February 5, 2007 in Features

Amazing past vaults Spokane into future

By The Spokesman-Review
 

On the Web: To hear the audio version of this and other Home Planet columns, go to spokesmanreview.com/podcasts

A couple of weeks ago, after a heavy overnight snowfall, we took our youngest daughter to Manito Park.

There were people everywhere. Families were playing in the snow, sledding down the hills and walking along paths enjoying the scenery. We joined a group of people at the top of one of the little hills and I climbed onto the sled with her.

Sitting behind my daughter, my arms wrapped tightly around her waist, I closed my eyes as we rushed down the hill. The air was bitingly cold and the snow stung as it flew up and hit our faces.

It was splendid.

The sound of my daughter’s squeals and my own laughter filled my ears as we tumbled into the soft powder. As we trudged back up the hill, dragging the sled behind us, I stopped to listen to the sounds of the people around me. There was a lot of laughter. Men, women and children were laughing and calling out to one another.

It occurred to me then that what I was hearing was exactly what I would have heard if I had been standing in the same spot 100 years ago.

I closed my eyes and imagined. If I’d been in the park in 1907, enjoying a day in fresh snow and sunshine, surrounded by friends and neighbors – other people who’d come out to play – the soundtrack would have been the same.

It was one of those moments that can be hard to find, fragments of time that connect us viscerally to the past. And I relished it. It gave me the feeling that I am a part of the city. My family moved to Spokane in 1999, but in that instant I could imagine a history here.

Last week I was part of the crowd in the Inland Northwest Bank Performing Arts Center at the launch of Greater Spokane Incorporated; the merging of the Spokane Area Economic Development Council and the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce into a unified force to deliver Spokane into the future.

I listened to speeches by the mayor and others and I watched the faces around me. Many were familiar; the movers and shakers around town. Listening, thinking about why we were there, what we’d come to celebrate, I felt that connection again; this time to the future of Spokane. Then the next night I attended the grand opening of the newly remodeled and expanded concession area at the Spokane International Airport. Looking around at the new shops and businesses, the first glimpse visitors get of the city, I listened to the mayor again, to more speeches and more cheerleading.

I’ve decided that this is what it feels like to be standing on the edge of a good thing.

I know some people will roll their eyes as they read this. I realize that in certain circles it’s not cool to like – to be proud of – the place you live. It’s easy to find flaws if you look for them. There is always somewhere hipper, more cultured, more sophisticated to long for. No matter where you are, there is a big city near enough to cast its shadow over your home town.

But what I know, and I think more and more people are beginning to realize, is that so many of the faces I studied in the darkened auditorium, or in the concourse of the airport or throwing snowballs in the park on a beautiful winter day, were people who discovered Spokane and chose to move here after having lived in those big busy cities. People like me.

It might have been the location, the relatively low cost of living, or the appeal of living with four seasons that drew them. The important thing is that they made the choice to move lives, families and businesses and lifestyles, to Spokane.

That’s a vital factor in the success of the city. It will affect every one of us.

Spokane has shadows in its past. Every city does. But I can’t shake the feeling that Spokane is coming into the light again. What was bad is getting better. And what is good will continue to shine.

Flying down a snowy hill, I caught a whisper of the city’s past.

But what’s truly thrilling is the ride into Spokane’s future.


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