Monday, November 30, 2009


Going nowhere fast

I've been noticing a lot of my blogging buddies lamenting about the difficulty of exercising in the winter in various parts of the country. There's no doubt it's harder. The picture above was taken from the internet, since I feel embarrassed about actually taking pictures of my fellow YMCA enthusiasts working out. At our local Y, we have a long string of treadmills and elliptical machines like those pictured above. They are not hard to use, but they are so boring!

I notice many people with earphones listening to either music, news, or maybe even learning a foreign language or something similar. It's the only way to make yourself do this solitary exercise. I find it does help to be surrounded by people who are also working out; it gives me incentive. I don't think I could ever ride that treadmill long enough to have that butt. And you wouldn't find me dressed in a bright red clingy outfit, either. For obvious reasons.

For me, I love the camaraderie of the exercise class. The Y has one every weekday at 9:00 am, which works perfectly into my morning routine. I catch the bus at 7:50, quaff my morning latte while reading the local newspaper, and walk the few minutes to the Y in order to change and be ready to work out by then. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we show up for Joanne's class, which has a loyal following of perhaps 40 people, even when it is raining, like today.

Just like in any class, everyone who shows up regularly ends up migrating to the same spot in the room. I like the south side, not very far back. Joanne has a set warm-up routine, and then we bounce around to what is called "low impact" aerobics. Some people barely move their arms and feet, and others are in danger of bouncing off the ceiling. I love to watch in the mirror what others are doing behind me. We do the aerobics part of the class for 40 minutes and then we cool down with some slower music and spend another 15-20 minutes doing floor exercises, working on abdominals, butt muscles, a little light weight stuff, some push-ups, and finish off with maybe five minutes of stretching.

I wear ankle weights and wrist weights, not much, only a pound each, adding an extra four pounds, but it sure makes me sweat a lot more. I also try to maximize the arm and leg movements, since I'm disappointed if I don't work up a bit of a sweat by the end. Our women's shower room has a sauna (which is usually very hot) and a steam bath. I shower and dry my hair and am out of the Y by 10:30, head to the bus terminal and am home by 11:00 am.

On Thursdays, I head up to the hills with the Senior Trailblazers. All summer long we go to the High Country, but during the short rainy days of winter we stay close to town. This Thursday we will hike up to Raptor Ridge, up 1,600 feet elevation and a round trip of about 8 miles. By the end of the day I am spent but very happy and feel a great sense of accomplishment. Our leader just sent an email today saying that the weather report "stinks a little less than usual" because we will most likely not get rained on.

Without this routine I would really not be enjoying myself. I find that on days when I can't get my usual workout, I feel rather depressed and grumpy. Sitting at my computer and watching the birds while I blog is so much more satisfying when I've had my workout. When the holidays close things down, I need to find another outlet.

Today, Monday, everything has returned to normal and I am smiling as I write this. What do you do for exercise? What are your options?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas presents

While busy admiring all the wonderful seasonal banners my fellow bloggers are uploading, I started thinking about Christmas presents, ones I have given and received through the years that have meant more than the usual. It seems like a good time to start telling these stories, as well as hearing some of yours.

Before I do that, though, I checked my blog reader and found a truly amazing story written by a woman in Seattle about her experience of having been struck by lightning (while traveling in her car with her two children). It's on the Cliff Mass Weather Blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (The caption under the first picture has a typo, should say "struck" rather than "stuck.")

Back to Christmas presents. The one I remember the most was actually a lesson in humility. My paternal grandmother, who wouldn't let us call her anything but "Mommy," brooked no nonsense. One year she was visiting us for the holidays, and I remember asking her what she was going to give me for Christmas. I did this to every member of my family; she was no exception. I didn't really want her to tell me but to ask me what I wanted, my crafty way of doing their shopping myself. She told me to stop asking her or I wouldn't get anything but a can of applesauce. I laughed her off, of course, and went around to each person a day or two later with the same question.

One day, under the Christmas tree, we discovered that Mommy had put out her presents. The one labeled for me had the suspicious shape of, well, a can. When I opened it on Christmas Day, thinking she was just playing with me, there was the promised can of applesauce. No attached note saying my real present was elsewhere. I was crushed, but she told me it was my own fault since I wouldn't learn my lesson any other way. Everyone else received "real" presents from her.

All these years later, I remember very few of the presents I have received from anyone, except that can of applesauce, which remains in my memory as the lesson of humility I asked for. It was priceless.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tagging my posts

I have thought about tagging some of my posts so that I can pull them up and read them in a more reasonable way than searching through them. Now that I've got more than a hundred, it seems like a daunting task. I was mulling a post about names, what they mean, how we come by them, but I vaguely remembered writing one already. I just found it here and read it. So I've already done it.

Some of the people I follow use a tag or label cloud. This gives a visual image of which tags are used the most (or least) by having them vary in size. I don't use other people's label clouds, so this is probably not the way to go. But first, you have to LABEL THEM. This seems really a little bit in the same ballpark as filing. When I would try to organize my office when starting a new project, I would put everything in folders according to how I thought they should be categorized. Before the project was over, I would have re-organized all the folders with different naming schemes at least twice or three times until I was able to pull up the correct folder every time. Somehow it seems like labeling or tagging my posts would be similar. And then I need to edit every one I want to tag, right? I notice that some people have gone back and done that, and I'd really be interested in finding out how one decides to tag a post. The internet of course has plenty of information. I found this website helpful, but I'm still stymied at how to begin.

Oh, and just to show how hard it would be to figure out how to label my posts, I want to throw into this post the recipe for the Caribbean Yam Salad shown in my Thanksgiving post! Some people have asked for it, so here it is:
Clean and dice enough yams to make 4 cups; steam until tender but not mushy. Chill. Whisk together 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup tamari, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, dash cayenne pepper, 1 tsp each Dijon mustard and honey. Toss dressing with the yams, then add diced 1/2 cup red bell pepper, 1/4 cup dry black currants, 1/4 cup tamari pumpkin seeds, and 2 Tbsp sesame seeds. These are all really according to taste.
 In the picture you can see all the ingredients pretty easily, but I upped the red bell pepper and pumpkin seeds because I like both of those a lot. If you try it, let me know what you think of it. And I'm looking forward to learning what other people have found about tags, and I'd sure like to know if you use them or not, on your site or others. Thanks!

Friday, November 27, 2009

My sister

 Norma Jean and Jan sometime in the 1940s

This is about my sister. Well, one of them, anyway. Norma Jean is closest to me in age, two and a half years younger, so we grew up playing dolls together and being siblings. She just discovered my blog yesterday, and since I've been casting about trying to decide what I want to write about today, it's going to be about her. Actually, about us.

The blog post I've been trying to formulate since I woke up this morning has to do with shame. I feel a fair amount of shame about some aspects of my personality, and I'd really like to let that go, and give myself a break. But when I think of my childhood with Norma Jean, I feel it again. Once I broke a thermometer and knew that Mama would punish me, so I convinced Norma Jean to say she had broken it. I don't remember the outcome of that experience, but I know I still feel shame about having done that.

When we grew up, moving all around the country and to Puerto Rico (our Air Force dad was stationed at the air base there, twice), I reveled in making new friends and being the "new girl." Norma Jean hated it; she made one friend and agonized when she left one behind and had to make another. I didn't even notice, since I had developed a persona that allowed me to hide behind. I never made just one friend but several, and I would sometimes play one against another. This of course backfired when I grew up because I never learned how to let that persona go and form close relationships.

Once I became a teenager and began to care mightily about how and where I fit into the local scene, Norma Jean figured out ways to make me suffer. She would threaten to tell some boy I was interested in at the time about some of my worst habits and I would buckle under and plead for mercy. We were best friends and best enemies at the same time. I have a vague memory of looking into a baby crib when she was a few months old and hating her. Probably because she was now the favorite, and I was really used to that position myself.

But all that is in the past. Now I am looking at a birthday next week, and I'll be 67. I remember when I turned 60 and was unwilling to have a birthday party because I was, well, old and didn't want to be reminded about it. And that was seven long years ago. Now my birthdays have become precious and sought after. Once I let go of thinking I'd live forever, I began to cherish the years, the seasons, and the days, that I have left to me.

And another thing I cherish so much that it brings tears to my eyes is my relationship with Norma Jean, my sister. I have other sisters, three others to be exact, but they never were close enough to my age to form such a strong attachment. Norma Jean, I love you, and I am still working on growing out of my old habit of being such a brat.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I am sitting here at my computer, replete after a wonderful, perfect meal with my husband. This plate has the best salmon I ever ate, a yam salad, broccoli and asparagus (steamed), and sliced beets, prepared by Smart Guy yesterday. For dessert we had Food Co-op pumpkin pie with whipped cream. To say I am stuffed is an understatement.

I looked for pictures from Thanksgiving meals past, and interestingly, they were all taken after the fact, not before the meal when the table was groaning to hold everything, but afterwards, when everybody was looking at less than their best. This picture was the only one I found that actually showed the meal, 2005, taken in Virginia at my niece Allison's home. She was smart: the entire meal was catered and brought to us already prepared. Compare the greens here with the first meal: no comparison.

The salmon in our meal today was a gift from a coffee shop friend who fishes in Alaska several months of the year. He gave us our salmon last Thanksgiving, too, but this was without a doubt the best salmon I have ever tasted. He said it would be good because the sockeye salmon this year is oilier than last year's. Whatever, it was superb. I'll be having the rest of it tomorrow for lunch.

Among the things I have to be thankful for this year include you, dear reader. I find that I cherish our connection and the opportunity to know about your lives as you follow mine. The cyber-coffee klatch brings so much opportunity for connection into my life. I sometimes go to each follower's page and read up on your life, and although it's impossible to keep totally up to date, I trust that anyone who might want to contact me directly knows that my email is on my profile page. I welcome you into my circle of friends.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Morning gift

When I walked out to catch the bus to town just after sunrise, another rider was busy looking up behind me with her camera. Once I got to the bus stop, I saw with great surprise a beautiful full rainbow lighting up the sky. Her camera couldn't capture it, but I thought about my setting for sunsets and thought maybe it would capture the rainbow. One end, the right-hand side, was much brighter than the left-hand side, but I of course need to show you both sides. We both remarked on how beautiful it was and saw it as a good omen for the day and for the season.

I intend to spend some time tomorrow going through old Thanksgiving pictures and find some memories, which won't be as good as some of my other blogger friends (not quite old enough, really),  but it will surely bring up some memories of my own. This is likely to remind me of funny things that happened in gatherings past, as well as fond memories of loved ones who have moved on.

I finished the hat already! Today I went down to the yarn shop to learn how to finish the hat. I got to the last 11 stitches, and then it said to "weave them together." Huh? How? But it was easy, once I was the proud possessor of a tapestry needle. It was so much fun, and actually pretty easy, that I decided I'll make another one. Already I have one scarf and one hat, and another two in the pipeline! Who knew that I would end up having so much fun with knitting needles?


Monday, November 23, 2009

Knit and squirrel

I finally got a chance to get a few pictures of one of the black squirrels who visits my porch (click any to enlarge). There are four usual suspects: two gray squirrels and two black squirrels. The black ones are significantly smaller than the gray squirrels, but I am not sure whether it's because they are younger or not. This squirrel went over to the wreath and pulled out a couple tasty morsels and then climbed back in the flower box to consume them. I figured that Judy (SquirrelQueen) would enjoy seeing this cute little guy. Look at those tiny little ears!

Here he looks a little more like a rodent (which squirrels are, actually) with his beady eyes keeping me in focus while he chomps down the rest of his treats. As soon as I moved toward the door (these pictures are all taken through the front window) he scampered down the side of the railing. Here's a portrait of his compatriot, the gray squirrel, who actually looks as if he's laughing at me, doesn't he?

Now that's a tail! Nothing skimpy and half grown about that tail. I don't know what he is clutching to his chest, but he stayed frozen in this position for at least a minute, not moving. While at the Wild Bird Chalet this morning, I waffled about buying some unshelled peanuts for these guys, but I decided against it, since half the other apartment dwellers already have set them out. No wonder he's so well fed!

I started my hat project yesterday. After three false starts (it is REALLY HARD not to twist the stitches when you join them together, I found), I finally had to enlist the help of my resident Smart Guy, who helped me fit them together properly. The second time I was sure I had it, until four rows later... well, any of you who knit know what I'm talking about. Here's how far I've gotten, with a picture of what I hope I end up with:

As you can see, the brim of the hat naturally curls up. I'm on the stockinette stitch just past the first colors. You knit the hat upwards until you gradually decrease the stitches to finish it off. I figure at this rate it will be done by the end of the week, and then I'll start on the second scarf, which is not purple but pink.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gran Torino

Last night I woke up thinking about Gran Torino, a movie recently released on DVD and in my Netflix queue. It sat around the house for a week before I played it yesterday. It's an intensely spiritual movie, at least to me. If you have a chance to see it, I recommend it highly. It's not often lately that I see a movie that makes me think about the nature of humanity like this one did.

It started out in typical Eastwood style: I hated the bigoted and bitter man he portrayed, Walt Kowalski, who had just buried his wife and lives in a sad depressed Michigan town next door to an extended Hmong family. Eastwood may be 78, but he still plays a very impressive disgusting bad guy. Walt's prize possession is a 1972 Gran Torino he keeps polished and shiny in his garage.

In a series of events, Walt befriends Thao and Sue, two Hmong teenagers in the family next door. Walt showed his disgust of the Hmong matriarch by spitting on his lawn while sending her dirty looks, and she answers him by spitting out an even larger wad. Before long, Walt realizes that a Hmong gang will never leave Thao alone, that he is doomed to join them or die. The gang members taunt and torture Thao. What made this such a spiritual movie to me was the imperceptible journey from contempt to friendship that happened with Walt and Thao. There are also some very funny and poignant parts. An excerpt from Wikipedia of the New York Times Review:
Dirty Harry is back, in a way, in Gran Torino, not as a character but as a ghostly presence. He hovers in the film, in its themes and high-caliber imagery, and of course most obviously in Mr. Eastwood’s face. It is a monumental face now, so puckered and pleated that it no longer looks merely weathered, as it has for decades, but seems closer to petrified wood.
Roger Ebert wrote that the film is "about the belated flowering of a man's better nature. And it's about Americans of different races growing more open to one another in the new century." But the scene I woke up remembering last night was the scene at the end, when you realize that Walt saw that he could still make a difference in the lives of people he cherished, and that without him a favorable outcome was almost impossible to imagine. The movie ends on a positive note, and everyone got what they deserved. Even Walt. I'm interested to know what others thought of the movie.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


You may have to click on this and enlarge to appreciate all the flowers in this collage. I am having fun with the Picnik program I downloaded (it's free at but beware, it costs $25 a year to have all the bells and whistles, and it only took me a couple of hours to buy the premium edition. Without paying, you can only download five pictures, and then the others drop off. Some of the editing tools are only available in the premium edition, too, and they are totally cool. (They also offer monthly rates but you have to be careful because they want to automatically sign you up each month.) This collage layout is only available in premium. All pictures were taken by me this summer and fall.

I just returned from the yarn store, where I bought a hat pattern and yarn for another scarf. It already seems odd to sit down in front of the television without my knitting -- that took no time! I will work on the hat and scarf for Christmas gifts. Although I considered buying yarn to make myself a vest, it would have meant a lot of money and no time to make any handcrafted gifts. So I'm happy, and I'll show you my projects once they are finished.

We have another wind- and rainstorm on the way for tonight. Even for this part of the country, it's unusual to have 50+ mph winds day after day. I see, however, in the long-term forecast that we've got a high pressure ridge setting up for the Thanksgiving time frame, with a much needed weather break. One thing I've noticed with a lot of joy is to watch the birds flying in the stiff winds: they like to face into the wind and flap like crazy, then turn and soar with the wind, having what looks like a whole lot of fun.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Yesterday I finished my first knitting project in three decades, this scarf in a lace pattern, two repeating rows (click to enlarge). There is one pretty major mistake right in the middle of it, which I discovered after I'd managed to proceed forward about four inches. I decided to leave it. Made of a merino wool and silk blend, it is about two inches longer than I am tall. Lynn suggested 72" but it's about 65" and I waffled about making it longer. This is long enough to go around my neck (like this) or tie it in the front and stick the ends into my coat. It's a little more purple than it looks here.

Today I saw the Cooper's Hawk again eyeing my birdies, hanging out in the above tree. Some wag called my bird feeders a perfect hawk feeder, fattening the birds up for the kill. I watched this young hawk dive for a bird and miss, as the two of them flew out of sight. The hawk came back into a nearby tree, without having caught anybody (thank goodness). I know this is the way of the world: the little birds eat insects, the bigger birds (at least raptors and crows) eat the littler ones, and so on. I just don't want to watch anybody get killed. I've spent so much time watching the little birds at the feeders that they feel almost like, well, family.

Since I've got a captive audience here (sort of), I wondered if anybody knows exactly where birds' ears are located? They must have them, they call and sing and pay attention to sounds, but I smiled to myself when I thought of little human ears covered up with feathers...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lily and Lizard Lakes

Today ten Seniors showed up to hike to Lily and Lizard Lakes in a steady rain. Can you believe it? I was thinking that I'd show up because next Thursday is Thanksgiving and I didn't want to miss two Thursdays in a row. I figured I'd be the only one or maybe one other, and we'd cancel the hike. It was gray and rainy, with wind forecast on top of all that. But no, ten of us showed up, and we headed up in a van and a car to the trailhead.

We all started the hike with full rain gear and went up a steady trail covered with lots of detritus from the recent windstorms. As you can see above, we had another person (Frank) trying out the use of an umbrella. Thankfully it was calm when we started out. But it was wet, very wet. I had my raincoat, poncho, some new wool gloves, and my rain pants, which I put on before I even went out the door. We hiked up to Lizard Lake and stopped for lunch. We didn't stop for long, obviously, but my hot soup was glorious, and then we decided to take the trip to Lily Lake and a loop back to the trailhead. This made the whole trip just under nine miles in length and we gained maybe 1,400 feet in elevation.

Our trail was, in a word, wet. Sloppy. Here's a picture of today's trail. Very Pacific Northwest in the fall. Lizard Lake was our first stop, and as someone said, if you've seen Lizard Lake, you've also seen Lily Lake -- they are almost identical, so I'm including a picture of Lizard Lake (first picture above), which could double for Lily Lake.

On the way back down, we stopped at the bridge and I took this picture of an unnamed creek (click any picture to enlarge; this one is worth it). Even our resident expert didn't know the name of it, so I'm naming it Stewart Creek, in my honor. If anybody knows what it really is (at the beginning/end of the hike up to Lily and Lizard), I'll gladly fix the error. (Note: GeezerHiker said it's called Whitehall Creek, a pretty okay name.) We actually had a great time, and early in the afternoon the rain stopped and the wind began, and as we headed home, all of us happy to have had our weekly hike, I will end it here with a wish for everybody: Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Certain slant of light

More than a hundred years ago, Emily Dickinson wrote a poem about winter's light, a certain slant of light. This is just the first stanza:
There's a certain Slant of Light,
Winter Afternoons -
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes - (ED, 1890)

Emily used a lot of dashes and capitals to emphasize certain words, and she created a mood that speaks very directly to me from across the years. I notice, although we still have a month before we actually reach true winter afternoons, the length of the shadows. The picture above was taken last Saturday while wandering around the Farmers' Market. A rhubarb leaf imprint was used to make this cement sculpture bird bath (or whatever one wants to use it for), filled above with seasonal gourds. Each one is unique. Linda at Back Lane Gardens holds classes on how to make these.

The much reduced market is still going on in our part of the country and will continue until December 19, the last Saturday before Christmas, and will then reopen in the spring. What's left of the bustling market that covered the entire parking lot has now moved inside, where the rain and the cold are much less bothersome.

The soap that Linda makes and sells here at the market is wonderful, and she hopes that people will consider these gifts for their friends -- or for themselves. I bought a bar of "gardener's soap" which has the "scrubbing qualities of the coffee grounds to help remove stains and odors." She has also added a hint of orange. I also noticed the way people wear their neck scarves, and this wrap (above) seems the most common (around the neck and then hanging down each side). This means I need to make my scarf about the length of my body (over five feet) to make it work right. The pattern just says to keep going until it's done, which is reasonable, assuming that I am aware of what that means.

While walking along the street, I saw this gorgeous cabbage catching the water droplets and simply looking elegant. They are so ornamental at this stage, and it makes me wonder if they are still edible. It looks like some bugs have found it to be pretty tasty, though, as I look more closely at it (click to enlarge).

We are getting ready for another round of wind and rain, starting this afternoon, after a respite from the last two. I'll take my bird feeders down before I go to bed, and hope that this one won't be as destructive as the last: While on the bus yesterday, I saw a huge tree cracked right down the middle. Today I thought I'd take a picture of it but it was already mostly sawed into firewood. Think I'll work on the scarf, which I might actually finish in the next couple of days...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Autumn birds

I bought this wreath to hang outside for the birds (and, as it turns out, the squirrels) to find a tasty treat or two. The birds much prefer the easy-to-use feeders, but the ever-curious chickadees are everywhere playing and pecking around inside this wreath. This was taken just after I hung it outside; it now looks much the worse for wear.

The juncos have returned for the season, I see. Not sure exactly where they go during the summer, maybe further north, but now they are back. It was so pleasant to see them return after being gone. I now have two northern flickers living nearby and downy woodpeckers, too. As soon as I see a new bird out on the porch, I grab my Birds of Washington State book to see who has come to visit.

You can see juncos (the black headed ones) here on the front porch with the ubiquitous sparrows, who never leave. Our porch is littered with huge rocks to hold down our rugs during the windstorms, not for birds to hang out on -- although of course they do. Right now I have to remember not to stumble on one while filling the feeders.

While I was writing this post, Mr. Grey Squirrel came up for a quick meal so I snapped his picture. You can see he's not hurting for food. The squirrels can only get what the birds leave on the ground, but they are constantly sneaking up the side of the apartment. Two black squirrels and at least one grey squirrel think this place is their own Club Med. I do scatter some bird food on the ground, since the juncos don't go up to the hanging feeders. I don't mind the squirrels eating part of it, as long as they leave some for the juncos, who are the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave.

The other birds have two suet feeders, two nyjer socks (for the finches only), a vertical sunflower seed feeder, and an upside-down feeder that holds small bits of sunflower seed mixed with the nyjer. Here's a picture of this feeder, with finches in their winter colors and, yes, that's a chickadee down there on the bottom. Any picture can be enlarged.

I spend a fair amount on the birds, but they give me such joy, year round. I'm not sure whether they will all make it through the winter, and I'm not sure how to keep the water from freezing in the bird bath (I know they make little heaters for them), but we will figure it out. It will not be because of me that my birdies don't make it. I've been wondering where they go when the wind blows like it has the past two nights. I picture them deep inside a tree somewhere, huddled closely together and listening to the wind blow, just like me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Windy weather

We are in the middle of a high wind warning, until noon today. I listened to the wind blow all night long, and this morning there has been no letup. The weather forecast says we will have gusts exceeding 60 mph (96 kmh) this morning. I believe it. In Boulder, we would have windstorms of this magnitude, but the windspeed was much higher, around 100 mph. The atmosphere is much thicker here at sea level versus 5000 feet elevation, so there is more air to push around, I suspect. I remember once when we had a windstorm overnight that blew roofs away and in one case, a whole house. Going to work the next day was like traveling through an earthquake zone.

The wind is expected to diminish a little today, then pick up again tonight, even stronger than last night. I shiver to think about it. In a few minutes I will be heading out to catch the bus to town, and although it's windy, it's not cold. Not a good day for an umbrella, either.

I got my test results back from the ultrasound: totally normal. My symptom has lessened but not completely gone away, and although the culture was negative, I am expected to take a round of antibiotics. The good news is that whatever is causing the symptom, it's not scary. I will use the wind storm to scare myself while I knit my new scarf. If you enlarge the picture you can see the pattern. I'm having fun...


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Salish Sea

Satellite image of Salish Sea

Recently the complex of waterways where I live has been renamed. The satellite map above shows the Strait of Georgia (the upper center waterway, which includes Bellingham Bay), the Strait of Juan de Fuca below (Washington's Olympic Peninsula comes to a point below it), and Puget Sound, at the lower right. And of course there's the Pacific Ocean, far left. Both Canada and Washington have to pass resolutions to change the name to the Salish Sea. Why the name change?

Salish is a term used by linguists to describe the peoples and languages of tribes in the Pacific Northwest. Bert Webber is a retired marine biologist who lives in Bellingham. He says he "is driven by science that shows the waters of Georgia Strait, Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca operate as one ecological unit. The once abundant waters have suffered extreme degradation over the years, and he believes creating an over-arching identity, much like the term the Great Lakes, will help to better manage and protect resources" (National Post, 14 Nov 09).

Here is a map that shows the boundaries of the Salish Sea. I myself am not sure what is accomplished with the name change, but I like the idea that the Native Americans who have lived here long before the rest of us might get some well-deserved recognition. Wikipedia says the Coast Salish are a group of indigenous peoples who live in southwestern BC and northwestern Washington. The different tribes are all grouped together under the one name.

Even though the name still needs to be ratified by both nations, I guess it's well on the way to becoming official. I wish I could find some information about what the Native Americans think about the idea. And it all started because this one guy decided way back in 1988 that it was a good idea. I'm not sure how I feel about it, because after all, people get attached to the names they have known all their lives. But if it served to commemorate the Native Americans, it's a good thing. What do you think?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sunny Stewart Mountain

Today was just the most amazing day for our hike. The picture above (click any to enlarge) shows the rays of the sun illuminating our trail up Stewart Mountain. All of our hikes into the High Country are over for the year, eliminating long drives to the trailheads, but also the beautiful views and abundant wildflowers. Oh, well: every single season has something going for it. Today was sunny, chilly, and although we hiked almost 9 miles and up 2,500 feet in elevation, we were back to our cars before 3:00 in the afternoon. Often with the summer hikes, we start really early and end really late. Today was a wonderful day on the trails in the long rays of the autumn sun with ten of my favorite people.

We started the hike on the road to Stewart Mountain but after a short mile or so, we headed off on a trail that was covered with leaves and runoff. We had to cross a creek but knew that we would take another way back, so we managed to get across Olson Creek with only a few people getting their feet wet. We gained 2,500 feet of elevation in about five miles. As we got higher and higher, even with the sun it still seemed quite cold, and we didn't stick around for a long time after lunch. This snow only showed up the last part of the hike, at about 3,000 feet elevation. That's me, Al, Cindy (in back) and Amy, getting ready to settle down for our lunch.

On the way back, we took a shorter, steeper route that cut more than a mile off the return trip. All day long the sun came and went, but basically it was what the weatherman would call "mostly sunny." And it was wonderful to reconnect with my hiking friends and then come home to relax with a glass of my favorite wine.

We had views of Lake Whatcom, and you can see there was quite a bit of color still in the trees, although in the middle of November we are well past the best colors. Looking beyond, we had a great view of Bellingham Bay and the open ocean. The bay is part of the reason we wanted to move here, since it gives you the proximity of ocean, but it's beyond the safe harbor of the beautiful bay.

I wish I could put in an order to the Weatherman Upstairs to give us some MORE Thursdays like today. We go on the hike rain or shine, but not always to the place we initially intended to go, in case the weather is truly inclement. Last week's hike to Oyster Bay was cut a little short to keep everyone out of the intense windstorm. They had a great time, although I just don't see how they could have, without me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

It used to be called Armistice Day, until 1954. I saw this poem by an anonymous writer on the New York Times today:

Politicians talk about the need of it,
Old men boast about the glory of it,
And the soldiers just want to go home.
Many of my blogging friends have already posted their contribution for this day. I have been thinking about my own veterans and family who are currently on active duty. I don't know exactly what to call my son, whose birthday would have been yesterday. He was serving in the Army when he died, so I guess he would technically be called a veteran, although he would have made a career of the Army if he had lived. I have a niece and nephew who are now serving in the Army. My dad and brother are both veterans.

I looked up the word "veteran" to see if it applies also to those currently serving in the Armed Forces. I'm still not sure. All over the world people throughout the ages have lived and died for a cause. For some reason, I keep thinking about the line in the old Cat Stevens song that talks about "dancing on this earth for a short while," which is true for all of us, both those who live long and glorious lives, and those who die young.
Oh very young
what will you leave us this time
you're only dancing on this earth
for a short while
and though your dreams may toss
and turn you now
they will vanish away
like your daddy's best jeans
denim blue fading up to the sky
and though you want them to last
forever you know they never will
you know they never will 

and the patches
make the goodbye harder still

Maybe the very young will figure out how to have a world without war and strife. I can only hope so, because I think about all those who were cut short in the arc of their life just to die in a war, mostly young men in their prime of life.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pearl S. Buck

Most of my readers probably know who she is. Or maybe the youngest of you don't. I first learned of her when I was a young mother browsing at the library, looking for good book. I happened upon The Good Earth, a book about family life in a Chinese village, first published in 1931. It has always been a favorite, and in 2004 Oprah Winfrey named it one of her Book Club books and it again became a best seller. This picture was taken in 1931.

I don't think I read any other books of hers until last week. I was rummaging around in the used bookstore down the street and saw several I had never heard of by Buck. I picked up Pavilion of Women (1946), intrigued by the title, and enjoyed it immensely. Then of course I went on Wikipedia to find out more about this amazing woman.

I didn't know that in 1938 she was the first American woman to receive a Nobel Prize for Literature "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces." Born in Hilsboro, West Virginia, to two Presbyterian missionaries who had moved to China shortly after getting married, they returned to the States for Pearl's birth. She was born Pearl Sydenstricker in 1892.  When Pearl was three months old, they returned to China and she grew up bilingual, speaking Mandarin as well as English.

When she was nineteen, she returned to the States to attend college, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1914 and then returned to China that same year. In 1917 she married John Lossing Buck, and they both taught at Nanking University. They had a daughter who was born with PKU. In 1924, John Buck returned to the States for a sabbatical and Pearl earned her Master's degree at Cornell. They both went back to China. In 1935, the Bucks divorced. Richard Walsh, president of the John Day Company and her publisher, became Pearl Buck's second husband. The couple lived in Pennsylvania. Pearl and John had also adopted a daughter who took Walsh's name.

That's just a short synopsis of this incredible woman's life. The number of books she wrote are truly astounding, including two autobiographies and a biography each of her mother and father. She established several orphanages for children of mixed parentage, who in her day were considered to be unadoptable. Then in the 1960s she traveled around West Virginia to raise money to preserve her birthplace and mother's homestead. Today The Pearl S. Buck Birthplace is a historic house museum and cultural center. All this information is lifted from that Wikipedia link above.

I plan to go to the library and check out lots of her stories, because they are such a wealth of information and interesting, as well as getting me involved in the lives of her characters almost immediately. In Pavilion of Women, Madame Wu is the main character in the book. Here is the last paragraph in the story:
Yes, she now believed that when her body died, her soul would go on. Gods she did not worship, and faith she had none but love she had and forever. Love alone had awakened her sleeping soul and had made it deathless. She knew she was immortal.
Perhaps you can see why I am now enchanted with this woman. When I look at her long life (she died at 80) and think about my own life, I wonder about my biography and what I will leave behind. She has truly inspired me through her words to think large.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My Sunday walk

I just got back from my cyber walk with the latest posts since this morning when I last looked at them. My habit in the morning over a cup of tea is to read the news online and see who of the people I follow has left something new. I have just enjoyed several photography blogs, some funny ones, and then I remembered that I took pictures of my walk this morning just to share with you!

The walk to the beach is less than a mile from my house. I set out with my gloves, coat, and camera. The Squalicum Beach walk is just a few blocks down Pinewood Avenue. Here's a picture of the trailhead:

As you can see, the trail is very well maintained and although it says .7 miles I don't believe it. Either they are overestimating or I am a very fast walker. I actually suspect it's more like a half mile from this point. The trail follows a rail track that comes from the lumber mill we pass along the way. We also see this interesting house with bee colonies. I can't help but think of how loud the train must be to these bees as the train comes rolling by.

There's a sign towards the upper middle of the picture, so I used my trusty telephoto lens to see what it says:

I hear from my neighbors that it's really good honey. Since I don't eat it and Husband is trying to cut back on sugar, I'll just keep on walking. I wonder if he sells the beeswax to people for candle making. There were plenty of bees still coming and going out of those square white boxes, so there must be flowers somewhere that they are visiting.

Here's a picture of the beach at high tide. This is the highest that I've ever seen it. Never before did I live in a place that publishes high and low tide in the paper along with the weather. On this walk at about 10:00 in the morning I saw maybe a half dozen people, some with their dogs. If you look closely you can see a woman with her dog on the left. Just a few minutes before I took this picture, it was sunny. Then the clouds blew across the sky. I love the feeling of that picture, though.

There's a long pier out at Squalicum Beach. I liked the picture with the clouds, the pier, the water, and the logs in the foreground. I didn't stay long, because there was no beach to walk along, being high tide and all, so I turned around the went back home.

The apartments where we live aren't very fancy, but enough for us. Our place is at the top left, and if you enlarge the picture you can see all the bird feeders hanging out there that provide me with my feathered enjoyment. Yesterday, though, we had a visitor on the porch that, although he is beautiful, I know he is looking forward to EATING my birdies, not my bird seed! This is a Cooper's hawk, and the description in the bird book says he swoops in at lightning speed to catch these birds. At least I can be assured that the birds he catches are well fed.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Guardian angels

Do you believe in guardian angels? I do. This picture was one of my mother's favorites and she had it hanging in her bedroom for years. I think it had some special significance to her, but the significance of this picture for me now comes from her. It is a lovely thought. In trying to find out what other people think about guardian angels, I found that many religions have a place for them: Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and ancient Greek philosophy.

Many decades ago I went to a faith healer who purported to channel your guardian angel(s). I don't remember her name now, but she told me I had one for many years and then in the mid-1970s I gained another. She told me their names. She was a small sort of mousy woman that you wouldn't look twice at on the street. Shy about her ability, she didn't advertise but had people come to her by word of mouth. She allowed you to record the session (which I think I did but it's so long ago I'm not sure). It was strange to watch her: she traced a circle on the palm of her hand with the index finger of her other hand as she stared at the air above my head as if she could see them. She told me what they had to say to me, which is lost in my own personal antiquity now. She took no notes.

Perhaps five years later, I visited her again. She went into that same trance and told me their names again. Very unusual names that I have never told anyone. Now maybe she wrote all that down after I left the first time, but when she knew their names again, I became a believer. I asked her how she knew their names, and she laughed and said that they told her.

She also said that they had some special words for me, which I haven't forgotten. Little did I know the trials and tribulations I would face in life. I call on the angels when I feel the need, and I often feel their presence. The reason they came to mind for a post is that I had a health problem on Wednesday and called the doctor. I went to see him the next day, Thursday, instead of going on my usual Thursday hike. He wanted me to see a gynecologist and said he would try to get me in to see one in our clinic before the end of the week.

I had a call from his nurse minutes after returning home, and she said I had an appointment that very afternoon. Now I haven't been to a gyno doc in years, so of course I went on the internet and read all about this guy, and he got nothing but rave reviews. When I went for the visit, his office staff and he himself were all very helpful and put me at ease. After the exam, he suggested an ultrasound, which I have scheduled for this coming Wednesday. Feeling relieved and well taken care of, I went to the window to see if I was to schedule myself or if it would be done for me. The lady at the window shook her head in wonder that I was able to see this doctor, who is booked until December, so quickly. She told me that she had had a cancellation less than five minutes before my doctor called to see if I could have an appointment soon. It's not often that an hour-long appointment would open up -- ever.

Was that my guardian angels at work? I think so, and it's caused me to think of all the times in the past that something has intervened in my life to help me. Whatever the cause, I am ever so grateful. And of course I wanted to share this with my cyber klatch.

Friday, November 6, 2009

My turn

Today my wonderful husband will drive back up to Vancouver to rescue my iMac. My laptop has been my trusty sidekick this past week, and I've been very happy to have it. Otherwise I would have been (gasp!) unconnected to my cyber coffee klatch, to my news stories, or even to my own blog. So life is good in that way.

My other concern is that I spent yesterday at the doctor's office, like so many of my cyber friends have been doing lately. I hope I didn't pick up any flu bug by being around all those sick people. I also missed my weekly Thursday hike, because the only time I could get in to see the gynecologist was yesterday. It was our first scheduled local hike and one I missed last year, up to Oyster Dome. I will have to wait a few months before we go there again to get pictures. I wasn't all that motivated to go yesterday anyway, since we were having horrendous winds in the 40-50 mile range, and I wondered about trees blowing down on me. I hope everyone had a good time without me.

So now it's my turn to have health issues. Not sure what endometritis is exactly, but I seem to have it. An ultrasound next week will tell the tale for sure. I made the appointment for the ultrasound and they told me to come in with a full bladder! Yikes! I don't DO that any more; don't they know about the old-lady syndrome of having, well, difficulty when you just gotta go? But I'm sure some of my friends out there have been through this before and survived it, so I will too. It helps to know I'm not the first.

And lastly, some wonderful blogger friend gave us all this beautiful rose, and I would thank her if I could remember who she was. It's terrible having memory problems like this, but then again I'm also not alone in this category.  I think I have reconciled myself to losing short-term memory. Maybe one of you will remind me, and I'll say thank you again. It's a lovely rose, and a lovely thought behind it.

This will be my last post on the laptop for this round, and I must say I won't miss the cramped crowded screen or the lack of power. That iMac is just so quiet and fast that I get a little spoiled when I come back here for any length of time. The laptop will be three years old next month and I'll lose my AppleCare coverage. They figure three years is all you are supposed to use any computer and so I am expecting it to just fall apart next month like most things do when the warranty runs out. Until then, though, I'll keep using it, very happily. God bless.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Many years ago I lived in a small apartment at what was then called "garden level." In other words, it wasn't exactly a basement apartment, but it wasn't at ground level, either. Once you came through the door you took a few steps down into the apartment. There were two bedrooms and for awhile I shared it with a girlfriend. This was long before I was married to my current husband. The landlady didn't allow pets. But that didn't stop me from feeding this beautiful golden colored wild cat that came around regularly. She wouldn't let me touch her but she had no problem eating the food I put out for her.

I named her Alchemy and she lived under the apartment in a crawl space. In Boulder it gets very cold in the winters, and I suspect that there were warm pipes down there that she used to keep herself warm. Well, since she wasn't spayed, she got pregnant, which was obvious only from her size and her growing appetite. One morning I woke to the faraway sound of mewing kittens, and I knew she had given birth. Once she was no longer pregnant, she became bolder at demanding to be fed (of course she had a family of unknown size to feed). Once she even allowed me to get close enough to reach down and put the food in front of her.

Never did I see any sign of those kitties, and one night I woke to horrendous sounds of a fight going on under the apartment and then the strong smell of... skunk. Apparently a skunk got in there and found her kittens and that was, well, that. For weeks afterwards, Alchemy would be looking for me through the kitchen window, which had a view out onto the ground at about my eye level. She would let me know when she was hungry and wanted some food, and I of course obliged.

A few weeks after the terrible row and smelly incident, what should appear but Alchemy in my kitchen window with a kitten! She looked straight at me and dropped the kitten onto the ground on the other side of the window, as if to say, "not my job any more." And then she walked away.

I of course went out and scooped up the hissing frightened kitten and put it in a box with a towel and brought it into the apartment. It was a very well-fed champagne colored thing, just adorable. What to do? Well, I couldn't very well keep the kitten because the landlady wouldn't allow it, and after all that the kitten had survived I was not willing to just let it starve to death. Alchemy would not go near the kitten again. I decided to take this little life to the Humane Society.

When I got there, they told me they could not take an unweaned animal of any sort, but they would be very glad to euthanize it for me. I was crying so hard by this time I couldn't see straight, but I decided no, this would not do. I took the kitten to the nearest pet store and explained my plight to them and asked how to feed this little one. The very sympathetic store owner looked over this deliciously colored kitten and said, "I would be very happy to keep it. It will be my cat, and I'll feed it myself." And that is exactly what happened.

A few months later I went by the store to see if things had worked out. The beautiful champagne-colored tomcat that lay at her feet had become her favorite cat. (She had a few, it seemed.) He had survived all the trials of his birth, and I was so glad to have been a conduit for all of this to have happened. I have never forgotten Alchemy and her beautiful kitten and wanted to share the story with you.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween revisted

Well, it turned out to be a very nice day. Sun came out, and husband and I went down to the local Boundary Bay restaurant to have lunch with a couple of old friends who came up from Shelton (about three hours south). They wanted to visit the local REI store and we met for lunch afterwards. I took pictures of various people around town who were dressed up for Halloween. This young blond woman in a long black wig said she is dressed as Freida, the artist (Diego Rivera's wife?). I professed to know, but she wasn't offended I didn't recognize her as other than a beautiful Latin woman.

It started with the bus driver, who was dressed in saddle shoes, a poodle skirt and crinolines. I was only able to get a picture of her reflection in her rear view mirror, but I think she managed to be quite focused, even in all that pink. Her picture shows that even dressed like this she can still drive a mean bus.

This young man was dressed as a jackalope. I had to ask, since we guessed first a deer, then a rabbit, but of course, we were all wrong and should have realized that there are EARS and ANTLERS. What else could it be?

Ah, Bellingham on Halloween! It is only rivaled by Boulder, Colorado, my old home town, in creativity and participation. As we continued our walk around town, I spied this devil, who gave me permission to take her picture, and I trust that her profile is a little, well, padded.

I of course was also in costume, when I could stand it. Years ago I bought this wig with the weird gold scarf and a couple of pieces of frizzy hair sticking out. I wore this for approximately ten minutes, along with my trusty black cape, used for years as the basis of a Halloween costume. These are the only two things I managed to pack into my suitcase and bring forth from Boulder. Nobody here had seen it before, after all...

And just before we headed back to catch the bus, after a wonderful Halloween day wandering around our new home town, I got this picture of Husband, MJ, and Pat after our lunch (and my latest bird treats, held by said husband). I am in this picture, too, just on the other side of the camera. I am now happily blogging away with my laptop, anxious to get to my blogging friends to see their Halloween pictures. Some of them I've already seen because they put their stuff on Facebook. Life is good.