Spring blues

S’s been gone for three days on a sailing regatta with the BHS team. We’re missing her, including Tasha, who’s never quite herself when S’s gone.

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This was the regatta that the BHS sailing team hosted last month here in Eagle Harbor. It was a rare bright day, so I watched for a while from Pritchard Park.

It’s been a cold, rainy spring, the wettest on record. It’s been a challenging time for many reasons, full of wakefulness in the wee hours of the morning. Latest book finished this way: Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot.

G and P are off to Boston for awhile; we went to a surprise party for them on the 7:05 crossing this morning. When the boat’s almost empty, ferry parties are perfect in some ways–no one has to host, and there’s a clearly-defined end when external forces prompt you to say goodbye to the departing ones.

 

November Happenings

Early in the month, we took the girls to see Portuguese Fado singer Mariza. This is the second time B, K, and I have seen her perform here in Seattle, and we found that Mariza’s style and substance has evolved.

This interview  partially explains her evolution to include quieter, intensely emotional songs. I was strongly reminded of Jacques Brel, whose “songs were written not to be sung but to be performed. He delivered them with such pained and profound emotion that he, famously, ended each concert dripping with sweat.” Fado expresses disquiet, longing, loss, and as sung by Mariza, it was a prescient expression of many of us in late November.

20161112_193953K won her category at the Puget Sound chapter Fall competition of NATS! We are so proud of her.

2016-11-17-19-00-2013 years old! A. recently read or heard about the concoction called Ambrosia Salad, and asked for that instead of birthday cake. 🙂

2016-11-20-13-16-15Opening gifts at his party here.

2016-11-24-09-35-01This year’s Turkey Trot was sloshy, muddy, rainy, and cold but our times were better than last year! S continues to be an encouraging and inspiring personal trainer–I’m so grateful for her positive attitude.

2016-11-24-14-02-45Peaceful, quiet, calm Thanksgiving afternoon with the nuclear family, including Tasha.

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Everyone (but Tasha dog) soaking up the beauty at the Bloedel Reserve.

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2016-11-25-12-47-32Gratitude when I wake, gratitude as I eat, gratitude as I walk, read, talk, write, ruminate, run, sleep. This is the way.

 

 

Lull

We’ve weathered one storm system without too much damage, and now this is the lull before the big storm. Alexander McCall Smith graciously kept his speaking engagement here at the BHS commons this wet and windy afternoon, and it was entirely delightful!

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(Fun connection to my life: He is the grandson of the doctor who founded Hokianga Hospital in Rawene, NZ, G.M. Smith.) His gentle wit, the way he giggles at his own tales, the string of anecdotes from around the world–I could listen to him for a couple of hours, even though in principle I agree with his view that no one should go on about anything for longer than 50 minutes.

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He spoke about his writing process: Wake at 4 a.m. and write for two or three hours, turning out an average of 1,000 words per hour. This is very unusual for a writer, and even more unusual because he very rarely revises. For him, the stories just come out the way  they are meant to be; he taps into a subconscious part of his brain that is constantly examining and questioning the world.

He said he doesn’t hear the characters’ voices, but rather hears rhythms and fits their words to the rhythms.

I’ve a penchant for noir, and McCall Smith doesn’t really write noir. His mysteries are gentle, almost employing the genre as a pretext to examine the humanity and warmth that we are capable of, rather than the dark complexity of, say, Mankell’s world. That being said,  I’m a big fan of McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, set in Botswana, and the Isabel Dalhousie Mystery series, set in Edinburgh. Today he told some stories from his 44 Scotland Street series, and I’m intrigued–they’re on my to-read list.

The New York Times reviewed his short story collection recently–I love the way that review ends: “These stories trust in the liberal, humane values that are at the heart of all McCall Smith’s fiction. Can one have too much of that hopefulness? I doubt it.”

McCall Smith’s themes are above all, compassionate.  His books are soothing, even lulling. Though comparatively sweet and therefore seemingly less important than fiction that exposes a grim and splintery world, I would argue that right now, we’ve all had enough of that.

A ‘lull’ can connote a false sense of security, but it can also mean a welcome relief from a storm. Thank you, Alexander McCall Smith.

 

 

Cross-country Skiing in the Methow Valley

2016-02-15 10.43.32The Methow River just outside of Winthrop. Methow [met-how] is an Okanogan word meaning “sunflower seeds”.

2016-02-15 11.32.09The Methow winter trails include 120 miles of groomed nordic trails for classic and skate skiers.

2016-02-15 10.10.48K’s wearing the ski coat my dad bought me when we moved to Salt Lake City during the winter of my junior year of high school.

2016-02-15 10.19.56This was the second day of skiing–the kids all did very well, though we were all sore. I love K’s face here as she keeps her balance. 🙂

102_9733Such a muted winter landscape outside of Twisp. We saw nine bald eagles!

102_9721Our favorite restaurant in North Central Washington!

102_9737Sunshine on our drive back. We saw blackened forest, orchards, and scrubland recovering from the devastating Okanogan Complex fire this last summer; with a covering of snow, the ruination wasn’t always obvious. It brought to mind Richard Wilbur’s “First Snow in Alsace”: As always, winter shines the most.

 

 

Sea stars, fog, Olympia

C and S finding sea stars at superlow tide at Point White Pier
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On the grounds of the Washington State Capitol in Olympia
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K and C inside the Capitol
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C and S learning about the massive chandelier, the largest ever made by L.C. Tiffany.
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A’s listening face in the Capitol–he was captivated by the guide’s presentation.
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Several blocks from the Capitol itself is an old-fashioned ice cream and soda shop with that particular mouth-watering waffle-cone aroma and an opportunity to explain to C what “soft-serve” means.
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One day, we boarded the ferry for Seattle around noon and found ourselves enveloped by fog. The kids told C how it was like Hokianga fog, dense and low and visible from the outside as something with a definite border, a cloud lying down for a nap near the water.
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Good Questions

From throughout 5th period today:

1. (Looking at the warm-up question, which is: What is your definition of prejudice? Give an example.)
“Wait. I don’t understand. What if we really don’t know what prejudice is?”

2. “So is it prejudiced if I look at someone who’s really fit and assume that they are a fast runner?”

3. “What if I see a black person and I remember statistics that say black people commit more crimes? Am I being prejudiced?”

4. “Can we take the implicit association test right now? Oh, pleeeaase, Ms. C?”

5. “Wait. Scout’s not Black?”

6. “Ms. C? I just wanted to say that Nelson Mandela just died. Can we have a moment of silence?”

7. “Can we open the windows to try to feel the snow?”

A Room With a View

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This is the view out of my bedroom window right now. There’s strange storm light making the water look golden.

Yesterday, I showed the house to the next tenants and it amused me to hear A. sharing his view of the house’s characteristics: the living room is suitable for taking care of babies and toddlers, you can run a bath in the kids’ shower, you can go outside on the covered deck and mostly not get wet in a rainstorm.

And sometimes, you can see the end of rainbows as they disappear into the Hokianga.

Chance encounters in a small land

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New Zealand is a small country, slender enough that right now the whole country is being pummeled by a single storm system, the rain slicing out of the swollen sky and trees lurching around dangerously. It’s a bit of a dog’s dinner out there, as the RadioNZ morning reporter called it. B’s dad and step-mom got two weeks of glorious weather and just as they flew back to the states, they left us to the grey that keeps the grass green.

Traveling during the past couple of weeks, we’ve been running into folks we know all over the north island. First, on a quick stop for groceries in Kaitaia, we saw the fellow who presses and sells Far North NZ Olive Oil. B first met him at Town and Country on Bainbridge, and he remembered us as the GP and family who were moving to the Far North of New Zealand. It was fun to exchange greetings, and we’ll see him again on B.I. when he comes to sell more oil, no doubt.

Second, while we were walking on the pathways in the grand Waipoua Forest we said hi to a nurse who works with B who was out visiting the giant kauris as well. Third, when we stopped for lunch at the Blah Blah Blah Cafe in Dargaville (great food, funny name) we found a doc B knows from Whangarei and his wife enjoying lunch there as well. Fourth, we saw a woman walking down the street in Rotorua who had been on the dolphin boat with us in the Bay of Islands. What are the chances?! Pretty good, I guess. It’s a country of 4 million, not counting visitors, but those visitors tend to be moving around like ants on a melon, on the move to the next sweet spot.

Also on a street in Rotorua, I saw the French man I’d talked with as we walked up from the Waitomo Caves. The rest of my family had gone up ahead but I stayed behind to take his picture at the cave opening. He’d been driving for 7 hours straight and had hoped he was making a good decision to take the glowworm tour. I smiled at that because the experience was gorgeous. Floating in a boat down a dark river that winds through chamber after chamber with blue glowworm constellations up above, no one talking, chilly air and thick silence punctuated by occasional musical drips of water.

Exiting the cave was like coming out of a dark theatre after a riveting, absorbing movie. At first you don’t want to talk, and then you love finding people who experienced it as you did. So when I glimpsed him again it was strangely like recognizing a friend.

The sixth coincidental encounter came as we took the bus to a cultural show and dinner on our last night with D. and K. B. sat next to a young woman we had met the day before at the WaiOra Spa. Small country, so many wonderful people in it.