all. 10 years ago (exactly 10 in a week), prior to our moving to this area from across the country, it was pretty much all I knew about Seattle as well. 

I am a huge fan of both Tom Hanks and Nora Ephron movies, and Sleepless in Seattle is perhaps the most favorite of the bunch, though You've Got Mail (1998) and Julie and Julia (2009) come close. I watched them countless times, I know every line by heart and quote them often, if not out-loud, then in my head, and they never get old. I went to see Julie and Julia, Nora's last masterpiece, 4 times in a movie theater and cried a bucket of tears, because Julia Child's story, portraited by incredible Meryl Streep, resonated with me on many levels - her open, curious, child-like nature (my last name, by the way, is similar to Child in Russian!), her multifaceted personality and sense of not fitting in, her love of food and cooking, her finding her true love as well as true calling later in life, and her writing a book that changed the way people looked at home cooking. I am forever sad there won't be any more wonderful, witty and heartwarming stories by this gifted writer and film-maker, Nora Ephron. But I am forever happy that I can watch her movies over and over again, and each time they will feel fresh because essentially they are perfectly timeless fairy tales, my absolute favorite genre. I am also happy that Nora and I share a birthday - we belong to different generations, but we were born on the same day, May 19.

When we first visited Seattle in February 2007, I immediately fell in love with its mild climate, cloudy skies which look like gigantic pearls on a sunny day and leave their reflections in every window, with these gentle surroundings of evergreen forest and endless water - Puget Sound, lakes, rivers, waterfalls and mountain creeks. I was struck by this generous, never ending beauty so much, that to me, a girl from a far-away small working town in Siberia, it was hard to believe that people actually live here. To me, there is a magical aura about this place that I only found in one other city in the world - St Petersburg, Russia. (The two cities are very different, yet at the same time there are lots of similarities too.) From our return from Seattle in mid-February till our leaving the Midwest in mid-May, I was literally counting days. We visited all the old friends, people and places, that I loved about Michigan and Ohio (my first two stops in America), packed our belongings, leaving a few pieces of furniture behind, and left for the city where sleepless Tom Hanks met his new love and where - we knew - everything was possible.

If you watched the movie, you know that there are a few locations, few cities and states woven in the story, but just as stated in the title, Seattle plays the main role. Sam Baldwin (the Tom Hanks' character), a young widower, moves from Chicago to Seattle with his little son and settles in the most unique home one can imagine - a houseboat. He is an architect (note: an artistic personality) who after a great loss, a huge change in his life, is looking for an outer change as well, and he knew that moving to just another neighborhood in just another Midwest town simply wouldn't do. It had to be something special, something completely out of the ordinary. And that resonates with me deeply - when we moved to Seattle from our own Midwestern town, Justin said that if we are to live by the sea, why not live on the water, and that phrase changed everything - from that one phrase came our ability to dream big and as a result our finding an old charming little beach house where we spent an unforgettable 3 first years here. If you love water as much as I do, you would get it - nothing can compare with living on the water, nothing comes even close to this feeling of incredible connection with this strong, yet gentle natural force.

The choice of a houseboat with a view of downtown Seattle was a very inspired one for the storytelling, it was a great metaphor for the character's willingness (without realizing consciously) not to settle down, but go for another incredible adventure - finding a new true love. "People who truly loved once are far more likely to love again" - remember this Doctor Marcia's quote from the movie? And of course it was only possible to film this extraordinary setting here. What you see in this post is that same unique neighborhood of houseboats around Lake Union in Seattle where the film was made, and one of these homes was the Tom Hanks character's home in the movie. I won't tell you which one, it is hardly visible from the land anyway, but if you take a lake tour, I believe they will show you the exact houseboat.

Just like Doctor Marcia, Sam, his son Jonah and Annie (Meg Ryan's character), I also believe that people who truly loved once are far more likely to love again, and you know why? Because love is not somewhere out there - love lives inside of each of us, and if you found your connection with that source once, you will not loose it. And that goes not only for finding our soulmate, but also finding our soul purpose in life. If you, like myself, dedicated yourself to the work of your life and then got burnt out and left in pain and hurt, experiencing grief and loss similar to a loss of a beloved one, don't despair. You will find your purpose again, the same way that Sam found Annie, and your purpose will find you the same way Annie found Sam. Just follow your nose. Follow the light that guides you from within. Maybe you won't be able to make big steps right away - that's fine. Make small steps, but genuine ones. After some sleepless nights and feeling lost, it all will come together, just keep your heart open, do not shut down your trust in life. Life is full of symbols and metaphors, and all we need to do is to listen to them, to try to understand them, to be open. That's why tales and myths play such an important role in culture - they teach us the universal truth. Not our personal, individual little truth, which we sometimes think is universal, but the larger Truth.

I do believe that everything in our life is a reflection of us - if not of who we are, then of the way we feel about life at the particular time. Not only our clothes speak about us, whether we want them or not, but also the way we choose to spend our time, people with whom we choose to spend our time and places where we choose to spend our time. The geography of the place, the climate, and of course the particular neighborhood and our home speak about what we feel about life and what we believe in, if not on the large scale of things, then in this particular period of time. In our travels, I often say "I want to live here!", and in fact, when my daughter was little, she used to say that she wants to have a house that covers the whole world. We (all three of us) are expansive souls, we are not completely satisfied with just one role in life or just one place to live. But if I had to pick just one, it would probably be a cozy, unpretentious and entirely unique home by the sea, actually not very different from the beach house where we lived before or the cottage we live in now, but definitely in better shape (and preferably with a backroom for my dresses). Not very different from Tom Hanks houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle.

Speaking of dresses, this outfit quickly became a new favorite, I wore it two or three times already. I spotted the Old Navy dress on a couple of my favorite plus size bloggers and wanted to try it on. Since they stopped carrying a plus size line in my local O.N. store (an extremely unwise decision if you ask me!), I ordered online. To my surprise, the dress was not at all what I expected - it was shorter on my frame than on some of those women I saw (and some of them are even taller than me), and both the length and placement of the flower wreaths made the fit awkward. I had to become a Sherlock Holmes for a day! By using his famous deduction method, I figured out that instead of the plus size line (2X in my case), I had to go for a regular XXL (which is smaller in dimensions), but opt for the special length - Tall. Boom! Instant success! That gave me the midi look I was craving, while accommodating my curves perfectly. I was a bit worried that this color/pattern combination wouldn't suit me, but in fact I'm in love with this dress utterly and completely, and I only hope that the quality will be lasting as I'm looking forward to wearing this dress over and over again, and I hope to never stop, just like watching Sleepless in Seattle won't ever stop here.

Photos of me by Justin, other photos by me using my Galaxy S5 phone.

Dress and denim jacket - Old Navy
Canvas Oxfords - Toms (old)
Linen purse - handmade, from a boutique in Michigan (old)
Glasses - Christian Siriano for Lane Bryant (last year)

If you're interested in other posts where I talk about culture-related things and our local trips, click HERE for almost exactly a hundred of such posts.

If you have an Instagram account, find me HERE for more inspired photo adventures in this beautiful city.

Linking with Visible Monday

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  1. wow. wonderful post!!
    (although T.H. is so totally not my cup of tea and i never saw the movie)
    but you wrote your own, even more heartwarming, story here!
    i can totally imaging how impressive such a town like seattle is if you come from a complete different environment and lifestyle. and in the same moment it feels like coming home...... experienced this arriving in berlin october 1989......
    would not say "no" to such a houseboat :-D R. and i dreamed of one on the river spree in our time in B. - but in germany it is complicated government wise.
    i find your new, perfectly fitted with criminalistic skills, dress very romantic!! not sweet - with the bright blue its romantic in a strong way, like going out for finding new land & life out there in the west.....
    thank you for that encouraging and lovely post - my wonderful friend! huge hugses! xxxxx

  2. I genuinely loved reading this post and have been drinking in all your wonderful photographs, showing us the city you love so much. I am so happy for you that you have found your place there. I too love being by the sea, or the river, or indeed any body of water. I work in Antwerp, and often drift towards the river during lunch break. Our holiday home in Wales (we do not own it, just rent it) looks out over an estuary, and I spend a large chunk of your holiday just looking at the changing tides. I am in love with your dress too, it is such a great colour on you, and the flower print is just divine. Oh, and before I forget: congratulations on your 400th post! xxx

  3. You're killing me! I saw that dress on Grown and Curvy Woman but, as usual, I waffled too long before buying it and it sold out. Now I see you also looking amazing in it and, oi!, I am kicking myself.

  4. Oh Natalia, what a wonderfull heartwarming post! Thank you for the wonderfull pictures of the houseboats :). I am a great fan of Meg Ryan and my favorite movie is "You've got mail"and I know all Ephron movies.
    You look fabulous in this wonderfull dress. Thank you for this wonderfull an yours 400 !!! :) post!
    Big hug and many kisses Tina

  5. What a fabulous photo opportunity!! I've never seen house boats in person and would love to explore that area!!

  6. Thank you for sharing the photos and it was really great to readthis post. I must say I don't know much about Seattle. The houses on water are something really unexpected especially because they seem to look just like regular houses apart from the fact that they float. Incredible!
    I love your dress and jacket with little heart.

  7. I am also so inspired by this post, how wonderful to live so close to water, such a stirring natural force. I love your house, and can well imagine how wonderful it would feel to be able to visit the beach and boat docks .Your life is in bloom there , Natalia!
    I too, could watch sleepless in Seattle, over and over!
    Love your dress, it Is perfection on you, the length is just right and th flower pattern so pretty !
    xx, Elle

  8. What a beautiful place, so very English with those pretty houseboats! Your dress is gorgeous and I adore your sunglasses.
    I loved Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies but was never a fan of Nora Ephron's work. xxx

  9. "Keep your heart open, do not shut down your trust in life." These words really spoke to me, and to all your readers, I imagine. What an uplifting post - we too live on the water on the Atlantic side, and never tire of its power and beauty. Thanks also for linking your thoughts to Visible Monday, xox

    keep your heart open, do not shut down your trust in life.

  10. Congratulations on your 400th post, you really put me to shame.I so enjoyed this post with all its different elements.Your wise words on finding your life's purpose particularly resonated with me . I so enjoyed your photos of the charming houseboats and of course the flowers. Your pretty dress really reflects the softness of your post. Thank you dear Natalia for this joyous post.

  11. I feel very inspired by your words (as usual!) and so lovely that we share our love for some films (Julie & Julia is one of my favorite films ever). Your pictures and descriptions on how lovely are those boat houses really move something in my heart. There's something so appealing and whimsical on boat houses! even for a mountains and wineyards lover as I am!
    Lovely outfit too, I like a floral dress and denim jacket combo, so cute, summery and comfortable!. And I'm glad that you succeeded in your 'Sherlock holmes' investigation about sizes (plus sizes are even more unpredictable than average!), that dress fits you nicely and you look gorgeous!