Mother Nature forces us to take a break from work and politics

snow-day

Today Mother Nature gave us a snow day in Seattle. It was a much needed respite from the political havoc that has descended upon this nation since the transition to a Republican administration.

snowmanFor at least a few hours, many Seattleites opted to shun news, social media and work to play in the snow. Instead of turning on the morning news programs, we walked through neighborhoods blanketed with snow. We tuned out the tweets in favor of building snowmen. We took a day off work to sled with our kids.

For those who eschew winter, the snow day was a perfect time to ignore current events and cozy up to a fire. We used the down time to catch up on some reading or finish a knitting project. It was a chance to watch a movie that we added to our Netflix list months ago.

Thanks, Mother Nature. We really needed this break today. Tomorrow will be a new day.

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We are a cultural melting pot. Embrace it.

My mother was an immigrant and I remember some of the challenges she had to overcome as she forged a new life for herself in America.

A native of Japan, my mother grew up during World War II. She lived through hardships, survived air raids and lost family members. During post-war reconstruction, she found work caring for the children of US military officers stationed in Japan. She eventually met and married my father, an enlisted man stationed at the air base she was working. He brought her to the US when he completed his tour of duty.

kokeshi-origamiAs a young child, I remember my mother taking English classes, studying to become a US citizen, learning how to drive a car, and navigating a culture that was different from the one she grew up in. She did all of these things plus care for two little girls and a home!

She was fortunate to have a small circle of Japanese friends that she could turn to for support, companionship and community. They gathered together regularly to talk, eat their favorite Japanese dishes, listen to music from their homeland, and practice traditional crafts.

They often included their children at these get-togethers and this is where I developed my Japanese side. I sampled sushi, tempura, natto, sukiyaki, and more. I listened to Japanese folk tales and learned Japanese songs. I collected and played with kokeshi dolls and learned origami.

somali-basketsThese memories resurfaced recently when I saw some lovely handwoven baskets created by Somali women. My employer, Lutheran Community Services Northwest, offers a Somali basket weaving group to connect refugee women with each other through this traditional craft. The craft group brings the women together to socialize and create baskets while reducing the isolation they can experience living in a new culture. It gives them a sense of community within a larger, less familiar community.

The anti-immigrant and anti-refugee platform embraced by our president-elect is disturbing to me. It dredges up hurtful childhood memories of classmates calling me Jap, Chink and Ho Chi Minh. It causes me to recall the time the father of one of my elementary school friends told me he didn’t like Japanese people. And more.

This open backlash is making many in our country–including children–extremely anxious. An acquaintance recently told my partner how worried her preteen daughter is that her Latino friends will be deported. LCS Northwest immigrant and refugee clients have reported being verbally assaulted by strangers. And more.

America is a melting pot of nationalities. My roots extend to Japan and Ireland and, unless you’re Sioux, Navaho or from another Native American tribe, so do yours. It is that incredible mix of human diversity that makes us a unique and great nation, and it is that mix of diversity that will propel us into the future if we embrace it.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  – Statue of Liberty inscription

White River and Its Fatal Fish Trap

white-river-emmons-glacier

Mount Rainier National Park is one of my favorite outdoor places and, on a recent hike there, I captured this stunning view of the headwaters of the White River as it flows out of the Emmons Glacier.

Water is essential for life on Earth. We cannot survive without it. Sixty to seventy percent of our body weight is from water. It delivers and dissolves nutrients, cleanses and flushes out toxins, and promotes growth.

Humans aren’t the only form of life reliant upon water. The White River is a spawning ground for several species of wild salmon and home for other fish populations. Yet this life source for fish is also a fatal fish trap. In 2014 American Rivers placed the White River on its list of Endangered Rivers.

The cause: the deteriorating Buckley Dam which lies miles downstream of its headwaters at Mount Rainier. The antiquated structure has an outdated and decrepit fish trap that, instead of facilitating fish passage, is killing thousands of them.

The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the upkeep of the dam. American Rivers and its partners have called upon the agency to agency to modernize the structure by 2017 in order to avoid another massive fish kill. Learn more here.

 

There was enough blue sky on Sunday afternoon to knit a cat a pair of britches, so I embraced the day with a bike ride through nearby neighborhoods. I pedaled through South Park and Georgetown, where I made a stop at Oxbow Park.

Nestled in the residential part of the neighborhood, Oxbow Park is home to Georgetown’s P-Patch and the iconic Hat ‘n Boots. The larger-than-life cowboy hat and boots were originally part of an old 1950s gas station until the business closed its doors in 1988. The Georgetown community rallied to rescue Hat ‘n Boots from the wrecking ball and, in 2003, the historic icons were moved to their present day home in Oxbow Park.

More info about the history of Hat ‘n Boots can found on History Link.

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Two days ago it was summer, sunny and 92 degrees. We went for an after work swim in the lake. Yesterday it was fall, breezy and 70 degrees. We harvested the onions from the garden.

The in-between season has arrived. Summer has given its notice to vacate and fall is preparing to move in. The signs are everywhere. Some are subtle hints while others are in-your-face obvious.

Subtle signs:

  • Color shift. Nature is gently shifting from green to gold. Trees that were a Kodachrome green a month ago now have some golden tints.
  • Fewer hummingbirds. My fuschia plants attract hummingbirds throughout the summer. Visits by these little birds have dropped in recent weeks.
  • Less garden produce. Our garden is in transition as we tear out summer crops to make room for some winter ones. The winter garden will be smaller and we’ll rest some beds.

Obvious signs:

  • Less daylight. The time between sunrise and sunset is shrinking.
  • Parks and beaches are less crowded. The weather is till pleasant but fewer people are flocking to local parks, beaches and trails.
  • Back to School. Families with kids are busy preparing for the start of the new school year. Retailers are holding Back to School sales.

What signs have you noticed of summer’s impending departure and fall’s arrival?

 

 

louise_inbtween

August 20, 2016

I’m itching to wander the higher elevations of the Cascades. To hike? No. To wander among wildflowers? No. To reconnect with nature? No. I have huckleberry fever.

Huckleberry fever is a condition that drives afflicted persons like me into the mountains in search of plump, juicy, mouth-watering wild huckleberries. When the fever strikes, the only relief is to go picking!

Steve and I have been picking a couple of times and we’ve amassed plenty of these berries–enough for 8 or 9 pies. But not enough to cool the fever. I think one or two more berry picking trips are in order.

Huckleberries

Barn Quilt Trail

A few weeks ago, I embraced the day by traveling east of the Cascade crest for a bike ride. My destination was the pastoral Teanaway Valley with its scenic, low-traffic backroads.

I pedaled leisurely up a road enjoying the sunshine and rural beauty of Kittitas County when I spotted this:

bike-barnquilt

Displayed on the side of a barn built in 1900 was a quilt block called a Wagon Wheel. Hmm, I thought to myself. An historic barn featuring a traditional quilt block in rural central Washington seemed perfect. I had stumbled upon the Kittitas County Barn Quilt Trail.

The first of its kind in Washington state, the Barn Quilt Trail highlights the region’s agricultural heritage and celebrates the tradition of the American quilt. The route features over 100 quilt blocks scattered throughout the county.

The Barn Quilt Trail is designed to be a self-guided driving tour but it’s possible to turn segments of the route into a bike ride. Their website includes downloadable maps and information on each of the quilt block installations.