Ordinary Times and Travels: St. Marks Cathedral

We traveled to Capital Hill to St. Marks and experienced this.

This was exactly as described, “quiet night and perfect end”. Esther and I entered the cathedral almost half an hour before the appointed time, but it was already nearly full. We went up to the front and put our blankets on the floor, using the short wall as our back rest. Esther said this was prime seating. In spite of the crowd, the sanctuary was quiet and dark, except for the candles lighting each row and the altar area. We saw the singers assembling.


The music was old, historic, mysterious, haunting at times, joyful at times, sacred in quality. There are very few opportunities to appreciate the beauty of the chant, of harmonies in a building so acoustically perfect. Part of the experience is being surrounded by others who are also curious, amazed, calmed and blessed by the words and songs.

pipe organ, back of church

Much of the music was acapella. Occasionally handbells joined the singing. And at the end of the half hour, the pipe organ began to enrich the empty places with tangible layers of sound.

With the departure of the chorus most people filed out quietly, but the organ continued to play. The complexity of the sound demanded that we get a closer look, and there did seem to be people in the organ loft. We found the stair and joined a small group watching the organist. This virtuoso was a young man in plaid flannel, whose fingers flew over the four levels of keys, and whose feet were all but running over the foot pedals. At the finish he stood and bowed slightly, seeming almost embarrassed to be watched.

not what I was expecting, talent in flannel

I now love the word compline, for its meaning and for the memory of this experience. St. Marks Episcopal Cathedral, Capital Hill, Seattle, WA. You will not be disappointed.

front of sanctuary

The Strangeness of Being Cold

There is more to feeling cold than just the physical sensation.

I know it’s largely physical, dependent upon location. I rarely feel cold in Florida. This morning we stood outside watching the Airstream being backed into place. It was only about an hour total, but I’ve not been warm since.

There is the mental side of it. I’ve been reading a lot lately, stories of young people feeling that their lives could just as well be ended, because of their physical misery. There are so many of those stories. And there is also my daughter’s story with heavy doses of despair and anxiety. And my other daughter’s story of overwhelming demands, confusion and loneliness. And there is being in Seattle. All these are part of feeling cold, I think.

wp-1482788166367.jpgI read until my eyes were heavy and there was no need to keep them open so I went to lie down. I am in a house which I am sure is heated adequately, yet I am cold, dressed in two layers on my legs, two layers and a jacket on top. A wool blanket is over me as I wait for it to trap the heat and make me feel warm, but it doesn’t happen. Even the bed and blankets I’m lying on give the lingering sensation of cool, like an unwanted draft. It’s not painful or intolerable. It’s nagging.

Every surface around me is waiting to grab some of my energy, especially the floor. I feel it through my socks, my shoes. The chairs feel cold, and oh, the leather car seat is the worst. When I back up to the heater on the wall, it heats one small portion of me but makes all the other portions more aware of their chill. It’s hard to even think about undressing at night. I touch my face with icy fingers and feel the effect of it all the way down to my feet.

It is not the actual temperature either. Outside, everything is the color of cold. Cold looks smoky blue, five shades of foggy grey, and the darkness of being wet. I want to move, to work up some heat, to exercise (not like the shirtless runner I saw yesterday, but a little sweat would be nice).

I am hoping this is a temporary phenomenon. I am cold, just sayin’…

Ordinary Times and Travels: PNW Christmas, post 6

The last couple of days have been quiet, marked by only a few happenings, and one big non-happening.

Sylvia, the Airstream, did not come on Saturday as scheduled. The dealer decided he had something more important to do on Christmas Eve day. Imagine that. We are still hoping for some day next week, before I have to leave. I want to be here to welcome the new addition. Esther has named it Sylvia Plath after one of her favorite poets (Aaack! I’ve been edited. It’s Sylvia Path, because it’s wittier.). She is having fun thinking about upholstery fabric for the cushions and other upgrades she wants to make inside. Did you know that refurbishing older Airstreams is a trend these days? It goes along with the tiny house movement, and glamping. Like other trendy movements, you can find books and blogs and videos about how to do it.

What did arrive on Saturday was our Amazon Fresh order. A little before 8 the large green truck came down our street and stopped several houses away. I was up, dressed, waiting for it so I came out to flag down the driver. Esther does not have her house numbers up since her paint job this summer and I figured he might have trouble. He brought the two coolers and two paper grocery bags to the door. I asked him if he liked his job with Amazon and he didn’t actually say yes or no, but he didn’t complain, and he did smile. He said he would have to wait a few minutes to leave because our delivery wasn’t scheduled until 8 and they track him with GPS.

Unloading the groceries in the house, I marveled at how carefully they were packaged. Delicate fruits were wrapped and bagged separately. The coolers with the vegetables were packed with ice, and the one with the ground meat had dry ice. Everything was in good condition, and there were instructions on recycling all the packaging. Someone did all this work for us (more carefully than I ever would have) and it was delivered to our door in less than a day at a price that was not noticeably more than if we had gone to the store ourselves. How can they do this? I don’t know.

I did a lot of cooking that day, trying out a couple Paleo recipes. I liked them both and Esther like one of them – the one without meat, of course.  It’s called “Nomato Sauce” because it has no tomatoes, but is used like tomato sauce. Tomatoes are one of the eliminated foods, that commonly cause inflammation (nightshade family – even sounds deadly, right?) It’s a beautiful colored sauce because it is made with beets and carrots. This combination even tastes a bit like tomatoes and that really surprised me.

Last night we made a fire in the fireplace and watched National Lampoon: Family Christmas (I  know, I know…). It was a different kind of Christmas Eve than I normally have, but it was good. Good to be with a daughter, in safety, in pleasant surroundings. I always have mixed feelings about Christmas celebration, not because the birth of Jesus wasn’t a thing worthy of celebration, but because we’ve made it to be so not about that. We’ve combined so many other traditions and stories that it’s a holiday for everyone, even if they don’t know anything about Christ. Why don’t we just have a winter holiday with pretty lights and presents and celebrate Jesus’ birthday some other time, like in the fall when it probably really happened?

Christmas Day was also quiet, except for the early morning call from the husband that the septic system was backed up again. Really?! On Christmas Day?! He got to work and the crisis was short lived, but I have to thank him for sharing it with me.

Youngest daughter, Esther, photo bombing…

We took an evening walk, bundled up in every way possible. I had to gawk at the male runner who passed us with shorts and no shirt on in 35 degree weather. Seattle has its own brand of craziness. Later tonight, we plan to visit a church where a men’s chorus regularly gives performances. This is also reported to be a bit different from the norm, in that people bring blankets to wrap themselves in and hot drinks to sip while taking in the concert, inside the church. I am glad that life is interesting. I am happy to be in Seattle. I am happy. Hope you are too, Merry Christmas.

Puget Sound. I love these soft, sad colors.

December in the PNW: Ordinary Times and Travels, post 1

I am preparing to leave in the morning for Christmas in the Pacific Northwest. I don’t have an aversion to spending holidays at home, really. Home is my favorite place to be, followed closely by any place where my family is located. Youngest daughter is in Seattle so that will be a good place to spend the last half of December. She and I can break in the “new to her” old Airstream that has recently joined her family and keep each other company over that time of year when no one wants to be alone.


I have a bit of trepidation, rather I should say my mom and the husband have a bit of trepidation, over what home will be like in my absence. They have both promised each other not to have to cook for anyone other than themselves and to eat when they want to eat. Even now they have gone off to Walmart and are probably abandoning my paleo diet regimen at McDonalds. Cooking is just too much work, but eating is simple, if you know what there is to eat. Anyway, for two weeks they are on their own.


I have not been to Seattle in winter that I can recall. Youngest daughter is sending me texts of the weather report and planning some yard work for me in between the rain and snow forecasts for the week – the whole week. I am getting out clothing that I have not worn since I lived in Wisconsin thirty years ago. I still have the stuff, yes I do. And the cool thing is that most of it is now back in style. Even though I have seen those temps in the 30’s and 40’s it’s still hard to sit here in 85 degree weather and think sweaters. I have snow boots. Oddly enough, I found them on sale here in Florida and couldn’t resist getting them because they fit me. I’m counting on them to keep my feet warm and dry when I tramp around in Schmitz Park, maybe with Charlie.

I say maybe, because I saw a picture of Charlie yesterday and he has no hair anymore.  Some over-zealous groomer practically shaved him and now he will be shivering, unless Grandma gets him a doggie coat. Poor thing.


And the question in my mind that I can’t wait to have answered is how on earth does all that Seattle traffic work in snow? Youngest daughter told me she decided to ignore “road closed” barriers during the last snowfall and practically slid all the way to her house. Evidently a lot of roads need to be closed when it’s slippery because they are almost too steep to negotiate when it’s dry – and I  know it to be so.

I need some accountability on this trip and will welcome it from anyone. Please make me feel really guilty if I don’t take my vitamins. Normally, they travel with me, and then they travel back home and I eventually eat them.  But because I’ve recently had a respiratory virus and don’t want it to relapse, I need to be especially diligent and eat them while I’m there in Seattle. I will be in an airplane (think virus capsule), sharing air with way too many people and it will be cold and wet when I arrive. I’m one of those people who would rather get the flu than get a flu shot, but to be clear, I’d rather not have either one. Here’s hoping…



#atozchallenge: Somewhat Uncommon Q

There is an ancient pseudo-cereal called quinoa that is very nutritious, high in protein and fiber, with vitamins and minerals a plenty.  It’s not a true grain, not a grass plant, but a member of the amaranth family and although it cooks up much like rice it is a bit different.  I wish I was practiced at using it and knew exactly how to make it a part of a meal.  I don’t.  But I’ve had some recently and the whole experience was so good, I was willing to try to reproduce it at home.

The Columbia Building

Location: high in the sky above Seattle.  It you view the Seattle skyline you will see one dark building that rises above all the rest.  At the top of the Columbia building there is an exclusive area for dining and communing and it is there that I found myself a guest, with my daughter.  You would have to say that she has friends in high places, very high places. I could hardly breathe, looking out the full view glass windows over the harbor and Puget Sound.  In order to calm down I had to purposely not think about where I was and what kind of structure was holding me up.

We were advised about the menu items and ordered vegetarian.  The dishes came out looking perfectly cooked and presented in very attractive ways.  Everything was delicious.  It was a wonderful, relaxing evening in every way (as long as I kept my mind off being 80 stories high and on the same level as jets approaching SeaTac airport…).


The quinoa was light and fluffy in a creamy sauce – just wet enough to hold it together and make it easier to eat.  The flavor was mild and slightly of salt, like a good comfort food. I wasn’t sure how to  do this at home but a light cream/celery sauce with the quinoa did a pretty good job.  The food was really great but it had a hard time competing with the view.  Just sayin’…


The quinoa is in the upper left, accompanied by asparagus and what may have been garlic mashed potato or cauliflower – I don’t remember which.  

The way I always thought it should be…

Rain on the window, gray in the sky, blossoms on the trees

Seattle in early spring is the way I imagined it before I had ever been here.  Today was cool (50’s ) and rainy, clouds rolling through. Everything green is glowing, in contrast to the grays and browns of wet rocks and trees. I am usually here during the one week in summer when there is a heat wave, so this sweet chill is a treat for me.  I am prepared for this visit with my sweatshirt hoodies and scarves, and of course my walking shoes.

I took my friend Charlie the dog for a walk on one of our favorite routes from last summer. I couldn’t stop looking at all the things that were visible through trees that hadn’t leafed out yet. Surprisingly, there are a lot of houses hanging precariously on the sides of the ravine above the park’s lower trail. I did not know they were so close. In spite of the cold, there are flowers coming out all over, and they are different from the ones in the summer or fall. And the lush moss grows everywhere. 20160327_103349.jpg20160326_151859.jpg

We walked up to the top of the ridge over Alki Beach (what a workout, gasp..) and I was glad to be here, grateful to be seeing it all. I couldn’t help wishing that my friend Karyn who followed my stories last summer was still here to read again. I was grateful that it was a day when resurrection, physical resurrection, was on my mind. As unexplainable as it sounds to modern ears, a man came back to life never to die again.  Because he did this miraculous thing, Karyn will too. This is not a hard thing for me to believe, because I see life coming out of what looks dead all around me.  It’s right there in front of us, if we have eyes to see and hearts willing to consider.

Thanking Jesus for doing what he did – the first of many.

People Go There in the Morning too?

I go to Alki Beach quite a bit at evening, as do lots of other people, but who knew that people wake up and go there in the morning too? It’s a couple blocks away from the house and I don’t usually want to wait that long for the first coffee of the day. This morning I practiced delayed gratification and walked to coffee.  There are four or five coffee shops in the short stretch along the beach (because this is Seattle…) but I go to the one farthest away because my daughter would consider joining me later at this one.  She gets coffee that comes from a particular farm in a particular country (more on that later) while I ask if they have Folgers.

All kinds of things were happening this morning, the most interesting being an open water boat race of some sort.  I got there just minutes before the starting horn so boats were lining up along some imaginary line which wasn’t very straight.  I guess they were going quite a distance so a few feet here and there wasn’t going to matter.  Anything that could be paddled was eligible for this trek across the sound to a rock near some island and back again.  Naturally, the scullers took off in the lead and the poor guys on paddleboards were bringing up the rear.  It’s a cool, gray day with a light chop on the water and mist in the air.

Cyclists are out. Families with children wanting donuts are straggling in. Seattle dogs are out in numbers.  The weekend is here. Happy Saturday everyone!

A boat line up (loosely so called)
A boat line up (loosely so called)
Sea Hawks fans ready for the day
Sea Hawks fans ready for the day
A solitary pigeon
A solitary pigeon
Seattle dogs go for coffee
Seattle dogs go for coffee