Tired, but not sick? You needn’t go far for a getaway

A camellia adds color to a cold December day in the J.A. Witt Winter Garden, part of Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum.

JOY IN LIFE IS ALL RELATIVE in these pandemic days. After many weeks of doing little to break my island routine other than making an occasional beeline up and down Interstate 5 for doctor appointments, I chanced upon a diversion that truly refreshed my soul.

And it only happened because of a scheduling glitch with a couple of doctor exams. The endocrinologist could see me at 10:20. But the ophthalmologist wasn’t available until 2. (And why is it, asks this guy who’s about to start Medicare in a few months, that all these MDs with “Seattle’s Top Docs” certificates on their walls appear to be about 12 years old? But I digress…)

Ilex verticillata, or winterberry, adds splashes of crimson in front of a swordfern.

Anyway, I had time to kill between appointments. I wasn’t about to leave my car hostage to the robber barons who run the medical building’s parking garage, so I had to drive somewhere. The clinic was at 7th and Madison. It was a straight shot down Madison Street to one of Seattle’s best places, the Washington Park Arboretum. Hadn’t been there in many months. I’d packed a lunch.

The deep-lavender berries of Callicarpa bodinieri, commonly known as beautyberry, add one of the wildest hues to the J.A. Witt Winter Garden.

Parked by the Japanese Garden. It was chilly, so I ate in the car. But it was a beautiful, blue-sky day, and not too cold for a brisk walk after lunch.

My memories of winter treks in the Arboretum included squelching along rain-sodden grassy passages where my shoes sank like I was hiking in deep snow without snowshoes. Since then, however, they’ve added a nicely paved and landscaped 2-mile loop path suitable to pedestrians and cyclists, and somehow I’d forgotten the interlinking web of gravel paths that wind up and down hills and over brooks, from the Rhododendron Glen, past Azalea Way, to the Woodland Garden.

The best visit this time of year: the J.A. Witt Winter Garden. Here’s a photo essay of blossoms and berries I saw there. You’ll see more as the season progresses, once the witch hazel adds its color and scent.

Whether your cabin fever involves a small island, or if you just live down the street, I highly recommend a trek in Seattle’s Arboretum next time your spirits need a lift.

Rhododendrons can bloom in December as well as May.

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