Total Eclipse of Laughter

Photo Credit: Bruce Edwards, The Journal

You know when you find yourself laughing–I mean really, like cackle laughing–outloud? And no one else is around but you and what you’re reading is so damn funny that tears form and you spin around, quick-like, to see if this time you are actually laughing your ass off?

In one of the darkest weeks–literally and figuratively–of my year, I stumbled across this site. I am here to report, my ass is half gone.

I dare you to go read it. Better yet, wait till your own dark night is upon you, then head over there and be prepared to buy a skinnier pair of skinny jeans.

Brilliant stuff.

Speaking of long nights, did you know next Tuesday is the Winter Solstice? It happens to coincide with a complete lunar eclipse, a pair of events that hasn’t synced up in 456 years.

Wrap It Up

Inspired by this article, a heap of grocery bags and my poverty, I took to my roots and said to hell with wrapping paper; opted instead for locally sourced products, like, say, all those brown paper bags under my kitchen sink.

Recycled Bounty

See, from age seven to twelve-ish, I would traipse through my grandmother’s house, procuring “gifts” from drawers, countertops and closets. I’d flitch the newspaper, scissors and tape, and head into Nana’s room, Grettle, the trusty daschund, underfoot. There, in my wrapping kingdom, I’d measure and cut, cut and measure. I’d wrap through a roll of tape and an entire LA Times. With inkprint fingers, I declared it gift giving time: Dad would get a box of Triskets, my brother, a half-eaten dog bone, my sister, a pair of Nana’s earrings. Sundays were best, as my grandmother loved anything wrapped in comics. But it could be any old day. No special occasion needed. My mother always joked I should get a job at the Nordstrom’s wrapping counter.

Since those carefree days, I’ve grown disillusioned with the notion of passing out gifts at Christmas; I hardly purchase any at all, except for my young nieces. But this year, I’d already spent more than I should have on the goods, and I still didn’t have anything to wrap it in. No fear–paper bags near!

I know my sister will laugh and her husband will utter some comment involving the words “dirty hippy.” But Maddie and Brooke? They won’t know the difference between my grocery bags and five-dolla a roll santa paper. See, they still have the spirit of Christmas.

My favorite part is that I cut up a Vanity Fair for embellishments; my only regret: I didn’t have double sided tape to attach the details with. And those little blue circles–oh ya, they’re from the scent strip of a Ralph Lauren cologne advertisement. That’s right, they smell like hot, hunky, gorgeous man. And what six-month-old from Kansas doesn’t want that for Christmas? I’m certainly hoping there’s one under my tree.


Dear Santa...

Me? I’m just slicing up and repurposing in a tiny, tiny way. Check out what this guy is doing. His studio, his whirly-gigs, his nightlights are amazing. When you come for the wedding, be sure to check out the shop, Hutch.

And you–how are you saving money and or making the season more meaningful? Am I the only one resorting to scrounging? Have you recycled any goods into gifts?

Running With Heather, Volume 2

Ah! Another run with your imaginary friend? Another lake? Argh! Sorry, kids, a girl’s gotta do…! And let me just fill us in (and by us, I mean me; I’m still getting used to the idea) how killer it is that I could run around a new lake every day for the next year. Hooray, new home!

I’ve wanted to venture out to Anacortes Community Forest Land for some time–in fact, it was were I attempted to take you when we saw all those deer, remember–so when I woke up and saw the glorious sunshine on Saturday, I knew it was the day. We even dared capri leggings!

We got a bit lost finding H Street–it’s the one off the round about as you head into Anacortes, not the dead-end H off Highway 20. We giggle at round abouts, about how there’s a new one in town every week, and how we should christen them by driving–some arbitrary number, we decide…five! Yes, five times around it, honking the whole way. Perhaps we’ll call in some snow geese.

Lap five and we’re off again (did I mention we got lost. It was the dizziness, right?) A minute or two past homes and we’re into forest. A sign points us to Heart Lake, our afternoon destination. We’ve come with three goals: find a quick loop trail, hit up Mount Erie for the blue-bird sunset and grab a pint and pizza at Rockfish Brewery. A delicious day, to be sure.

A mountain biker points the way to the ’round the lake trail, and we take off, stopping to peer at the idyllic lake–we’ll come back and swim it in the summer, we say–and wind around trees on the narrow trail.

The path is well-kept and marked, as many seem to be in the area. We consult each other a few times, secretly wishing we had a map of the 2,800 acres. We’ve been known to get lost once or twice. But we keep to the shallows, by the banks of the lake when we can, and climb a bit, sail down a bit, toes turning over and our breath drawing shallow. Must. Run. Trails. More. we pant.

Despite Friday’s rain, the footing is not mucky and I only partially twist my ankle three times. You only slip on slick rocks twice. Our pounding feet spook lazy Mallards into flight, and we notice how the setting light almost throws itself across the lake: Here, take what’s left of me, I’m yours, the sun pleads.

We dance over roots and skip logs and stop to poke some fungi. I dare you to eat it, you challenge, and I make a mental note to buy a guide to foraging. The trail meanders away from the lake, and I check my watch–will we make it back for the sunset? The path ripples like a set of waves and I’m up while you’re down, you’re up while I’m down, us, ribbioning our way through the forest.

We spit out at the road, and we have to take it the rest of the way around, as the mountain biker instructed us to do. From here, we notice the cracked mirrored-ness of the slightly frozen lake. More mallards jump.

Back at the trail head, we find a group of runners–Skagit Runners–just setting out for a 55k, they mention, ever so causally; said it as if they were taking a shower. “You joining us?” They ask. We giggle. Nope, just finished (our dinky 5k–if that.) But maybe one day we’ll be hard-core enough to run a 55k in the forest in the dark. I said I hope they’d brought extra batteries for their headlamps. (Remember that time we were lost around the Mission Valley “lake” on the hash? One headlamp and a headful of creepy thoughts?)

We find the road up, up, up to Mount Erie, the highest peak in Skagit and get to the top just in time to see a lavender Mount Baker. On the other side of the summit, we scramble down rocks to watch the sky and its Technicolor dreamcoat spin through the sky, over the San Juan Islands.

I remark about how different the sunset is here. How the sun falls behind landscapes, not just into the Pacific. How it fits into the pocket of the Olympics, how it projects amethysts and lilacs and violets onto far-off, snow-capped peaks, how the whole valley awashes in the lingering light, how westward facing barns cast a glittering haziness I thought only possible in The Great Gatsby. How sometimes the islands look like the clouds like the water like the sky and how could you separate one realm from the other? About how we must look so different in the light: softer, diffused, our best, most subtle selves. When our tangerines and mulberries and periwinkles dance for just a few last seconds before the lights go out.

The last few seconds we sit in silence, our butts growing cold and tingly on the granite rock. “Okay. Beer?”

And you simply nod. Because anything else, in this sanctuary, seems irreverent.

Writing that Kills

Real-life samples from an essay about how technology affects our lives (10th grade, college-prep):

  • “If we didn’t have cars we would have to walk to work or the grocery store or ride horses there, which can get very uncomfortable after time. It’s way easier to just drive to the store or work. It’s better for our safety because we can get hurt by walking too much as we can get severely injured riding horses too, but I’m not saying we can’t get hurt driving cars either I’m just saying that we have more protection in cars.”
  • “The internet may have helped us out in many ways, but have you ever had chronic back pain, serious head injuries or deaf implants?”

Here’s to a wonderful Wednesday. Make sure to do your weekly cleaning of your “deaf implants.”

Grey With a Chance of Swans

There’s a lot of grey and white in Skagit County this time of year. People keep asking, “How you likin’ the weather?”, usually with a sneer on their face. As in, Hey Little California, whatcha gonna do without your sunshine now?

Look up. That’s what I’m going to do. Yes, the skies may be gray (with bits of respite, like yesterday!) but flecks of white, brown and yellow dart about the heavens also. In fact, this time of year teems with life: fungus under ferns, salmon up rivers and birds in the sky.

The plethora of wildlife–not weather–seems a bit more overwhelming to a city girl like myself. Each day when I head out to the barn I pass fallow fields, channels of mud and mini swamps as far as the eye can see. The fields are filled with snow geese and trumpeter swans. From across the valley, you can watch low V formations, hear them honk across the sky, their streamlined wings cutting through the damp air like slappingĀ  leather, and alight in any given field, landing for a snack.

Last week the trumpeters sat so near the edge of the road, I had to stop to snap a few shots. A great cacophony greeted me. In the swampy field, the long-necked swans tooted and trumpeted, waddling up and down the formerly tilled field. I pondered for a good long while how the birds stay so white despite their muddy quarters. They need to give a few lessons to my horse. Of course, I didn’t witness any of them rolling in the mud as Echo does…

In the stately pine just next to the acreage, a flock of what must have been a hundred or more starlings chipped and chirped down to their larger brethren. We’re louder, they taunted, all gazillion of them. The swans honked back. Chip, chip, chirp! Honk, blow, honk! It was like listening to a face-off between an orchestra’s strings and the brass sections.

What Grey Sky?


The swans, down from Canada and Alaska, have plenty of territory and food as winter sets in. The local farmers entice the long-necked birds to their property by tossing out–what do they eat? Kibbles and Bits? Frosted Flakes? Please pause for a moment of research: ah! Leaves, seeds, tubers, grasses–for them, (okay, I’m figuring out now that the swans love what’s left of the corn stalks next door to the barn) and the plethora of waterways–Skagit, Nooksack, Samish and Cascade Rivers–ensure a winter’s worth of foraging.

It’s not just the big white guys who make a winter appearance, though. Skagit’s famed farmland is notorious for its winged diversity. By the Audubon’s 2009 Christmas bird count, our valley played home to over 72,000 birds, including 1,000 plus Trumpeter Swans, 117 red-tailed hawks, 150 bald eagles, and 5,082 starlings. See, I knew there were a lot in that tree!

This winter, Torrey, Hannah, Megan and I will take the kayaks up the Skagit River and scout out some bald eagles ourselves. Because it was the largest salmon run in history, the sightings should be a-plenty. But one doesn’t even need to head up-river to see the huge predators. When Nikolai was in town a few weeks ago, we saw several eagles mounted on telephone poles and taking wing between lessor known San Juan islands.

So I guess when people ask me how I’m handling the weather I shrug. I don’t have the answer they want to hear: that I’m just as grim about the gray as they are. There are so many new wonders for me to take in, I frequently forget that the sky is some shade of dark. Maybe the nascency will wear off and my SAD will kick in, but for now, I don a smile every time I hear a flock of swans sail–honking and all–over my little house.

Like Air Penguins, Huh?