CLIFF’S EDGE: Passing ships bear promise along with cargo

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If you were anywhere along our communities’ western fringe this week you had the opportunity to see ships in the sound coming in from or leaving for Yantian China, Yokohama, Japan, Busan, Korea and other far-flung ports.

I mention this for two reasons, one personal and the other to make a point I find intriguing at this time in our history.

First, the personal reason: Simply, I love watching ships and consider myself fortunate, as are all of us, to live in proximity to two major seaports that interact with ships from all over the world.

Many of us are able to observe the arrivals and departures of these vessels from the yards, porches and decks of our homes. Any of us can stand on the beach at Seahurst Park, Seola Beach, on the dock at Des Moines or at so many other places along the water’s edge and view the same ships from fascinating perspectives.

With a little more effort we can find a nearby vantage point from which to observe the ports of Tacoma and Seattle themselves. One of my favorite points of view is the Port of Tacoma Observation Tower, part of the port’s administration site at the foot of the Sitcum Waterway in Tacoma.

At both ports you can contemplate not only the ships involved in worldwide trade, but many of the other industries associated with them in that massive undertaking — manufacturing, warehousing, trucking, air transportation, port security, marketing, local, regional and international business — and more.

Back to the ships, I find just their physical properties such as size, shape and design, of interest. Even more interesting is learning where they began the voyage that has brought them to our waters and where they will go when they leave.

Helping me in all these regards is the website that provides the basic facts of each ship, including not only its comings and goings, but such information as its ownership, dimensions, and the flag under which it operates.

Through its accompanying maps and charts I expand my knowledge of local geography and introduce myself in detail to less familiar parts of the world.

So that’s my personal motivation in ship-watching.

Beyond that I can take refuge in the knowledge that while the world appears to be falling apart amid a cacophony of threats and counter-threats among those who govern on this planet, there are many millions among the governed on the same planet who live peaceful, productive lives day after day.

Their efforts are visible in all that comes out of their collective efforts, whether commerce, education, the arts, sports, entertainment, communication, and on and on.

We need to see that. History has recorded all the horrendous problems with which humanity has dealt during our collective time on earth. We have to believe we can keep dealing with such problems. Why not?

It’s time for humankind—all of us — to carefully, yet vigorously, look around for evidence of the skills, humaneness and courage to bring us through this new period of distrust, uncertainty and fear.

I believe evidence of those elements can be found in abundance in all corners of the world…and in the sea lanes connecting them.

It’s there, I’m sure.

Cliff Rowe is a retired journalist and journalism professor. (He practiced both in a time before journalists and what they produced were considered “enemies of the people.”) He and his family have lived in the Shorewood area of White Center (then Burien) since 1969 when they returned to the Northwest after seven years in the Chicago area. There, following graduate school, he wrote and edited with the Chicago Sun-Times and with Paddock Publications in the Chicago suburbs. On moving here, he was with The Seattle Times for 11 years before turning to teaching journalism at Pacific Lutheran University for 35 years, retiring in 2015.

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5 Responses to “CLIFF’S EDGE: Passing ships bear promise along with cargo”
  1. Great says:

    Aaahhh! The life of the retired. 🙂 keep up the good work Cliff.

  2. Linda P. says:

    I enjoy reading Cliff’s Edge because he shares real issues always with a positive edge.

  3. Captain obvious says:

    That was a pretty good article. I’m glad there still people in this world that can look at something like these boat’s. See them for the good things they provide. Instead of most people of now of days. That over dramatize stuff they here in news about other countries. That think every product has lead in it or was made by a child. When actually these are small situation with a few companies and not every company.

  4. Clean it up! says:

    Nice post Cliff. A view of open water has always delighted my spirit. Somehow both soothing and nourishing it. In my 20’s I was lucky enough to live in private homes in West Seattle with complete views of the Olympics and the Sound. I never tired of it.

    From time to time I have advocated that the City of Burien find money to build a viewing platform at Eagles Landing. There is always a lot of noise about how it can’t be done because the cliff is unstable. But it could be built ‘up and over’ the cliff with a free standing stairway down to the beach. It would be a true draw to Burien.

    I used to have a cross stitch sampler with these words from a Ella Wheeler Wilcox poem.

    ONE ship sails East,
    And another West,
    By the self-same winds that blow,
    ‘TIS the set of the sails
    And not the gales,
    that tells the way we go.

    A lovely and useful verse for reminding one of our own part in determining our path.

    Thanks Cliff for reminding us of how close we are to ‘the world’ by the sea at our shore!

  5. Tired Resident says:

    Thank you, Cliff, for the reminder that it is up to us – the governed – to choose how to respond to everything in life.

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