Saturday, January 30, 2016

An alfalfa model and a movie

My mama in 1941
My brother was going through some old boxes of papers and found this page from the Kern County local newspaper. My mom wasn't married to my dad yet; that would happen later in the same year, and I was born in December 1942. So I wasn't even a gleam in my dad's eye when this picture was taken.

The caption underneath the picture says: "It Pays to Publicize: Constant efforts by the Kern County Chamber of Commerce and farm organizations placed Kern hay in a topnotch position where it netted highest prices in Southern California markets. Featuring extra-leafy quality, Kern alfalfa brought returns as high as $20 a ton."

Things haven't changed much. Pretty models are still used in much the same way to advertise products. I guess you could say my mom was a hayseed, huh? I simply love this picture.

Yesterday I went to see The Revenant. I'm glad I saw it because now I understand the reason it will garner so many Oscars at the Academy Awards. There are some amazingly beautiful scenes in the movie, but the acting by Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy (he truly deserves to win for this performance) made it an unforgettable experience. I wouldn't call this movie wonderful, but it's definitely unforgettable. I'm glad I didn't live through that period of our country's history.

I've got an all-day training session ahead for the Washington Alliance for Health Advancement (WAHA) volunteer work I will be doing, so I'll cut this short so I can get out the door for my 8:00am session. Until later, then.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hoypus Hill and Ala Spit

Steve, Al, Bill, Ward, Linda, Chris, Carol, Rich (and I took the picture)
Nine of us showed up today, in spite of the awful weather we had all night long: lots and lots of rain and wind, making today's hike look very unpleasant. But still, as I said last week, you gotta just go with it and see what happens. We drove 45 miles south through a driving rain, making me even less optimistic about the day.
No rain, lots of soft light
But by the time we stepped out of the cars and began our hike, it was beautiful! Although there was no sunshine, there was also no rain. Hoypus Hill is one of our usual wintertime hikes, on Whidbey Island near Deception Pass. Here's a map of the place.
Hoypus Hill and Ala Spit
We started at Cornet Bay, right across from Goose Rock on this map, and hiked around the trails in the middle of the hill, before heading over to Ala Spit, that little finger on the right-hand side of the picture, which was actually accessible as the tide was going out, and there was very little wind as we settled down to have our lunch.
Our view from our lunch spot
You wouldn't know it to look at this picture, but it's NOT black and white. The sun was beginning to make an appearance, and the birds were coming out as well. We were entertained by oystercatchers, kingfishers, gulls, and even an eagle out on the Skagit Bay as we had lunch.
Looking out at the bay while the sky cleared
We enjoyed our lunch in full sun. You can see how the clouds just cleared away and made it very hard to get up and leave afterwards. We don't often linger over lunch during the winter, but we did today. And then it was finally time to start our return trip.
Our trails were well marked
Our final trail takes us by some wonderful Old Growth trees, which I always look forward to seeing. Today was no exception.
Big old tree and a beautiful sky
There is really no way to capture the magnificence of these trees, but that doesn't stop me from trying. This one just kept going up and up, making the end of a wonderful day even more enjoyable. We ended up going nine and a half miles and more than 1,000 feet up and down. I'm allowed to be tired, but I've got a meeting to go to tonight, so I'll stop this right here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bent out of shape to missing her

Kitty at home in my lap
Last week a friend of mine asked me to take care of her kitty in her home for five days while she flew off to Denver. She was leaving the next morning and her original caretaker had fallen through, and she needed someone who would be willing to go over and make sure the cat had enough food and water, clean the litter box, and maybe even sit with her for awhile. I'd never even met the cat before.

I reluctantly agreed, but I woke that night angry at myself for not saying no, for being a pushover once again. That first evening I went over with a glass of wine and sat down in a chair. I had been hiking all day and it felt good to sit down and sip my wine. No cat to be seen anywhere. After a few minutes, though, I saw two wide green eyes assessing me from behind the couch. Cautiously she approached me and before I knew it, she had presented herself for petting. Purring loudly, the cat took to me like I was an old friend. My heart melted and I felt myself begin to smile and enjoy her. (I've been a cat owner in the past, but it's been a long time.)

After doing the duties required of me, I ended up spending several hours with her that first evening, and every day and evening after that. She's been declawed (front paws) and has been a house cat for her entire life, which (I estimate) is somewhere around 8 to 10 years. Not a young cat, but not an old one, either. Her current owner inherited her when the original owner died.

My friend came home late last night, and now I find myself missing the kitty's presence. I changed in just a few days from being angry about it to really wishing I could visit her again soon. I'll talk to my friend to see if I can possibly have visitation rights.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Saturday in January

My morning coffee, ornamented by Zack the barista
Today started out very well, and here it is mid-afternoon and I can safely say it's been a wonderful day. My friend Lynn and I set out from the coffee shop before the sunrise to meet the ladies for our morning walk. The rain was supposed to stay away until around 10:30am, and when we started out it was only overcast. It didn't stop more than a dozen of us from enjoying a lovely five-mile walk with hills, puddles, and eventually rain. Nobody minded all that much.
Whatcom Falls in full roar
We walked up some steep hills I was pleased to see that even if I couldn't keep up with the fastest walkers, I was able to power up the hills without too much huffing and puffing. Usually it's my rear end that gives out first, and today was no exception. My lungs were just fine.
All downhill from here
And then from the high point, we walked back down the hills to the parking lot next to the lake. It was raining by this time, so once we made it back to the cars, we separated to our various homes. I'm not sure anybody stayed for coffee. Once Lynn and I got home (since she lives just a few doors down from me), we changed into dry clothes and headed to the movie theater for the matinee.

We saw Carol, with Best Actress (Cate Blanchett) and Best Supporting Actress (Rooney Mara) nominees for the Oscars, and boy, what a movie it is! I'm really surprised it wasn't nominated for Best Picture, because it's just wonderful. We both sat there stunned at the very moving ending. It's set in the early 1950s and the costumes and period were perfect. Alex Doenau in his review of the movie, summed it up for me:
Carol is a snow globe of a movie: an ornate and delicate piece, frozen in time. Lavishly designed and performed with precision, it’s a love story that deserves to endure.
I hope that everyone has a chance to see it. I'd love to hear what my readers think of it. Now it's time to read this over, review, and hit publish.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

You can't stay home because of the forecast

Al and Rich leading the Intrepid Nine
Who can second guess the Senior Trailblazers? Last week when the weather (and forecast) were for sunny skies, only six showed up. Today, when the weather forecast was beastly, with intermittent to heavy rain expected for the entire day, nine of us met to tackle the Rock Trail and Gates Overlook from the Larrabee parking lot across from Clayton Beach.
Nice little waterfall near the beginning
We groused about the weather, but we were all prepared with plenty of rain gear, and it was only lightly sprinkling when we set out. We all had our pack covers on, raincoats at the ready, only to be happily disappointed with mud puddles from the previous night's downpour but no rain to speak of. We expected it momentarily, so of course it never came.
Red tree wood
Look at the color of this tree bark. Steve said it is a red aster, but I couldn't find anything on line about this tree. It had been cut into pieces because it obviously had fallen across the trail and had been moved to the side of the trail. It's an amazing color, whatever the tree. Perhaps one of my commenters has an idea.
Rock Trail
This hike takes us down the Lost Lake trail and up to the Rock Trail, which always allows us to enjoy these massive and beautiful sandstone cliffs. It's a fairly new trail, and I never tire of seeing the views of moss, rock, ferns, and its magnificence.
Looking at a lovely scene on the Rock Trail
Although we never saw the sun, we never saw the rain. We also heard some strong wind in the trees above us, and occasionally we would feel the strength of it. And then we would be protected and only heard it as it roared overhead. The Rock Trail ends at Gates Overlook, where, wonder of wonders, we had a view!
The view from Gates Overlook
We are looking out at Bellingham Bay, with the sky showing some clouds, but nothing threatening. We had a nice lunch here, and then headed down the road to the Fragrance Lake trail and made a nice loop of more than 8 miles, maybe even another half mile or so, with 2,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. Nothing to sneeze at, a fine day, with great company, and guess what?

When we reached the cars, it started to rain. Yes, we were blessed today with mild temperatures, a breeze that stayed out of our way most of the day, and rain that also waited until we were done. I am still smiling as I sit here writing this post. Yes, a very good day.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Missing some of my old friends

Lunchtime on Raptor Ridge, May 2014
I've been thinking about some of my old hiking friends whom I haven't seen in awhile, so I went looking for pictures to remind me about them, and to see how long it's been since I've seen some of them. One downside to hanging out with old people is that our infirmities tend to get in the way sometimes. I know this because it not only happens to me, but I notice that occasionally somebody just doesn't return.

In the picture above, Mikey (center) was once someone you could count on seeing from week to week. Then he started having problems with his back and knees. Suddenly he stopped coming, and although it hasn't been that long, when he didn't show up to visit with us at our annual Christmas party, I realized I might not see him again any time soon. Rita, next to him on his right, also has knee problems. I still see her occasionally at the Y, but she says she is saving her knees for dancing and cannot do long hikes any more. I recognize that red cap in the lower right as belonging to Fred, who has abandoned us to return to work at his old job.
Diane, Jonelle, Rita, Jacqueline
This fulsome foursome photograph was also taken in May 2014. Diane is busy with dog training and other pursuits, so I expect she will be back, but it's been awhile since we've hiked together. Jonelle travels to her California home in Palm Desert during the winter months and we just don't see her all that much these days. I miss her. Rita I mentioned above, and Jacqueline hosted our Christmas party but isn't hiking right now because of tendon problems.

There are others, once regulars, who don't join us on Thursdays any more for a variety of reasons. There are other Senior Trailblazers who have become mainstays, but that doesn't mean I don't miss my old friends. It reminds me to be grateful for each and every time I get to go outside and play. This Thursday looks like it will be wet and maybe a little bit of a drag when compared to other more sunny Thursdays, but I'll be there. And I'll enjoy it, too, no matter what!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Soggy to partly sunny

Walking along the waterfront
When I heard that sound in the middle of the night, that old familiar drumming on the roof, I knew that the forecasters were right about the weather: rain. I wasn't sure whether I really was all that excited to go the walk today for that reason, but I'm sure glad I went. I wasn't alone: there were ten women who showed up to walk more than five miles in the rain. We walked from the Farmers' Market to Zuanich Park and explored this recently created trail.
Now that's a huge turnip
 Once a month during the winter, the Farmers' Market has a small sampling of its established vendors, who turn out in hopes of making a few dollars from their usual customers. Lynn took this picture of me with the most amazing turnip! By the time the market opened, the rain had pretty much stopped, and we had some fun looking at the wares.
Necklaces of brussels sprouts
Aren't these pretty? Although this is what brussels sprouts look like "in the wild," you don't usually see them in their natural state. I think they are really pretty. Bet they are now in the possession of someone who will break them apart and make them into a tasty dish. As I drove home, there were actually some sun breaks in the sky! (That's a phrase I never heard before I moved to the Pacific Northwest, but it's appropriate.)

Then I went to the movies with my friend Judy, to see The Big Short. It is hard to imagine how they were able to make a movie about such a serious subject so incredibly riveting. I was surprised that Steve Carrell didn't get a nomination for Best Actor. He's believable and immensely entertaining playing the part of Mark Baum. Now I'm off to read a couple of reviews. Well worth seeing.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A fine day in the Chuckanuts

Carol taking a picture of Chuckanut Falls
We had a very small group today, only six Senior Trailblazers, on a beautiful sunny day. I think it was partly because of the location: all winter long we hike close to home in the Chuckanuts, and we were just on these same trails two weeks ago. But never mind, we had a great time. I like the small intimate groups much better than having too many.
Noriko (behind), Carol, Bill, Rich, Al (I took the picture)
You can see the sun streaming through the trees here at Huckleberry Point. This was probably the sunniest spot we had, other than Raptor Ridge, but the Ridge was rather cool and it was too early to have lunch when we arrived there, anyway. Most of this hike is in the trees and with the sun at such a low point on the horizon, we didn't see it much.
Raptor Ridge
This is what Raptor Ridge looked like today, in full sun but with a little bit of a breeze. Check out what it looked like, covered with snow, on our New Years Eve hike. The temperature today was much warmer, and it's obvious that the snow that we had there two weeks ago was an anomaly. I had never seen snow there before.
Pretty lichen
Carol and I both had to stop and take a picture of this beautiful lichen (NB: this is not lichen, but bracken fungi, I was wrong), and then Bill got out his iPhone, too. We decided, after we left the Ridge, to head back to Huckleberry Point for lunch instead of going to the Madrona trail. It was probably a good idea, since as it was we covered more than eight miles and almost 2,000 feet up and down. It would have added a considerable distance to our day's exertions.
Perusing our pictures
Bill took this candid picture of Carol and me while we were trying to decide whether we liked the earlier picture he had taken of the two of us. I always look to make sure the picture is not too unflattering; you know how cameras are. You can see the viewpoint in the distance and the glorious sunshine. Here's the picture that we are looking at. I like it very much.
Carol and me, taken by Bill
And now it's still early, the sun is still up (for another hour), we are gaining more than two minutes of daylight every day, and the day in the Chuckanuts could not have been much better. I did miss my friends who were absent, but we had a lot of smiles, laughter, and sunshine. Oh, and just for fun, I averaged the age of the six of us who were together today: 73.6. Not bad, eh?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

It could have been me

The square in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul
I took this picture when I visited Istanbul last February. Yesterday a suicide bomber detonated his explosive in this very square. Here is a BBC article that shows the place, and I went back through my photos and found this one, which is, if not in the exact spot, at least very close to it. The article shows where it was, and I recognized it immediately.

At least ten German tourists were killed and another 15 injured, according to that article. Yes, it could have been me, or any of the people in my group, who could have been killed. The world is becoming more and more hostile and it seems that nobody is safe any more. I was worried about being so close to Syria when I went to Turkey, but there were no signs at all that I wasn't perfectly safe. No place in the world is "perfectly safe" any more, is it?

And to add to my existential angst, the world having lost David Bowie this week at the relatively young age of 69, is tragic. I understand he knew his days were numbered and unveiled his final release, Lazarus, just a few days earlier. A carefully planned farewell. Blue skies, David.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Saturday again already

Leo's dad Robert took this of us
Yesterday I asked Robert to take a picture of Leo and me, since he's growing so fast that I'm afraid if I don't take one now he'll be almost as tall as I am in no time at all. He's grown more this past year than ever. Every time I see him it seems he's a little taller. He's a fine looking young man, isn't he?

In the background you can see John and Gene and my iPad. There weren't many people at the coffee shop so it seemed a good time to document Leo's growth. I am in this place almost every day, and the people I've met there are like family. Leo was only six months old when I first met him here, and now I am invited to his birthday parties and have gone sailing in their 26-foot sailboat.

In a few minutes I'll be heading back outside to see a movie, The Danish Girl, with Eddie Redmayne, last year's recipient of the Oscar for Best Actor. It's getting really hard to see all the movies I want to now, after what seems like a real drought. There are at least a half dozen more I need to see before the Oscars are announced on January 15. I'll be spending a few days in the theaters, that's for sure.

We had a wonderful walk this morning, the ladies and I, although it was very foggy when I set out to meet them and made driving precarious. Isn't it interesting how fog makes well-known streets look like a foreign land? But now it's sunny and gorgeous outside!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Alger Alp 2016

Frozen Squires Lake this morning
Twelve Senior Trailblazers met this morning to take a nice hike from the Squires Lake trailhead up to the top of Alger Alp. It's not a long or hard hike, but we did expect to get a little more sunshine than we actually ended up having. We took off from the Senior Center for the short drive south, with patchy fog that looked very much like it would lift momentarily.
The group almost to the top
It wasn't warm, but since we were moving uphill and had no wind, we needed to shed clothes fairly soon. It always amazes me how quickly physical activity warms me, raising my metabolism and hopefully helping me to burn more calories than I eat. The trail we took to the top takes us by the lake and a beaver pond before we end up on old logging roads up to a viewpoint.
Al in the sunshine at the top
By the time we reached the top, it looked like we would finally be in sunshine. We had climbed far above the fog in the valley and the sky above looked mostly clear. But, as nice as it was for those few minutes, the clouds ended up winning out. I always love to take pictures with fog because the scenes look so magical.
The fog covers up I-5 heading North/South
We could hear the traffic from I-5 down below us, but it looked more like a fairyland than an interstate highway. The mountain across the valley is Blanchard Mountain, which we have climbed many times. To the north (left) lies Bellingham. Whenever we would stop for any length of time, all of us began to get cold, so soon after I took this picture we decided to head back down to Squires Lake and find a nice spot in the sunshine to have lunch. We found the nice spot, all right, but the sun was long gone.
Frozen Squires Lake at lunchtime
I used a "noir" filter on this picture, since it was already very silvery looking and without much color. The lake was still frozen pretty hard, and every time one of the guys would see a likely looking rock, he would skip it across the frozen lake, making an interesting pok-pok-pok sound. (You can see a rock in the middle of the picture sitting on the ice, if you look closely.)

We covered about six miles and 1,400 feet of elevation up and down, not a long or hard hike, but very satisfying, with wonderful company and getting me home to my warm abode at an early hour. Now I am writing my obligatory post before settling in for a nice little rest. I wouldn't want my hiking friends to wonder whether or not they had a good time. We did indeed!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Walking on air

From Astronomy Picture of the Day
Yesterday the Astronomy Picture of the Day put up this new view of our beautiful blue planet, taken about three months ago from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. It looks like the earth is setting (or rising), but it's because it was taken from an object that is orbiting the moon. That brown section in the upper right is the Sahara Desert, and on that gorgeous globe lies all our hopes and dreams, and for that matter, all of us. Sometimes I need to take a step back, or even a light second or two (it takes light 1.3 seconds to travel from the earth to the moon) to gain some perspective on my life.

Somehow things look different now that I've gazed at that picture, thinking of wars and rumors of wars, the news cycles as they flash across my television screen. Yes, perspective is everything, isn't it?

I just returned home from my new yoga class, and I'm pleased to think that I have three months of classes ahead before I will decide whether to keep taking the gentle yoga class or move up to the next level. All that lies ahead of me, but for now I feel like I'm walking on air, after an hour and a half with a wonderful instructor in a lovely setting at Yoga Northwest. I'm feeling uplifted and walking with a spring in my step. I've got some exercises to practice for balance and to lengthen the muscles in my back that tend to want to seize up. I'm not sure how long this feeling will last, but I sure feel pretty good right now!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

It's a brand new year

Frosty trees from our New Years Day walk
I was sitting in my chair, dozing, when I suddenly realized that I hadn't yet written my Saturday post. It's been quite an interesting day, with me saturated from having seen the new Star Wars movie in 3-D, and a little tired from having had two wonderful walks with the ladies, one yesterday for New Years and one today for our usual Saturday walk.

I really enjoyed the movie, but I won't spoil it for anybody other than to say it was just about what I expected, what with all the hype that has been roiling around about it. The old friends I hadn't seen in a long time, Han Solo and Princess Leia, have been busy aging right along with me, and they were good to see again. The new faces were really well done, Rey and Finn, and I look forward to seeing them in the next installment in a couple of years. If you're a Star Wars fan, I don't see how you could  be disappointed. I LOVED the bar scene; that was one of my favorite parts of the original series. Let me know what you thought about the movie, if you don't mind.

Tomorrow is Sunday, the last day of the first weekend of the new year, and I'm feeling glad to be alive and looking forward to 2016 with anticipation and happiness.