Shift Happens

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Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

I thrive on walks in Seattle’s Lincoln Park, which faces Puget Sound.

Curious how the driftwood belched up by the Sound looks sculpted into the shape of animals.  First I spot a sea lion in  a log amid pebbles, and now a swan ~

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Lythe young bodies jog past me on my way to my meditation bench.  Some clock themselves with Fit Bits.

The show-offs!

In my forty-somethings, I walked more briskly.  With each decade — surprise — I have slowed down.  In my fifties, I developed plantar fascitis and now, in my sixties,  lower back issues.

Shift happens.

I reach my meditation bench.  At its base, a plaque engraved with the words Carpe Diem — Seize Today.   Nowhere does it say Carpe HisternoSeize Yesterday.  Nor Carpe MananaSeize Tomorrow. 

I am here to calm the internal chatter, to feel the pulse of this sacred, public park.  I am here to spend time as deliberately as nature, to notice the cries of  gulls, the flute-like melody of thrushes, and lately the sight of sea lions.  I am here to engage my senses and practice what the Japanese call Shinrin-yoku — having a forest bath.

Lowering myself onto the bench, I hope to spot my sea lion today.

Seagulls scud across the water.  The tide froths against the rocks.  Opening my ears, I try to memorize the rhythm of the tide. Inhaling the kelp-scented air, I consider the irony of “smelling the Sound.”

What would Henry David Thoreau have made of the sea lion that bobs up during my dusk quietude?   Most likely he would spend an entire day  in this spot.  Thoreau would stand motionless for eight hours beside Walden Pond to watch young frogs, and all day at a river’s edge watching duck eggs hatching.

Thoreau may have been extreme in his nature studies and solitude. During  my forest baths I have at least learned to leave my cell phone behind.

A dog trots past, smiling.  Is he experiencing a forest bath too?  I smile back.

Eyes half-focused on the horizon, on the quicksilver water, no sea lion appears today.  But something shifts and releases in my hips just by being here.

Bird Eats Cat

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In the garden, a chickadee pecks at you,
kisses the ground nourished by your ashes.

Whiskers,
paws, emerald eyes —

now burned to a chickadee prize.

The tangerine poppies have turned blood orange;
they sway

like lit Oriental lanterns
as we look for you

in nature’s patterns.

Is the bird’s song sharper from feeding on you?
Have you fertilized flowers to a deeper hue?

Cattails rise like questions in the morning dew.

Bellingham – City of Subdued Excitement

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Strait of Juan DeFuca along base of Chuckanut Drive

Chuckanut Drive, a winding coastal ride on the way to Bellingham, WA, is a gem.  It is Washington State’s equivalent of California’s Big Sur with jaw-dropping glimpses of the sea and mountains along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The coastal drive to Bellingham and Fairhaven is one of my favorite field trips in WA State.  Evergreens ascend along the twisting road with glimpses of sea, sky, mountains and — what’s this? — a solitary and quaint old house perched on a cliff on the southern part of Chuckanut Drive.

The house belonged to the family of Edward R. Murrow, a WWII radio broadcaster and war correspondent (a predecessor to Walter Cronkite and the like).

Further north there’s Chuckanut Gallery, which allures with local art and a fantastic garden.

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Chuckanut Gallery

 

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Bellingham  is the last city in WA before reaching Vancouver, Canada.  When we moved to Seattle twenty-something years ago, we were intrigued by travel articles about this historical border city which in the mid-1800’s vied with Seattle for becoming the prominent port city.  Seattle, of course, won the title and is NOT subdued in its excitement.

(In fact Seattle’s excitement is more annoyance over crowded highways  and overdevelopment of real estate and Amazon drones and what happened to the Seattle we moved to? …  I could go on but I shall subdue.)

Bellingham, I sure hope you can maintain “subdued,” and keep your charm.

I reminisce…

It was a dark and stormy day — a Sunday — when we first visited you in the 1990’s.  We were on our way to your soup festival.  Hubby had been wise-cracking about the Strait of Juan de Fuca along Chuckanut Drive:  If there were a university here, would it be called  Fuca U?

Hahaha.  I turned to my friend Llana, also a soup fancier, who in fact was a former student at Western Washington University in Bellingham.  Was that the joke when you were here?  Did students call the place Fuca U?

But maybe I didn’t ask her that.  Maybe instead I was distracted by the thick, slanting rain, the charcoal clouds as we climbed Chuckanut Drive.

As we rocked down to Electric Avenue in search of the soup festival, we spotted the sign:  Bellingham.  City of Subdued Excitement.

We could see why.   Other than the community center where we had our soup, not many places were open that Sunday.  The only roadside attraction open was the Whatcom Museum.

They had…are you ready?…an exhibit displaying bicycle reflector art.  We strolled inside and the museum attendant handed us flashlights.

“What are these for,” I asked.

“You shine them on the bike reflectors,” she said.

That was trippy.

It’s not often that I get to Bellingham these days.  Nor the Fairhaven district in Bellingham, which was a popular hippie enclave in the 1960’s.

Here’s more about the city of “subdued excitement” on Bellingham’s Fish & Bicycles site.

Our rainy, Sunday coastal drive and the soup festival and museum seem sweet now.  I think I need a field trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toto, I Don’t Think We’re In Chicago Anymore

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Tree Art I happened upon during a walk in lovely Seattle.

While temperatures in Chicago dropped to Antarctic levels this week, I recall the “good old days.”

When I was a working stiff earning  my livelihood as a Temp, I used to cross the Chicago River on below-zero days.  This gave a new meaning to “working stiff.”  It did not matter if you dressed in down from head to foot like the Michelin Man.  The freezing temperatures penetrated every bone and fiber of my being.

But the current polar vortex seems worse than the child’s play of  “lake effect” snow and winds I experienced several decades ago.

Chicagoans today report hearing “frost quakes” — loud booms that geologists call “cryoseisms.”  Think of a bottle of water in the freezer expanding and exploding.  But it’s the frozen Chicago River making the booming noises which some people mistake for gunfire, furnace explosions, or house break-ins.

Do I miss the City of Big Shoulders?

Well…sometimes.  I have family there.  They are hunkering down, making jokes about it:  “The Lake Street El is so cold they’re hanging sides of beef in it.”

When I hear their humor, I wish I could beam myself in with a plate of warm, homemade cookies.  (If instead of a “frost quake” we have one of our infamous Seattle earthquakes soon, I’m putting in my order for peanut butter cookies topped with a Hershey’s kiss).

Counting my good fortune not to have Chicago’s present weather, I break away and take a walk around Seattle’s Lincoln Park (a far cry from Chicago’s Lincoln Park) where I see Spring buds on the trees and…wait a minute…a face?

That’s right, Dorothy.

At first I feel surprised, happy by my discovery of Mr. Tree Face.  What a magical place Seattle is!

But then I recall how the trees in the enchanted forest turn on Dorothy and her friends, throwing apples at them.  I almost expect my tree to turn on me:  “You gloat that you are able to roam outside without getting frostbite while your big sister and her family are stuck indoors,” he admonishes me.

“I am NOT gloating.  Besides, my famiglia makes jokes about it.  We all love each other.  No more guilt trips!”

At least for now.

 

 

Imaginary Friend

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Frosty & The Girl Plot Their Escape

Snow was my favorite get-away from my strong-willed Mother and sisters.  I invented whole worlds in the magic of flurries and ice.  One of these worlds contained my Imaginary Friend.  You might recognize the recipe:

Snow
Charcoal
Carrot stick

Roll the snow into round rock shapes.  Stack on top of each other.  The smallest is Frosty’s head.

Use charcoal for eyes, mouth, and vest buttons.  Give him (or her — your choice) a carrot for nose.

You have now built your Imaginary Friend.

When the sun comes out and it warms up, your Imaginary Friend will disappear.

Don’t panic.  Just stash Frosty’s eyes, nose, and mouth in your mittens.  Or, like Boo Radley, find a good tree hole for your little treasures.

Nobody needs to know but you:).

 

 

 

 

Before I Croak — I’m Just Sayin’

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(Frog hangin’ out on his pad at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.)

I sometimes wonder about Emily Dickinson’s world.   A recluse who wore white and eschewed publicity, a prolific writer of untitled poems — here is a verse I find especially humorous:

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish — you know!

How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one’s name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

What would Emily make of our world today?   Who isn’t croaking their name the livelong day, including moi?

The Boomers, the Millenials, the Gen-Xers — we croak everywhere in order to keep up with our public:  Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter.  And just when we’re current with one platform, another one pops up for distraction.   It’s become a game of whack-a-mole.

But is social media  turning us into hermits, albeit of a different kind?   Are we becoming techno-hermits tapping into our smart phones, i-pads, as we sit across from each other at Starbucks, no eye contact?

This is different from Emily’s retreat into self — she set the bar high and literature reaped the benefits of her hermitage.  Time and a lack of tools was on her side.

I realize I am privileged to have world-wide connection.  I am presently learning collage techniques on YouTube — but I can’t help but ask myself — Who am I?  Who is this person who feels compelled to post about Emily, who herself had her first book of poetry published posthumously in 1890?

Am I a dreary person for wanting to croak to the entire world on this blog before I croak?

Do I really want to be a Nobody?

I do not claim to be that humble.

Nor do I want to be Lady Gaga.  I guess I just want to tell my tale the livelong day to an “admiring BLOG.”

Gullible’s Travels

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Riding high, Alki Beach

Hi.  My name is Gil.  I am a seagull who wised up to the world and this is the story of my travels.

First, a little background.   While still a hatchling in the nest, I used to tap on Mom’s beak for feedings.  The menu?  Vomit.  Seagull regurgitation.  Not exactly the variety my dumpster-diving siblings brought home:   chunks of pizza, French fries, Cheetos.  Once, my sibs even brought home parts of a deer leg.   They fought over it.  Screamed morning till night while I, the little hatchling, was still on a diet of Mom’s vomit.  I adapted, became used to these behaviors.  When Dad hung a shingle on our nest that said Safe Place, I believed it.

Still, after a few months I wanted to stretch my wings.  There was a great big world out there I wanted to explore.

As I soared in the clouds above my oceanic watering hole, I felt a rush from the tickling breeze and believed that the world was my oyster.  Forests, mountains, sea — it was all mine.

Suddenly a disciplined white air force of fellow gulls screeched and swarmed around me.  We were being dive-bombed by an eagle.   Shit bombs explode.  Danger, Danger, my amigos called out.  The raptor snatched a fellow-gull and carried him to the top of an evergreen.  I had evaded the eagle’s hungry eyes.

It was my first lesson in communication and cooperation.  Though we scream at each other — and at you human beings — we know there is safety in numbers.

Since I’ve mentioned humans, why do you folks act like we are snarky when we scream or go after the litter you drop?  Why do we have reputations as walking garbage dumps – we’ll eat anything that moves and a lot that doesn’t —  when you’re the ones tossing that hunk of beef jerky on the pier?

Did you ever stop and think that maybe you are the snarky ones?  To survive in the wild, yes I will even go after Styrofoam cups and cheese wrappers.

I need to come clean about that beef jerky.  I snatched it away from Peg Leg.  Peg Leg is a one-legged gull.  That’s right.  One leg.  I did not ask him how it happened.  No.   TMI.   All I know is that he was hobbling over to the beef jerky and I snatched it from him.   The peeps back home in the nest trained me well.  That’s the thing about sibling rivalry – it teaches you how to be bad-ass.   Man that beef jerky was good.

So with my fill of protein that day, I was flying high.  Maybe too high.  For suddenly, an amigo is cruising along with me in the fluffy clouds babbling to me about foreign object debris.  He points his beak at one of those proud birds with the golden tails.  You know – one of your human contraptions – a jet airplane.  He warns me about colliding with a plane’s windscreen, getting sucked into engines.  Really?

But hey, knowledge is power.  My trust in fellow gulls increases.  I dip away from the airplane, land on the beach to rest.  After a decent sleep, I spot a clam saying “Eat Me.”  I down it, but five minutes later puke it up.

A bummer, you say?  No.  A hidden talent that I would not have learned about if I hadn’t left the nest.  We gulls have superpowers:  we can sense paralytic shellfish poisoning before it’s too late.  Bet you can’t do that!

The brush with the toxic clam leaves me thirsty.  And so I fly over to my favorite watering hole:  the Pacific Ocean.  How many creatures do you know who can drink salt water and live to tell about it?  Sharks, crocodiles, maybe.  That’s gangsta, son.  Another instance of Gull Super Power.

I strut my stuff on the shore, fly over to some beach grass where I find a discarded lamb chop.   Thanks to your beach litter, I am learning your chops.

Sated and content, I fly to a tree limb to rest.  But as I tuck my bill into my feathers, I hear cries from a neighboring tree.  To my horror I witness a mature, fellow gull with a chick egg in his beak.  He just robbed a nearby nest of its newly hatched Gull.  I hear the delicate eggshell crack, and watch the mature one feast on its victim.

What? 

I thought I was gangsta, but this?

No.  This was just too much.  I suddenly felt yearnings for Mom.  And so I flew back that very night to the parental unit.  Is it true, I asked Mom.  Do we eat our own?

To me, this was a simple Yes/No question.  But not to Mom.  She would not give me a direct answer.  Instead, she regurgitated some of the same old pablum for me to gobble up.

 “Oh, Gull, just eat your food,” she said.

“The name’s Gil, Mom.”

“No.  From this day forward I call you Gull.” 

“Huh?”

“C’mon.  Mangia, mangia.”

As for my siblings?  They stared at me with the hungriest eyes I have ever seen.

How The Rain Feels To The Leaves

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Like a velveteen hand smoothing fronds with April tears.

Like paint splatters on canvas dripping summer suns, autumn rusts, winter oxblood, spring pinks.

Like the blade of an ice skate slashing its veins in winter wind.

Like the lead weight of a mirror reflecting physical beauty which ends.

Like the sparkle of crystals from an overturned sugar bowl.

The rain chuckles and asks:  “Did Leif Erickson turn over a new leaf?”

Then the rain goes psycho, pals with the wind and blows leaves hither and non.

Leaves twist and turn in the rain, shout to each other:  “Is this the winter of our discontent?”

Leaves cling fierce but lose family members.

Do leaves mourn?

I hear leaves waltz with the rain at night, patter a child to sleep,

fragrance dreams with velveteen prayer.

Like a gentle hand April rains return to soothe.

 

 

 

 

Love’s Labor

 

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Sculptor had this mounted on car roof in Soho District.

 

For hubby’s 50th, we took a trip to the Big Apple.  Ya gotta admire the  Love and Labor this sculptor poured into his depiction of  1930’s Iron Workers at lunch on scaffolds high in the sky.

Hats off to the laborers who braved heights to build some of  NY’s magnificent skyscrapers.