Sunday, March 23, 2014

Wandering And Wondering

Yesterday morning, my spring-breaking fourth-born and I went on an adventure.

Well. Not just an ordinary adventure. A very specific sort of adventure.

Our exact mission was this: we had no mission.

Yes. In a life full of syllabi, to-do lists, appointments and class schedules, preset maintenance mileage and automated bill payments, we dared to dive into a full Saturday's worth of ambiguity and unplanned happenstance.

First, we had cheeseburgers. For breakfast.

^ Then we hopped a westbound ferry out of Edmonds and headed over to the Olympic Peninsula.

If you're not familiar with Washington geography, here's a crash course. Our state looks like a rectangle with a bite taken out of the upper left corner. Directly underneath the bite, there's a chunk of land that sits off at a funny little crooked angle from the rest. Surrounded by water on three sides, that pointy bit is called the Olympic Peninsula.

The skies were cloudy, the winds fierce, but a ferry ride never fails as a great way to jump start an adventure.

Once we were delivered to the wild side of the Sound, we pulled out a map and decided on a route. Here's how that conversation unfolded:
I don't care where we go as long as there are beaches. 
Okay,  I'm down. But it's your spring break, so you choose a random place.  
Umm. What about Poulsbo. Have we ever been there? I don't remember it. I don't even know how to say it. 
"Poul" rhymes with "soul." So "Soulsbo" equals Poulsbo. I think? And I've never been there either. So let's go.
(Later, I learned it's pronounced more like Pawls-bo. Oops.)
What we soon learned is that Poulsbo is a pretty typical medium-sized town, with a nice new Safeway, a five-lane highway that passes as Main Street, and down on the waterfront, a fairly charming historic district with Nordic architecture, street murals of Viking ships, and countless Scandanavian flags. But we skipped all that and headed straight to the beach.

^ We soon learned that the beaches of Poulsbo are mud flats. Stepping gingerly through the squelchy goo, we discovered an endless stretch of mush to the north...

 ^ ...and to the south, where a layer of stones does little to combat the squishy features of the beach. Boo.

^ Happily, we also found this fabulous walkway that rises above the whole murky mess and allows beach-goers a smooth and satisfying stroll. Heaven help me, I love a good boardwalk.

^ And speaking of love, we happened to look over the railing and discover this ubiquitous springtime sign of American teenage romance: Prom? We wondered if she said yes. 

 ^ We walked as far as the marina, then wandered through the docks, debating the pros and cons of the various yachts and sailboats. What we found most irresistible, however, was the thick layer of sea life clinging to the pilings.

^ When the spirit moved us, we traced out steps back to the far end of the walkway and back up through a thin buffer of forest to the streets above. 

^ Daffodils were everywhere and we wondered endlessly about how they might have come to be sprinkled through the forest. 

^ Hey! Wait! A heart-shaped trunk. I love finding heart-shaped anything.

* * * * *

With Poulsbo in our rear-view mirror, we weren't exactly sure where we were heading next when a sign leaped out at us: Bainbridge Island 11 Miles.

What? I knew Bainbridge Island as a popular Seattle community that blends rural living with a short ferry ride to downtown. But I didn't know it was connected to the Olympic Peninsula via a back door bridge. Cool. So on we rode, following signs for the ferry dock and trusting that where there is a ferry dock, there is probably also going to be a beach.

^ What we found was a waterfront park with a big pink flowering tree, 

 ^ lots of sweet spring daisies,

^ and a barely-there peekaboo view of the ferry.

The Bainbridge beach was a bore. Much more entertaining was a twenty-something man in the park who we found standing amidst a dozen or so Frisbees. As we stealthily spied on him, he would pick them up, one by one, and whale them, with all his strength, to a spot in the grass on the far side of the park. Once he had tossed them all, with all the ceremony of a Greek discus champion, he would march over to the landing site, now littered with all of his colorful flying discs, and proceed to whip them back to their starting place.

We loved this guy.
We appreciated his tenacity and determination.
We were impressed with the extreme gusto of his delivery.
We admired his obvious devotion to his sport.
And we were totally captivated by his deliberate methodology.

I wanted to take his picture. But my daughter discouraged me. Too creepy.

Yeah. She's probably right. So I resisted.

* * * * *

We took back roads out of town, winding our way through some gorgeous neighborhoods with beautiful houses and breathtaking views of the Seattle skyline. Covetously, we plotted how we might get our hands on such a prime piece of real estate and debated whether it is possible to steal a house.

^ And before we knew it, we were back on the bridge,

^ and returned to our dear Peninsula. 

We headed north again, vaguely returning toward the homeward ferry, but without any urgency. The winding road suddenly brought us to the water's edge once again and we pulled off to check out the new vistas.

There's something indescribable about a town on an Indian reservations. I can't quite put my finger on how those communities are any different than any other tiny American town, but they have a certain vibe that always captures my attention and fascinates me. This little spot, Suquamish, had that effect on me. As we strolled out on the well-kept dock and surveyed the small waterfront park, my daughter and I discussed the strange bond between our land's native peoples and all of us immigrants who came later.

 ^ Looking back at Agate Passage - the water between Bainbridge and the Peninsula - and the delicate bridge over which we had just traveled.

 ^ Barely discernible on the pale horizon to the left stands the Seattle skyline. Despite our valiant efforts, our phone cameras refused to do it justice.

 ^ Lovely homes spill down the bluff with stairs and walkways to reach the beach.

 ^ The shapes and colors of nautical trappings always inspire me,

^ as do long-legged girls on perfectly straight docks.

As we bailed back into the car and began the last leg of our journey back to the ferry and our side of the Sound, my daughter mused aloud:
I think it's great that we have a black president. And I hope someday there will be a woman president too. But what I'm really looking forward to is the day that the United States has a president who is a Native American. 
It took a few moments for that profound idea to reach my brain.

What a thinker my little fourth-born has turned out to be.

And how grateful I am for a day spent wandering and wondering with her.

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