Ashore

Islands can bring out the hermit in people, as it seems–and conversely, the social butterfly. Some who go to islands voluntarily either do so out of the desire to cut themselves off, at least partly, from social pressures and demands or come to embrace the opportunity that appears when they’ve become islanders. But involuntary islanders, the marooned (whether by shipwreck or by job transfer), can often feel contact-deprived. Suddenly people who had no particular desire for company on a regular basis feel socially abandoned and hungry; who knew?

Me, I have never lived on an island. Certainly never been set adrift and stuck on one against my will. And I happen to have pretty serious hermitage skills when I want to haven them: I’m a master at finding the quietest, remotest, emptiest corner of any place when I sincerely desire it. So I don’t generally have to wrestle through either of those dire, trying situations mentioned above. And also, I don’t really expect to run into such a situation any time soon.

That means I rather like my visits to islands, which visits are thus far entirely intentional (unless you count wrong turns onto bridges leading to them), and I like aloneness enough to seek it. Even on an island, if need be. Truthfully, though, I’m quite happy to visit islands any time I can, for holidaying purposes. Whidbey Island, Molokai, Ireland, Vancouver Island, Puerto Rico . . . I will be glad to return to these and visit many another any time I might have the chance. Let me wander inland and explore the beauties beyond the islands’ perimeters. Perch me on a rock by the shore and I will be happy, no, delighted to spend my time in good company or solitude, either one.photo

The Wearin’ o’ the Green

There is, of course, one overriding, excellent reason that Ireland should celebrate the remembrance of her patron saint with a vivid display of everything-green. Ireland is the Emerald Isle. I’m not Irish, but I suppose I can pretend to a certain level of affinity on the strength of two excellent reasons of my own, the first being that my Viking ancestors (if any of my Norse forebears were actually so intrepid and aggressive) had a pretty good chance of crossing paths somewhere along the line with their counterparts in the British Isles, Norwegians having gone on various exploratory and marauding forays in that direction. My patronymic (Wold), after all, sounds suspiciously more Anglo than Nordic to me, no matter how many in Norway do share the name.

The second and far kindlier tie I feel to Ireland is because I was born in the Emerald City (Seattle’s nickname) in the Evergreen State (Washington’s), surrounded by every known flavor of green and a few yet undiscovered, and I think it was anything but coincidental that on my one visit to Ireland thus far I felt remarkably at home even in the middle of the winter, when the chill and snow still couldn’t entirely subdue the exquisite greenness of the land. It may not have hurt this sense of connection that some of the locals on that trip asked me what part of Ireland I came from, given that my accent apparently wasn’t heard by them as being wildly different from some in the UK. In any event, as green and growing things resonate so deeply in my heart and soul, I can’t help but celebrate the beauty of Green while millions are wearing, spending, planting and drinking it, and otherwise rejoicing in the character seen as protector of the great green land of Eire on this most Irish of days.photoHere in this Emerald Land

Because there is no sapling in the earth

But that springs out when water wakes its seed

And sunlight calls it up in urgent need,

I think the rain and sun of equal worth–

Yet all the riches of a blooming world

No greater shine than that most humble weed

Whose leaf invites the passing deer to feed

Because its banners, sweetly green, unfurled–

No flower can surpass, exotic bloom

Outdo green’s living beauty or exceed

Its life-affirming sweetness when we heed

The subtler potency of its perfume–

And so I bow my head, ecstatic–sing

The joys of every green and living thing.photoMuch as I adore sunshine, I am willing, too, to be showered with the rain, for it slakes the thirsty earth and brings forth all of its green glories.

Ten Thousand Kinds of Green

 

photoIt takes very little time upon returning to the Pacific Northwest for me to be reminded of one of its central characteristics that became so imprinted on my heart and mindset through my many years of dwelling there as to be interchangeable with my entire concept of wholeness and well-being: the color green. The millions of colors that can be called Green, to be more precise. Having been born in the Emerald City of the Evergreen State, I can confirm that they have earned their titles both the hard way (rain–sometimes seemingly endless–rain–oh, and snowpack and glacier runoff in the spring) and entirely honestly. The city and the state are genuinely, deeply, exquisitely green.photoOther places may be green with envy. Yes, there are certainly other spectacularly green places on earth, some of which I have visited, among them to wit: Ireland, Allgäu, and the jungle that straddles the Panamanian border with Costa Rica (a tropical cloud forest) all rife with verdure and also with all of those forms of watery nourishment that bring about such burgeoning beauties in their respectively green-glorious regions. Each green place is unique in the character and flavor of its glowing, growing vegetation, and each gains its place in my heart as much through its variations of verdancy as by any other means.photoWhat it all comes down to is that these things grow on me as much as on the face of the earth, filling my senses and my emotional center in ways that few other things can. This recent return to my mossy, leafy, grassy, graceful green roots merely reminds me of what lies deep within me all of the time. The west coast is so rich in tints and hues and tones and shades and variations of green that I cannot imagine an existence without them and know that green will always be the color against which completeness and contentment and ecstasy are best measured.photophotophotophotophotophotophotoMourn the tiresome persistence of the rain at times, if you must, but once you have been drawn into the corridors of the green world you will likely find it irresistible, too. It bursts with the presence of renewal and strength, lures you with the dappled dream-world light that only a leafy and towering tunnel of trees can create, and makes the heart ache with that yearning form of delight best found in things that sing of secrets, promises and hope.

In the Shadow of The Mountain

Perhaps this is true of other places, but I only know my hometown’s version of it: in Seattle, or pretty much anywhere in southwest Washington, Mount Rainier is frequently known simply as The Mountain. Yes, we call it by its full name, or by its ‘patrinomial’ ID of Rainier, and sometimes even by its graceful older name Tahoma. But its dominance of the skyline when visible, and of the ethos–the spirit–of western Washington thanks to its potent influences on geography and geological and meteorological character, not to mention the power it has to wipe out half the state should it decide to wake from its long dormancy, all mean that whether in plain view or not it has a hold on the hearts and minds of the locals like no other single force, natural or otherwise.photoSometimes when flying in to SeaTac airport the mountain is not only clearly visible but brilliantly etched and jutting boldly through the clouds, if any. SeaTac International Airport sits between Seattle and Tacoma, and the zone so called for its equidistance was finally officially given that insipid and cheap-sounding name some years ago–don’t get me started on it–but it’s well worth flying to a place with any ridiculous name you could conjure if and when you get the right weather, enough sunlight, and an accommodating pilot who appreciates Mt. Rainier’s beauty enough to tip a wing to the mountain’s flank and give the passengers a clearer view.photoTruth be told, we’ve seen precious little of the mountain on our current visit. It’s been pretty overcast much of the time, including when we flew in, so yes, the photos here are from other times. I’ve known of visitors who left disbelieving we even have a Mount Rainier, never having glimpsed that big white heap of sugar in weeks and weeks of waiting. The fabled wet weather of the Northwest can indeed curtain off our magnificent totem from view for seemingly interminable times and make us long to be reminded ourselves that it wasn’t all an hallucination or a passion-fueled fantasy. Even when visible, Rainier very often sports a ‘hat’ or veil that keeps a little mystery close by; being large enough to create its own weather, this geological behemoth seems to be quite often crowned with a companion cloud that rarely moves very far off or disappears entirely.photoDespite all of this hide-and-seek, the imminent danger we all know quite well as natives makes us bolt, strap, glue and otherwise thoughtfully position many of our tall or breakable belongings as though to protect them from a petulant child, because we’ve been through enough minor earthquake shakers in our lives to know preparedness pays. Still, while rainy Washington makes floods a real and frequent possibility, if that dormant volcano in our midst gives the really big belch geologists tell us is historically overdue, whatever isn’t swept off in the violent and instantaneous post-blast lahars [pyroclastic mudflows] that will likely submerge the surrounding valleys (the primary lahar channel of which was home to my family for most of my youth) will be treated pretty much like a snow-globe being handled by a curious Godzilla. Game over.photoSo we have a certain amount of respect for The Mountain, never mind it being such a fixture in our existence. No, I don’t know anyone who’s ever grown jaded about seeing it, no matter how long he or she has lived in its shade. This is not your typical mountain, looking pretty but losing its allure gradually as you realize you’re rather close and it’s stopped looming higher. It’s set in a fairly impressive range of mountains yet is so much bigger and more prominent than the rest that once the sky clears you just plain can’t miss it, and that sight quickly makes its mark on you. In snow-time, its blue-white flanks rise up to pierce the sky and look so sharply delineated you think you could stick your hand out and grab a fistful of super-vanilla ice cream from just behind that house over there across the street. As the snow melts, streaks made of billions of evergreens and a few exposed rocky prominences reflect sun and sky and passing clouds’ shadows in a changing array of colors that tease you with seeming first as near as your own breath and then suddenly as far distant as a too-sweet dream. Driving there can nearly drive you mad: you look to your left and it’s sitting right across the closest pasture; round the curve and it has shot away as far as the moon; over the next hill, in an instant it almost seems you’ll crash into the bank of snow just ahead of your front bumper.photoEventually you get onto the foot of Mount Rainier, yes you do, and you realize it’s so huge that you can still have a view of the peak that seems remarkably like the distant view of the whole that you had from an hour and a half’s drive away. The flora and fauna of this glorious bump on the earth have changed relatively little in millennia, and just being in their midst for an afternoon’s traipse along the trails makes you think both that your own sort might go on forever and that if the mountain is really going to blow, perhaps its taking you along for the ride in instant smithereens might not be altogether the worst thing. That’s how magical The Mountain is, even after all of these years of living at its foot. It might kill me, but if it does it will have fed my spirits incredibly well for a very long time indeed. That mountain there, she may keep her chapeau of a cloud-let coquettishly low on her brow for long periods of time, but when she finally does doff it, Holy Mother of Gleaming Glaciers, she’s a beauty.

Fishing Expeditions

digitally painted monotype

I *know* I came in here for something . . .

Even those not in my Age Group (i.e., old) have had that irritating experience of going into a room and having no clue on arrival what they intended to do once there. I just have it more often than most. I’ve had it more often than most since (ironically) before I can remember. Thank you, short attention span and daydreaming obsession. But I’m kind of used to it, even if it’s still a little frustrating in the moment. I just have to go on lengthy mental fishing expeditions to try to recapture those slippery thoughts that had swum on through, not stopping quite long enough to satisfy the need of the occasion.

Surely I have mentioned here more than once that I have made many an artwork with fish as topic or, often, as random interjection. The piece above followed my work on a series of icon-like works, so it started out as yet another saint-with-a-halo sort of thing, but then these fish came jumping into the frame and suddenly the whole storyline veered off in a completely different direction. So I guess it could be said to be a perfect self-portrait in that way. Then again, maybe it’s still a good metaphor for a so-called Saint, since from what I’ve read and heard and been told, very few of them ended up doing ‘what they came into the room to do’ in life, but rather got knocked off course and went on other tangents.

That’s reassuring in its way, but it doesn’t fix my problem of forgetfulness or lack of focus, now, does it. There’s certainly no surprise in our forgetting a thing or two over the course of a lifetime. The batik-like little image below (with fish as its subject, in another shocking development) is not only a picture of a sort of trademark type of tale but also has my characteristic style of line, textures, and composition. But darned if I can recollect when, where or for what purpose I made the piece. I would not have known I had made it if it weren’t for finding the photo of it when it was hanging on the office wall of a company for whom I made a salmon-centric exhibition because they had a facilities grand-opening celebration in which they wanted to emphasize their commitment to saving the native Washington salmon runs not protected by similar companies’ practices. Oh, yeah–that was why and when I made the work. What happened to it later is another question, though the company did end up buying a handful of the shown works to keep in their buildings after the exhibition, so maybe it still lives there. But clearly, I’m not the one to ask. I just don’t remember stuff like that. I get a thought; it shoots off into deeper waters.

Hmmm, what was it I was talking to you about? Oh, well, maybe I’ll come back to it later. Maybe . . .

digital painting

I'll be thinking of you . . .

Into Each Life a Little Rain *Should* Fall

photo

The spring rains near where I spent much of my youth watered many a tulip or daffodil right along with me . . .

I come from waterlogged stock, I suppose. Born and bred in western Washington, where it is rumored that children are born with webbed feet and mildew is every basement’s middle name, I grew up accustomed to the proprietary blend of intense green and hazy grey that is the trademark of the region, a badge of honor of its own kind. The Evergreen State was not called that for nothing and earned the moniker by the bucketful; as a child, I may have feared that the immensity of the rain’s reach might require us all to develop gills, especially if Mount Rainier also decided her geologic pregnancy was complete and blew off the entire west coast into the ocean. There were times when, of course, I doubted the mountain‘s very existence because it had disappeared behind a rain-cloud bank so persistent that we hadn’t seen that glorious white diadem on the state’s brow in ages, but eventually a good shaker or at least a seismic cough would confirm that behind the cumulonimbus wall somewhere lay the spectacle of the mountain in wait for the return of drier skies.

Don’t mistake, as much of the Outside World has done, that this is indeed the whole Northwest experience. Children, perhaps, would contend that there is nothing but rain their entire lives, but I know from a much longer stretch of years, not to mention a gradually shifting climate over the last number of decades that has seen a skew toward somewhat later seasonal changes all ’round and definitely a degree-or-two of push in the direction of both the warm and cold extremes (among other things): the northwest is gorgeous, The Mountain does grace us with its presence pretty often, and the sun DOES shine. With true shimmering spectacle, in exaggeratedly cerulean skies. Sometimes whip-creamed with piles of white landscape-painterly clouds and sometimes just in that fabulous bowl of uninterrupted enameled sky inviting eagles to slide across it if they dare.

As a transplant in Texas, I’m learning a whole new vocabulary of extremes when it comes to things meteorological and geological. I spent a couple of brief, mountain-less years living near Chicago in my youth and had made enough family road trips to know a bit about how much terrain and weather could vary even over short distances. Moving to Texas, even north Texas, proved something of a paradigm shift in that regard, especially as we arrived seemingly on the cusp of some rather spectacular worldwide change when it comes to things weather-related. So it was an intriguing and, well, oven-crisped adventure to face a summer where our county officially slipped into drought right on the heels of all the other counties in the state, most of them throughout the region as well. My roots, accustomed to their abundant if not excessive access to cool clean water, began to protest. The arrival of the first low enough temperatures, accompanied by the first blessed misting of rain, well into October, and the appearance then of early summer blooms as though they thought it was just hitting mid-May seemed slightly ludicrous but nonetheless as welcome as a long-awaited prison pardon.

Today the temperature dropped, thanks to a sudden “cold front”–sorry, I just had to put it in quotes when it referred to 12C/52F degrees at the end of October; that’s the Northwest in me talking. Since we had had pretty solidly insistent summer temperatures until yesterday, this seems like rather high drama! It’s a firm reminder, if we really needed one, of our being composed of such a high percentage of H2O ourselves and having not just an inborn affinity then but a core-deep need for water, water everywhere. The problem is distribution. There’s so often too much of it in one part of the world and too little in another. Balance, by planetary measure, is not the same thing as our sense of balance as tiny little individuals and groups upon that planet, so we’re almost always wishing, wherever we are, that Ma Nature would set up a much fairer sharing system. Least she could do is let one of us kids divvy up the water and the others choose which glasses to grab for our shares.

That’s what makes it seem like such a benison when the floodwaters recede, the monsoon season ends or the hurricane relents and dissipates. When the parched clay gets a sip of rain, the stream-bed feels that first trickling, slaking return, and the blurry looking cloud that’s been hovering just a hair too far off by the horizon finally acquiesces, rolling in with its bellyful of soothing eau-de-vie. Today we’ve had a bit of rain again at last, and the grey lid over the oaks looks promisingly like the skies I knew in my “northwet” youth, and I am comforted by it all. Sun fills me with hope much of the time, I’m moved by the legendary promises of rainbows whenever they bend across my view, but when it’s been long enough between squalls and spritzers for me to miss them so, nothing is more beautiful than the dirty mashup of colliding clouds as they commence spitting their payload of rain on house and garden and me, umbrella or no umbrella. Let it rain!

oil on canvas

When I am thirsty, let it rain . . .

I Hereby Crown Myself Mistress of the Mess-ups and Guru of Good Intentions

photo collage

It's okay to be screwy, as long as I keep it upbeat . . .

Yes, I have received another award. This one’s from me, to mark the official recognition of my silliness in not quite getting it right when I got the last one.

My last award was a generously conferred Versatile Blogger nod from one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Ms. Cecilia the Sage and Savvy Farmer. Yesterday I was tagged with a second such recognition by the delightful and gifted Nia, a photographer and diarist from Istanbul. And when she sent me the notification, I had to slap my forehead with dumbstruck awe at how remiss and inattentive I’d been when I was tagged the first time. So, with my apologies, I tip my new self-anointed crown in an apologetic genuflection and promise both to re-post and to remember to inform (as is customary, if you’ll note in the rubrics down below) the people to whom I had hoped to show my admiration in the first place. Oops! My oversight is in no way meant to be reflective of my great enjoyment of the bloggers listed here, and I hope all of you reading this will click on the links, check out their blog sites, and share in their wealth of knowledge and artfulness and entertaining and thoughtful world-views too.

award tag

Now, for the REST of you, who really do deserve this!

Ad Alta Voce

Cherry Tea Cakes

Claudia Finseth

Closet Cooking

Draw Stanley

In Search of My Moveable Feasts

Just a Smidgen

Little Brown Pen

My Little Norway

My Open Source Life

Plate Fodder

Roost: A Simple Life

Sustainable Garden

The Last Classic

Tinkerbelle

We ask anyone receiving the Versatile Blogger Award to
pay it forward, if you will.

  • Thank the person who gave
    you the award and link back to them in your post.
  • Tell your readers seven (7)
    things about yourself.
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    let them in on the exciting news!

As for things to tell you about myself, I’ve already mentioned my dyslexia and wildly meandering forms of thought, and here I am just proving the point again. No news there! So I’ll go off on a little different tangent, with a list of a few of the interesting places I’ve visited.

1   The Grove of the Patriarchs (Washington State). An isolated little island surrounded by streams in Mt Rainier National Park, because of its sheltered position there the islet is still populated by spectacular old-growth trees, mainly Douglas firs and cedars, that are awe-inspiring and make you feel you’ve stepped into another dimension, an incredibly peaceful one.

2   Saint Lucia. Another island, but of an utterly different kind, being in the southern Caribbean. My mother and father in law took the family on a cruise with them for their 50th anniversary (apparently missed the memo where people are supposed to give YOU big presents for big events). While ‘cruise culture’ isn’t necessarily a logical fit for my personality, it was tremendous fun to spend the time getting to know the family better, seeing a part of the world I’d never seen before, and especially, going off with the parents, my spouse, and the elder nephews and scarpering off the ship across a lonesome stretch of high road to the local aquarium, where they had the most impressive tarpon I’ve ever seen sailing around in the tanks.

3   Prague (Czech Republic). By default, really, the first time. Our honeymoon was planned to time perfectly with a previously scheduled conducting gig my husband had gotten in Hungary, so we thought we’d fly to Budapest right after the wedding since we were to be picked up there by the festival arrangers. But it was one of the big years for European travel–so much so that there were no tickets to be had anytime close to when we had to be there. So we flew into Prague, fell wildly in love with its superb Gothic-to-Art Nouveau architectural beauties, and were sorry when we did have to leave on the train to Budapest.

4   Tijuana (Mexico). It’s not really what I’d call having been to Mexico! I’m sure it’s quite different now, but if you visited there, say, in the seedy seventies, you know exactly what I mean. But what a colorful experience in a sort of eccentric country-of-its-own. Unforgettable.

5   Winnipeg (Manitoba). I’ve been on the Canadian plains before–not least of all, spending joyful years going to our home-away-from-home in Edmonton, Alberta. But going to Winnipeg in cold, wintry weather was a special kind of revelation. Wonderful historic buildings rising seemingly spontaneously from this incredibly flat expanse allowed me to see distances that seemed almost godlike in the chill and windy silence of the season. Indoors, warmth galore: great events, great food, and most of all, great people. But outside, something uniquely apart that appealed to my soul greatly too.

6   Grim (Kristiansand, Norway). The neighborhood near my sister’s home in Kristiansand is not a tourist destination or remarkable for its unique character, per se, and let’s face it, the name doesn’t read with promise in English! But as it’s the ‘home’ neighborhood for us when we’re there, it has the unbreakable draw of bloodlines coursing through its streets and walkways. And all roads then lead to family. Quite the opposite of feeling grim, indeed, to me.

7   Molokai (Hawaii). After a rough year at work, my father’s friends and supporters gave our family plane tickets to Hawaii, a family to greet us on Oahu and host the start of our visit, and a week’s stay in their condominium on Molokai. When we flew into the dirt-paved airport on Molokai and saw the big scrawl on the tin roof of the “terminal” (using the term advisedly here) shouting “THE FRIENDLY ISLAND” at us in welcome, we almost fell out of the plane laughing. The 6-mile-long island looked so dusty and forlorn and godforsaken that we couldn’t imagine anything would be engaging there. But the condo was peaceful and proved a perfect place for personal restoration after the year’s exhaustion, not to mention for the family to simply regroup a little. And better than that, the locals embraced us as though we were long-lost relatives, feeding and leading us with incredible generosity and kindness that can never be forgotten.

8   Kersey, Suffolk (England). Our late friend Ruth was a world traveler, gourmet cook, lifelong teacher, and one of the kindest souls to grace the planet. She took my sister and me in over American Thanksgiving when we visited her charming home Blue Gate in the English countryside. She fed us glorious meals, showed us the Wool Churches and thoroughbred stables nearby, and took us into the sweet town of Kersey, where she introduced us to a marvelous lady I still suspect of having been a fairy or elf of some sort. With the most perfectly gossamer sterling hair and blue eyes brighter than the North Star, she ruled a tiny woollens shop right beside the most significant natural feature in the village, the main street ford of the stream. Which was no more and no less than a slight depression in the road, and would fill with water at any and every drop of rain or dew, and it was accepted as the Only Thing to Do that when the water came in, the ducks followed, and when the ducks were in the so-called Ducksplash, anyone in an automobile had better just settle in for a wait until the bathing was done rather than risk the ire of the villagers by forcing the ducks out of the little ford to let him pass. The shopkeeper knew full well what a marvel this village was, surviving intact and quietly into the noisy modern age, and told us of a young man who’d visited in the past and was unable to conceive of this sleepy town’s merits. He asked her what on earth it was that had moved so many people to urge him to spend time in Kersey. “You don’t know yet, then?” asked the twinkling lady. He shrugged. She smiled more widely than the Cheshire Cat and said softly, “Well, then, you’ll die wondering, won’t you.”

9   Balatonfüred (Hungary). A resort town on lovely Lake Balaton, situated in wine country and popular as a seaside getaway for many generations, my husband and I and a pair of close friends visited it on the advice of colleagues while we were at that honeymoon music festival I mentioned before in a nearby town. While the town itself is quite charming and pretty and full of interesting people and inviting walks along the water, the driver we hired, who tore up the countryside with us crammed in his little car while he narrated at top speed in delighted broken English, was really the highlight of the trip. His evident pleasure in the outing, in racing his little automobile as though on fire, and in showing us a favorite town were wonderfully contagious.

10   Fort Worth (Texas). Now that I live in a nearby town myself, I have been to this haven of cowboy culture and enjoyed a taste of the present-day version of Old Tejas. There’s something immensely appealing about being in a city big enough for the requisite skyscrapers and big business but still housing pens full of beautiful longhorn cattle within the city limits. Ft Worth has much more resource in the way of arts and culture that I’ve yet to explore, but it’s nice to know that the old west is still alive and well here thousands of miles from where it finally hit the actual west coast of the continent.