Walking on the 4th of July – Seattle

More important than what I saw, was the reality of seeing it with other people. We saw this together, and it was part of our relationship building. I love doing things with Esther and Ryan, on their home turf. We are blessed that we all love to walk, and can still do it.

West Seattle is its own little world, a peninsula really, with Elliot Bay on the west and north sides connecting with the Duwamish River on the east. At the coastline there is a highway around the peninsula, on the level with the beaches. This level holds only the highway and beach sidewalks on one side and a row of high rise buildings and homes on the other side. Behind the row of homes is a steep, tree covered bluff. There are homes built into the bluff and some very steep streets giving access to them. Then there is the top level of the peninsula that is high, with magnificent views in all directions. The main part of the town is on the top level and has some very exclusive residential areas.

Today we walked on the beach level around the west and north sides of West Seattle and then climbed up the bluff on a street called Fairmount. The Pacific Northwest rain forest vibe was strong on this upward climb. I was puffing my way up and using the excuse of taking pictures to rest and catch my breath.

Once on the top level we needed nourishment and stopped in for frozen yogurt. Once the brain freeze was wearing off we walked through some of the residential areas to catch views of the beautiful private gardens and Puget Sound. Here is a small part of our 15,000 steps.

The tide was out, exposing a lot of beach. Lots of people were out there looking for ? Ryan said the clam season had started, or maybe they were just looking for beach glass, or taking in that view.
Historic building at risk as high rise condos surround it. Can you imagine laying all those small stones? The door is only a paper picture – I’m not sure what the intent was.
Our climb up the bluff took us under a main road. I always find it a little scary to see understructure and realize how much we depend on it (and how seldom we think about it).
We earned our treat, and after all, it was a holiday.
Homes on the top of the bluff have views like this. Blackberries and blue sky…
Can you imagine having a redwood (I think that’s what it was) in your front yard?
We also found a “hobbit” tree with a secret door.

Seattle – What I Saw Today

Every time I visit Seattle my photo gallery lights up with this kind of color.

And every time, there is something new to do or see. Today it was Jack Block Park.

Jack Block Park consists of 15 acres, on the northeastern shore of West Seattle. It’s part of the Port of Seattle and gave me a chance to see, up close, some of the workings and machinery that I had only seen from afar.

It has an unusual entry point, one that is easy to pass by and wonder about but doesn’t necessarily beg you to come in and explore. I saw a lot of comments on the website that indicated people being surprised at the treasure they found when finally visiting this park. I had viewed the waterfront many times from the West Seattle bridge (which by the way is now closed to traffic and that’s another story). Colorful shipping containers, huge yellow and orange dinosaur-like cranes, and heavy machinery always gave it such an industrial look. The park softens all that with its walkways, greenery and its beautiful view of the city across the water.

Don’t they look kind of like dinosaurs (brontosaurus type)? Use your imagination.

I looked up the history of the park, which is interesting. It was formerly a wood treatment plant and ship building facility. The land was contaminated with creosote and had to be dredged, capped and restored before the port could open it as a park in 2011. The Port of Seattle maintains several parks besides this one and they have a 100% organic policy – no invasive species, and all trimmings and clippings are composted or used as mulch. For a long time this park was called Terminal 5 Park but is now Jack Block Park, named after a former Port Commissioner. Maps have a section of the park called Joe Block Park, and I haven’t been able to discover why. Who is Joe Block?

There is a gradually climbing path up to an observation point with a great view of downtown Seattle buildings and the Space Needle. Looking down at the shoreline, there were many birds, natural driftwood and rock decor and the beautiful, clean appearing water of Elliot Bay. It’s a great place to watch waterfront activity and ships coming into port. A great find.

View of Downtown Seattle from observation tower

Soul Medicine

This created world… When I cannot write, I wander away from the house and look. I can’t help but think that God is sending messages to counteract confusion, fear, anger, and despair, if people will look. These things are here in my world to make me examine, wonder, hope and lose myself and my anxious thoughts for a moment, at least. I am so thankful. For sight and things to see, for hearing and sounds to hear, for mobility, for safety. I may not have these things always and that is okay, for I have them now. I wish I could package them up and send them to everyone who needs beauty, and peace, everyone who wishes for something to be grateful for. But this is the best I can do.

The most amazing thing is that you, and I, and all people, ALL PEOPLE, are the masterpiece of his creation, and all this beauty was put here for us. If we could only look into each other’s eyes and see something far more beautiful than anything in nature. “Made in his image” is how he put it, and capable of so much more than we are doing now. I feel the sadness in this, but I don’t think there is a problem that God doesn’t have an answer for.

The Risk in Being Neighborly

I was late going out for a walk yesterday and was nervously watching a drift of storms on the weather radar. Sure enough, as soon as I got to the trail head a light rain started.

I thought it might quit so I stayed in the truck and made a phone call to the North Carolina daughter. We were ten minutes into our chat when a man came out of the warming cabin and approached the truck. He could see I was on the phone so he kind of stood there looking nervous and waiting. When I could see that he wasn’t going away I told Julie I had to hang up and why. She said to call her back in five minutes or she was going to send people to rescue me.

I totally get that, and would have said the same to her. But isn’t it a sad thing that we all have heard of so many disappearances, abductions and murders? Isn’t it sad that we have to think about that and make provision for the possibility? Yes, it’s very sad. And that’s why I ask for God’s protection over my day and everything that comes with it. And then I trust him to give me something – instinct, intuition, a gut feeling, an angel. I don’t care, I just trust.

I might have had a few red flags initially, mostly because I had no idea where the man had come from. I had been there for quite a while and all the cars that had been there when I came had left when the rain started. Had he been in the cabin all along? Doing what?

When I considered rolling down the window so he could speak to me I looked at him closer. I began to dismiss any wild ideas when I saw he was fully decked out in his mountain bike gear, and had obviously been riding hard enough to break a sweat. He looked like he had a request. I couldn’t get the window down without starting the truck, which I didn’t want to do. I opened the door instead and stepped out.

He explained that he had been riding on the single track trail and a branch had gotten caught in the derailleur of the bike and it was broken, beyond his ability to repair it. He had walked a mile with the bike hoping to find someone at the trailhead and had entered the cabin on the opposite side from where I was parked. He had gone riding without his cell phone and was asking if I would call his wife to come get him.

We stepped into the pavilion to get out of the rain and I made the call, holding the phone so he could speak to her. But she didn’t pick up – the unfamiliar number that is usually a robo call must have thrown her off. He left a message. He was clearly in a bind so after hanging up, I asked him where he lived. It was only a few miles away and here I was with a truck – I had to offer him a ride home. I wasn’t going to walk in the rain anyway, so why not?

He was polite and genuinely grateful. He asked if I was concerned about taking him with the COVID 19 precautions. He offered to ride in the back seat. I was feeling more and more sure he was a nice guy and in no way a threat. We loaded up his broken bike and got on our way. We talked all the way to his house. He knows that I hike and volunteer for the Birkie ski race. I know that he has skied the Birkie 24 times and has retired in Hayward from Minneapolis. I dropped him off at his log cabin home in the woods, completely forgetting that I was supposed to call my daughter in five minutes, or else…

She promised she would call for help if I hadn’t returned her call in five minutes. I hadn’t. She did.

When I checked my phone on the way home it was full of calls from the daughter. I had scared her and she had been busy alerting my brother. The sherif was next on her list. I had gotten back to her just in time.

Talking about this experience later with Mom, I had to admit that all the reasons I had decided to trust this guy could have been fabricated. It’s true that people bent on evil go to great lengths to appear trustworthy. It’s true that this small town, where it’s hard to find a stranger, is much like other places where unexpected crimes are committed. It’s true that it’s somewhat my nature to take risks.

But it’s also true that the art of being neighborly is an endangered item and needs to be preserved. Mom has a well worn sign on the freezer in her garage “Let all beings be filled with kindness and compassion for one another.” All beings. Filled. I think we’ve got a way to go.

What is one thing I could do, right away, to be a kinder, more compassionate person to a neighbor?

Face Yoga?

As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed I came upon an ad for face yoga and a small survey. One of the questions was something like “what is the first impression people get of you based on your facial expression?” I rejected happy, depressed and several others and finally settled on serious. But when I asked Mom what word she would use to describe me, she said “tired”. I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

In spite of the fact that if left sitting and unoccupied for more than three minutes I will fall asleep, I have not often thought of myself as being tired. In my mind, I am always up for whatever is suggested, ambitious, energetic and ready to go. It’s actually alarming to me that people see me otherwise. What if after I’m gone, when they’re wondering what epitaph to put on my stone, they just settle on “She was tired.” What a legacy.

The result of this scare is that now I’m often aware of my facial expression. I’m telling myself to raise my eyebrows and open up my eyes. I’m thinking happy thoughts and hoping they make the corners of my mouth turn up instead of down (their natural direction). I stop short of doing “fish lips” because that is the one thing that looks so unnatural to me that I can’t abide it. As the face yoga lady says, “there are lots of muscles in your face. Why would you not exercise them?”

You can see why face yoga would be interesting to me. I want my face to stay functional, to show a variety of emotions easily. I want people around me to be able to know that I’m thinking kindly of them and find them interesting. I want to look peaceful and non-threatening. I think of how important that is in this day and age when we hear of people being arrested/assaulted just because of a perceived attitude – the expression on their face. I want it to be clear that I’m not up to anything nefarious.

My first impression of tiredness probably started years ago. I’m putting my hand written journals into digital form (what a project!) and a repeated theme over the years seems to be pain and fatigue. There’s this entry from 2007 that sums it up pretty well.

“I would say I’m about as miserable as a person can be who has nothing seriously wrong with them.”

Is it possible that years of muscle aches, joint pain, headaches, and crazy physical work and activity have gotten together and come up with a mutually satisfying expression – tired?

The face yoga lady gives me hope that I can take years off my tired face by giving those muscles some exercise. I can will to avoid the “nursing home look” of having given up. So, if you see me with my arm stretched over my head, pulling on the corner of my eyelid, while letting my tongue hang out, please don’t Baker Act me. I’m exercising. Just sayin’…

Remembering Dad

It’s been five years since my Dad died. His was a rather sudden departure, and although it was traumatic for those who were with him, most of us agree that it was a pretty good way to die. He was comfortable in his living room chair, talking with Mom… and then he wasn’t.

It hasn’t been every year that we’ve celebrated his memory but somehow it seemed fitting to do it in 2020. Earlier in the week I had asked Mom if she wanted to do something special to help her get through the day. It was a couple days later that she said she’d thought of something we could do. She wanted us to remember Dad as we ate a bowl of his favorite ice cream – maple nut.

Dad ate a lot of ice cream. Dad shared a lot of ice cream with others. His ice cream legacy will be the story of one of his grandchildren finding him late at night, sitting on the steps inside the garage (where the freezer was), eating ice cream from the pail. Of course, she sat down and had some with him.

So we shared the plan with family members and asked them to join us, wherever they were, at a convenient time for them. “Get some maple nut ice cream, and remember Grandpa Owen as you eat it. Take a picture and post it.” Some were able to do it, and others who couldn’t will be able to enjoy the pictures. I’m 100% sure that Dad would have liked to be remembered this way.

Death is strange. Memories are a gift.

There are some things we’ll never figure out. But, it’s okay.

Spring Is Real

Here in Wisconsin, spring isn’t just a date on the calendar. It’s much more real than that. After being in various degrees of frozen for nearly six months, big changes have to happen and they have to happen fast because winter’s a comin’. I think spring happened today.

Mom and I were sitting on her patio this afternoon when my brother called her.

“What’s the weather like there today?“

“It’s been pretty stable, in the 40’s and 50’s, ever since it stopped being in the 20’s and 30’s .” (Last week)

“Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to happen? It’s spring, right?”

“I guess it is. Shirley is sitting here with a T-shirt and no coat.”

That’s right. It was so warm today that I didn’t see anyone wearing a coat. Yesterday was a different story. I was out in the soon-to-be garden in my heaviest hoodie and a scarf when neighbors Bob and LuRae, also coated and capped, came up to gift me. He had bought too many lily bulbs and just didn’t have room to plant them anywhere. He wanted to give them to me. Last year he did the same thing with daffodil bulbs.

I said yes. I had a pot with nothing in it but dirt and lilies would be nice. He came over with a rather large box. When I inventoried what he had given me I found eight bags of 10, with large sprouted bulbs begging to be planted. I spent a couple hours putting them around the lampposts of the twelve condos in our development. That’s a lot of digging.

As much as I shovel snow in the winter, I dig at least as much dirt in the other months. The major project is the garden. It has to go in pretty quick or not everything will get ripe before summer is over. But not too quick because it might still freeze at night. I absolutely know that I could walk over to Walmart and spend far less for the same amount of food, but I tell myself that the food is better and I need the sunburn and sore back exercise. I mostly try not to think about the logic in gardening.

I’ve only been “up north” for one “garden year” so far and didn’t have time to start perennials, so last month I ordered asparagus plants from Gurney’s. I was about to order the world’s most expensive raspberry plants from them too, when a friend let me thin her patch for free! I probably won’t get any asparagus or raspberries to eat this year but it will be good for me to exercise patience. It’s all about the future…

This morning Mom and I did the most definitive spring thing. We went shopping for flowers. We actually traveled 39 miles to a fabulous greenhouse where we bought almost nothing because the prices were… pricey. We stopped at two other establishments on the way home just because flowers are SO BEAUTIFUL! I bought, and got them all planted this afternoon. I have big pots of petunias, coleus and herbs on the patio. I am stiff, sore and a bit dehydrated.

It’s spring and spring is real. Putting my feet up now, just sayin’…

Reflections on A to Z 2020

I’ve done the A to Z Blogging Challenge for six years now, and enjoyed it every time. I’m proud that I’ve finished them all, because learning to finish a writing project was my main goal. I was especially grateful this year to learn that I could take a theme, caregiving, and make a cohesive body of information, based on my own experiences. That’s almost like writing a book, and I did it! (A very short book however…)

I truly felt “cheered on” by a group of readers who read most all of my posts. This was valuable since it showed me that my topic did have an audience, and was possibly serving a need. All the comments were kind and helpful, and they weren’t even all from my family and relatives! So good. (That is not to say I don’t appreciate comments from family too – that didn’t come out quite right.)

I think the challenge was well managed and designed this year. The sign-up, master list, badges were all easy to access. Perhaps the smaller number of blogs participating made it seem more streamlined – it was easy to go down the list to find topics I was interested in. I was surprised by the number of blogs I went to read and found they weren’t taking part.

Thank you so much, organizing team and readers. Appreciate you all and hope to read more of you on the Road Trip.

Rest

This post is part of a week long Instagram writing challenge, with the prompt “rest”. But, (confession) I don’t really get Instagram yet so I’m putting it here too, where I can find it.

These peaceful scenes were photographed shortly before sundown very near where I live. Nothing speaks rest to me like nature when it slows down at the end of the day. The planet we live on is designed to have cycles, and so were we – cycles of work and rest.

Science bears this out. Circadian rhythms respond to times of light and dark, and there are even longer cycles like the weekly and seasonal cycles. When we tamper with these natural rhythms, we are walking away from our own health. If we fail to give ourselves the rest our bodies need, they will force us to rest by getting sick.

I’ve done my share of pressing the limit when it comes to lack of sleep and unrestful activity. Sometimes (when I was much younger…) I even felt cool, kind of grown-up, and invincible when staying up all night. I would laugh at the need for sleep. I’m over that. My body has lost the ability to adjust and it is telling me in many ways that it wants no more abuse.

Rest is more than sleep. It is stopping your work. It is doing something different, taking a sabbatical, clearing your mind, getting ready to work again. Those who write might even need to rest from that. New ideas come from a rested mind.

Take it from God, what better example. Even he rested from his work, not because he got tired, but because rest is good.

And if you’ve done nothing else during this pandemic, I hope you’ve rested, some.

Rewrite

My blog has been my stress reliever, my “learning place”, my experiment for the last eight years. I have written a lot, and the strange thing is I don’t remember everything I’ve written. There are things in there that I don’t recognize as my own (but they have to be). Sometimes I read a post and think it was really interesting, or funny, or insightful. Other times I read and think “I’ve got to get this out of here quick, so no one else will stumble upon it”. Time for a rewrite.

What a project! But I’ve found that I like it. It’s an historical review of life “back then” for one thing. Many of the posts are timeless and can be re-purposed and put back on the blog with a new freshness. And, believe me, having something to start with makes it a lot easier to write. Rewriting is a skill of its own – a skill that I’ve improved in over the last eight years. It’s encouraging when I can easily see improvements and make them quickly.

Spring is all about fresh and new. Rewriting is too. Let me at it.