Washington D.C.

2016-08-12 19.25.28Wallace’s #5 Metro bus from Dulles airport to L’Enfant Plaza in downtown D.C. is the best. Before we boarded, I saw the driver engaged in a very animated discussion with someone sitting on the bus and assumed that there was a problem. Once we stepped up onto the bus, Wallace greeted each person with a remarkable amount of enthusiasm and conversation, and I realized I had misunderstood the overseen interaction–a good reminder that things are not always what they seem. Wallace’s energy transferred to driving style as well; lots of honking and jouncing in the pothole-ridden service lane.  In fact, I can say with assurance that the kids were looking travel-stunned here only because we weren’t under way yet.

2016-08-13 11.45.59This Cubano pizza (DF, GF) at Pi was amazing. Would you believe mustard and pickles belong on a pizza?

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2016-08-13 13.16.34The Library of Congress is like a palace to democracy, books and access to them being the foundation of freedom.

2016-08-13 13.28.21Waiting for a tour of the L of C to begin: appreciating the cooling properties of marble walls. We walked through 101 degree heat (tied with the record from 1981; humidity of 78 percent gave us a heat index of 111 degrees, which The Washington Post called “obscene“) and then decided to use Uber for most of our other excursions during the Hadean heatwave.

2016-08-13 13.38.04Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom and civilization. She’s contemplating a scroll listing various fields of learning.

2016-08-13 13.39.17Main reading room.

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2016-08-13 14.23.15A closer look at a page from a Gutenberg Bible (this is one of only three complete copies extant) printed on vellum, with the illuminations added later by hand. A hand-lettered Bible such as the Giant Bible of Mainz would have taken years, while this three-volume printed Bible would have taken a fraction of that time.

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IMAG0147Photo credit: K

2016-08-13 19.44.38D.C. date: Dress up for The Bombay Club and go for a stroll past the White House on your way back to the hotel. (After learning our lesson in Sydney, we called ahead for dress code during a heat wave: at The Bombay Club, shorts are okay but men should wear a collared shirt and jacket.)

2016-08-14 16.10.53Nearly at the end of a long day of museums, ending with the National Gallery. We saw the Spy Museum, the Hope Diamond, the Air and Space Museum, a text from my brother that he was also at the Smithsonian that day too (what are the chances?!), and lots of beautiful, inspiring art.

We took a sunset/moonlight tour of the National Mall, which is a spectacular time to be walking around the monuments and memorials.

2016-08-14 19.21.41As we progressed, the wind picked up and lightning began streaking overhead, lending the tour guide a little extra drama to his presentation: “The sacred conversation between Washington and Lincoln–CRACKBOOOM!–isn’t interrupted by the placement of any other memorial.”

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2016-08-14 20.45.51Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.

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The End of December


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The Bloedel Reserve held a lantern-lit Solstice walk; the women’s chamber choir K and I sing with stood beneath a giant cedar and sang as the procession crossed the meadow and then again as the procession exited the woods near the manor house. My favorite canon in the solstice songbook P put together is this:

Though my soul may set in darkness

It will rise in perfect light.

I have loved the stars too fondly

To be fearful of the night.

(Music attributed to Joseph Haydn and text from “The Old Astronomer” by Sarah Williams–you can hear a recording here.)

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Christmas Eve day games.

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And Christmas dinner. B’s dad made the wooden bowl holding the centerpiece. S made the individual Beef Wellingtons (out of this world). K made the kolcannon (also really delicious!).

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S’s Havisham-esque bûche de Noël, filled with whipped cream, slivered almonds, Nutella, and marzipan bugs. The best rotting log I’ve ever tasted! Look at these darling marzipan gnomes:2015-12-24 18.06.16

Two nonfiction book recommendations: How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds by John Powell and Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth by Lee Jackson. I read the first in the waiting room while K was getting her wisdom teeth out on the 22nd  (it was one of her Christmas presents). The second was a present from B and I devoured it in a couple of days–Victorian London is a fascinating subject; many reformers (including one primary figure, Lord Ashley) made gains in areas that still merit attention: the treatment of the mentally ill, the vast difference in living quarters and standards between the wealthy and the poor, overcoming political inertia to alleviate the suffering of human beings.


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S, B, and I ran BI’s Turkey Trot this morning (my 1st official 5K!).

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Thanksgiving dinner with most of the Zs, using C’s inherited china.

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The sound of a swollen
Mountain stream rapidly rushing
Makes one know
How very quickly life itself
Is pressed along its course.

– Saigyo (1118-1190)

So Much

I played my cello today and made pumpkin pies and played the piano for a choir practice and read a lot and played badminton. I hugged someone I love who’s been hurting lately. I played two new-to-me records (High Renaissance a cappella and Debussy) while I worked in my classroom for an hour. I split my sides laughing at a raccoon video with the kids and B. I cried just seeing a photo of the memorial service at Notre Dame Cathedral today and thought about our Parisian exchange student, who’s safe but in shock and mourning. I began cutting fabric for a new quilt for K.

Each day is very full.

That is an observation, not a complaint. However, more than ever, I want to make time for stillness as much as movement, reflection as much as extension, gracefulness as much as efficiency.

Looking back a few weeks, here’s what the kids have been up to:

S and A both ran cross country this fall.
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A finishing his 1.5 mile course.

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While I was at a conference in Tacoma, B and A went to a pumpkin patch/farm and an Asian market where they found my favorite coconut water. They were so excited to open Rosie Whe up and show me the bounty. Delicata squash and coconut water = heaven.

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S cut out cardboard circles for a gorgeous borrowed red cape and created a ladybug costume.
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One werewolf and one ladybug ready for trick-or-treating in the rain.
K was at a long rehearsal for the BHS fall play; they’ve now finished their two-week run of a 90s-era grunge version of Romeo and Juliet (with a live band!) and it was fantastic.
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We’re so proud of K’s hard work and her stellar acting!

Christmas trip 2014, part 5



One evening I had A order chunky chips at the YHA cafe, and he left the table with £3.50 in hand and absolute confidence in his ability to secure some delicious vittles. (An American approximation would be steak-cut fries with Thai sweet chili sauce. Oh, man…)

He came back with a worried look, saying, “After I ordered, they said, ‘Do you need some help? Is everything okay? Where’s your mom?'”
I said, “Did you show them that I’m right here?”
He nodded his little rapid anxious nod and said, “They saw you. I want you to get them when they’re ready, okay?”

On Boxing Day we boarded the Eurostar from London to Paris! Traveling via train is so much more comfortable than by air, plus there’s not the unsettling sense that you’ve somehow magically transported yourself to a completely different country by way of buckled-in muscle-cramping stillness — I really like seeing the countryside roll by, changing by degrees from urban to rural and urban again.


The 5th arrondissement, very near the Sorbonne. Paris was colder and rainier than England during our few days there; every time we returned to this lovely hotel, it was with a great sigh of relief at having warm and glowing rooms awaiting.


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We got to see our darling C again!

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A really liked the medieval section in the basement of the Louvre.

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The Gregorian service on Sunday morning at Notre Dame Cathedral was really beautiful, S’s favorite part of Paris. K practiced her French at every opportunity and came back thinking in French — yay!

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The girls really loved this monument to Joan of Arc.

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With a day that broke into sun, we went on to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur.



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And the first leg of our homeward journey, on the 3-hour Eurostar trip from Paris to London (the part that goes through the Chunnel takes just 35 minutes, the same as the ferry from Bainbridge to Seattle).

Our last must-see in London: 221 B Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes Museum.
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Once in Central Hounslow, we feasted on Indian food as our last meal in England. The best chicken biryani for £3 and 2 naan for £1!
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Dec. 29: Sunrise over Hounslow, as we boarded the Picadilly line for the airport.
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And 22 hours later, on the Seattle light rail and almost home, exhausted, but so very happy and grateful to have had this experience.

Christmas trip 2014, part 4

After the Christmas Eve service in Cambridge, we traveled back to London (via taxi, train, tube, and finally foot) and our hostel for Christmas Day. In one station, B was looking around for the window to purchase children’s fares for the underground. A helpful officer walked up to us: “Can I help with anything?”
B: “Yeah–I need to buy children’s tickets.”
Officer: “How old are the children?”
B: “16, 14, and 11.”
Officer: “No offense young man, but just for today, you look like you could be just under 11.”

B walked up to the ticket agent at the proper window. “Okay, I’ve got a 16-year-old, a 14-year-old, and two adults.”
Ticket agent: “So you’ve got two 15-year-olds.”
B: “No, a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old.”
Agent: “Work with me here!”


Christmas morning, we slept way in, opened a couple of gifts, and made a delicious brunch of eggs, British bacon, and tomatoes. Meanwhile, the hostel staff were preparing their shared Christmas meal of boiled ham with rosemary, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and savory scones. Everyone in the hostel kitchen and dining room watched everyone else in a kind of casual way, interested in what an itinerant Christmas looked like for others.

In the afternoon, we set out on a brisk walk to hear the gorgeous Festal Evensong service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.


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Christmas dinner! I tried mushy peas (which I’ve been wanting to do for a long time)–verdict? Good–kind of like fresh-tasting split-pea soup.

Christmas trip 2014, part 2

When you are young, you don’t know what your future holds — you don’t know what applies to you. So when you travel or read or encounter anything new, you soak it up — not through any special effort, but because you’re potentially going to use it all.

Teaching is so rewarding because it puts me right back in that open mindset of potentially using anything and everything I encounter — the tiniest things become brighter and more interesting; they become metaphors and examples of larger truths about humanity.

Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock

In Trafalgar Square, there are four plinths, or stands for statues to perch on. The first three were occupied early on, by George IV, General Havelock, and General Napier. The fourth remained empty (due to a shortage of funds) but now has become a stage of sorts for contemporary works of art to have their time in the spotlight, and just now it’s this broadly humorous, overtly feminist, bright blue cockerel. Shakespeare would have loved the pun.

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Buckingham Palace

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, on the south side of the Thames, was a treat to visit. This is their off-season since the theatre is open-air, but they do year-round tours.




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After nightfall, we saw the British Museum’s antiquities, including the Rosetta Stone!

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British fish and chips! S: “I prefer New Zealand’s.”

Kayaking Eagle Harbor and Crabs for Dinner

Today we spent several hours getting un coup de soleil (sunburn = a blow from the sun; isn’t that charming?) paddling tandem kayaks around the harbor. We saw a lot of birds, minnows, and crabs and the kids taught Tasha how to swim by letting her doggy paddle instincts take over several feet from shore.

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The seven of us pushed off from the dock at Back of Beyond.
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This afternoon, B’s colleague L brought us some fresh-caught-and-cooked crab–the season just opened on July 4th and already they have too much to eat. B washed off a wrench and cracked the shells and it made for a great summer dinner!

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Japanese Okurimono

Gifts. Strong sunshine in early afternoon. Huge resounding drums. The long tail of holiday gift-giving. Unexpected gestures of thoughtfulness and kindness.

The annual Mochi Tsuki Festival on Bainbridge was a couple of Sundays back, hosted at Islandwood, and graced by sunshine all afternoon.



The sweet glutinous rice being steamed. While the first stage of the mochi is completed outdoors, the mochi balls are rolled inside the great hall. We watched the mochi-making while waiting our turn for the taiko concert. The drummers from Seattle Kokon Taiko were the main reason I went, as in years past. They are riveting.

Over the winter break, one of my students went to Tokyo and brought a gift back for me–senbei! The packaging was so pretty, we hesitated to ruin it.


Here we have a lot going on: it’s after 7pm, with dinner underway, homework, my work, a super-duper slouch, and the fun of seeing which little traditional rice crackers each package contains.