Friday, July 31, 2009

Bugs and flowers

I finally went to the Google troubleshooting guide to see why I couldn't download any more pictures, and I did everything they suggested, and sure enough! Now I seem to have fixed the problem by emptying the cache and deleting cookies, but just to be on the safe side, I also downloaded these pictures using another browser (click any to enlarge). These lupine were so profuse on yesterday's hike I couldn't help but admire them and keep them for posterity (as an image; I would never pick a wildflower).

We also saw some very interesting fuzzy things, I have never seen anything like them before. Does anyone know what this is?
My husband thought it looked like an alien. Someone on the hike thought it might be something called "bear (something)" but I looked and could not find anything. Is it even a flower??
We also marveled at this pretty pink flower, wondering also what it is. It is just now getting ready to blossom at the end of July in the Mt. Baker wilderness, at about 6,000 feet altitude. Could it be what they call "monkey flower"?

We had to deal with biting flies and mosquitoes all day long -- until it began to hail, that is. Then all the bugs went away, and nobody would have minded a little rain. Marble-sized hail was a bit much, but believe it or not, it was preferable to the bugs. Some hikers (Marjan and Frank) knew what we would be dealing with and brought head nets. I'm definitely going to have one before the next hike. All this warm and dry weather has made the bugs more intense than I thought possible. I also had some wimpy natural bug repellent, which worked for about two minutes and then needed to be reapplied. Next week, DEET, no apologies!
But you know, it was still so much more fun to be out in the woods with the bugs and the hail and the wildflowers than to be home in the heat, wishing for time to pass. (That's the way I spent Wednesday.) I have a few little welts still left on my scalp where some really big hailstones made contact, and a few sore muscles, but now I am sitting at my beautiful iMac and communing with my new pals in the blogosphere. I can't complain.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oh, hail, Yellow Aster Butte!

Well, Yellow Aster Butte is a beautiful place to be, especially on a hot day in the city (click to enlarge picture). It was warm, but not terribly hot, and of course we got to walk across snow fields again today. There were four words that described the Senior Trailblazers hike: sunny, buggy, wildflowers, hail.

Thirteen of us spent our Thursday on a seven- or eight-mile hike (depending on who you asked) and elevation gain of around 2,500 feet. We were immediately accosted by biting flies and mosquitoes as soon as we opened the door at the trailhead. Apply bug spray. Once we started hiking, the clouds of flies and mosquitoes only slowed a little when we moved briskly up the trail. Some of our enterprising hikers had screens to keep the bugs away. (I cannot seem to get blogger to download any of these pictures except the first one, but I'll keep trying.)

On the way back down, we had split into some hikers who wanted to make the ridge and others (like me) who were happy to mosey toward the top and take pictures of flowers. At 2:00 pm, I and six of my friends had begun the journey back down to the cars. The others were behind us somewhere, but they stayed together and we saw them at the end of the hike.

A spit of rain hit my arm. "Hey! I think it's beginning to rain!" I said, but the sky was still bright blue with just one distant dark cloud somewhere in the vicinity. Another large drop. It was beginning to rain, but since it had been so warm, nobody worried too much about it. More drops, but still lots of sun. And then... it happens in the high country: the large drops of rain changed into hail. First a little, then more, then stinging marble-sized hail. We took shelter for awhile, then as it seemed to lessen, began to head down the trail on round marbles. We got wet, we slipped and slid. The hail began again, and I could not see anything through my glasses. As we stopped again under a tree, I found a good spot to groan and lean hard on my trekking poles. Fred, next to me, groaned in what I thought was sympathy. Then he said, "your pole!" and I had been finding a nice secure place on what was actually the top of his foot! We all laughed hard at that one, but I have to say there was a little anxiety mixed into the whole scenario, since we were all soaking wet, an undetermined distance from safety, and in the middle of another hailstorm.

Finally wet to the bone, relieved, and all thirteen accounted for and at the trailhead... all's well that ends well. And this adventure was something we will talk about for a long time. It was a great day!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Under siege

Well, we have lived here in Bellingham now for a year and four months. Last winter we were completely surprised by the amount of snow we had (which was unusual, I discovered), and now, this heat and humidity. The image above is of the high temperatures for the day from at the University of Washington, for today, July 28. Tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter.

My husband figured out that if we close all the windows except for the bedroom and have our fan turned on high and blowing out the back door, it pulls relatively cool air onto us so we can sleep under a light sheet and stay fairly comfortable. We had day after day of 90+ temperatures in Boulder, but the humidity was in the teens. Here, while we are already in the mid-80s, the humidity is 63%. No wonder I'm feeling so hot.

I awoke at around 5:00am and walked out onto the front porch. The air was still, and the feeling in the early morning twilight was of incipient heat, of something unusual to come. Not one pine needle in our lovely tree was moving. It felt as though the day was holding its breath, not sure what to do. Although the air on the porch was cool in comparison to the air inside, it was just barely comfortable, even at that time of day. When I thought about the title of this post, "under siege" seemed appropriate. We are hunkering down and hoping things will get better soon. Here's a quote from the Cliff Mass Weather Blog:
Anyway, this is a very serious weather event, and the National Weather Service has upped their predictions to the century mark. People don't think about heat waves in the same vein as storms, but heat kills more people around the world. So drink lots of liquids and check on the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable.
My thoughts turned to the older people in my apartment complex, and then it struck me: hey, that means me! I am 66, so don't forget to check on me too, people!

On another topic, Nancy of Life in the Second Half has asked a provocative question: is the blogosphere bringing us together through our intention in order to create something new? I wrote something early in March about Teilhard de Chardin, in which I asked a similar question about what we are creating. What Nancy brought up is tantalizing: we are connected to one another in order to... I am unable to find a word. I just finished reading The Intention Experiment by Lynn McTaggart. This link will take you to a website created to allow interested people to give it a try. I'm still mulling the implications.

And lastly, I want to say thank you again and again to my commenters. I am buoyed by your appreciation and I am excited by the possibilities. My previous post to this one was commented on by so many of my new family. I feel absolutely surrounded by the promise of the future.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Women's Group

In Boulder, where I spent the last forty years before moving to Bellingham, I had a career and a full life. I started going to a folk dancing group in 1980 and met some women I really liked. We decided to start a group together, and that first night, back in June 1981, seven of us got together in Diane's home. That was the beginning of a more-than-two-decade-long wonderful journey. The only thing we had in common was that all of us enjoyed folk dancing. The cake above was decorated with a picture of the seven of us, twenty years after we started meeting.

We had only one rule: if you had the women to your house, it was your job to provide the entire meal, with the guests providing the wine. You would cook, serve, and clean up, and the others would be treated to an event where they were completely catered to. It worked perfectly. We did this once a month for 26 years, starting with seven of us, and then we were six, and then we were five. We talked about adding others, but we never did. This is about those women.

In 1982, this picture was taken (with Helen missing), with us pretending we were really stuck up. Marilyn is first, the oldest of us, then Peggy. Judy comes next, then me, and with her nose really up in the air, Diane. And Lynn, who "ruined" the picture my smiling, comes last.
We got together once a month so every seventh month you were the host, until Judy moved off to Oregon to begin a bed and breakfast with her sister. For many months we would get an update about how things were going in her part of the world, and then gradually we stopped hearing from her regularly. In 1998, she flew back from Oregon to attend the funeral of Helen, who died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. Helen had gone to school (she was an elementary school teacher) and collapsed after hours. She was gone that very night. We miss her to this day.
This is the earliest picture taken of us, in 1981. In the front row are Lynn and Helen, and the four of us in the back are Peggy, Diane, Marilyn, and me, with long hair and in a skirt. Judy is missing from this picture. We all had family and friends and we would not always make every gathering, but during those years, we got together and talked about our love life, our kids, our jobs, books we were reading, and whatever else was important to us at the time.

Even when we stopped going dancing, we still got together and had a group that never stopped being a vital part of our lives. We had births and deaths, children and grandchildren, weddings and divorces, and everything in between. I couldn't remember exactly when we started getting together, so I called Marilyn just before I started writing this post. We reminisced, I told her I would be writing this, I caught up on the gossip, and we exchanged our latest books for the other to put on her list.

Sometimes there are parts of our lives that continue on, even after the end has come and gone. I will never think of these women as anything other than my sisters of the heart.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Last December I went to Texas to participate in walking a half marathon with some of my family members. My sister Markee (short for Mary Katherine), on the right, lives in Alberta, Canada, and she had the bright idea that we all do this together. My sisters Fia (short for Sofia) and PJ (short for Patricia June) are the two on the left. The third one over is me, with my glasses in my hand and not on my face. PJ didn't participate in the walk because of health issues.

I was blessed to be born the oldest in a family of six. My brother Buz (short for Norman) also lives in Texas and walked the half marathon as well. It was a wonderful event that brought us all together, and I will always be grateful to Markee for instigating our reunion.
My other sister, who wasn't there for the walk, is Norma Jean (not short for anything), here on the left. Today, July 25, is her birthday. The beautiful officer on her right is her daughter Allison, my niece. Norma Jean and I are 2 years, 8 months apart in age, so we were close growing up and remain that way to this day.

My parents had three children in 7 years: me, Norma Jean, and PJ. Then they took a break from having kids and when I was 16, my brother Buz was born, with Markee and Fia following. The "second family" was raised in one place after my father retired from the Air Force, living in a waterfront house on Lake Worth. The first family moved from place to place as we grew up, in typical Air Force fashion.

For some reason I got the bug to make one post every day this month, and I pondered for a while about what would be interesting. I've told a lot about my life, and thinking about Norma Jean's birthday made me realize that there are lots of people who don't have siblings. I no longer have living parents, but I sure see them reflected in all my relatives, and we are connected in a very profound way.

What's it like to be an only child?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Park Butte

Well, Park Butte was a beaut! (Click any picture to enlarge.) Seventeen Senior Trailblazers hit the trail yesterday morning after a pretty long drive to the Mt. Baker Recreation Area, reached by heading down I-5 to the south of Bellingham. We all remarked on how dry it all is: western Washington is experiencing a significant drought. The period 20 May to 20 July is the driest on record. For us, this meant driving up a dirt road and kicking up enough dust to make everyone cough.

As you can see, it was cloudy and cool for most of the day. Once in a while the skies would clear off and we thought it would suddenly be blue, but it was more like the misty scene above all day long. It made for nice hiking, though. The hike was easy, compared to what we've been doing, a nice leisurely hike of 8 miles or so up about 2,000 feet to this lookout:
This is where we had lunch and enjoyed the view. Mt. Baker pretty much stayed hidden behind the clouds, but I've had plenty of wonderful views on recent hikes, so I didn't feel deprived. This lookout cabin is open to the public (with a box for donations inside).
Here is the view from the deck of the Lookout cabin, looking towards Mt. Baker and the Railroad Grade. That smooth gray area, as I understand it, is the grade, and it functions as access to the glacier on Mt. Baker on the left side of the picture. Ward is enjoying the view and his lunch. If you look closely you can see trails crisscrossing the landscape.
And of course I was forced to take some flower pictures. We saw phlox as above, heather, Indian paintbrush, and lots of lupines on the lower part of the trail. Plus some other flowers I couldn't identify. All in all, it was a day to re-create one's spirit, and enjoy the company of my friends.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Skydiving accident

This picture, taken last month, is just to say, "I'm still jumping, nine years later." The accident was on June 18, 2000, and I had more than 2,000 skydives at that time. I started jumping when I was 47, and it was just a fluke that I made a tandem, but then I got hooked. That, however, is a story for another time.

I was filming a 4-way group, similar to the last picture in this post, with a camera mounted on my head. After opening, I noticed that the area where I wanted to land was a little far away, but I wasn't too worried. I just headed into the wind and flew that direction. Hmmm. I noticed the wind was pretty strong, shortening up my trajectory across the ground. No worries, though; the landing area was plenty big.

But as I got closer to the ground, the wind became stronger, and I wasn't going to clear the barbed-wire fence below me, as everyone else on the plane had done. I hesitated, not knowing what to do. In my mind I saw myself hitting that fence and becoming entangled in the heavy barbs. When I was about twenty feet off the ground I was sure I would hit the fence, so I made a turn close to the ground, to avoid it.

Any skydiver knows that you should NOT turn close to the ground, because, just as planes do, when you turn you lose altitude, or lift, in order to make that turn. I slammed into the ground, hard, my right hip taking the brunt of the hit. I knew I was hurt and tried to get my parachute under control in the wind while moving as little as possible. People came running towards me. "Are you hurt?"

"Yes. Bad. Call an ambulance."

They did, while my friends took my gear off me and I lay there waiting. When the ambulance team arrived, they told me they would need to move me to a backboard to get me in the ambulance. When they did, I felt the most excruciating pain and was immediately whisked to the hospital. What had happened is that my shattered right sacrum had severed the internal iliac artery. I felt the blood filling my stomach. The ambulance staff put a heavy lead blanket over my hips, which probably saved my life. I learned that an artery will clot if you can immobilize the patient. A Flight for Life helicopter got me to a larger hospital.

I remember the bright lights as I was wheeled into surgery. The doctors told me they would stabilize the bleed and if possible, fix me at the same time. I woke later to my surgeon's face inches from mine, and he said, "We fixed you up; you're going to be just fine." I slept.

When I woke again, I was surrounded by family and friends. My husband stayed with me until he knew for sure I would survive. I had an external fixator drilled into my hip bones, crossing in front. The surgeon had gone into my pelvis through a small incision on my right butt cheek and put in two 7-inch-long pins, needed in order to fix the shattered sacrum. I had six other breaks in my pelvis on top of the sacrum injury. A plug had been placed in the severed artery instead of reattaching it. No artery down that leg any more.

I spent a week in the hospital and another two weeks in a rehab hospital, and then my husband brought me home. I had to go up 15 stairs to get into the apartment, which was accomplished by sitting on the steps facing backwards and pulling myself up, one by one. I didn't leave the apartment for a long time. My husband took wonderful care of me, dressing the holes where the fixator went in several times a day. He cooked, he cleaned, he emptied my porta-potty, he did everything for me.

At Christmastime 2000, we went to Eloy, Arizona, for me to make my first jump back into the sky, almost exactly six months later. Now I can hear you saying, "why in the world would you want to jump again?" Skydivers are the only ones who would understand the reason why. I was 58 years old and terrified, but during that six months, I vowed that I would learn what I had done wrong and teach others how to avoid the same mistake. And that's just what I did. With the coaching of my wonderful husband, I learned how to fly my canopy with much greater confidence and skill.
This is a picture of me in Arizona 2003, flying my canopy. I have made almost 2,000 jumps since June 2000, with (as of today) a total of 4,021. I don't jump as much as I used to, and I no longer teach, but I do enjoy going to Snohomish or Pitt Meadows and making a few jumps for fun, sometimes with my husband, and sometimes with other friends who like to play in the sky with me.
The one in the purple is me. (Click to enlarge and see my big grin.) I am jumping here with the best skydivers in the world, Arizona Airspeed, because I had won a raffle jump during the Christmas holiday event. This is how they raise money to travel all over the world and compete. This was one of the most fun skydives I ever made! I also continue to support them by buying raffle jumps when I'm there, hoping that maybe one day I'll win again.

But to tell you the truth, I feel like I won the best prize of all: being able to run and jump and play again. The rehab was long and hard, but it was worth it. I will never be completely whole again, but I'm good enough. I hiked up 3,500 feet over 9 miles last Thursday, and today I'll play in the mountains with my friends, and Sunday I'll play with my skydiving buddies in Snohomish. I'm good.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Photo phun

The Retired One has a mishmash of pictures on her site today, and I decided to do the same thing. The first one is the cloud shot for Susan's The Sky's the Limit photo challenge on Ripples of Kindness. The sky here makes me think of flight (it looks a little bit like a rainbow bird). Click on any image to enlarge. Especially this next one:
Today, just by chance I walked by the garden area at the grocery store, and I saw a bunch of bees buzzing around the flowers, and I quickly put my camera on macro and pointed it in the general direction of the bees. I got a few blurry ones, but with a digital camera you just keep on snappin' and delete the unsuccessful ones. In the closeup you can see the pollen on the bee's behind.
At the Farmers' Market I saw this delectable mixture of salad greens (and yellows and orange) that just made me smile. The shadow in the middle at first felt like a mistake, but it bisects the picture and gives it a bit of depth.
This scanned image was one I took in Machu Picchu in Peru (1981). It's a little bit faded, but the picture itself was pretty monochromatic. I thought I might like this picture best of any I've taken, but when I looked at it again, I'm not sure it would qualify for that honor. In the foreground is the "Hitching Post of the Sun" where the Incas made sacrifices to their gods, and in the background is Huayna Picchu, the mountain seen in all the pictures of Machu Picchu, which I climbed later on that day.

That's it for today. Tomorrow I'm going to talk about my skydiving accident, since my brother has asked me to. It happened in 2000 and I came as close to saying goodbye to life as I ever want to again, until it is my time to go.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Impressions of China

The pictures in this entry are taken from different places I visited in China. The picture above shows you what the air in Beijing looks like much of the time: it's definitely smog, a mixture of fog and pollution. I was told that the air in Beijing is so bad it's the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day on your lungs, and I do believe that. We were visiting the Imperial City and I caught a glimpse of these buildings, thought it looked pretty cool, and snapped the picture.

Other than the air, Beijing is a very exciting city. The first thing I noticed in China is a distinct feeling of becoming. There is an air of dynamic progress (helped along by constant construction everywhere), energy, and optimism. Early in the morning, city dwellers get out of bed and go exercise: some fly kites, play badminton in the square, perform intricate dances with fans or swords. Across from our hotel, a bunch of older citizens brought a boom box and set it up to ballroom dance and waltz. And then it's all packed away, the stores open, and the streets are filled with cars, bicycles, motor scooters. No trace remains of the early morning activities.
In Shanghai, this barber shop on the street appeared weekly. The square was just a block away from our hotel. Dynamic enterprise was everywhere. The food in Shanghai was my favorite, but maybe that was just because Qian (our colleague) grew up there and knew all the best dishes. People are everywhere; China's cities are crowded. Pollution is rampant across the entire country, and people smoke everywhere. Almost everyone had a cellphone and would talk loudly into their phones as if they were deaf, adding to the cacophony.
On our month-long visit in 2007, we took a train to Harbin in the part of China that used to be Manchuria, in northeastern China. This is Harbin from inside my hotel room. As you can see, it's very developed. We were there to attend a conference on climate change. A student from the Harbin Institute of Technology was there, and she was so excited by what she was learning and hearing that she asked Mickey (my boss) to come to HIT and give a talk. There was no time after the meeting, except for Saturday morning. She said she would arrange it if he would do it, and she did! At 8:00 am the next day, more than 200 students came to hear Mickey talk about how to deal with climate change.
Qian is in the black t-shirt, Mickey in the light blue shirt, and my husband in the bright blue shirt. These students were so excited about the possibility of actually doing something positive about the environment that their enthusiasm was infectious. It was truly a wonderful event. We in the USA are in trouble: have we had our day and now China is on the rise? That's the way it feels.
In western China, visiting Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, we were taken on a two-hour bus ride outside of town to visit a yurt village of Tajik nomads. We saw the incredible differences that exist between the Han Chinese and these nomadic Tajiks who are also called Chinese. This village of about 40 yurts picks up and moves on when the seasons change. Urumqi is where the recent unrest began, and you could see some of the reasons when you saw the inequities in treatment. As an outsider, I could only speculate about the reasons, but one sympathetic person told me that Xinjiang Province sees itself as being occupied by China in the same way that Tibet does.

But China is so much more than its government. Its people are the future of our planet, and if they are interested in making a positive difference, I believe it will definitely happen.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Communal living

Star has asked twice now for me to talk about being a hippie, which I was in the early 1970s (a little later than most). As you can see from my wind spinner above, I haven't changed that much in my tastes. It hangs outside on my front porch.

I had separated from my then-husband and given up completely on marriage. I was living in Sacramento, California, working for the Department of Education, and my young son went to live with his father and his new wife and baby. Chris (my son) was ten and needed more stability than I was able to provide. Suddenly I was without any obligations and decided to pursue meditation and the counterculture, which I felt I had missed out on. I was getting ready to turn thirty, which can seem pretty scary (it sure did then, what was I thinking?). I quit my job and decided to live on my savings.

My meditation teacher introduced me to Sufi dancing and some of his hippie friends, who lived in a huge old house in downtown Sacramento. The old mansion had a ballroom in the basement, where the dancing was held. Before long I had been introduced to the people who lived there, and I petitioned to join the commune. I decided that people should call me "Sunshine."

Twenty-four people lived in the house together, sharing all the duties of keeping it going, and we all paid rent for our room. I don't remember how much I paid at the time, but it wasn't much. Most of the people who lived there had money from somewhere, I guess, and a few people (fewer than a dozen, I think) actually held down jobs. The rest of us played, meditated, and took care of the household duties.

The kitchen was also huge, and the meal duties rotated weekly. We ate one meal together, in the late afternoon (dinner). If it was your week to cook, you and the others assigned to the task decided what to have for dinner, bought the groceries, prepared the meal and cleaned up afterward.

We had mandatory "house meetings" every week, so things could be discussed, assigned, and any concerns addressed. If there were problems between us, we had small group meetings. And as you might guess, problems arose almost constantly. I remember one time when I confessed that I had once tickled my little sister until she fainted. They must have discussed it, because a week later I was accosted in the kitchen and tickled until I couldn't stand it any longer. When the ordeal was over, they told me that they had helped me repay a karmic debt.

I lived there for two or three years, I'm not sure now from this place in time. But I loved some of the people dearly and could not stand some of the others. I learned how to share my living space in a new way, although anyone from a large family would not have had nearly the adjustment that a single child would. Women who have taken care of large families didn't have serious culture shock either.

I learned that the peace movement, the desire to raise environmental consciousness, even back then, excited my spirit to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. It's been almost four decades since that part of my life, but it will always color the way I see things. Being a hippie seeped into my genes and now I'm just a flower child with forty years practice.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


One question that was asked by one of my blogging friends (or more) was how come I went to China six times. So I thought maybe it would be fun to talk about why and how that came about. This picture (above) shows my husband and me on the Great Wall of China in 2003, when we went there the first time.

In my previous life (i.e., when I was working instead of being retired), I worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, and the whole three decades I was there, I worked for one person: Mickey Glantz, a Senior Scientist and Director of the Environmental and Societal Impacts Group.

I started as an administrative assistant (read: secretary) in 1979. In those days, before computers, Mickey would write a paper several times, take the output after it was typed up by the secretary, cut and paste and basically make a work of art out of his next draft, and the whole thing would be re-typed. It so happened when I took a version and actually read it while I was typing it and made constructive comments, Mickey immediately took notice and promoted me. Over the years, I moved from administrative assistant to administrator to webmaster to writer/editor. I assisted in numerous ways with the publication of dozens of books, and countless reports, papers, etc.

When Mickey's administrator retired in 1993, her position was split into her replacement, the administrator to deal with the budget and basically represent the group, while I took over the editing responsibilities and began to travel with Mickey. We would hold meetings all over the globe for scientists in various disciplines to help them "educate the educators" about climate change and variability. I had the responsibility to get the scientists and educators to that part of the world and organize the venue, arrange for accommodations, and basically put out any "fires" that arose from getting them to our meeting.
We went to China (twice to Beijing, once to Shanghai and Macau, and twice to Urumqi), Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi), Moscow, Bangkok, Budapest, Havana, Geneva, and this past April to Macedonia. It has been a wonderful way to see the world, although the work did not end for me when we got there: I took notes in the meetings and helped Mickey prepare the final report. And the last few meetings we also put on the web. The picture above was taken of the terracotta soldiers in Xian, on a side trip back from western China to Beijing. If you ever get a chance to go to China, don't miss this trip.
The last day that we were in China, my husband and I had the only day in Beijing during the entire month we were there that was not inundated with heavy smog. It rained all day and we saw the sights. I took this picture in Bei Hai Park in Beijing. The next day it was clear and beautiful, and we flew away from the wonders of China for the last time. Maybe the last time.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fairhaven Market

Welcome to the Fairhaven Farmers' Market! These pictures were all taken on July 15 and represent just a tiny bit of the offerings here.
Some of the same vendors who work at the Bellingham Farmers' Market on Saturdays come out to the Fairhaven Village Green on Wednesdays for a shorter time (noon to five). Last week was an absolutely beautiful day, as you can see, and this is just at the beginning, at noon, before it got really busy. All the vendors are scattered around the sides and people picnic on the grass in the middle.This picture of fruit just made my mouth water. If you click on the picture and look at the larger one, the berries look like they will just come right out of the screen and tempt you to eat them. But licking your monitor is probably not good for it and tastes nothing like the berries!
I thought this picture looked like it could be in a museum, it's so artfully arranged. Today I am going skydiving, it's early in the morning, and I've been meaning to get this posted for SquirrelQueen's Farmers' Market challenge on the 25th. Now if I can just remember to tell her!

The fun I derive from blogging and my friends around the world makes me smile just to think of them. The sun just illuminated my front window. I'm going to dash to the gym to catch my favorite class of the week (at 8:00 am on Saturday, you would not believe how many people show up then). It's scheduled to stop by the end of this month, and I'll miss it terribly, so I don't want to miss even one of the last taught by my favorite instructor! See you next time~

Friday, July 17, 2009

My top ten blogs

First of all, I want to say thank you to Charmine for giving me this "Makes My Heart Smile" award. She tells me that I need to name my top ten favorite blogs, which I will do now. I will also tell you a little bit about why they are my favorites, listed in no particular order.

(1) My Favorites. Charmine I think was born with an attraction to beautiful things, and when she decided to write a blog, it seems she learned how to share all those favorite things with her followers. I think she's shown me a side of India that I would never ever have imagined before. Thank you for broadening my horizons.

(2) Caramel Macchiato. AL (whose name I don't even know, really) lives on an island somewhere and travels extensively. I was initially attracted by the name, which evokes a warm creamy and exciting drink. Even though I see from her picture that she is really young in body, I think she has an old soul, and she is continuing to expand and grow and share. Whenever I see that she has a new post, I visit to see what she has come up with this time.

(3) Star-Crossed. I have known Linda for two decades. She and her husband were my skydiving instructors when I was learning. She was my role model then, and when she moved away from skydiving, she wrote a wonderful book for teens, called Star-Crossed. You know you are reading a good book when you forget you're reading at all. She is a poet, artist, all kinds of talents I didn't even know about until I started following her blog.

(4) Star. Star lives in London and Tennessee, dividing her time in some way between the two places. Her grown kids live in the UK, so I can see why she would miss them. I love her sense of humor and how much of herself she lets us know about her. She's very special and I just cannot imagine my life without her in it. And although we will probably never meet in person, I will know her when our spirits meet. How could it be otherwise?

(5) A Brit in Tennessee. Along the same lines, I think I came across this blog through Star's links. Jo lives in Tennessee and loves beauty. She shares that love through her blog, and she seems to spend a good deal of her time finding ways to delight me. Her pictures on the right-hand side of her blog are worth just sitting and spending some time looking through.

(6) Life in the Second Half. Nancy has the most followers of any of the blogs I follow. Sometimes I am intimidated by the number of comments people leave her, but she continues to post really thought-provoking and heartfelt blogs. I can see why I have joined the hordes of her followers, and I look forward to seeing what she has to say with each new entry.

(7) blawg! is written by Lily, who has shown me what it would be like to live on a farm. I've been fascinated by farm life ever since I read The Omnivore's Dilemma last winter. Through her eyes, I get to see what daily life can be, and she writes with a sense of humor and is very witty.

(8) Recollections of a Vagabonde. Written by VB, as I know her anyway, this transplanted French woman shows in her blog what my country looks like through her eyes. She is a world traveler, and that comes through clearly in her posts. She now lives in Georgia, and she has an extensive collection of postcards from around the world that she shares with us regularly.

(9) The Retirement Chronicles. You can probably see why I was drawn to this blog, since we are both recently retired women. She has the most incredible eye for photography, and I have been enchanted almost daily by the wonderful pictures she puts up. I see things that give me a new appreciation for life.

(10) Uh-oh. Last one! It has to be The Road to Here by Judy. She and I both live in Washington, but she's over there on the other side of the Cascades. She is very prolific, and I really enjoy seeing what she's up to each day. She has gotten me more involved in the blogosphere through encouragement and challenges.

Now there are plenty more I had to leave out, ones that really shouldn't be left out... but I'm getting tired from all this choosing. I could easily choose another ten, but for now, I'll leave it at that.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Excelsior Ridge

Today, 13 of us Senior Trailblazers wanted to hike up Church Mountain in the Mt. Baker wilderness area. We headed up the highway and turned off onto the dirt road, which said, "Road Closed 7/27." Well, today was 7/16, so we headed on up the three miles of dirt road, but when we got there, the Forest Service personnel who were there told us they closed the road yesterday and it will not be open again this summer. If we wanted to drive back down the three miles and start from there, we were welcome to hike the 12 miles to Church Mountain. This, of course, would have made the hike 16 or 17 miles long and increased the elevation gain by another 800-1000 feet. So, we headed back down and decided to hike up to the Excelsior Ridge, just up the road, a 9-mile hike with 3500 feet of elevation gain (and loss, going back down). So that's what we did. This picture (click to enlarge) was taken just below the ridge, and I was really taken with all the abundant flowers. This time of year, they are just incredible. As were the mosquitos, black flies, and full-on sun.
When we gained the ridge, we had just the most fantastic view of Mt. Baker. This picture shows Karen in the foreground, and Mt. Baker behind. We were all tired by the time we got to the ridge, and although there were two hikes we could have done from there (one to Excelsior Peak and the other to a shorter hill overlook), we decided to have lunch and head on back down.

Some of our hikers were considerably slower, so they got to the top by the time the first group wanted to head down. Our leader decided to stay and wait for them, and the rest of us went down the trail. It's really interesting how a hike can seem one way going up, and quite another going down. Frankly, the distance added on the downhill seemed to be at least another two miles! My knees were pretty well spent when we reached the trailhead, and we waited another 45 minutes for our cohorts to join us. Then we went home. Tired, happy, and very re-created, as they say in the business. I downloaded my pictures, chose a few, and now here they are, for your enjoyment.
While we were waiting at the bottom, I found this beautiful daisy. If you look at the larger picture, you'll see a red spider on one of its petals. I love my new camera, and by using the macro feature, I was so pleased with all the detail in this daisy.

For some reason, I feel compelled to finish one (or more) blog postings so far this month. You, my readers, spur me on, as well as my new camera, and my desire to share my experiences with you. For me, at this moment in time, I am happy, replete, and ready to call it a day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


One of my sisters sent me this image in a post filled with them. I don't know what or who M.I.L.K is, but I need to acknowledge the picture. Who other than me ever played hopscotch? I looked at this picture and it brought back memories of playing the game. Our chalked versions were never this neat and tidy, but the game is played by throwing a token into each number, then hopping over each square that does not have a token in it. Our version had the number 10 as a circle, and when you got there, you had to turn 180 degrees the other direction.

I don't have any friends to play hopscotch with any more, but this picture reminded me of my own games when I was young. These ladies are obvious novices, because you can't have two feet in two different numbers, unless they are the 4-5 or the 7-8!! And holding her purse while playing? Never!

I also played jacks as a kid. The boys played marbles, and the girls played jacks. I used one of my parent's golf balls, which I preferred to the rubber ones that came with the game. I don't see kids playing ANY of these three games any more. Is this because they are all inside playing video games instead? If so, it is their loss. I'm grateful to have been born in a time when the outdoors was familiar and friendly.

I have made one post each day in July, and I didn't want today to be an exception. Tomorrow I'll be heading up to the mountains and will be coming home late, since it's a long one (11 miles and 4,000 feet elevation gain), so I might not be able to keep it up, but I just want to say THANK YOU to all my readers. I wake up in the morning with anticipation, looking for comments on my blog, and when I see I have one (or two or more), I grin and feel a surge of happiness and appreciation for all of you. I have been leaving plenty on your blogs, too, since I am hoping you feel the same. Isn't this the best game of all??

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Apartment wildlife

The chickadees are definitely hams. They love to come over and check me out (I was outside pointing my camera up at the feeder when this little guy came to say hello.) I thought it would be fun to show you some of the wildlife around our little apartment. (Click any picture to enlarge.) I have four feeders hanging off the front porch. We get some really interesting birds, along with the usual suspects like sparrows. My pine siskins are all gone now, I am not sure where, but I have at least 4 male goldfinches (the brightly colored ones) and at least two more sedately colored females, who might be getting ready to lay eggs, since they have not been around lately.
This is the best picture I've been able to get of the northern flicker. He has brought his girlfriend around to show her where the sunflower seeds propagate as if by magic. This was taken early in the morning from inside the apartment, and although the camera screamed at me to use the flash, I knew it would spoil the picture because of the window, so I took it anyway. (There is a setting on the camera to change the ISO but it's too complicated for me to learn right now.)
This picture is taken in the back yard area of the apartment complex. Mama Doe has just recently given birth to these beautiful little babies, and this was our first look at them. She brought them out to check out the area, I guess. They bounce straight up at least as high as they are. Aren't they adorable?? Last year she also had two little ones, and we watched them learn how to forage and jump fences, and learn all the other things that deer know how to do. Mama probably teaches them which flowers are the tastiest in the surrounding gardens, too.
Here's a closeup of one of the new babies. It's interesting that I don't know of any species that doesn't have cute babies. Maybe there are some, but I can't think of any. And then, inside the apartment, I discovered this interesting wildlife:
He's standing on a bench he uses to exercise on, and he's using his arms in a mysterious way, with some little blue things hanging off the end. I notice he's a pretty mature looking character, and his coverings look a little worse for wear. Behind him is a wall hanging from China, which is the Chinese character for "Destiny." I think this wild animal might be destined for great things.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Mama

This picture of my mother was taken probably before I was walking. And judging by the look on her face, it was taken by my dad. Mama was really beautiful when she was a young woman, and she gained in a certain inner beauty as she aged. She never had a chance to REALLY age, though, since she died at 69.

I was the oldest of 7 children. As you can see from the picture above, she had big brown eyes, which are supposed to be dominant over blue eyes. But Daddy's blue ones were inherited by all his daughters, and my brother has Mama's brown eyes. None of us turned out with a mixture (or hazel). One daughter, my sister Tina Maria, was born prematurely and died shortly after birth, so we never found out about her eye color. The rest of the six of us are still around. My parents had three children in 7 years, and then they stopped having kids for awhile.

When I was 16, my mother got pregnant with my brother, Buz, and Daddy was so ecstatic when he had a son that he went out and bought a brand-new baby blue station wagon. Mama then had three more girls in quick succession: I have a sister who was the same age as my son, and a sister who was a year younger than him!

Mama and Daddy were married from the time she was 18 in November 1941 until Daddy died in 1979, almost 40 years. They had a marriage like many others: some good times, some bad times, but there is no doubt in my mind that they loved each other through it all. And they raised their children to be productive, ethical, and really decent members of society. Every last one of us.
Mama was a character. I love this picture of her, busy going through the mail, paying the bills, sporting blue cowboy boots. She was the responsible one with money. Daddy would spend it when he had it, and not worry about tomorrow. Mama and Daddy had real differences about money, and I guess this is pretty much a worry that drives many couples apart. But Daddy usually deferred to her, since he knew that about himself. Daddy made the money, and Mama spent it.

She never worked for a paycheck during her entire life. I think she felt that somehow it gave her less credibility in the eyes of the world. She was embarrassed by it, I think. But I have never, in my entire life, known anyone who worked harder during her lifetime than my mother. When her children were grown, she volunteered at the local hospital as a "Gray Lady." Somewhere I have a picture of her proudly showing off her uniform.
I took this picture of Mama in Boulder when she came to visit me, in the late 1980s. She had great legs, and she knew she was still a looker. But after Daddy died, she fended off the well-meaning friends who tried to hook her up with a replacement. She was lonely, I know, but it was impossible to replace someone who was such a part of her life.

I was jealous of the love my mother poured into her youngest daughter. One day I shared that with my sister, and she reassured me that Mama loved me too, I just couldn't see it. I grew closer to Mama when she was no longer here, and I learned the truth of that reassurance. Every memory I have, even the ones where she was being difficult, have become poignant reminders of who she was, and how much my life is diminished without her continued presence. Mama, I will always love you, and I look forward with joy to the day when we will see each other again.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Farmers' Market, cont'd.

No one can deny that it's full summer. Just look at these beautiful currants, cabbages, and kale! I thought this was a lovely display. I did have to ask what the little red things are, since I didn't recognize currants in this setting (currant jelly, on the other hand, I know well). It is a wonderful thing to be able to enjoy the looks of them, as well as take them home and prepare tasty and nutritious dishes out of them.

We are so incredibly lucky here in this part of the world, to have these grown right here in our back yards, and not shipped all across the country, as they must be in many places. It's one of the reasons we thought this would be a good place to live, and we seem to have chosen well. The first time I saw Bellingham, Washington, was on the Internet, looking for a place to check out along the west coast that might end up being home. We don't see any reason to move on.
I asked these women if I could take a picture of their colorful t-shirts. I didn't have a clue what the "Bellingham Fit" thing was all about, so of course as soon as I got home I went on line and checked it out, since they obviously want everybody to know about their program. Here's a quick quote from the website:
Whether you are a couch-potato, walker, casual jogger, or marathon veteran, this marathon training program is the most enjoyable, most inspiring, and most efficient way to get in the best shape of your life.
The program helps anyone get ready to participate in whatever level of fitness they aspire to. Last December I also walked a half-marathon in order to participate in something like this with my family members in Texas. It was organized by Prevention Magazine, but it's the same idea, and it's a good one.
And last (but not least), I visited for awhile with Greg (on the right) who shares coffee with me at our local coffeeshop. He was chatting with Jim who advertises his name on a sign. As a Toter Tutor (try to say THAT three times fast!), Jim helps people to understand how to recycle using the totes behind him. You might not know what goes where, so Jim is there to educate and inform.

The Farmers' Market will stay open until Christmas, and then will re-open with the First Cabbage thrown out in April 2010. As the weather gets colder and the seasonal fruits and veggies get fewer, the Market moves inside instead of mostly outside. But it's there, with people, music, vendors, camaradarie, and a whole lotta smiles almost year-round.