Sunday, February 26, 2017

Girls Gone Wild

I have flown long distances alone with four tiny children.
I've driven back and forth across the continental United States more times than I can count.
I've taught little girls in India how to read and swam in Malaysian waterfalls and driven a motorbike through the crowded streets of Vietnam.

But I have never in my whole life taken a girls' weekend. 

Well. Until this weekend, that is. My girlfriend, Anya, and I slipped out of town for two lovely nights and three days in Vancouver, British Columbia. 

^ Anya ordered the latte, sandwich and soup, I chose the quiche, baby derkins, ginger raspberry, and the food was as delicious as it was pretty.

^ We didn't eat any macarons but I admired them from afar. 

Thankfully, we were very much of one mind about how to spend out time. Priority Number One: Eating. Anya came prepared with a long list of recommendations and tried-and-true favorites, and somehow we managed to walk the line between delicious indulgence and pure gluttony. Thierry Bakery made the short list for our first day's breakfast.

^ Big blue buildings stand shoulder to shoulder, set off perfectly by puffy Canadian clouds. 

^ Vancouver Harbor and the mountains to the north. 

^ This building bears a cryptic message:
"lying on top of a building...lying on top of a building...lying on top of a building/the clouds looked no nearer than when i was lying on the street"

Once we ate, walking around became our priority. (I mean, we needed to digest each meal as quickly as possible to make room for the next.) We wandered through a few gorgeous boutiques and upscale salons, but we did not come to shop. Fresh air and good conversation as we explored the city was a much better fit for our dispositions.

^ Canadian flowers speak their universal language of love in both English and Français.

^ Effortlessly chic, the markets displayed not only typical cut bouquets but also on-trend succulents, cacti and lush green urban jungle plants. 

The city streets feel friendly and familiar. Though we wandered through the heart of a major world-class city, small markets, open bakeries, and lots of dogs and their humans punctuated our path.

^ The bar at España was an OCD delight. 

Our journeys led us forward, time and again, to the next meal and the next delightful restaurant.

And thus I spent forty-eight self-indulgent hours in a blissful cycle of eating, walking, and talking, interrupted only by long hours of reading and soul-satisfying sleep.

This may have been my first girls' weekend but it is most definitely not my last.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Singing In The Rain

"I'm laughing at clouds so dark up above
The sun's in my heart and I'm ready for love" -Arthur Freed

I've been after myself for years to make the trip. 

All I needed, I told myself, was one day of sparkling sunshine, and I'd zip down to the Seattle Center to take in the masterpiece of glass + color + light that is Chihuly Garden and Glass.

But the conflicts and delays piled up far faster than the clear blue skies and I kept waiting for that perfect sunny day to make the trip. Finally, when my third-born daughter added this destination to her things-I-want-to-do-when-I'm-home list, the urgency overcame the need for perfect weather conditions. 

Despite the gloomy winter skies and classic Pacific Northwest rain, we drove down, determined to make the best of what I assumed was a less-than-ideal situation.


Holy hand-blown glass, I couldn't have been more wrong!

This amazing greenhouse full of rapturous red flowers doesn't need sunshine; its glory is set off best by

the overcast sky,
the colorless landscape, and
the rivulets of rain pouring down the side of the greenhouse

that make the building fairly quiver with light and life.

No doubt this space is beautiful in any weather, but it truly sings in the rain.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Reason For Tears

"Crying is cleansing. There's a reason for tears, happiness or sadness." -Dionne Warwick

^ Last November, after three and a half years of living and teaching English in Vietnam, 
my daughter flew away from that life and headed back to the USA for a break. 
Along the way, she stopped to visit her new home-away-from-home, Seoul


"You don't have to cry, Mom."

I took my third-born to the airport today.
She flew away to Seoul, South Korea, where she has signed a year-long contract to teach English.
She already has some friends in Seoul - a nice family she knows from Vietnam, an American family friend, a pair of Korean twenty-somethings she met on an airplane, just to name a few. 
She will certainly make more.

^ In Seoul, she saw a few of the sights, including Gwanghwamun gate, 
and got to know her way around the city a bit. 


"You don't have to cry, Mom."

Her brand new suitcases were packed with almost everything she owns, and labeled with the address of her new school.
Her freshly laundered baby blanket was safely strapped into her carry-on.
Her bags weighed more than she does.

^ South Korea is a land of four seasons, and experiencing cold again 
will be a major part of the adjustment. 


"You don't have to cry, Mom."

Seoul seems much closer to home than Vietnam. 
Seoul has Starbucks and subways and reliable postal service. 
Seoul is a direct flight from Seattle and I can fly there for just a few hundred dollars more than a ticket back to my mom's house. 

^ This is David. My daughter taught him English for several years in Danang; 
now they have all relocated to Seoul and their friendship carries on. 


"You don't have to cry, Mom."

But when I say goodbye to her
Her half smile makes her look just like her baby self
She rubs her thumb on her lip just as she did when she was learning to drive

I realize that life is flashing by far faster than any of us can comprehend.

And that is the moment when I do indeed have to cry. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Peace At The Pass

"Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without." -Buddha 

Two surgeries,
One season of meager snow,
A tired old car,
And a sweet dog who needed my company.

These are the reasons why I haven't skied since 2013.

I've missed the physical sensation of skiing.
I've missed the magical snow.
I've missed my friendly and familiar mountain.

But most of all, I've missed the beautiful sense of peace that always fills my soul when I'm at Stevens Pass.

So it was with much excitement and anticipation that my dry spell finally came to an end this week when two daughters and I enjoyed a lovely bluebird Friday. 

^ Dudes in blue. 

^Riders at top of Skyline look like they're about to drop off a cliff 
but there's a whole mountain down there.  

^ When a busted board threatened to ruin our outing, we just bought a new one. 

^ Looking north from Hogsback...

 ^ and looking south from Tye Mill, these are the views I drink in as my snowboarding daughters take a minute to strap in at the top of each run.  

 ^ Sunset over Cowboy Ridge. Giddy up. 

 ^ If I squint just right, I don't see the power lines cutting through this insane view. 

 ^ Pretty sure the mountain is wearing a halo.

^ This golden peekaboo view of the sunset is pretty, but when viewed through my amber-colored goggles, this scene was off the charts. 

 ^ Pink clouds soften the sky over Highway 2 as it winds east to Wenatchee. 

 ^ Skyline at sunset still steals my heart.


I was not disappointed.

My muscles ached from blissful hours spent careening down icy fast runs.
My eyes feasted on the glorious white snow that sparkled in the sunlight.
My heart filled with happy memories from every corner of the mountain.

But I was a little bit surprised to find that the anticipated rush of peace didn't take my breath away as it used to.

At first, that made me sad.

But then I realized what's changed in the past four years.

I don't need Stevens Pass to calm my heart; I've learned much better how to make my own peace and now I carry it within me every day of my life.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Last Night And This Morning

Together.

Sometimes, in this life, the people we love hurt our feelings.

They disappoint us.
They break our hearts.
They make us cry white hot tears into our pillows at night and wish we could take a knife and cut every memory of them out of our hearts and forget we ever knew them.

And even when they apologize from the bottom of their hearts for causing us all this pain, and we promise to forgive them, we can scarcely begin to imagine how this relationship is ever going to feel alright again.

This happens, I think, to all of us sooner or later as we travel through life.

Maybe it has happened to you.
Last night, it happened to me.

Apart.

When I woke up this morning, with the crushing weight of that sadness rushing back into my heart, something else happened.

A friend of mine -  who knows nothing about my pain - sent me a message. And in that message, he offered me some general words of encouragement:

Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

And in that moment, as those words entered my mind, touched my heart, and began to soothe my troubled soul, I knew that I was going to be alright..

Now you may call this coincidence or good luck or even random thoughts from a friend. But I see these words as the handiwork of a God who loves me with all his heart and knows exactly what I need to keep going. The One who makes me who I am walks through life right next to me and finds ingenious ways to sweetly, tenderly comfort me when I am falling apart.

Together again.

This happens, I think, to all of us when we are open to the idea that God is love.

Maybe this has happened to you too.
This morning, it happened to me.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Self-Development

"I'm an adventurer. I like invention, I like discovery." -Karlheinz Stockhausen

^ My self-developing portraits from the beach.

Click Whirrrrrr. Bzzzt.

These magical sounds from my childhood set my heart to racing.

What they meant was that my grandfather had just taken a photo with his Polaroid camera; the blank film had popped out of the camera and the image was about to appear before my very eyes. 

Carl Rex Alan Lewis was a gadget guy, and an early adapter at that. Much to my grandmother's disdain and his meager bank balance's detriment, he loved to indulge his curiosity in the latest inventions of the day: electric shavers, cassette tape players, and an ongoing assortment of ice crushing devices. Many of these gizmos came and went without a lot of practical applications but Grandpa's Polaroid camera was always close at hand.

Now had he lived to this age, I'm sure my grandfather would be loaded down with digital technology. No doubt he would wait in line for the latest iPhone releases and I'm sure he'd invest in a nice DSLR camera with a selection of fine, innovative lenses. 

If my grandma didn't hide his debit cards first. 

But I would like to think that Grandpa would be tickled to see my new Instax Mini and its tiny self-developing photos, and I bet he would immediately sneak off and buy one for himself. 

^ Grandpa at the drug store, taking the latest Polaroid model on a test run. December 1960

Friday, February 3, 2017

Standing Firm

"Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm". -Abraham Lincoln

A seagull, a girl, and the glory of the beach.

To have my very own lighthouse is a luxury that always takes me by surprise.

Posts where the dock floats during the summer, and water made of liquid gold. 

The ferry comes and the ferry goes, but the land and sea and sky are happy to stay in place. 

Massive Mount Baker towers above the rest of the Cascade Range.

 Sand and stones and rivulets where the water once ran down to the sea.

Travelers on their way to San Francisco or LAX surely look out their windows 
and wonder what it must be like to live in paradise. 

* * * * *

This is where I live. This place is what I stand for.

The endless beauty of the elements.
Harmony between humans and nature.
The simple joy of stepping out on a cold winter's day and letting the beach have its way with you.

You know what else I stand for?

I stand for the self-evident truths that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. 

I stand for the huddled masses, yearning to be free

I stand for truth, justice and the American way

I stand for a nation where people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

And I stand for a government of the people, by the people, for the people

My feet are most definitely in the right place, and I am standing firm. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Dream

"Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity."  -Khalil Gibran

Since Ranger passed away, I've been sleeping in my actual bed again. And I've been obsessed with adding a few touches of blush pink to the mix. It's a color that brings me peace.

I was walking down a wide, winding hill.

The mountains were at my back,
the twinkling lights of the city lay before me,
the light of the day was just beginning to fade from the winter sky,
and everything as far as the eye could see was buried under a deep blanket of fresh snow.

All was still as I moved silently through the drifts, until suddenly I noticed a flurry of motion off in the distance. Straining my eyes, I saw four or five dark shapes - animals, it became clear - frolicking and flouncing through the deep snow.

Dogs. I realized they were dogs.

My ears picked up the sounds of their barking, and my heart swelled as I recognized a familiar voice.

Ranger! Ranger? Could it be you?

The air burst from my lungs as I called his name for all I was worth. And sure enough, one of the distant animals froze in his footsteps, whipping his head in my direction, and listening with obvious concentration. In the next instant, he bolted straight towards me.

My heart soared with joy.

He bounded through the belly-deep snow until he was a few feet away from me. And then he stopped, his tail wagging with unmistakable delight, his face filled with light and sparkle, and he looked deep into my eyes.

Yes. Ranger. It's you!

Good dog! Good boy, Ranger! I'm so happy to see you! I called to him again and again, and he wheeled in wild circles around me, jumping and leaping through the snow, and keeping pace with me as I continued down the hill.

I felt an indescribable joy.

As we came to the base of the hill,
where the land flattened out,
the river ran nearby in lazy loops,
and the fence posts of cow pastures poked up through the snow,

Ranger circled close to me again. He paused and gave me another long, searching look, this time with a question on his face.

It's okay, I told him, You can go back and play with your friends. I'll be alright.

And then he was off, a blur of joyful red energy, bounding back up the snowy ridge to the place where his dog buddies were still chasing each other and barking to high heaven.

I watched him go, my heart full of peace, knowing that I'd done the right thing.

* * I* * * 

Even better than my pink pillow might be this tiny pink dish with a fragile baby air plant inside. 
I feel better when I'm taking care of living things. 

This is the first dream I've had about Ranger since his passing. And there are no words that adequately describe the peace and happiness that it has brought to me.