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.


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



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.



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!

Summer 2015: Reading and Running

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Sophie sailing

S has been my personal trainer these last couple of weeks since school let out. Usually that means 15-20 minute runs where she’s convincing me that I can keep going, and sometimes it means cycling with me to take A to his twilight camp on the east side of the island. Occasionally it means coaching me on my push-up form and cheering me on as I hula hoop longer than a couple of minutes. The athlete of the family, she runs cross country in the summer and fall and sails in the spring. She’s picked up ways to encourage others from her fantastic coaches; as I try to recover fitness I left behind for a spring of full-time teaching, S is honest, funny, and endlessly supportive. The first snapshot is from the 4th of July one-mile fun run, which S ran with me (and B). The second is from her first regatta this spring, held in our own Eagle Harbor. My student J is sailing with her; he skippered the BHS team in the Nationals this year.

Something else I’m able to do in the summer is more reading for pleasure and curiosity. Here’s one example:
Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach.

I was listening to this on audiobook at the beach, lying quietly on my towel in dappled shade, when I involuntarily and suddenly said, “Yuck! Ugh!” Then I sat up and looked around, hoping that if anyone were within earshot, they would assume it was a bug or something. No one was close by, which was good, because despite halfway wanting to retch, I also wanted to keep listening and take my chances with more outbursts.

Having long ago decided to be an organ donor, this book inspired me to plan to donate my body to a medical school (the UW’s willed body program is here).

B took me down to the gross anatomy lab once at his medical school, where there were a few other students at work in the evening. My memory of the experience is primarily olfactory; formaldehyde and other volatile compounds saturated my hair during the few minutes I was there. However, I also remember how otherworldly the atmosphere was–quiet, cool, respectful, with my newcomer’s sense of amazement that these people had lived full lives unknown to me.

So hey–If I can figure out a way to keep S as my personal trainer for another 60 years or so, I’ll be a very fit donation for the medical students to learn from!

Running uphill

Running seems to be an especially popular form of fitness in New Zealand; there are 5Ks and 10Ks on up going on all the time, everywhere. In fact, our own Hokianga Hospital Half-Marathon is in 5 weeks. For two days, I labored under the impression that I could push my fitness level forward enough to not die on a 13 mile run, and then I came face to face with the fact that after 45 minutes of running, I was dragging one foot in front of the other, lungs seared, at my limit. There’s no getting around it: I’ve been a lackadaisical runner. So I won’t be running it, but the half-marathon has made me think more about running and being prepared to run something, maybe a 5K.

This is my old running path on B.I. for comparison.

Here’s my running path as of this morning, a bright glorious open morning.


This is the first part, the long gravel driveway that I sprint up.



Once I’m on the road, there are woods and driveways to each side.


The top of the road ends in a high cul-de-sac and this is the view out to the harbor. Wow, this is a beautiful place. Feeling that renewed sense of gratitude and wonder is my primary goal every time I lace up my shoes and head out for a run; pushing forward in fitness is a nice side-effect.

Running, light, and 12 years old

Yesterday at lunch in Waimamaku, one of B’s colleagues said she fell in love with New Zealand on a visit thirty years ago. Five days in, she’d decided to move her life from South Africa to the Hokianga. Several things drew her here: the warmth of the people, the simplicity of life that is possible here, and the gorgeous quality of light that bathes everything. Yes.

In between storms, the sun breaks through the clouds with a brilliance and vigor that reminds me of being on a very high mountain. Even though we’re at sea level, in the sunshine I feel like I’m on a sunwashed peak.

Yesterday I drove through several towns in the Hokianga, attending a cross-country meet for S. and A. and their school district in Waima, and then driving down to meet B and his colleagues for lunch. Here’s a look:

Waima school, where the kids raced (most of them barefoot) through mud, gravel, pavement, and grass. Their teachers told them to think of 12-year-old Usain Bolt running in his small Jamaican town. Also, do their best and then get hot soup at the end.

S’s classmate T. knew how to pace himself over the 3k run: he was one of the slowest to start but was the first 12-year-old back at the finish line! And the winner for the 12-year-old girls was…

Miss S! I snapped this picture just as she finished running–I was a little worried she’d fall over, but no—she’s one tough cookie, running with the 12-year-olds one day before her 12th birthday. She gets to go on to the regional cross country meet next, but for today, happy birthday to my baby girl!

Same difference

I’ll share The School of Life’s thought for today:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” –Marcel Proust

I think that’s a contrary cousin to the thought that wherever you go, there you are.

In that vein, here are some scenes from my running path here on Bainbridge. (I call it running, but it’s a series of sprints and walking that I do best with.)

I’m curious to find my personal running path in NZ and compare pictures. It’ll be the same old me lacing up my same old shoes. Or not?

18 hours and Alain de Botton

This is the essayist I saw tonight. In person, he’s witty, polished, and has great presence. I was so excited to see him on the schedule for Seattle Arts and Lectures, and he didn’t disappoint. His 50-minute talk went by like 5. I would seriously listen to his accent and ideas for 5 hours.

But before that happened, this happened:

6:30am Wake up
7:30am Take A to school
8:30am Teach at the intermediate school (easy day, didn’t embarrass S too much)
3:30pm Pick up A
4:00pm Take kids to S’s guitar recital (fun times, she did great)
5:30pm Go home, finish making dinner, pack dinner for B and me
6:00pm Leave for the 6:30 ferry
7:30pm Attend Alain de Botton’s lecture at UW
10:05pm Get the ferry back home
10:40pm Run home alone along dark pathways, get scared silly and arrive home breathless, sweaty and with seared lungs.
11:30pm Cuddle up in bed and let my mind churn and churn and churn:

So many frogs at night
It feels like everything’s been done before
Maybe some mint tea would be nice
Up too late again
But look, we’re one of the first generations to navigate non-religious life
Smartphone flashlights are not bright enough
There are definitely gaps in the secular world

The path along the harbor is beautiful and weirdly frightening at night
There’s so much that we mean to do, but we just don’t get around to it
Things jump and quiver in the dark
That’s what religions do well; they infuse life with ritual
Running must kill hunger, motion being its own food
Actually it was all the chocolate

Food, drink, music, art, these are all important aspects of religion
It’s late and getting later
The kids are all asleep now
All the major faiths structure time
An outer structure for an inner phenomenon