Archive for August, 2011

We saw some truly spectacular scenery today, mountain vistas to take your breath away, and magical patches of wildflowers. Since I’m sharing those, I thought I’d first also share why I’ve been muttering about Forks as the Twilight zone.

First, Forks, Washington. You may know (I didn’t) that the Twilight series of vampire books are set in the Olympic Peninsula, and particularly in Forks. Under the Twilight mania which has developed, Forks is still a pretty funky old logging town, and I got some photos to document the interesting, sometimes silly, and sometimes uncomfortable juxtaposition of the two.

Remember, if you want to really see any of these photos, click on ’em!

First, here’s the Twilight tour center and bus:

Next, we have a really nice Native Art gallery which has jumped on the bandwagon …

And I guess this hotel owner decided not to jump on the bandwagon …

Now, on to the magnificence of the Olympic Peninsula mountains, as seen from Hurricane Ridge.

Here is our first glimpse.

Then, here are some views from the top.

Then, on the way back down we saw some wonderful patches of wildflowers:

And here are views from the other direction, on the way back down the mountain.

And here’s Miss Sneakers, completely worn out from all that sightseeing … and, make no mistake, she watches out the windows as avidly as our dog Sheba.

We’ll be plowing through urban areas tomorrow, so probably no pix or deep thoughts. But the next night we’re in Kamloops, British Columbia, then Revelstoke, then Banff, and one of the three women mentioned in the “Walking the Dog” post from earlier today told me we would probably hear the wolves singing at night in Banff. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Till later, then …


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You know the old saying that one of the best ways to meet people is by walking your dog? Well, I have an even better suggestion!

If you want to meet people, especially studly guys, all you have to do is drive around towing a PulMor trailer, and park it occasionally. For those of you just tuning in, here is a picture of our trailer … (click on the image for better resolution)

These days, all I have to do is park the car, zip in for something quick like coffee, and when I return there is at least one, and sometimes as many as 3 or 4 hunky guys standing around wanting to discuss the specs and any and all technical details. The other day there were 2 fly fishermen still in their waders, a Sam Elliott kind of a guy leaning on a truly gorgeous Harley motorcycle, and a lean and lanky bicycler, all in the same parking lot.

I even had a great conversation with a 3-generation family of women at our hotel in Forks, all of whom are sports enthusiasts of one sort or another and knew just how to put a PulMor to work! Honestly, it’s gotten so prevalent that Julia is constantly rolling her eyes, and may soon resort to swatting them away like gnats, just so we can get back on the road with less delay.

My big comedown, however, came this afternoon on Hurricane Ridge, when I walked by a couple of motorcycle guys who’d had an in depth conversation earlier at our hotel with me and our dog Sheba … when I walked by and commented on our earlier conversation, they just looked blank. Guess without my PulMor and wolf dog I’m not *quite* as sexy!

If you want to try this fabulous new way to meet guys, you should know that  this magical effect may only last as long as the trailer is fairly new on the market, so I recommend you get yours soon, because I’m really spreading the word!

Got some great photos today … if I get a chance I’ll upload them later tonight.

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This has been amazing day, and has involved much scrambling and  bit of magic to make it possible for us to not only find hotels in Canada for this coming week – mostly overbooked already for Labor Day Weekend – but to score a condo in Banff for 5 days at an outrageously discounted price.

Getting there in time, however, will involve some hard driving, starting tomorrow, which probably means no serious blogging till next Friday or Saturday.

Sadly, Twilight zone explorations and musings on being different will have to wait a bit

Have a great week, everyone … think of us as Julia and I and the critters all boldly go where none of us has been before, starting Tuesday.

Till then, cheers & blessings to you all!



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After a day of trying to put what I saw and felt in the Hoh Rain Forest into words, I remembered that my friend Cammy had asked for pictures and decided to lean on that old saw of a picture being worth 1,000 words. If you’re a subscriber, I think you may actually have to go to the blog to see these photos … but if you’re as ga-ga about forests and streams as I am, you might enjoy them!

If you click on each photo you’ll get a better resolution, by the way.

This first photo was taken from the parking lot, believe it or not, and if you look closely you’ll see that the mosses are pretty dry from summer heat and reduced rain, but the wetland is still going strong.

Here’s my daughter Julia showing us what the rain forest can do to man’s puny efforts at civilizing this vast, mysterious realm …

Below is one of the loveliest, clearest and most prolific little streams I’ve ever seen, with layers and layers of water plants. Julia, who studied watershed management, said it was the best habitat for young salmon that she’d ever seen.

Here’s a better look at the mosses which are so abundant in a temperate rain forest.

This one is a lovely study of nurse logs, with older trees whose roots once drew nourishment from a nurse log in the foreground, their roots framing where the nurse log once lay, and busy nurseries in the background.

And last here’s a look at a rain forest microcosm.

Also, while we were on our way into the rain forest area, we discovered something about Washington timber/forest management programs. Washington has what are called State Trust Lands which are managed very differently from those owned by Weyerhauser and others, and the difference is stunning. These Trust Lands are thinned rather than clear cut, the undergrowth appears to still be intact (which takes a lot of work!), and, rather than looking like boneyards, they appear abundantly healthy.

Coming up in the next couple of days: musings on being different, and a quick peek at highlights of the Twilight zone …

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I suppose it’s not that unusual to realize in later years that your most mortifying moment with a parent has become your fondest memory. Perhaps you’ve even discovered in retrospect, as I did, that the mortifying moment actually contained the seeds of all you were to become.

My mother’s parents (who always made sure that Dad knew Mom married beneath her) decided to treat me to a very ritzy tour of Europe for my 16th birthday. It was to last a full six weeks, a leisurely exploration of England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Spain’s poshest hotels and grandest artistic traditions.

My parents agreed very reluctantly to let me go, and this surprised and hurt me because I’d devoted my life to being Miss Goody Two-Shoes, the perfect daughter and big sister. It turned out that perhaps they knew more about me than I did, but that’s another story.

The tour leader, a professor of art history at a major university, claimed halfway through the tour that he’d aged 20 years in three weeks, all because of me.

I wasn’t intentionally a problem (still firmly committed to my Goody Two Shoes persona), but even though I was only 16, I somehow functioned as a European man magnet of epic proportions. The professor’s last straw moment came when I walked with the tour group through a Swiss hotel lobby and had three men offering me dinner before we reached the reception desk.

The tour was incredible, and even 50 years later it remains so vivid that, although I’ve never been able to return to any of the countries but England and Scotland, I still recognize art and architecture, cities and landscapes, and vividly remember the fragrances and flavors and visual feast of the gourmet meals which were part and parcel of an experience which had been tailor made for the exclusive sorority/debutante daughters of the very rich. Which is the other reason I was a “problem” on the trip. I was not only at least 2 years the junior of the next youngest girl, even worse, though my father was an aviator, a Colonel in the Marine Corps, and although my Mom had been brought up in the upper echelons of Naval military elite, my upbringing was inescapably middle class.

The other girls/young women were at worst tolerant and at best very kind and helpful, so I didn’t suffer for my plebeian background. I even got a foretaste of what was brewing in the early 60’s because one of them was deeply involved with the nascent radical movement in Berkeley. My conservative, military world view took a severe beating in Paris during a 2 am conversation over French onion soup with her and two of the other girls. She was gorgeous and militant and ferocious and, for all I know, grew up to be Gloria Steinham.

So, cut to the trip home. I’m returning smugly full of artistic erudition and sophistication, as well as being possessed of a highly trained gourmet palate and discerning knowledge of wines.

Before I tell you about what greeted me on arrival, I have to say one thing. I have always adored my father. He was boisterously and unstintingly affectionate, he always somehow loved and respected me in all my quirkiness without wishing I were better or different, he gifted me with a thirst for knowledge and a respect for the subtleties of language, and whatever storytelling gifts I have were seeded and nurtured by him.

Now, on to the Mortifying Moment.

My Dad hadn’t arrived to pick me up when we landed, so when he made his entrance I was being introduced to one of the impeccably groomed and mannered girls’ impeccably groomed and mannered, dark-suited and handsome fathers.

I heard a shout behind me and recognized my Dad’s deep, resonant and somewhat growly Marine colonel voice. I executed a calm, sophisticated turn and was greeted by an unforgettable image of my Dad in all his screw-your-social-rules-and-norms glory. He hadn’t wanted me to go to Europe, and must have gotten a good idea from my few letters of the condition I’d be in when I returned home. And obviously he was determined to get me retrained and back into the family fold beginning immediately.

So, there was my inimitable Dad, vigorously striding toward me, arms open, and dressed to kill (my pretensions). Besides his typical bald head and red handlebar moustache, complete with curled, waxed tips, he’d dressed in his outrageous best, which this time included a voluminous Hawaiian shirt, baggy brown pants, a Panama hat and his favorite down-at-the-heel cowboy boots. I wanted to die. And at the same time I was so glad to see him that I wanted to cry.

It was the first time I remember my Dad taking steps to make sure I didn’t get “too full of myself,” but it was far from the last. Another favorite memory (it really is a favorite) was when I treated him and my youngest sister Anne to New Year’s dinner at a client’s restaurant. A few seconds after I told him in awed tones that the owner was on her way to our table, he grabbed up our (excellent) champagne and took a big swig directly from the bottle, twinkling at me over the top with his rascally eyes. My 10-year-old sister completed the farce, just as my glamorous  client arrived at our table, by dropping her napkin over her head and declaiming dramatically, “Oh, the shame of it! The shame of it!” (You probably won’t be surprised to learn that, even though she’s more than 50 now, I still call her my Bratty Little Sister, or BLS for short.)

However, as much effort as Dad put into reining me in that day at the airport, I have to say I probably won that particular round. They decided to honor my homecoming by allowing me a glass of wine with dinner. After taking my first sip, and savoring the flavors for a moment, I said:

“This is quite pleasant … for a minor domestic wine.” I can still hear the thundering silence.

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When I realized that towing a trailer behind the car meant driving 55 or less for the whole trip, I thought I’d be constantly frustrated.

Maybe it’s because my Dad was a Marine fighter pilot, and he’s the one who taught me to drive … perhaps it rubbed off … but, for whatever reason, I’ve always driven right up to the edge of the speed limit – and my reflexes – and a little beyond. I’m one of those who always sets my cruise control at 7 miles over the posted limit. One traffic cop (years ago, before I was a mom driving my daughter around) told me that I’d been passing other cars like they were nailed to the ground.

So I was amazed to discover that being the slowest on the road and not being able to do a darned thing about it is actually quite wonderful. Restful, freeing, conducive to deep thinking, and – best of all – just slow enough that I could really look at the changing scenery, and even notice view points soon enough to take advantage of them.

I mean, think of it! No embarrassment, because people couldn’t think I was an idiot (well, not fairly, anyway) since I was towing a trailer, and everybody knows vehicles with trailers have to poke along. No physical tension as I geared up to control the car when taking a mountain turn well above the speed limit. (At least, since the advent of cruise control, I don’t have to watch for cops … often.) No strained watching the road beyond my current slow-moving vehicular obstacle to find enough running room to pass in relative safety, and then tensing up and metaphorically pushing with all my might until the pass was safely concluded.

Instead, I had time to see new things on frequently traveled roads, time to just set my dreaming mind free to wander, and time to remember happy moments from past journeys.

Cultural ecologist and magician David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal, tells the story of traveling by Jeep with an aboriginal shaman in the Australian outback. The shaman wanted to share his myths, but they discovered that the stories did not unfold properly at jeep speeds; they were meant to be shared in walkabout. In my case, the stories arise at 55 mph.

One of my favorites, one I hadn’t thought of in years, was the time my first husband drove us from Highway 101 at Paso Robles west toward the Pacific Coast Highway, and Cambria, Carmel and Monterey. I’d driven the Big Sur route before, it’s one of the most gorgeous and treacherous drives I’ve encountered (especially headed south in dense fog), but Ernie’s route was new to me. He got a big grin and started fiddling with the tape deck (yeah, it was quite some time ago), popped in some rich and fabulous symphony, and then drove along, looking smug for a few minutes. Then, just as the music crested, so did the road, and I was treated to the juxtaposition of a perfect musical moment and mythically beautiful, rolling hills softened further by oaks clustered in their feminine creases!

Another sight took me back to the first World Healing Day on December 31, 1986. The Healix Center in Orange County, CA, where I worked and taught at the time, hosted an all night event – because for this event there was no convenient “rolling” coordination of noon in each time zone. That time, everyone joined in prayer and visualization at the very same moment – which meant 3 pm Moscow time, and 3 am in California.

Amazingly, when dawn broke there were still nearly a 100 people there, and we were led in a closing ceremony by a young shaman woman from one of the Pacific Northwest tribes. The two things which stuck with me were her getting a good laugh when she referred to her “sacred Bic” (Harry Dresden, anyone?) while lighting her pipe, and her initiating us all into the Fireweed Clan.

Fireweed is known as a pioneer species because it can thrive in areas which have been devastated by things like forest fires. Years after the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption I visited, and fireweed was everywhere.

Since that morning in 1986, fireweed has become a messenger for me. When it appears, it comes to tell me “yes, here is the place,” or “yes, this is the right direction,” or “yes, all will be well.” Fireweed doesn’t promise ease and grace, but it promises not only survival, but a thriving future.

When we got to the state of Washington, in spite of the fact that I’d seen it before, I was shocked again to see the trashed and brutalized areas of clearcutting on either side of the highway. Honestly, they look like bones and bodies strewn around a war zone. Not that California and Oregon don’t clearcut, but usually it’s done offroad, and behind a polite curtain of trees and hills.

My mind automatically spiralled off into adjectives like “barren,” “devastation,” and “desolation” … until I saw the tall, fuchsia spikes of fireweed. They lined the road and appeared here and there around the pitiful stumps of ancient trees. And then I noticed all the other new plant life, even in clearcut areas only a few years old, and I was reminded that life goes on.

That doesn’t excuse slaughtering elder members of one of earth’s species, but it reminds me that even after the most terrible human acts, toward our own or other species, life somehow finds a way to continue.

By the way, the most powerful and touching case I’ve ever read for why ancient trees should be allowed to stand together in healthy ecosystems is in Joan Dunning and Doug Thron’s From the Redwood Forest: Ancient Trees and the Bottom Line: A Headwaters Journey. There is a chapter which traces human history as it paralleled the life of a redwood. Read it, and you’ll never be the same.

Today we’re visiting Hurricane Ridge, and tomorrow Lake Quinault, so I’ll entertain you tomorrow one of my favorite stories about my Dad, and report our travels later. My Mom and Dad are much on my mind because they made this trip possible, and it’s dedicated to their memory.

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Yesterday morning I awoke to the sound of rain. Not the pitiful sprinkle that used to send Sunnyvale, CA sissies screaming for cover, but the kind of steady, friendly soaker that I’ve missed sorely since we left Humboldt County just over a year ago.

I lay there quietly, aware of my daughter Julia and the critters snoozing deeply and peacefully, and felt my spirit begin to expand, refreshed by the steady patter and fragrance and soft air.

And then my reverie was shattered by a horrifyingly familiar sound – a screaming, grinding skill saw, behind the hotel! Rather than leaping around like a madwoman on the bed, shrieking and tearing my hair out, and scaring everyone out of their wits, I calmly followed the noise, and found it loudest next to the bathroom. Climbing up on the toilet, I opened the window and saw –  ohmygod, ohmygod – a huge construction project just across the road, and a big guy sawing through the sidewalk directly in front of me.

By the time I closed the window, of course everyone else was awake, and Julia and I tried to decide whether we wanted to laugh or cry about it. Then I had an encouraging thought. If life really is an oracle, then the fact that this was new construction rather than renovation might be a sign that we’re making progress. (Esoteric, I know … but bear with me, here.)

Heartened by that thought, I called the front desk of our motel to find out if, since this was Monday morning, the excruciating noise was going to go on all week … because, of course, if it was, we were going to have to move on. Happily, the owner had already built a relationship with the construction foreman, and he learned that the rumpus would be continuing for only another few minutes, but would we rather move to another part of the hotel? He would be happy to help us carry our stuff. We waited an hour, and when all remained quiet, we thanked him for his gracious offer and decided to stay put. Which so far has worked out just fine.

To bring you up to date:

Since my last post we have traveled up the west coast on highway 101, through the rest of California, through Oregon (more about this later; we stayed one night in Coos Bay and one in Tillamook), and reached our destination in the Olympic Peninsula, Forks, Washington, Sunday late afternoon.

As far as I knew, Forks was just an old logging town. Little did I know (until my youngest sister Anne informed me) that we’d wandered into teenaged vampire territory. Turns out we’re in the land of Twilight, and, at Annie’s request, I got to enjoy myself sorting through mountains of really tacky souvenirs to find a couple of the worst to send her.

We’re staying at the Forks Hotel, a slightly funky but (obviously) customer-oriented place full of fishermen and hikers. We’re on the edge of the Olympic National Park, within an hour and a half of Lake Quinault (140+ inches of rain a year), the Hoh Rain Forest, the reservation home of the Makah whaling tribe, as well as Port Angeles and Port Townsend, which is one of my favorite towns in the whole world. We even got glimpses of the rugged, snow-capped peaks of Hurricane Ridge, up on the northern edge of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, on the way.

As you’ll see, we seem destined to linger here, spending a couple of days planning and booking hotels and ferries (Labor Day weekend coming up!), and a couple of days meandering through the sights before we head into Canada.

Now, about the Runes.

As I’ve mentioned, neither Julia nor I have felt well for quite some time, and it begins to appear that at least Sheba, our dog, was also affected by whatever it was back in Sunnyvale. Up to now we haven’t been able to do much more than content ourselves with just putting one foot in front of the other, heading north, planning travel times, booking hotels, plodding along.

Then, a few days ago, somewhere in Oregon, probably Coos Bay, an odd thing started happening. Even though I don’t use oracles much in my personal life, I can’t resist collecting Tarot cards and iPod oracle apps. In addition to weather, shopping lists, to do lists, great games, and all the other app-paraphenalia it’s so easy to collect, I have the Voyger Tarot, Mayan Astrology, I Ching, the Creative Whack Pack, and Runes. My app uses Elder Futhark Rune interpretations, which is somewhat different than what I’m used to, but Runes are great for answering quick questions, so I use it occasionally.

However, back around Coos Bay, the Rune program started popping on every time I turned on my iPod, something that has never happened before, with any of my apps. I even tried leaving the iPod on email or weather when I turned it off … but, nope, there was the Rune screen again, every time I turned it on.

Not being a big believer in coincidence, I decided it was time to ask the Runes what they wanted, so I did a quick reading … and wished I hadn’t. The first reading was generally ominous, so I asked specifically about the next stages of the trip. Ominous. Full of hail storms and dragons. S**T!

I decided to ignore this, but it obviously festered beneath consciousness for a while, because as we drove that day and day after I started remembering some of my other niggling feelings about the next stage of our journey. Every plan I’d made just didn’t feel “right.” I talked in the first post about my internal guidance system, and I guess I just couldn’t get my compass needle to steady itself on a particular plan. No sense of disaster … just “not right,” and “not the right time.” Booking ferries across Puget Sound? Not the right time. Not the right ferry. Go into Canada Monday? Not the right time. Wednesday? Mercury’s retrograde till the 27th. Not the right time, etc etc etc

Then, on the way out of Tillamook, it came to me to just quit struggling to be wholly rational, because that’s not who I am (you’d think I’d have figured this out by now). I asked Julia how she’d feel about lingering in the rainforest area until Monday the 29th, resting, hiking, doing laundry, letting the pets (who had been rioting for 2 days!) settle, and she was delighted.

So, here we are, in God/dess’ country, with time to rest and think and explore some extraordinary natural wonders.

Oh, and by the way? I did another Rune reading about how the trip would fare if we paused in Forks (teeny-bopper vampires notwithstanding) and what did I get for the final, outcome Rune? The empty-headed (excuse me, empty HANDED) leap into the void. Guess this (and the new construction?) means we’re finally on the right track!

You should probably hear from me more often this week, too. I have two other blogs roughed out already, so until next time …hope you’re well and that life’s interesting.

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