Thursday, July 27, 2006

Soft, Misty Morning

As the northern hemisphere swelters through these blazing summer months, here on Whidbey Island we've been a little luckier. Several days ago there was some weather in the high 80's. But for the last few mornings it has been cool, shrouded in fog and mist. The lake shimmers with rising vapors, and the treetops are hidden. When it burns off later in the day, it generally stays in the mid 70's. But this morning,the horses were wearing their blankets! (but for some reason, not the new colt, in the pasture on the left).

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rubbing Elbows with the Stars

Those of you who read this blog will understand when I tell you that I had a stellar day yesterday. I took a ferry to the "other side" and spent the day with my dear friends, Robin & Roger, of New Dharma Bums fame! While they are not entertainment stars, in the manner of Madonna or Sting, in the blogosphere they have a huge fan/friend following, based on the beauty and wisdom and humor of their daily observations about life. A day with the two of them is like pure gold. We talked for hours, rode their e-bikes to the beach for a good walk, ate delicious food, talked some more. I think they are great models of how to live an integrous, simple, joyful life. They are tuned in to the natural world around them. They grow their own food, repair their own home, build things. They avoid the world of "consumer capitalism". They are deeply connected to their families and friends. They are concerned about the state of the world, and keep well-informed about world events. They write beautifully, take amazing photographs, and always have interesting ideas to share. I love spending time with them and consider myself so lucky that they have been my friends for many years.

Here's a photo of Roger cooking our delicious dinner. You can see that their house shingling project is still "in progress", but it's looking terrific. Thanks, you two, for a wonderful day. Now it's your turn to come to the island!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Kicking Myself This Morning

I just returned from Double Bluff Beach, where I took Zuma to play. It was a very low tide this morning, which means that the water has receded WAY out, leaving huge, wide beaches with many tide pools, etc. Bliss! And it is many degrees cooler over there, especially when we wade in the cool water. This morning, the air was so clear that Mount Rainier stood out like a giant mound of ice cream on the horizon. The tall buildings of Seattle were clearly visible too, thrusting into the sky. Walking back to the car, I suddenly noticed that THREE bald eagles were sitting in the tree closest to the parking lot. They were so close that I could see their eyes, their feathers, their beaks, with my naked eye. And did I remember to bring my camera today????? That's why I'm kicking myself.....

Friday, July 21, 2006

Crabby Times

Yesterday I was invited to go crabbing with friends. They have a crab trap and a dinghy, and permission to use a private beach at Possession Point, on the south tip of Whidbey Island. We spent the afternoon at the beach, puttering out occasionally to pull the crabs out of the trap, check the bait, and toss back the little ones and the females. It was fun to be involved in this activity, beautiful weather at the beach, and from that location both Mount Baker and Mount Rainier were on the horizons in all their snowy glory. Later in the day, we had a crab feast with piles of fresh seafood, melted butter, and a green salad straight from the garden to the table. Yummmmmmmm!
Afterwards I took Zuma to Maxwellton Beach to watch the sunset over the Olympics. The eagles were feeding, the air was fresh and cool, it was sweet!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Road Trip - The Cascade Loop

Ever since I started visiting the Pacific Northwest, I've been hearing about the "Cascade Loop" and longing to go see it. This is an approximately 400 mile drive from Anacortes (on the coast), east across the Cascade Mountains, then south to Wenatchie, then west again, back across the lower Cascades to the coast. On Monday morning, my friend Shane (below by the tree) and I set out to experience the Loop for ourselves, and it did not disappoint! One drives first through the Skagit Valley, the big tulip growing area north of Seattle. The first entry into the mountains begins after Sedro Wooley, and things begin to get dramatic in the little town of Concrete, where several rivers converge. Here, when the salmon spawn, dozens of bald eagles appear and feed on them, and the town even has a Bald Eagle Festival.
There are rivers or lakes along almost all of the Cascade Loop. The Skagit River, on the first section, is an amazing green color because it is fed by glaciers. At several points, the river is dammed up, forming beautiful green lakes. We drove up into the mountains, even reaching the snow level. From every turn, the views were breath-taking.

Coming down the other side, one enters a high desert plateau, the Methow Valley, ringed by mountains. Both the Twisp and the Methow rivers run along the roadside. Fruit orchards and vineyards are everywhere, lending green patches to an otherwise dry landscape. We spent the first night at Winthrop, at a lovely motel with big green lawns running down to the river. Zuma was in heaven there, rolling in the deep grass, and sniffing all the new smells.

The next morning, Tuesday, we got up early and drove to the town of Chelan, further south. We checked Zuma into a local kennel for the day, and hurried over to the dock of the Lady of the Lake, a boat tour that took us on an all-day ride up to the end of Lake Chelan and back again.
This lake is 51 miles long, 1 mile wide (at it's widest point) and extremely deep. It goes back into the heart of the Cascades, which rise steeply from the edges of the lake, eventually ending in a little town called Stehekin. Named by the Indians, Stehekin means "the way through". This was because the Indians paddled up the lake, then passed through the mountains behind Stehekin to trade with Pacific Coast tribes. The town of Stehekin relies on boats ond barges to bring everything to them, from groceries and supplies to building equipment, cars, gas, etc. There are no telephones up there, and only 72 permanent residents. They send a mail order and a blank check by boat to the stores in Chelan, and supplies are then delivered to the boats in return. We also were told that the town of Stehekin boxes up all their trash and sends it out by boat, due to a problem with black bears. They keep a community box of discards to be sent to the Goodwill, but residents typically browse through it and help themselves to things. Stehekin calls this box of discarded items "the Stehekin Mall". While there, we took a little side trip to see the Rainbow Falls, a spectacular 314 foot tall waterfall that crashes dramatically down the cliffs above the town.

On Tuesday night, having liberated Zuma, we stayed in a motel right on the lake in Chelan. Yesterday we drove back through the mountains again, stopping frequently at scenic spots to view the Snohomish River, the dramatic little town of Index, and the kitchy Bavarian decor in the entire town of Leavenworth.
We spotted an osprey in a nest on a snag in the river, and we hiked down to another lovely waterfall at Deception Falls.
Finally got back to Whidbey Island last night, tired but so happy to have made this spectacular tour.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sunday Morning Walk

A favorite walk on the island is at Sunlight Beach, where a footpath on a raised causeway runs between a lagoon/mud flat/marsh and some meadows on the other side. It is a quiet and hidden pathway, somewhat overgrown with berries and grasses, a paradise for bird lovers. From the beginning of the trail, on a clear, sunny morning like today, you can see the Olympic mountain range to the west, and the tip of Mount Baker in the Cascade range to the East.

Here are a few photos from the walk this morning. The first shows the view across the Puget Sound to the Olympic Range.

Some of the marsh and farm land to the East of the trail.

The bark of a madrone tree.

A quiet country lane.

A great blue heron fishing in the lagoon.
This chicadee was feasting on anise, often hanging upside down by his feet while he gobbled up the seeds.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Images of the Day on Whidbey

Friday was another slow and delicious day on the island. We took several walks, one on the beach, and another on "Country Lane", around the corner from us, past a big farm with horses, cows, and lovely meadows. Here are some of the images from the day.

Zuma on the beach:

Beach closeup at low tide



A newborn calf in the neighborhood.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Whidbey Island

After two days of driving north (mostly on I-5) with Zuma, I am finally here at Whidbey Island. As always, it is blessedly peaceful and beautiful here. The little studio house is simple and comfortable - everything we need is here, but not much extra. The lake outside is a constantly changing source of natural beauty. It shimmers and ripples in the changing light of the day, and there are so many birds everywhere that it is a continuous feast for the eyes. Zuma and I have already been to the beach, to her great delight, and will go again today for the minus tide, the best time to be there when the beaches are vast and empty and full of enticing tide pools. Yes, this is heaven! Even the alarming and depressing world headlines seem to be happening a million miles away. At least I can cling to that illusion for a few days, even though I know there is no truth to it - sigh.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Happy Wedding Day

Yesterday, July 8, we went to the wedding of Michelle and Cade, a joyous occasion for sure! Michelle has been in my life for many years. First she briefly dated my son, and then after that was over, she and I stayed close. She became a house-mate, and lived with us for a couple of years while completing her degree at UCSC and getting her teaching credential/masters degree. She met her wonderful Cade about 5 years ago, and the rest is history for them.

Michelle is a person of such stature, wisdom, maturity, high energy, and incredible integrity. Many people at the wedding (including her parents) talked about how she had changed their lives. I can relate. For me, she is an amazing friend. Despite the huge difference in our ages, she is one of the people I feel closest to in this world. I can talk to her about anything, and know that she truly listens, truly hears what I'm saying, and that she stands before me with her heart wide open. She has towering leadership ability. She has courage and passion. I consider her to be family - part daughter, part sister, part friend. She teaches junior high school kids, and I know that she is changing their lives too - how lucky they are to have such a sparkling and inspiring person in their lives.
This photo shows me with Cade and Michelle while we celebrated.
Here's wishing them a sweet honeymoon and a lifetime of married bliss!

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Few Souvenirs

We're back from our road trip to the Cherry Creek Art Festival in Denver. We had a great time. Instead of a boring blow-by-blow, here are some of my "bests" from the trip.
1. Hoards of fat, brown grasshoppers in Nevada, covering the highway and the landscape for miles in all directions with a thick brown carpet. It was very sad to drive over them.

2. A badger ran across the road in front of us, then paused to stare at our car. It was only the second time I've ever seen a badger in the wild.
3. Quaking aspens, wow what stunning trees!
4. The Rocky Mountains - we crossed them twice, once on the way down to Denver, and once outside Salt Lake City. Magnificent - the air, the views, the trees, the huge skies!
5. Moab, Utah. We spent the second night there, and visited the Arches National Park, a red-rock wonderland. My first time in Utah. I'm hooked.
6. The smell of the sagebrush on the prairies in Wyoming. I wanted to get down on the ground and roll around in it, it was so fragrant and evocative.
7. Kildeers eating worms outside our motel in Rock Springs, WY. They are such handsome and shapely birds - I haven't seen them in years.8. Driving along the banks of the Colorado River - awesome!
9. The weather - extreme heat, punctuated by sudden thunder and lightening storms, little flash floods, sultry and dramatic cloud formations, gusty winds, and then hot sun again, all within a few minutes.

1. Our dear pal, Christopher, who came to Denver from LA to help Daniella with her show, and to hang out with us.
2. Our sweet friends Missy and Mark, in Grand Junction, who entertained us so generously in their home. Their business, the Main Street Bagel Bakery in GJ, was an oasis for great food, great atmosphere, and great company.
3. The town of Grand Junction was a happy surprise, lively, fun, street sculpture gracing every block of the downtown, a very "happening" community.
4. A visit, at the Grand Junction hospital, with my high school friend, Jamie, whose wife has been there in a coma for a month after being hit by a train. We had hoped to visit them in Paonia, but it was not to be on this trip. We hope she makes it. She has a rock of a man supporting her.
5. Artist friend, Michel Tsouris, with whom we caravaned part of the way home, across Wyoming. She was traveling with her adorable dog, Zoe, whom we almost kidnapped!
6. My son, Tommy, who did a great job taking care of our house and our dog while we were away.
1. Breakfasts in Grand Junction at the Bagel Bakery - divine!
2. Noshing on the road from our own cooler, eating delicacies we picked out along the road.
3. Eating green chile for breakfast at the Buckaroo Cafe in Green River, Wyoming.
4. Lunch in Nevada City, CA, at the New Moon Cafe, on the last leg of the homeward journey.
5. The Lectrolux Cafe in Baker, Nevada.

1. I read a great book while traveling: The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay. Beautifully written, well worth reading.
2. While it was great to travel, best of all was to come home to our little dog, get kissed to pieces by her excited welcome, and sleep in our own bed! (photo below is somebody else's little home in Nevada.)