Rounding Rainier

Amidst visitors, jaunts to San Diego, A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed in a “black rock amphitheatre,”  fresh Frazier River sockeye at a “Happy Little Farm Party,” more home-grown produce than two people could possible consume (yes, zucchini and peas and beans, I’m talking about you) and soaking up as much Washington sun as humanly possible, N and I found a week to get away from it all.

It only took us two hours, but the drive ended where the trail began, the start of what we both consider the most epic backpacking trip we’ve ever taken–beating out even NZ, says N. These smiles should say it all:


And because words nor photos could do the trip justice, I’ll just dole out a bit of both, and tell you that this little 38 mile jaunt, with its snow-capped peaks and glacial tilled valleys, its wonderland of wildflowers and pockets of pristine forest is worth moving to Washington State for. Okay, a visit will do too. But be sure to pack your dehydrated food and your open-air tent; the weather is balmy and the mossies biting–the sweat and bite marks evidence of a journey well spent. The views don’t hurt either.

Fresh feet and smiles at the trail head of the Northern Loop

The carpet of wildflowers swayed with the wind and wafted sweet scents

Nikolai’s charming hat, Sam, is not only useful for fending off mossies but also for holding your trough when your hands are too tired.

Narrow trails through the forest floor conjure joy for the soul

And climbing 3,000 feet in one 14 miler of a day conjures wincing quads and lungs.

Water abounds for washing, pumping, and gazing

Another climb reveals another peek at the face of Rainier

Aptly named Mystic Lake

A suspension bridge that swings and squeaks with every step you take over the Carbon River

How can you not grin while trekking through fields of Glacier Lilies?

The wake of a mighty glacier

At 6,700 feet, we lunched while watching the specks that were climbers descending from the summit of Rainier

It’s not hard to figure out  why they call it the Wonderland Trail.

High Theft

This is my mother-in-law. She is a thief.

I am her accomplice.

Prior to her ten-day visit, I plucked–and really, pruned, they should thank me–bits of blooms from the neighborhood. I did this out on walks. N would shake his head in shame and pretend not to notice. Hide behind an azalea bush.

But his mother. OH! His mother! She is a voracious bloom thief and plucked every shade of lilac, both kinds of heather, several bleeding hearts, and god knows what when I wasn’t home. Between the two of us, the house looked like a nursery.

I had planned on taking a quick walk this evening to capture that spring slant of seven o’clock sun. But the clouds. They have the final say around these parts. Instead, I found myself eyeing all that would make a good everyday bouquet: flowering kale, lilac, wisteria, golden chain tree branches. Is it wrong to get as excited over my neighbors’ yards as I do mine? I promise to not pluck their first and only iris.

Or the first peach-fuzzed poppy head.

In exchange for the fruits of their labor, they can have some of mine:

Will these guys make it all the way to fall? Our first pear crop from our 5-way pear tree wedding gift. Plenty to go around the block.

And I might be able to spare one or two of these guys:

I know Valerie Easton’s subtitle is Bouquets From Your Garden, but no one household can use all that wisteria. Maybe I’ll just leave a mason jar bouquet on each porch from whose yard I pluck. How can you shake a finger at a girl delivering spring in a jelly jar?

Rain Falling on the Sunshine

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”… “It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
Margaret Atwood

Garlic and spinach and beets, oh joy!

The beds and the boy who raised them

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
Pablo Neruda

Daffodil Whispers to Crocus

Settle In

Room With a View

We’re losing light up here fast, by almost three minutes a day. These final weeks of summer–brilliantly cloud-free summer–are pulling out all the stops to make up for its tardiness.

Soon, it will be dark by 5 p.m. Then 4:15. Mornings, I’ll watch the sun rise over the Cascades on my way to work. A few weeks later, headlights and coffee alone will signal morning. The geese sailing overhead are a harbinger of routines, rain and all.

Years ago, Erin (beloved teaching partner/running mate) and I developed mantras to get our asses up the hill behind Valhalla High School. It was glorious to run down the hill, then out into the brushland and scrub. But the way back–oh, the way back. A Goliath of a hill. I knew to put my head down and not look to the top of the hill. But the burning in my lungs and legs unnerved me. Then it dawned on me: that’s exactly where I was–running up hill, out of breath, about to die, blood pumping, pumping, pumping. And the feeling wasn’t going away unless I simply gave up on the running. My mantra was born: Settle in. I remember that moment of discovery: the hill did not shrink nor did my legs find some new source of power, but my mind did. For many agonizing blocks and minutes, I ran with my pain, not beside it.

And contrary to my belief in those moments, I did not die.

Erin soon found her own mantra: Easy. (As in eeeeaaaassssyyyyy. And there’s a hand gesture too, like a pushing down of the air with both hands.)

So we charged up hills, mantra in mind.

Years and continents and states later, Settle in has not left me. I summoned the saying while in India, riding the bus back to Kolkata in the sticky, swampy heat only India can manufacture. A herd of uniformed school girls sang songs in Hindi at the top of their lungs and the bus paused, then sat, then turned off its engine in the middle of a traffic jam. It had been a long day. Men in kurtai’s with scraggly beards peered into our parked bus. Despite the green light, not a single car moved across the intersection. The smell of too many pre-pubescent girls on one bus wafted down the aisle. Sweat beaded under my salwar kameez. The other white girl on our school expedition consulted her watch: “We’ve been sitting here for 27 minutes” she said. The bus windows only cracked open halfway. The nun on the bus wouldn’t let us open the door or let us out in the middle of the city. Undoubtedly, in an ironic twist of fate, I found myself in Dante’s Inferno while volunteering at a religious school. The girl in front of me kept checking her watch. And I thought about running the hill behind Valhalla–I decided to settle in. It was perhaps the second time in my life where I didn’t let the overwhelming nature of the situation consume me–where I found a bit of zen–nah, “zen” is too nirvana sounding, and believe me, there is not an ounce of nirvana to be found when 49 adolescent girls, rife with body odor squeal a rendition of Britany Spears at the top of their lungs for twenty minutes in stopped traffic. No, decidedly not zen. Peace? Acceptance? Yes, I found acceptance  with my surroundings.

So, up here in the PNW, I am getting ready to settle in. I am squeeing at the prospect of the rain forcing me inside to read a book, to graph out the raised garden beds, of researching and interviewing for the new book idea I’m so fired up about. I can’t wait to drive towards the sunrise. Can’t imagine how simple life might be: no moving! no monumental life-event to plan! no commuting via plane to see my honey! no world trip to plan! no world trip to pay off! For the first time in perhaps four years, I am ready to settle into serious routine.

Alley Berry Breakfast

But first, with what may be the final glory days of summer, I must pick the ripe blackberries down the alley and paint the garage.

Respirators always help while settling in--(before)

Remind me, will ya, when I start bitching (around the second coat) to settle in.