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Dawn Chorus, A Serenaded Stroll

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28 Sept 2016

Yesterday was Day 2 of my new habit (hopeful thinking) of early morning walks. This little spit of sand I live on comes with a wondrous open air concert hall, where I am serenaded by feathered friends as I explore the streets. The crows provide the comic, chatty interludes.

We have a quickly growing population of feral bunnies and I notice several folks put veggies out for them. While photographing a pair of Northern Flickers tending to their power pole nest, a funny little cat stalked me from the shrubs below. For about a block, I couldn’t take one step without almost being tripped by this scoundrel. I finally told it to go home and was so surprised when it immediately headed up the closest driveway.

Along the way I spotted 2 lighthouse sculptures, a driftwood fence and two creative driftwood raised bed gardens. Oh, and a beautiful “lady” in the flowers.

As I admired a colorful and cozy front yard garden nestled under a pair of cedar trees, I almost missed seeing the orange cat perched on a bird bath. Perhaps it was overly confident that a bird might miss seeing it too and  stop in for morning ablutions.

 

A kindly crow pointed the way, seconds before I spotted a stealthy raccoon, who froze when he saw me, then raced into the woods. My last visual treat was a deer and his shadow nibbling some grass in the glow of the rising sun.

Off for Day 3 and another sunrise serenade!

 


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September Skies & Life Notes

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A Good Start

…began at the end of August when I broke with solitude for a wonderful visit with my cousin and his girlfriend. Jimmy, Darcie and I strolled around Westport, had a bite to eat and I gave them the 5-cent debut tour of my almost completed Turtle (homemade wooden mini-camper). It was a joy to share The Secret Garden and send them home with some raspberry plants.

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September kicked off with a little road trip to meet one of my Alaska sisters in the Seattle area for 3 days. There was a lot of laughter and cussing at the map app as Laura and I  navigated around Auburn for 2 days. We managed (without the damn app) to figure out how to take the Sounder train from our airport hotel into Seattle to check out Pike Place Market. It was so good to be with my sis, but we were both a little creeped out about being in such crowded places in the violent climate of our world today. Sad but true. (12 photos)

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Back To Solitude And Some Nature Nurture

The rainy season has begun here on the Washington coast, which means many thick foggy evenings and mornings, but also rainbows!

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The temperatures are between the high 60’s and mid 50’s, hovering only about ten degrees between day and night. (Was 74 on Sunday!) On some days the skies are a solid blanket of light grey from dawn to dusk, horizon to horizon. Other days are bright blue with cool cloud formations that develop into stunning sunrises and sunsets. (12 photos)

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In many of my sunrise and sunset photos there are black dots or clear silhouettes of birds. During spring and summer it was a mix of ducks, geese, pigeons, doves, starlings, sea gulls, eagles, crows and Northern flickers.

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Sunrise, crows & moon

The birds seem to travel on an mapped out skyway. In the morning they fly into Westport along the eastern skyway, and at night they fly out of Westport along the western skyway. So as I step out of my door and look to my right (over The Secret Garden) in the morning, the skyway of birds cross the sunrise. To my left in the evening, they cross in front of the sunset.

By now, in early fall, I’m seeing mostly crows and a few sea gulls. Early morning crow migration from their night time roosts, plays against the background of calm pastels or vibrant oranges, pinks and purples of the rising sun. As the sun begins to set, the crows make their way back to their slumber party among the inland trees.

I can’t help but wonder why they never stop to gaze at nature’s colorful background for their journey. Of course, I wonder the same thing of fellow commuters when I seem to be the only one to pull out of traffic to take in the wonders in the sky.

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Thanks for your patience. Peace out.

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Raging sunrise

 

 


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2016 Unconventional Book Reviews

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Unconventional because I’ve forgotten all the rules of proper book reviews and missed out on the new rules about punctuation, like commas and space/no space at the end of a sentence. Just give your inner editor a glass of wine and try to embrace my nonconformity.

I haven’t written anything for the past couple of years, and I haven’t been reading either. Until now. I’m even mixing a little fiction in with non-fiction.  Not much writing yet, except a few snippets of thoughts and lines of poetry. Maybe these book reviews will inspire more writing.

A recent climb to the top of our local lighthouse with my grand daughter must have triggered this foray into lighthouse-centered fiction.

My dream road trip is a 1200 mile journey following the path of the the mighty Columbia River from its origins in Canada to where it empties into the ocean at the border between Washington and Oregon. As I plan my route, I am caught up in the maps, photos, stories, history and poetry of that beautiful river. I’m especially in love with all that is known of the time before the dams were built.

The Lightkeepers, Abby Geni

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Wow. 5 stars. A small group of researchers on a remote island off the coast of California are joined by a photographer. Not long after she begins her year-long project, she is assaulted by one of the researchers. There are injuries and deaths. And a ghost, maybe. The unique and tumultuous history of the island and the lighthouse is the foundation upon which this tale is told.

Geni weaves the tale through letters written to the protagonist’s dead mother. We learn bits and pieces about each character, getting more details as the story unfolds.  Their very individual personalities come together, then move apart and yet they carry on their research and daily lives seemingly undaunted.

The writing is almost poetic when it comes to the dramatic and desolate location and the subjects of the research. The breeding, birth, eating habits and deaths of whales, sharks, seals, and sea birds are seen through the photographer’s lens and a poet’s soul. The sights, sounds, smells and physical discomfort pull the reader onto the island and into the world of these ocean creatures and their human observers. Who knew Seagulls were so terrifying?

The story closes with several surprises, and is so well written it feels more like a memory I have lived, rather than pages I have turned in a book. Read this book.

The Lightkeeper’s Wife, Karen Viggers

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Another mystery, another lighthouse and a letter. 4 stars. In this case the letter is the mystery. This story centers around an ailing elderly woman and her youngest son. I fell in love with both of them. The author made me do it.

The letter is delivered to Mary in person and causes her much anxiety. She tricks her grand daughter into leaving her at an island cabin near the lighthouse where she and her family lived years ago. Her adult daughter is selfish and freaked out that her mother isn’t in a nursing home. One son doesn’t see what the big deal is and the other son, Tom, supports his mother’s decision, with concerns about her health.

Part of Mary’s mission is dealing with the letter. She alternates between deciding to destroy it and losing it. Mary is reliving her past and has certain places on the island she needs to visit as a sort of pilgrimage to her late husband.

Her daughter hires a young park ranger to check on her mother daily. Mary convinces him to drive her on her pilgrimage. As the days go by and her health declines, he becomes more of a caregiver and he is grateful for her wise and gentle counsel on his own personal issues.

Mary’s son, Tom, is a lost soul. He is carrying an old heartbreak and is a lonely social misfit. He is the only sibling that makes time to visit his mother at the cabin, despite his being embroiled in a strange love affair. Viggers gives Tom room to blossom and shed the weight of the past.

Mary weakens further, but is determined to keep the letter from the person she is supposed to give it to. Is she trying to protect herself or others? This is a tangled story of love and grief and how each of us does what we must to live the best life we can. Sometimes that means keeping secrets and sometimes it means letting go and moving forward.

The author paints a vivid picture of both past and present in a wild remote setting, which draws us in, as much as the characters flowing through it do.

 

River of Memory, The Everlasting Columbia,

William D. Layman

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Oh my. Can one be in love with a book? I am. This 9 x 11 softcover book is all black and white, except for the beautiful life-like fish illustrations by Joseph Tomelleri and David McConnell. Layman narrates the U.S. portion of the river and Eileen Delehanty Pearkes narrates the Canadian portion.

The 90 plus historical photos are stunning on black backgrounds. Some are by unknown or unnamed photographers, others by well-known Pacific Northwest photographers. Each is a work of art and history.

The photos lay the ground for narration, poetry and stories of deeply researched people, flora, fauna, and places along the Columbia River. The narration is succinct, yet extremely dense with fascinating information. Early explorers, surveyors and naturalists are quoted, as well as writers and poets of today. The words of Native Americans, First Nations and settlers are recalled in poetry and brief stories.

A museum of the natural history of a great river in a book. Ahhh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Go Ahead And Ask. I Know You Want To.

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Purple dinosaur roams the Secret Garden. Essential.

Just where the hell have I been? My last post, aside from the lame January Home page update, was September 2014!!!! Holy tomato, Batman. Sure, I’ve been dipping my toes in the Facebook social pool over the past few months. Just a few lines and a photo or ten, nothing much really.

And, no ma’am/sir, I have not been tucked away in a cozy writer’s retreat tapping out The Great American Novel. I haven’t been off saving the world, one family member or friend at a time either. I haven’t been busy raising a family, promoting a book, working for a living or chairing ten committees.

Nope, that’s you guys. Man, you people have been BUSY!

During my 9-month people-phobia I have had a very limited itinerary; Maggie (the beach cave/home), the Secret Garden, the beach, the post office, the smoke shop and the grocery store. Did you catch that? Yes, I started smoking again, and I’m un-boyfriended too. I suppose I wasn’t ready for either one, despite how great they both (not smoking and boyfriend) were while they lasted. I WILL give quitting another try though.

I spent a month or so in Centralia with my 3-year-old grandson, Cameron, while his mom worked some crazy hours. It was good to be with their little family and it was also good to be back to my beach cave. Cora and Nola came back with me and we spent a fun weekend in the garden and at the beach and marina. The girls made some awesome beach art. Then my Sara, Jon and Cameron came to get them. We had a yummy BBQ in the Secret Garden, they unburdened me of lots of garden goodies, and then they all headed back home.

Aside from beach combing and gardening, I’ve been dabbling in painting and crafting. I spend a lot of time researching and charting my family genealogy. I have so many interests, I don’t think I’ve spent one minute of my life bored. Reading and writing have always been a huge part of my life, but not so much these past nine months.

I watch movies on Netflix sometimes. Last night I watched On Golden Pond. I loved Katharine Hepburn, the lake, the fishing and especially, the loons. The family dynamics were familiar and bittersweet.

I still write weekly postcards to my grandson, Hunter, and every few weeks to my Nola, Cora and Cameron. Other friends and family get snail mail from me occasionally. I sent my adult children, Sara and Jon, “Where’s Waldo” postcards a few weeks ago.

I’m usually up all night and sleep 4-6 hours during the day. I catch the birds singing their dawn chorus at 4:30 A.M. and the often-spectacular sunrise show. At night I get the beach sunset, moon and stars.

I still cry at the drop of a…it was a sock a couple days ago. I was rearranging something and a catch-all basket fell to the floor. As I bent to gather everything I saw a toddler-sized sock. Whether the sock was my grandson Tiven’s, who died in 2013, or his brother Hunter’s, whom I haven’t seen in almost 2 years and who is being moved to the other side of the country this week, it was heart-wrenching. I still avoid the cubby under my bed where I stored their shells, beads, drawings and toys. Hunter’s bright orange toothbrush catches me off guard sometimes.

Since Paul died in 2009, then my cat, my sister, my grandson, 2 aunts, an uncle and several friends, I haven’t moved forward much. I’ve spent a lot of time in Alaska with my parents and siblings, and I’m trying to build strong bonds with Sara’s 3 children.  Most of my adult friendships are on the phone or online.

The Secret Garden and my camera keep me going, as does sharing what I find that amazes me. Publicly, I try to add a kind word or humor when I can. If not, I say nothing.

In the back room of my friend’s garage, are floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall totes. Two households (both mine, both gone) of STUFF. If I could, I would pay for someone to take it all away. That’s not going to happen. My goal is to sell, toss or give away all of it by the end of the summer. Baby steps. I’ll start with 20 minutes a day. Let’s see how that goes. Wish me luck.

So my first blog post in a long time and a goal and plan to unburden myself from my STUFF. Maybe I am moving forward a bit 🙂

Thanks for reading if you made it this far,

Patti

P.S. This was written the last full week in June. Real progress being made on my goal; 6 or 7 empty totes! Grandson moved to undisclosed location, so I’ve decorated an antique box and keep adding his weekly postcards and a few treasures that I find.


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Alaska Travels; Downtown, Up On Mountain, Botanical Garden

Although my cold lingers and we both feel worn out, mom and I are still getting around to see the sights.

Downtown Anchorage:

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On a mountain above Eagle River:

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At the Alaska Botanical Garden in Anchorage:

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Alaska Travels: Accidental Mushroom Hunter

 

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As with my writing, my photography takes me where it will. As soon as I set out for the back woods at my parents home on my arrival in August, there they were; mushrooms of every shape, color and size. Mom and I and the dogs took a walk in Peters Creek Park, and there they were, not only at the edge of the woods and deep inside the understory of birch, cottonwood and fir trees, but we could hardly walk the paths without tripping over mushrooms. Our visit to Homer was the same. I found mushrooms, not only in and around Homer, but in the lush green, moss-covered land around the cabin, and even on the beach-side cliffs.

I’m a researcher at heart. I like to KNOW about things, from every angle possible. I strongly dislike posting photos of plants, weeds and other discoveries, without naming them. That extends to mushrooms, but on this topic, I found myself lost in a sea of too much information. I did spend hours attempting to identify my fungus finds, but finally gave up, leaving the naming to the professionals.

Here are a few favorites and I’ll get over to post the rest on my photo blog soon.

 

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Alaska Travels: Revving Up and Winding Down

Sunset last night, from my parent's deck, Eagle River, Alaska.  Phall Photos 2014

Sunset last night, from my parent’s deck. Eagle River, Alaska.
Phall Photos 2014

A week from today I’ll be catching a ride home on another big metal bird. Yes, I’m 55 and still amazed that those things can carry us through the sky. Of course, the miracle of electricity still boggles my simple mind too. No, no, don’t try to explain them! I NEED every little miracle I can claim 🙂

Up and Down

So, I’m revving up to wind this visit down. It has been one of my best trips home (I always say this, because the present one IS always the best one!). The lists that mom and I make just grow longer, as my days here grow shorter. Sure, we got a lot done the last 2 months, but man, there’s still so much to do!

And Up and Down Once More

One way or another, I’m heading home on the 29th and am very excited to see my Centralia family; 2 adult children, 5 little grands, cousins, aunt and uncle. There are some special friends I’ve been missing too. And then there is my beach gypsy cave and secret garden awaiting my return to Westport. From social to solitary again. At last. The solitude lures me more every day, no matter the love and joy I receive in the presence of family and friends…

A Traveling Clan

Dad will be flying “home” to Kentucky to see his ailing sisters and brother for a few weeks, on October 1st. Four days after he returns to Alaska, mom will leave to spend the winter in Arizona with my youngest sister and her family. We should own Alaska Airlines by now. The sister that I have had the longest (not allowed to say “oldest sister”) and her husband spend the coldest winter months at their condo in Costa Rica. Some how, some way, I have plans on making it over there this year. A girl can dream 🙂

Swing over to http://phallphotos.wordpress.com/homer-alaska/ to see some slide shows from our trip to Homer, if you have a few minutes. No metal bird needed for this tour!

Traveling On,

Patti