“There is magic in the presence of trees,” I mused, inhaling the damp freshness surrounding us. Walking in our rain boots through the lush forest, my daughter happily chatting to her art teacher, I took as many mental images as my senses could hold. I left my phone back in the car when we pulled up (silly me).
This teacher is more than a teacher to Hannah – she’s her FAVORITE. “Mom! Mrs. O’Connor has a real studio!” she exclaimed at the beginning of her first art class last year. “She’s a teacher AND a REAL artist!” We were able to see her work in a local art show last fall and she graciously invited Hannah to come see her studio. To say that Hannah was excited was an understatement.
After the studio tour, Mrs. O’Connor took us all around her lovely space, surrounded by acres of forest land. (Half way through our walk, we stopped and grabbed our cameras!) Having lived here for a few decades, she can imagine living no where else – and it’s clear to see why! It really was a slice of heaven – and a rejuvenating day spent captivated by Mother Nature’s spell.
Teachers: never doubt the impact you have on your students. Read that again: Please do not doubt that you are impacting your students in ways you may never know. (Seriously the last couple of years – whew!) From this mama to one very special art teacher – I thank you especially for taking the time and sharing your gifts. You are a treasure!
On the back porch bundled up with a morning cup of steamy goodness, I admire the sunlight dancing on the water. There is nothing quite like reveling in a radiant morning. Daylight is an ever-diminishing premium as the days get shorter in the fall. As spring sets in, the long daylight hours never come fast enough. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I never thought much about it, it was a fact of the seasons. Living in other areas of the country opened my eyes to seasons in ways I didn’t expect. What do you mean there are seasons?! The glorious fireball in the sky can shine in more than 2.5 months of the year?! You don’t say!
The years spent living elsewhere have diminished my ability to withstand gloomy winters. I have read about the benefits of blue lights and even had one last time we lived here 8 years ago. Many moves ago the light gifted to someone else, I’ve not felt the need to replace it. Layering up long pajamas, the natural blue light enters my retinas. The sky, enhanced by a soundtrack of the loudest morning birds, showcases the area. The beauty of the PNW is often hiding behind a blanket of murky, low hanging clouds that threaten all manner of precipitation..
I love the quiet before the bustle of the day begins. The moment to just exhale and be. I crave these moments like oxygen. I need sunlight. This landscape is gorgeous, but this doesn’t feel like home anymore.
I have basically been at home (with about 3-4 outings for essentials) for 39 days. (The minions were ill 2 weeks before the stay at home orders in our state were put into effect). In these 39 days, I’ve learned a couple of things about myself. I consider myself an introvert, with a few extrovert tendencies. I cherish alone time – not only that, it is essential for functioning. If a solo recharge doesn’t happen on the regular, shut down is guaranteed. Being amongst the peoples drains me. Through this craziness I find I am in fact the “chatty-chat monster” that the minions have long-accused me of being. Who knew I was such an extrovert?! I will talk the ear off of a random person in the checkout line, the checker, the bagger, the checker 2 aisles over – they are adults; let’s converse the day away! I apparently have no shame. Now? Oh man, do I miss the niceties and courtesies that we all share when conducting our everyday business.
I have been craving the creative. Photography, sewing, writing, and of course art projects with the kids have been recent channels of expression. Blocks of time to fill with no must-do’s create an enormous vacuum, and Netflix, internet surfing and mindless activity will only take us so far. Creativity has been heart-filling and anxiety-dampening.
Nature hasn’t been forgotten, simply not prioritized. I crave nature like oxygen. Hiking, biking, running, walking the dogs, even standing in the back yard and feeling the soft blades tickle the arch of bare feet – it all satisfies. I feel the presence of the divine when lost in my thoughts while lost in nature. More often than not, magic happens when in that space. Not magic in the slight of hand way, but what I call “Universe Winks”. Things like butterflies landing on my shirt, that are more than just “woo-woo”, and far more than coincidence.
Whales are common in Puget Sound. But, in most of my life living here (save a few years of duty stations elsewhere) I have never seen them in the wild. Neighbors had been posting that they’d “seen the whales playing out behind our circle”. I would rush out, and by the time I’d arrived, the whales evidently thought it was time to hide. Disappointed, I would return home. My daughter and I walked along the trails that border our neighborhood looking expectantly for any signs of whales. Lots of seagulls, which I also adore, but no whales. Countless times I walked out expecting to be awed, praying for a “moment”, then immediately chastising myself for asking for something so trivial when I have already been given so much. I felt greedy hoping for more. On one of these outings, an eagle flew right into viewfinder of the camera.
Seriously, how could I desire more with the beauty that already surrounds where I live?!
But, that is human nature though, isn’t it? We struggle with desire versus contentment. Learning to be content is the key to true happiness. I continued to walk out to the water and desire more.
And then it happened.
The Universe not only winked, it wrapped me up in the best fluffy-sweater, cozy-warm, first-cup-of-coffee-in-the-morning, sun-beaming bear hug. Turns out that sobbing uncontrollably while playing photographer is as hard and awkward as it sounds! Wiping tears off of the view finder while whispering prayers of thanksgiving for such gifts that are not deserved-yet bestowed with flair and grandeur-the camera click-clicked away attempting to capture one of the most breathtaking moments.
Not only did I witness a whale, but TWO whales. Oh Universe, you are so extra and I ADORE YOU!
You know that SNL sketch where the verbiage of a “deep thought” with the Jack Handy voice over lays out a bunch of nonsense? That plays out in my brain in real life whenever I am on a solo bike ride or run or walk with the dogs. I think my best deep thoughts while in my head doing physical activity – a sort of moving mediation. More often than not much of it is gibberish and/or forgotten once off the trail.
In an effort to recapture some of the thoughts, I brought my phone along and captured some images. I took about a bazillion photos and since this isn’t an amateur photography blog nor a living room where people are subjected to torturous hours of viewing Aunt Linda’s vacation slides, I will spare you all of them. Still, there are a lot of photos, so you are forewarned. Just know that I did make an effort to not include them all to bore you endlessly. **(Although, if you are reading this within a week or two of it being published, you have nothing better to do because you are quarantined with your family and need an escape. You. are. welcome.)
To change up our routine, I walked with Hippo solo today while the hubby took care of the littles. If you are new the blog – we have three dogs. (Correction: we have two dogs and a Hippo (the middle photo) and if you knew him you’d understand.)
The Hippo is a giant goober. I love him to pieces. Today was the first time he’d walked a long walk with me since his 2 knee replacement surgeries over a year ago. (He’s now Titanium Hippo!) We took it nice and slow and sniffed all the things and ate lots of clumps of freshly mown grass despite the fact that I told him not to. He pretended not to hear me.
“What? Did you say something? I was busy sniffing.” Uh. huh.
Walking or running around this area one must always be on the lookout for deer (there are tons!) or eagles (they fly all around and low!) and even whales have been spotted in our little inlet (haven’t seen them myself but I keep trying)! We didn’t see any eagles, but did see tons of seagulls and this guy:
He flew right over our heads and it was AMAZING. After looking it up (because president of the Audubon society I am not) I learned that he is a Great Blue Heron. Super common apparently. What is not common is to be ready with the camera at the same time as the launch of a flyover. Nature and wild life are amazing and I always come away grateful for the universe winks.
We saw (and smelled) loads of evidence of spring. The colors were vibrant and gorgeous and the cloudy day made for nice photography. I love seeing little flowers and daffodils and the Indian paintbrush native to this area bloom. Spring is always the season of hope, and this year the need for it is amplified.
Maylor Point trail is stunning and a quick escape from my house while ensuring social distancing. From my doorstep, down the trail and back was 4.5 miles of nature and solitude for which my heart and head were in desperate need.
Dog photography is not for the faint of heart. I don’t carry treats much (mostly because I forget) so I have to be quick when the shot presents itself! Luckily today Hippo was (mostly) cooperative. Except for that one selfie, which made me giggle because SQUIRREL.
I love playing with filters, color, and black and white photography. Partly because of the COVID19 quarantine, and due to the weather, it is eerily quiet. The old buildings, rundown tennis court, and not-oft used recreation areas on the military base make for great apocolyptic-esque subjects.
What an accurate photo for our current slower pace of life. We actually have SO. MUCH. TIME. Quarantine or not, it’s the same 24 hours each day. What we do with those hours makes all the difference.
There is a large number of deer that roam this little peninsula. The come out like clockwork and while not tame, are very used to people. They nibble and watch us take photos of them, probably wondering why we are so odd. Hippo still thinks they smell weird and would love to investigate further, but they are bigger than him so he is secretly glad I make him stay on leash.
For the folks who have never been to the Puget Sound, this would constitute a “beach”, albeit somewhat loosely defined. The white things stuck all over the rock on the left are barnacles. Barnacles are little arthropods (related to crustaceans) and they are abundant here! They also hurt bare feet so no kicking off the flip flops. (Not that you’d want to wear flips because brrr cold.) The thing you won’t see in abundance here is sand. Rocks are however everywhere and really, aren’t they just larger grains of sand? Technically I guess we can let it be called a beach even though you won’t find many people in bathing suits rushing to take a dip.
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
Author disputed, but credited to Mary Stevenson 1939
There is no question that a dog can carry us through hard times. It is often said that it’s no coincidence that dog is God spelled backward. While I don’t worship my dogs, they are exquisite examples of unconditional love and acceptance, patience, and understanding. This is my visual take on the poem, Footprints in the Sand. (You can read it in its entirely here: https://wallpapersafari.com/footprints-poem-wallpaper/).
This concludes the tour of random deep (and not so) thoughts. Thank you for coming. Please gather your belongings and watch your step as you exit.
Eric and I scanned the last of our earthly belongings comparing it with the quickly deteriorating space in the truck and had to make some fast decisions.
“The chairs are going, aren’t they?” I asked, knowing full well the answer.
“‘Fraid so,” he said.
I turned away when I saw him briskly carry the happy blue pair to the spontaneous free yard sale accumulating at the edge of the curb. They’ll be happier here in the warm San Diego sun, I thought. Good thing we are doing this before school lets out, as there will be lots foot traffic to carry away the things we cannot take with us. The little boy that yelled exuberantly about his new-to-him bike as he rode it away made me grin. Jake had been eating his knees on that bike for a few months now and it was time to let it go anyway. That’s what the song says, right? Let it go, let it go…..
It’s just stuff.
I stopped short when I saw our aqua Adirondack chairs nestled happily in their new yard. It was bittersweet giving them away. It was bittersweet walking the dogs this very last time in our San Diego neighborhood. I breathed it in. I noticed all the palm trees, took in the view down toward Mission Bay, and closed my eyes and sighed as the sun warmed my skin.
We started on our adventure a half day behind as we had some finishing up at the old house to complete. One last check of the mail box, roll up the garbage and recycling cans, and turn over the keys.
We had big plans to make it up to Washington in three days. With 3 dogs, 2 kids and me who gets what I call “car-koleptic” (extremely tired when driving in the rain) we knew our plans were way too aggressive. Once again I was reminded that I could never be a long haul trucker.
As California’s terrain changed from desert, vineyards and then finally to forested mountains, I found myself awed by the beauty of it all. I pointed out things to the kids. Miraculously the sights were stunning enough to tear their eyes from their iPods. “Ohhhh, wowww….” could be heard from both of them. I forgot just how little they were when we left this part of the country. “They don’t remember,” I thought sadly. Climbing higher into the mountains, and into Oregon, I chuckled when the car sounded an alert as the temperature was now below 40 degrees. This alarm came complete with a cute flashing snowflake on my dashboard. Poor car has never seen anything below 60 degrees! I tapped the dash and murmured, ‘Good little car, you’re doing fine!’
I grew up in the Puget Sound, but after moving out of state the first time, I was shocked by the heat and the humidity of Florida. “So that’s what that ball of fire in the sky is!” I joked when regaling people of the transition to the Sunshine state from the renowned rainy Seattle area. I have loved living all over the country, and yes, Hawaii has ruined us for all states. There is just something about the Pacific Northwest. It pulls me back in ways I can scarcely describe.
I tend to agree with Bon Jovi. Who says you can’t go home? Maybe not the way it was, but a place makes you who you are in ways that are non-tangible. Living away has given me a perspective that would not exist if I’d never left. There is breathtaking beauty here. The allure of the forests, the captivating mists – it’s magic pure and simple.
Hannah’s camera was clicking fast and furious as we traveled. I was curious what gems may be hidden on her device when she was reluctant to let me see. She had been working furiously on something, but promised she would share it with me when she was done.
Make no mistake, there is a kind of magic here – and I believe it has enchanted my daughter.