In downtown Tacoma, tucked away between two buildings, is a sculpture of a drop suspended as it hits the surface of water. Tiles ripple out into the sidewalk. An 1891 newspaper quote about the city is written in cursive letters on the ground: “From amidst a sombre forest of firs a city has arisen as by a stroke of an enchanter’s wand. Tacoma looks forth like a new Venice over the glassy waters and prepares to handle the commerce of the world.” I first ran across this art installation a cool September night and I snapped a photo, because there was something about the quote that captured my attention.
Now, I stand at the precipice of a new year. 2015 is fading away into memory and 2016 awaits, ready to be explored. In this moment, in the waning hours of another year, I find myself drawn back to what the Tacoma Ledger predicted for the City of Destiny almost 125 years ago. They looked to the future and saw nothing but endless promise. A transcontinental railroad was expected to build its western terminal in Tacoma and nothing but wealth and happiness for its citizens would soon come pouring in.
In the end, the railroad changed its mind and the coveted Puget Sound terminus was instead built in Seattle. Tacoma never became the new Venice, as so many of our grand visions for the future fail to arrive.
The future is always like that — simultaneously holding bounty and disappointment like a distant lamp — and you never know which one you’ll get until you get there. All we can do is hope that our successes will be great and our stumbles will be minor.
Right now, on New Year’s Eve, I’m not worried about the misfortunes that I will surely endure. From amidst a somber forest of firs, I look forth. 2016 awaits. Let’s do it.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. He wishes you a happy new year. You can follow him in the new year on Twitter.
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