Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's Christmas Time in the City!

Christmas weather is here, and we love it even when we fuss about being chilled in the night air. We have already had several dustings of snow, one which left a nice covering on the ground. I love having a white landscape but clear streets - a perfect combination! Today there were 2 snowfalls, but I missed them both because I was still dreaming in my bed. Hubby and I were up late into the night baking cookies for his staff. Later we filled Mason Jars with the Russian tea mix we had just made. Russian tea, a nice infusion of warmth on these wet, winter nights. We enjoyed our efforts and loved the fragrance permeating the house, but daylight came far too soon for his sleepy body to crawl into a morning of work. I simply turned over with my quilt!

Seattle's streets are busy during the Christmas season. It is one of the few larger American cities which has a very busy, active downtown shopping area, always filled with fast paced walkers and those who like to leisurely stroll as they browse the storefronts. It reminds me of a small Manhattan in that way. Carolers gather on street corners here and there during the season. Street musicians and street dancers entertain those passing by. The Christmas carousel turns in circles while lines gather for the next ride. We rode it in the early years before we married. Macy's star shines brightly in the skyline and guides the traffic to the heart of the shopping district. I like to roll the window down and listen to the voices as we drive past groups of people or someone singing to a crowd. Each street corner has a different kind of free entertainment. It is hard to decide where to go first. There is excitement and electricity in the air, a common joy about the season. Each time we visit the city at Christmas I remember the first Christmas we spent together in Seattle. How magical it all felt. I was surprised with new earrings before we climbed onto the carousel. Love was in the breezy air of Puget Sound that night. It still is.

We drive through the city and take in all the sites each Christmas season, drive through the University district and eat dinner on Lake Union. There are colorful trees in several of the waterside business areas where delicious seafood restaurants draw tired shoppers for rest and revitalization. We join them for alder-grilled salmon and veggies, a treat we never tire of giving ourselves. If we are lucky we will catch sight of ships and smaller boats decorated in colorful lights returning to Lake Union from their journey in the Parade of Christmas ships. These sail each night during December along Lake Washington to several eastside ports where people greet them at shoreline bonfires with free cups of Starbucks coffee. This year we are sailing in the parade; it is our first time. Choirs on the decks sing carols to those on the ships and to those who are there to greet the ships at port. We will have dinner on board during our 3.5 hour sail.

Before our Seattle night is done we will drive to Pike Place Market long closed but still glittering with colored lights above. The market rises on a hill ,
above Puget Sound and has become one of the most favored and celebrated landmarks in Seattle. I love to walk through the market and smell the breads and roasting nuts, see the beautiful colors of fruits and vegetables from all over the world, watch the vendors put on a show. There are the famous "fish men" who throw salmon and halibut like basketballs to each other before packaging them and giving them to their buyers. Such funny showmen they are!

When we return home, we sit a while by our tree, admiring its beauty. We remember aloud where many of the ornaments were purchased as we put them on the tree. A year's absence has us eager to see them again. We enjoy our quiet winter nights by these shimmering lights in the warmth of our home. With its ornaments from our travels and from other special moments, this tree tells a story of our life together. It is a good life, and we are grateful.

May love shine its soft light on us all and bring peace to this troubled world.
I wish you all a happy holiday season.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What a Day for A Daydream...

We drove into the Cascades, traveling along a winding road beside the Skykomish River. Suddenly the yellows and pinks joined chartreuse and mixed with golds and reds. We sighed at the stunning sights before us. Nature is so generous in her gifts!

I have never seen such vivid shades of deep pink among autumn leaves. I love the contrast of the pinks and reds with the lighter greens in this small stand of shrubs and trees.

A mountain stream splashed across the rocks, but the foliage surrounding the creek bed caught our eyes and held them tightly.

Along the path we chose to walk we found more dazzling colors mixed among the evergreens. There has not been a more beautiful fall in the Pacific Northwest since we moved here.

I say that Autumn is my favorite season. But, I know my fickle self. As soon as spring arrives and shows me her colorful bounty, I will be seduced.
Then I will be singing her praises!

A Blade of Grass

Said a blade of grass to an autumn leaf, "You make such a noise falling! You scatter all my winter dreams."

Said the leaf indignant, "Low-born and low-dwelling! Songless, peevish thing! You live not in the upper air and you cannot tell the sound of singing."

Then the autumn leaf lay down upon the earth and slept. And when spring came she waked again -- and she was a blade of grass.

And when it was autumn and her winter sleep was upon her, and above her through all the air the leaves were falling, she muttered to herself, "O these autumn leaves! They make such a noise! They scatter all my winter dreams."

Kahil Gibran

Chapter 29, The Madman

All photography above is courtesy of our private collection and cannot be reproduced or used in any way without our explicit and written consent.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hello Again!

The Sun Sets On The Sierra Nevada

I am heartbroken to see the news of the California fires, to know that people must leave their homes and sometimes even abandon their animals to flee to safety. Fleeing, a word charged with so much emotion. I can only imagine but never fully understand the dynamics of this. I am always attached to my home, not especially to the physical structure but to the feeling of safety I have when I am in it. I don't adjust well to moving; it always takes me several months to begin to feel rooted, even minimally, in a new place. I shudder at the horror these people face, the leaving, the loss of everything but perhaps a few items in a box and a few changes of clothing. I am impressed by those who put forth a positive attitude, by those who are just glad to be alive and do not worry about the rest. They see the devastation around them, have nowhere to go and no concrete plan for long-term resolution. They stand breathing in the smoky fumes which hover over much of the land and yet they say their thanks for being whole and remaining together as a family. Brave, strong, positive people. We want to help, but don't know where to even begin.

We have memories of time along the southern and central coasts of California, from San Simeon to Santa Monica, and points further south. I recall the open land a bit north of Malibu, hills high above the ocean with sprawling estates, and how I wondered what celebrity lived here or there. We saw magnificent sunsets along the Pacific as we drove along that area of the Pacific Coastal Highway, heading south to Santa Monica one week and north toward Carmel another. I think back on those trips and feel sick inside, knowing many of the places I found beautiful are now charred and left in ruins.

We returned last month from a long needed vacation along the California coast. Natural beauty thrilled us at every turn in the road. Kite-surfers just north of Santa Cruz filled the skies with bright colors and billowing sails which grabbed our attention as we drove along that fabulous Pacific Coast Highway toward Big Sur. We have driven it many times now. It never fails to amaze us in its extraordinary beauty with huge, rocky boulders and headlands jutting far into the surf. All make fine resting stops for hungry gulls and herons, for pelicans waiting for the perfect dinner meal. Through my binoculars I watched them fish while my husband took photographs of the seascapes coloring the canvas before us. Occasionally he stopped to gather stones rubbed smooth from years of rolling in the sandy ocean, stones we would take home as gifts to our garden, reminders of these lazy coastal days when joy surrounded us and thoughts of schedules slept soundly in Seattle.

We drove along the Bay searching out locations for photo ops, places where we could shoot pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge when the fog lifted. Fog. My husband is fascinated watching it roll into and out of the Bay. We were unable to get many sharp photos during a previous visit because the fog blanketed the Bay for a week. We hoped for better luck this visit. He ran along the edge of Golden Gate Park, later chasing the view along Lincoln Blvd where we were delighted to find a remarkable view that brought the Golden Gate Bridge up close and personal.

We drove to the Marina and found San Francisco Bay hidden under a layer of fog. We sat for a while on a bench watching sailboats move in and out of the low hanging clouds while we fed seagulls. Later we admired some of the boats moored nearby. We wanted to find "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" and drove toward Coit Tower, hoping a miracle would bring these brightly colored conures into sight. How exciting when we first found Judy Irving's film about Mark Bittner's life with these birds, a film we gave away as Christmas gifts last season. Judy is an award winning film-maker. Mark's story is arresting, especially for bird lovers like us. Judy and Mark will be in Seattle in November. We can hardly wait to meet them.

Those of you who know us or who have read this blog know how much we enjoy our time with the sea, that we sleep with our doors open to the sights and sounds of the surf, that we eat our breakfasts listening to the waves slap against the shore, see them break against the crags. We are calmed by the sounds and smells of the ocean and always find our nights and mornings in its company the most joyous parts of our trips. This one was especially peaceful to us. We slept with the sea for 2 weeks, awaking to seascapes like this one outside our door. Seabirds flocked to our balcony each morning ready for the toast or crackers we offered. Fog sometimes covers the headland and the sea in this place where we stay, but by late morning the fog burns away and blue skies are filled with seagulls and sunshine. When we arrive home we are lonely for the sea, seasick in fact, wanting our own retreat by the great Pacific. It is always hard to leave this place we find so comforting, where our sleep is so deeply restful.

During a visit to the Pt Reyes peninsula we saw Tule elk grazing on hills rising high above the Pacific near McClures Beach. Deer share meadows and pastures with cattle in nearby fields just beyond this lovely vista of Tomales Bay. We found rabbits scampering across the narrow, winding roads, and my husband saw his first owl sitting on a fencepost at sunset. Pt Reyes juts out into the Pacific Ocean 10 miles further than any other point on this coast. It is considered the windiest and foggiest area on the west coast. The San Andreas fault runs through this beautiful area bisecting it from the California mainland. There are multiple ecosystems with different plant and animal life residing within them across the peninsula's sandy coastline, estuaries, grassy hills, dry brushy cliffs, rocky seastacks, and tidepools. Discovery awaits us each time we visit, and we are always eager to return.

We left the Bay area and headed north along the coastline across Pt Reyes and beyond, heading to Mendocino, California. A mandatory stop was Glass Beach, a place which was once a dumping ground for the area. Now the glass returns to shore, tumbled smooth by years in the sea and dotting the shore in blue, green, brown, orange, and red. Buckets are the implements brought to this beach. Some even come with wagons. We carried a canvas bag and 2 plastic bags for liners. We brought home a full container of sand and glass which we were eager to separate. Greens and reds are my favorite pieces. Eventually we will display it in the garden or in the house.

In Mendocino we visited the Art Center where an old roommate was once a potter. I saw the wheels she used to throw her pieces, lingered there thinking how happy she was in this place. I saw the trail which leads to the ocean, a trail she walked every day no matter what the weather. We visited the gallery, saw beautiful art for sale, bought Chinese shard and sterling silver earrings for my sister, strolled through the gardens enjoying the fun garden art and benches made from rusty metals and wooden seats. We saw John Fisher, an artist who had just returned from Italy, carving a huge piece of stone he had named "The 3 Stages of Woman." I had never seen a piece of stone being carved, had never contemplated what the blank stone looked like before creation. Later I learned John had been in Mendocino when my friend was there some 20 years ago. We found a fabulous seafood restaurant on the Wharf in Ft. Bragg where I had my first sole paupiettes, thin pieces of sole wrapped around a crab mousse filling. There we met a woman whose husband is a abalone diver. It is against the law to sell abalone shells so she gave me 2 large ones as a gift. We were excited to add them to our box of California goodies from the trip.

We have missed our 2 week holiday when nothing mattered but our hearts' desires and clocks were unimportant. Appreciating nature was the business of the moment. A trip to Yosemite, watching the African penguins being fed at the aquarium, seeing hang-gliders sail over the Bay off the San Mateo Bridge, exploring Stanford University, and playing at UC Berkeley were all adventures we enjoyed. Descriptions of exotic food from all over the world filled the menus in many Bay area restuarants. Our favorite one was Tangerine in the Castro district. Delicious appetizers (especially the stuffed portabello mushrooms, spicy corn fritters, and yam cakes) accompanied exquisite entrees in Pacific Rim cuisine and left us groaning in hedonisitc pleasure which tickled our waiter. I did some Pacific NW PR and pleaded for consideration for a Tangerine in Seattle! Until then I will daydream.

All photography is courtesy of our private collection and cannot be used without our explicit and written permission.