Wednesday, January 20, 2010

And Life Is Good

Jackie in Georgia

The four months of living since I last posted here contained many shifts along a sometime bumpy road, keeping us periodically a little off center. It has been a busy time in our lives. In September we celebrated our first nephew's birth. His family lives in a bedroom community a few miles north of Zurich, Switzerland and part time in Aberdeen, Scotland. The first young male in our family on either side, he is journeying at 4 months old through another continent, meeting family who are thrilled to welcome him to this world. We had fun shipping gifts across the sea and imagining his tiny arms and legs sliding into his fuzzy, warm clothes.

After we harvested apples from our tree in fall, we chose a new Brooks plum to replace an injured and dying Japanese Maple in our front rock garden. Told we could pick it up in November to insure a safer transplant in dormancy, we ultimately made 2 trips south of Seattle, enjoying the long drives and lovely orchards while we viewed Mt Rainier rising in the distance. Garden chores called loudly as we raced against the clock to get things done before winter arrived with her running faucet of cold, dripping rain. New bulbs and a shrub were planted, and a few transplants were done before the temperatures dropped. We are eager to see the blooms of our new mountain laurel in late spring and have great expectations for a full blooming Sappho rhododendron, now living in more garden space. We had to keep it severely pruned in its previously limited garden bed, and this significantly restricted its blooming.

Traveling along scenic Highway 2 beside the Skykomish River, past Stevens Pass where skiers busy themselves all winter and through part of the Cascades, we made our way to Leavenworth, Washington in late October. We enjoy shopping in open air markets where we buy pumpkins, fruit, and hand made soaps. Leavenworth's quaint shops and festivals greet visitors any time of year and add pleasure to our annual adventure of autumn leaf peeping. We always look forward to dinner with a friend we don't see often enough and had a delicious meal together at Viscontis.

Our November trip to Georgia started off as a reunion with friends from Miami who flew in to meet us for a few days before we traveled on to spend time with family. Along the way we saw my childhood friend and her husband, sharing stories, love, and deep laughter in the way only those who share long history can. Good food is always part of these visits, and there is a comfortable lingering at the table where chatting takes place over long-ago emptied plates, an activity I have come to believe may be more southern than not. Jackie, their daughter-dog, entertained us as she played soccer with her basketball and made us think a lot about adding a puppy to our own springtime home.

Family visits, at least for us, are splashed with emotional fire power which can shatter the continuum from A to Z. Considering my father's mental health we thought ourselves lucky that our holiday celebration went as well as it did. My father managed to get through 5 days with only one major flare-up, and my husband and I were happy to have missed his temper tantrum. Sadly, my sister was not as fortunate, but things calmed down rather quickly. Seeing my sister is always one of the biggest treats of our trips, and I leave Georgia with tear-tracked cheeks knowing it will be a long time before we meet again. En route to the airport for our flight back to Washington we joined 5 friends we had not seen in years for lunch south of Atlanta. A homecoming of good friends eager to see each other quickly became a mix of joy and sadness as we learned one had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She received bountiful love and words of support, assurance that she would conquer this serious challenge, but a buzz of fear traveled around the table like an electrical shock wave.

Within 2 days of returning home I fell sick with an upper respiratory virus, an ailment I frequently get following November air travel. We'd both had our swine flu vaccines and used Purell so often I was surprised our hands were not chapped all in hopes of avoiding a major viral infection, but it was not meant to be. Within 10 days of my symptoms, hubby had his own so we had to scratch all plans for holiday travel, meals, celebrations, and entertaining, opting instead for kleenex, Mucinex, antibiotics, neti pots, cough drops, and naps in our recliners. Not even a tiny bit of fun!

Each of us ran a 3 week course of illness, but hubby was able to work from home much of the time, a plan chosen to avoid infecting anyone else. He decided to cancel his vacation leave so he could take a nice break later. Our only holiday activity was a Christmas breakfast buffet at a nearby hotel and an outing to "It's Complicated" which was so hysterically funny that the entire theater was laughing loud enough for viewers to miss some spoken lines. Unfortunately, hubby's laughter resulted in his coughing so he had to zip it up and smile while sucking on cough drops and drinking water. Afterwards we were too tired to even consider a holiday meal so canceled our reservations at a glitzy Seattle hotel and restaurant and went home to take a nap. No tree, no lights, no wreaths, no decorations, nothing Christmassy at our home but red noses.

Shortly before Christmas my father decided to create one of his major trauma-dramas across the miles, coast to coast, something which caused both my sister and me much consternation and pain. This dance insured we would choose to have no contact with him during Christmas and for weeks beyond. We are weary of his disrespect, mental health issues or not. He has given us little rest since our mother died in February, 2009, and we need peaceful moments away from the constant courting of chaos.

January, free of paternal manipulation and verbal abuse, has been a much improved month for us all. The rainy weather kept us confined a bit and delayed weekend road trips, but we are feeling healthier and happier and grateful. Recent sunshine reminds us why we love the Pacific NW and teases us into thoughts of spring with daydreams of colorful explosions across our landscape. A new year is here, and we will soon be gardening and admiring the splendor before us, traveling along the rocky Pacific coast, cutting roses for vases, exploring Canada's coastline, whistling to our Steller's Jay, watching Orcas roll playfully in the Sound, waiting for a sighting of a black bear, and choosing where we will vacation in late summer. Now we eagerly await the first snowfall of 2010. None is forecast; it will be a grand surprise. And, life here in the Pacific NW is good.

Seattle Skyline Across Puget Sound

Pacific NW and personal photographs are from our private collection,
and may not be copied or used in any manner without explicit and written permission.