Enatai Beach Park

Sometimes it isn’t the location.  It’s the timing.

Enatai Beach fishing pier

On a day I would have otherwise forgotten, I found myself exploring a park whose official description is limited to an address, a photograph of a non-descript building and instructions on how to rent the park.

I-90 sunset

I had low expectations.  My primary interest was to see what the underside of a highway might look like.

I wasn’t disappointed.

I-90 sunset

I can’t quite explain it, but there’s something I like about infrastructure.  Especially unassuming infrastructure.  Things we built to perform a function, not to serve any ephemeral standard of beauty.  Things that we maintain and keep polished because they do something for us, not because our souls find joy in gazing upon them.  For some reason, these things strike an aesthetic chord.

In a world where by any reasonable measure, the ugly outnumbers and outweighs the beautiful, a highway is the triumph of the ugly.  It’s an overt monument to dominance, to anti-nature.  It’s an industrial revolution that is also deeply counter-revolutionary.  I should have every reason to be revolted by such a scar on the landscape, and yet often I am fascinated.  There may be a Darwinian element to this appreciation, a recognition of fitness and adaptation.  Or perhaps something Hegelian, an understanding that like the Tyrannosaur or the Humvee, the I-90 exists because it must exist and there was no possible alternative to it coming into being.  Better to admire than to live in indignation.

Or perhaps there’s simply a fine line between the gorgeous and the hideous.

I-90 sunset

I-90 sunset

In addition to the I-90 bridging its way to Mercer Island, there’s also a fishing pier at Enatai.  And this is where timing comes in.  In the space of minutes, a location with no purpose but to prohibit anything fun…

Enatai fishing pier

… becomes something halfway between Kenai and Fiji.

Enatai Beach fishing pier

Fishing pier

And at the right moment, a building that is to design as a spork is to utensils manages to be something more.

Enatai silhouettes

Enatai light

I returned to Enatai the following weekend.  The place was the same, but the light had gone.

Had I had not seen its perfect moment, I wouldn’t have given it another glance.

Enatai fishing pier

The complete Flickr set.

5 thoughts on “Enatai Beach Park”

  1. Agreed. Lovely pix and sentiment. Functionalism as aesthetics is an interesting idea, which you correctly predicted has some evolutionary muscle behind it. Google “Irv Biederman” for some research on this topic. Or wait a couple of years and google me. (heh.)


  2. The thought was inspired by the peacock male, which we believe to be beautiful but is actually merely fit. It was furthered by the thought that what consider to be human beauty is probably just an external manifestation of fitness. So if beauty is fitness, then perhaps in some sophistic way fitness is also beauty.


  3. In fact the peacock example is illustrative of what counts as ‘fitness’, since what the vivid and symmetrical plumage indicates is a kind of genetic robustness to transcription error (asymmetry as a sign of genetic vulnerability), ‘cleanliness’ (presence of parasites have dulling effects on plumage) and foraging success (animals with inadequate diets produce less impressive displays) but perhaps most importantly (and ironically) of all: the ability to successfully navigate the world while hindered so greatly by the physical baggage of all those feathers. The peacock tail is the Cadillac Escalade of the animal kingdom: conspicuous consumption at its most garish.

    To go back to your point, when we’re talking about ‘beauty and fitness’ and ‘fitness and beauty’ it’s interesting to consider that _both_ definitions are actually up in the air. Philosophically speaking, at least.


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