Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Rain, wind, and unexpected sun

Wet leaves on the sidewalk
When I woke this morning, I heard the wind howling outside, and rain hammering on the roof. Oh, well; I wasn't planning to walk to the bus today anyway, but I intended to drive since I had a yoga class at 11:00am and wouldn't otherwise have enough time to come home, leave again, and get to class on time. I'm glad I didn't miss the class, since it was a good one with lots of stretching and challenges for my old bones to meet.
Our pretty blue trees
Although the sun had broken over the horizon by the time I got to the coffee shop this morning, it was still dark enough, with all the wet weather, for me to capture this picture of the pretty blue lights adorning our downtown trees this year. It's a new look, and I like it very much. Lovely and discreet at the same time.

But then! When I left my yoga class, the rain was gone, blue skies appeared, and the wind had stopped. Temporarily, it seems, since we are on a high wind watch starting late tonight, with more rain and wind expected for the rest of the week. So, it was unexpected to have some nice weather, but nobody minds a brief respite. I've said it before, but I really wish there was some way to ship some of our rain to California. They are beginning to get those fires under control, I learned today. That fills me with happiness and relief.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Fall in full swing

On the Interurban trail
More than a dozen or so of us ladies were joined this morning by a new couple, and one of them is a man, who was a little surprised to find that he was going to be alone with all of the rest of us ladies on the walk. We'll see if he returns. I hope so; they are both very strong walkers and stayed in the front with the ones I hardly know, since I can't possibly keep up with them. No matter, I sure enjoyed bringing up the rear and walking at a more leisurely pace. I did keep up for the majority of the walk but decided there was no need to push myself.
Bridge in Arroyo Park
Now that I've gone on my usual Thursday hike and my usual Saturday morning walk, I'm settled right back into my routine after our wonderful five days on Vashon Island, which now seem like a distant memory. My, it amazes me how quickly I can forget the lovely time we shared. I must admit to having had several ideas for writing come up, but so far nothing has emerged. Just a wish to find a way into creative writing on a regular basis.

I burst into tears yesterday when I watched the news before heading off to the gym. The devastation in California is beyond tragic. When the news of the world feels so desperate, I have to tune it out. So yesterday I took two yoga classes in a row, three hours of asanas and stretching. Afterwards I did feel much, much better, but today I am just a teensy bit sore in places that I didn't know I have. It's curious: when I think back over what we did, I cannot figure out how I ended up with sore thighs and buttocks, and the backs of my arms tender to the touch.

We are on track for more rain, starting tonight. How I wish we could slide some of it over to northern California, where it is truly needed. My body is not the only part of me that is sore, my spirit feels a little bit vulnerable, too.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Puttin' on the Rain Gear

Gearing up for the rain
Sixteen Senior Trailblazers met this morning to discuss where we should go. Our scheduled hike into the High Country didn't make any sense, since it's raining and snowing up there today. Rain in the Chuckanuts was easier to deal with, since it's a short drive and we could turn around or, if the weather cooperated, we could even go further if we wanted. We chose Lost Lake, a regular winter haunt, and one we will visit many times in the next few months.
Chris in her rain gear, including rain skirt
Chris and her husband Rich both have created rain skirts for themselves, which makes a lot of sense since you can let air move through, as opposed to rain pants (which I and many others wore today). We used raincoats, ponchos, pack covers and rain hats to keep ourselves warm and dry. It was cool and showery, with the temperature around 50°F (10°C), so we weren't terribly cold as we made our way to Lost Lake.
Reflection in Lost Lake
We never saw the sun all day, and once we got to the lake, we decided to have an early lunch (it was around 11:00am) and head back the way we had come. Rich, who is famous for taking a dip whenever there's water around, crept away and did his thing, which we only knew because we saw the waves he created in the water.
Having lunch at Lost Lake
While the rest of us were bundled up to keep warm, he was busy covered only in goosebumps before sneaking back fully clothed to grab a quick lunch before we packed up to start back. He swears by it and Chris says he never takes a hot shower at home, only cold ones. He's a certified "interesting character."
We saw these very interesting mushrooms and wondered about them. They look almost like they've been sprinkled with cinnamon, don't you think? We saw several other varieties that I recognized, but I don't think I've ever seen any quite like these before.
Leafy Interurban trail
It rained quite hard as we made our way down the return trail, but since we were moving at a good clip and bundled in our rain gear, it was almost pleasant. No views today, but good company, and we covered well over nine miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. I'm feeling pretty good, now that I'm dry and warm as I write this. A very typical Pacific Northwest kind of hike in the rain, and now I'm ready to snuggle up in my favorite chair with a good book.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Home again, safe and sound

Sandi and Deb on our last Vashon morning
Every single day of our retreat, the three of us left the farmhouse just before sunrise to walk three miles around a loop we discovered a few years back. It was the perfect way to start the day before spending so many hours sitting and writing, reading and sharing, and listening to each other's positive feedback about our writing.

And now it's over. Our sixth and final Vashon Island gathering of the bloggers who have called ourselves "Vashonistas" has come to an end. What lies ahead isn't clear, but I truly hope that I will see the magical island of Vashon again someday. I only know it in October, and this year the weather was more than perfect. We got many glimpses of Rainier, and on our last night, we were treated to the mountain in alpenglow.
Rainier and Quartermaster Harbor
I'm filled to the brim, but also glad to be back in the apartment with my dear partner. I've picked up my car, which has been repaired, and returned the rental car. Tomorrow my familiar life returns, but I've got a hankering to stir things up. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A beautiful place for a retreat

Young deer
Every morning three of the four of us ladies start the day with a nice three-mile walk. With each year that passes, I've noticed more deer, which seem completely unfazed as they stroll by or lie in the grass, looking up with little curiosity at the people passing by. It must be an idyllic place for them to live.

It's actually a lovely place for most creatures, including people, at least at this time of year. This morning when I'm on our walk, I'll be thinking of my usual Saturday morning walk with many more of us ladies enjoying the fall colors. I'll be present in spirit in Bellingham, but I'll be here on Vashon.

I miss my normal routine a little, but it's been such a fruitful time here as I spend my days writing and sharing, with me getting all fired up once again to find a way to write some fiction pieces, short stories, something to spice things up. A little cinnamon, nutmeg for sure, and cardamom suitable to the time of year. Fall is such a pensive time for me, with the return of the rain and cold weather, instead of waking each day to the early sun and birdsong. Yep, the season has definitely changed and I must change along with it.
it is a serious thing // just to be alive / on this fresh morning / in this broken world. (Mary Oliver)
I hope you have a wonderful day out there while I enjoy the final weekend of our retreat on Vashon Island, a magical place.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Vashonista once again

Me, Jann, Sandi, Deb at the Tea House in town
Well, our Vashonista group is shrinking. When we started out six years ago, we were six, then five for a couple of years, and this time, we are four. Neither Sally nor Linda are here for what is likely to be our very last year at the Lavender Hills Farmhouse. Renting the six-bedroom farmhouse for five nights split between four is much different than between six. Linda was going to attend this year and graciously paid her share, but I'm thinking it's probably time for us to make a change anyway.
The living room, looking out on the bay
It's every bit as beautiful this year as it was every year before, but we do seem to be rattling around in it a little more than in past years. I am the only one in the basement, with one of two bedrooms on the main floor occupied, and the suite and other upstairs room occupied by Deb and Sandi. I am using the smaller of the basement bedrooms as a place to charge my devices.
Quartermaster Harbor
Last year we went kayaking on this bay, but today three of the four of us did our usual three-mile walk before settling down to work on creative writing for the day. We started out the door just before the sun came up and enjoyed reminiscing about previous years. We are the only three that walked every single morning, rain or shine, and it was truly a lovely feeling to be back here, walking in the brisk cool air with my friends. We saw at least six deer out for their breakfast at various places, obviously very accustomed to human activity.
Mt. Rainier shining on the horizon
When the weather is fine as it is today, we have a magnificent view of Mt. Rainier from the back porch of the farmhouse. You can see a bit of the harbor, too. It's a beautiful place even in the rain, but right now it's spectacular. On the way back to the farmhouse this morning, we saw that a new place has opened up just a block from the house, The Burton Inn, a bistro and restaurant. The innkeeper, Deborah, was not open yet, but she saw us looking and invited us in for coffee and scones, although we had no money to pay her.
At the Burton Inn this morning
It's a lovely place and opened not long after our visit here last year. We made reservations for dinner there tonight and will, I'm sure, enjoy a wonderful meal, if the menu is any indication. Once we returned to the farmhouse, we got ready for a day's worth of creative writing. We are finished for the day, which is why I'm writing my post now. We are relaxing (Jann) or shopping (Deb and Sandi) or catching up on blog writing and reading (me).

So that's what is happening in my life today. We'll rinse and repeat tomorrow, unless we feel like changing things up a little. We're on a vacation with writing at the center, so we can do whatever feels best. I hope to get a post up here on Saturday, unless I forget (smile). We will drive back to our respective homes on Monday morning. Until then, I'm a full-time writer.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Tuesday post on a Monday

Our garden sunflowers
I know, I know: it's not Tuesday yet, but since I forgot to write a Saturday post, I figured I'd just continue to mess up the week's schedule. It's going to be a different week, anyway. Tomorrow I will take my damaged car to the body shop and leave it to be fixed, then pick up my rental car and take off for Vashon Island on Wednesday. In between then and now, I'll finish packing. Since I will miss my usual Thursday hike, I'll be posting something about my retreat instead. Just a mixed-up week.

Our season's garden is just about over, but these beautiful sunflowers are still going strong. A few have begun to droop, but there are others that will probably not get a chance to bloom at all. I was looking at one of them and saw this pretty ladybug nestled inside.
Ladybug in the sunflower
It amazes me what good pictures my iPhone can take. The depth of field is not very deep, but I managed to get the ladybug in focus, even if the leaves in the foreground are blurry.

I am busy trying to remember everything I'm going to need for the week. When I return, my car will be fixed and perhaps the week after will be normal. I'll try to stay out of the way of huge tow trucks!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fall colors at Watson Lakes

Trailblazers on the way to the lakes
Today thirteen Senior Trailblazers headed south for a LONG drive to Anderson Butte and Watson Lakes. This is the first time I've done this hike, and now I know why: it's incredibly beautiful but it took us more than two hours to get there. However, the weather could not have been better, and the area is loaded with fall colors everywhere we looked.
Anderson Butte
The first thing we did is take the the trail off to Anderson Butte, which gave us a fantastic view on a day like today. See the uphill trail on the left-hand side? Yep, it was steep. The whole hike was either steep up, or steep down.
Mt. Baker from Anderson Butte
It was a clear day with just about perfect temperatures, but you sure needed your sun protection when we were not in the trees. Once we took in the magnificent views, we headed back down to the main trail and made our way to Watson Lakes. Here's our first view of them.
Both Watson Lakes in view
Once we got to the first lake, we stopped for lunch, sitting in the shade and enjoying the company and fine views. We had a new hiker with us today, Diane, who has just recently moved to the area. I took a nice picture of her with a couple of other hikers, but it didn't turn out, so I asked for a solo. Meet Diane.
Diane, our latest recruit
She did just fine, although she doesn't look old enough to be a senior, does she? She's a strong hiker and a welcome addition. I enjoyed talking with her and hope she will return to be introduced to more of our wonderful wilderness.
The farthest Watson Lake
After lunch, we walked to the other Watson Lake and took pictures while enjoying the view. Well, most of us took pictures. Some of us were busy snacking on the incredible number of ripe wild blueberries beside the trail. They were so abundant that I saw that my fingers had turned purple, a sure sign of a blueberry addict.
Red blueberry bushes
At this time of year, the blueberry bushes turn bright red when backlighted by the sun. I kept spying little blue morsels as I walked, and it was almost impossible to resist them. Fortunately, I wasn't alone. I love this time of the year. What surprised me is how many berries there were, considering that this trail is well traveled. There were so many, we barely made a dent in them!
Mt Baker from the car on our return
Once we piled into our cars and started back down the long drive, we saw this scene of our beautiful mountain with late-day shadows showing us how magnificent it is, a fine backdrop to our activities. We covered a bit more than six miles but 2,300 feet of elevation up and down, on a fine, fine fall day. It may have been my first trip here, but it won't be my last.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

My poor damaged car

This time, it wasn't my fault. I was on my way to yoga this morning, when I stopped to allow a woman and her daughter cross at a pedestrian crosswalk in a roundabout, right in front of a bus stop. Little did I know that I would be crashed into by a—wait for it—a tow truck! Here's how it happened. Take a look at the roundabout.
Roundabout on the way to Fairhaven
I was traveling on the road in the upper right-hand area and was past Wharf Street, when I saw a mother and her daughter waiting at the crosswalk as you enter Boulevard. I stopped to let her cross just at the same time a big tow truck came up Wharf Street and didn't see me. I have a very low profile in my little Honda Civic, and he was high up in the cab. When he hit me, we both pulled over into the bus pullout (just above the Boulevard lettering) and assessed the damage. He was very apologetic and we both exchanged insurance and contact information. I was able to drive the car, and all the taillights seem to be working.

Once I got home and talked to SG, we called the tow truck company, and they asked if I would be willing to deal with it privately and not involve the insurance companies. We agreed after they said they will pay for everything AND pay for me to rent a car for my trip to Vashon Island next week. The only fly in the ointment would be if they don't hold up their end of the bargain, but I think they will.

The next problem was trying to make sure the damaged fender doesn't fall off. I took it to my fisherman friend Gene, who for no reason other than he's a great guy, put screws in the front and back of the damaged fender to keep it in place until it can be fixed.

When I called to get an estimate on the damage, it will be October 11!! Work on the car won't happen until December, unless I decide to take it elsewhere. In any event, it's driveable until then, and I will get to drive a cool rental to Vashon Island for my five-day writing retreat. So all is working out just fine, I'd say.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Autumn begins

Pumpkins and mums
Sure signs of fall: pumpkins nice and fat, and chrysanthemums everywhere, the fall flower (along with beautiful dahlias) that bloom late in the year. There's a crispness to the air, which in our part of the world is clear and brisk with some white puffy high clouds beginning to form.
Chris, my walking partner this morning
We walked at Lake Padden today, and I liked this picture showing the long morning shadows and Chris having already removed her coat and wrapped it around her waist. We only had ten women show up this morning, but it was still a lot of fun to visit with everybody. Chris and her husband Richard have just returned from England, where they did the coast to coast 200-mile-long trek. They have done the entire Camino de Santiago in Spain (500 miles) and the arduous Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier, but Chris said this one was by far the hardest. Partly because of mud and boggy trails that just wouldn't quit. Hardy hikers, those two.

And I just returned from seeing an interesting movie at our local theater: Menasch, about a Hasidic Jew who had recently lost his wife and was forced to give up his son to be raised by his brother. The entire film is in Yiddish and introduced me to some of the curious customs of this reclusive segment of Jewish society. It was hard to follow sometimes and not exactly uplifting, but I'm glad I saw it. The link takes you to a review by The Atlantic.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A truly relaxed hike

Mountain ash in foreground
Fourteen Senior Trailblazers, in the "relaxed" group, met at the Senior Center to hike the Chain Lakes loop. I intended at first to go with my usual "half fast" group, but when I learned that Al was not going, I decided to slide over to join the other group. Also, the first group was going to Heliotrope Ridge, which is not one of my favorites, and Chain Lakes truly is one I can never get enough of. Since we were over the limit of 12, five decided not to sign in at all and instead hike the counterclockwise direction, while we headed up the other way.
Far-off mountains and lots of clouds
We started our hike from Artist Point, and before we left we made a car shuttle, with two drivers taking off for Heather Meadows after dropping us off so we could avoid having to do a longer hike. It worked perfectly, and I have to say I am feeling really good after a six-ish mile hike instead of being worn out.
Charlene giving her opinion of our hike
Charlene, our leader, impressed me with her ability to keep an eye on everybody, reminding us often to take care of each other, drink whenever we stopped. Her skill at organizing a well-designed hike is rare. She doesn't like to have her picture on line, but she allowed me to take this one. Plus it's nice to have someone who can take a picture of the rest of us. Unfortunately, today that picture had too many of us looking like we were lining up for execution, so I left it out.
Jean, Carla, and Kathy at our lunch spot
It was Carla's first time with the group, and she did just fine and I enjoyed getting to know her and Kathy. Kathy had been on a couple of hikes with the other group, but we never had a chance to really connect. Today we did. We stopped for lunch a little bit past Iceberg Lake, and after we got up to leave we ran into the five others going the other direction. We exchanged pleasantries and continued on our way.
Heading up to Herman Saddle
Now it was time for us to make our upward trek to Herman Saddle before starting down. Although there were plenty of clouds, by this time they had start to lift a little. And the temperature was perfect for hiking. I did wonder how the other group was faring on Heliotrope. I hope it was as good as this.
Iceberg Lake on the trail
Looking back at the lake on our way up to the saddle, you can see that Mt. Baker (hidden behind those clouds) although more visible than earlier, was still playing hard to get. In any event, it was such a beautiful scene, and I was very happy to be hanging out with this group.
Jean and me, with Ed hoisting his water
Here we are at the saddle, having climbed up from the valley to this spot. For whatever reason, it didn't seem nearly as hard as I expected to get here. Jean was on my previous hike with this group, and I suspect that it won't be long before we will be fast friends. And then it was time to start down.
Heading back down from Herman Saddle
We we traveled downwards, we could no longer see any sign of Mt. Baker, but Mt. Shuksan now began to emerge from the clouds. I simply love this mountain and never tire of seeing its magnificence. Today we saw it with its first dusting of snow from the recent precipitation, which only made it more gorgeous, in my opinion.
The five heading to the Visitor Center
When we got to the bridge, Charlene gave us the option of continuing down the rest of the Chain Lakes loop, or joining her and Bill (the other driver) in order to make the car shuttle. We would hike another half-mile or so while the rest went to Artist Point to retrieve her car. I opted, along with four others, to continue the hike and wait for them. We only ended up waiting a few minutes before our rides showed up.
Jean with her ice cream reward
And then it was a short drive down to Graham's for our ice cream. It turned out to be a most excellent day, with everyone filled with smiles, ice cream, and a wonderful adventure to add to our memories. I will definitely be going on more of these "relaxed" hiked with some super friends.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I enjoyed the Emmys

Nicole Kidman at the Emmys
I tend to watch most of the awards shows, although I've never gotten into Dancing With the Stars or that sort of thing. Mostly I like to look at the outfits the celebrities wear. Nicole Kidman's was my favorite of all that I saw this year. What do you think?

And I was so pleased that The Handmaid's Tale did so well! It won Best Drama, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress as well as awards for directing, guest actress, and writing. I had to sign up for Hulu just so I could watch it, and I'm glad I did, although I've not watched anything more on Hulu. The next season will continue where the book left off, so I'm hooked.

Plus I discovered another very interesting show while watching; Black Mirror, which I had seen advertised on Netflix but skipped because I thought it was a horror show. Well, in some ways it is: the "black mirror" in the title refers to our TVs, smartphones and tablets. The creator, Charlie Brooker, explained to The Guardian about the series:
If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The 'black mirror' of the title is the one you'll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.
Each episode stands alone, with its own actors and stories. It's similar to the old Twilight Zone, which I loved and watched many times. So far, I've watched two episodes and they are indeed very different from each other, both rather shocking. I'm hooked.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Last lovely summer's day

Unusual bandaid
This morning on my walk with the ladies I saw this car with a well-placed bandaid, but methinks it might need more than just this quick fix. It's not likely to heal up on its own. But it did make me smile. We had a really lovely walk in cool, brisk weather, but tomorrow our drought will end and the rain will return with a vengeance. In fact, I think today we had our last sunny day for awhile. We've got rain in the forecast for the next few days, and Friday will bring the first official day of fall. I found out from Time and Date, one of my favorite websites, that this year we will experience the advent of fall on September 22 at 1:01pm in the Pacific Northwest. It was a really lovely summer, and the first time I've gotten to harvest so many ripe tomatoes in my garden.
Me and Peggy, with Linda and Al in the background
My dear friend Mike (also known as Mikey Poppins since he uses a big umbrella on rainy days) gifted me this week with a CD compilation of pictures taken of me over the years. I'm not sure exactly when this one was taken, but it was a minimum of five years ago, or longer when I look at the pack I was using back then. It made me smile to realize how fortunate I've been to have this group of friends for so long. I know things change, but I will enjoy my memories forever. And I'm still happy to be able to hike, although who knows for how much longer? I need to cherish every single one. And I do.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A great day in the sunshine

Me, Kathy, Tani, Mike, Susie, Richard, Kirk, Joy, Dave, Mel (Al in front)
A passerby took this picture of the eleven of us Senior Trailblazers who decided to take the shorter trip today on Ptarmigan Ridge. There were seven others who made the decision to hike all the way to the Portals, while we would only go to our usual lunch spot, a little more than four miles from the trailhead. Once the other group took off, and we never saw them again all day. They would hike another couple of miles along the same trail.
Me in front of beautiful Mt. Baker
This spot is as far as we got last week when I hiked with the other group. Today this was a resting spot before heading on up the trail towards the portals but stopping far short of them. I hoped to show the difference from today's hike to last week's smoky and very different day. Today we had magnificent views of all the surrounding mountains.
Mt. Shuksan behind us
Since Al was with us once again, we followed his lead and decided to go on farther, but we did stop and rest much longer and much more often than usual. I figured it was partly because Al was not in a hurry to leave these wonderful spots after so much time away.
Our lunch spot
We finally reached our lunch spot and we couldn't have had a better day. With clear skies and a slight breeze, cool and delightful, we were not in a hurry to leave our magnificent view of Mt. Baker. We looked for signs of the others but found nothing. We knew they were all capable people and didn't worry about them.
Kirk with Mt. Baker behind him
I got this great shot of Kirk while we enjoyed our lunch. The portals are visible at about Kirk's collar, and they (the portals) are close to one of Mt. Baker's many glaciers. There is much more snow than we expected and observed last year.
Al and Kirk heading back down the trail
Then it was time for us to head back the way we had come, and the beautiful vistas just did not stop. Here is a tarn in the middle of the picture that is usually snow free by this time of the year, but today we saw that much of it is still covered with snow. On the horizon we could see Glacier Peak, which is only visible from hikes; you cannot drive anywhere to see it any better.
When we got back to the spot where we took the group photo, I captured this picture of Melanie, who I noticed also reflected back to me in her sunglasses what she was seeing. Although it is very dry right now, the intense sunlight on this late summer's day made it seem like it could have been any time of the year and belied the many snow fields we had to cross.
Final traverse to the parking lot at Artist Point
And then we were almost back to the trailhead, having traveled more than eight miles and almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. Many of the beautiful flowers I captured last week are already gone, but the mountains that were missing last week had returned in all their magnificence. And now I am finished, it's 8:00pm and I still need a shower before calling it a day. What a wonderful one it was!