Archives for posts with tag: nature photography

Last week, part of my family and I cruised to Alaska and back. It was my brother, John’s idea. My mom has long wanted to go to Alaska and my dad did not want to go while he was alive. So on 8/31, the five of us, John, his wife, my John, and Mom, boarded a big cruise ship in Seattle, bound for Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, and Victoria, BC.

Going on a cruise is not something I’m naturally inclined to do. It sounds like a lot of time on a boat with not a lot of time to explore the land. But this was a way for a group of us to travel and an Alaska cruise is rather scenic from the boat. Like Mom, I had not been to Alaska so I was very excited for the trip, as well.

I was less excited for the gambling, games, shows, formal nights, and selling (auctions, jewelry shows, etc) on the cruise. Nonetheless, some things sounded like they might possibly be a little fun, so I did some of them. And I didn’t just watch, I participated. I found that team trivia games were silly but really fun, even if it meant doing the YMCA dance in front of an audience. (Actually, that was extra fun.) It was fun to dress up for formal nights. Not having to cook for a week was really fun. I managed to eat well without blowing my fitness plan. Speaking of fitness, the treadmills faced the ocean and nearly every time I worked out, which was almost daily, I saw humpback whales.

My mom sang karaoke. Even with what my friend, Charlie, aptly described as “cheesy accompaniment”, she sang like the accomplished singer of 79 years that she is. She got some nice compliments from other people on the cruise, even a couple of days later, when we were in Victoria, BC. A woman gave her a hug, “You have a gift!” Finally, when given the invitation to join a group of dancers from the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes, I accepted it. It was a lovely experience to connect with other people, sharing their culture. One of the dancers was a one-year-old, Kayla. She was a little marvel. Not only did she sing, dance, and play a drum (with a few breaks to act her age), but her mother explained to us that Kayla is an accomplished learner of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian.

In addition to singing, which is something my mom does every week at church, she had a return to hiking. My parents were avid hikers and campers until my dad’s Parkinson’s disease got the better of his mobility and balance, when he was about 81. When we were at Mendenhall Glacier, located on the edge of Tongass National Forest, near Juneau, Mom decided that she wanted to do the 2 mile hike to Nugget Falls. John had suggested it but misread the sign, thinking it was a .3 mile walk. I protested, he didn’t get my concern so I dropped it. I didn’t think Mom could do it but she wanted to try and I said to myself, “Shut your pie hole. Mom is the captain of her own ship.” It took awhile but we all made it there in back despite the steady rain. Mom had really missed nature walks and was thrilled. I noticed that she was walking faster the next morning and she explained, “I got broken in.”

A consequence of my mindfulness practice is that I enjoy things more because I worry less about things that are not really important. I used to avoid doing things that I wanted to do because I was wrapped up in self-consciousness. I was holding myself from participation when the worst that could happen was embarrassment.

Throughout the cruise I thought to myself, “carpe diem”. I had a fantastic time and I was gobsmacked by the beauty. The rain did not ruin Juneau. We had a good time, anyway. Glacier Bay National Park/Reserve had stunningly sunny weather. It was like being in another world. But I had gotten there starting with the Puget Sound bordering my own city, following the Salish Sea and the Pacific Ocean north to Glacier Bay. I felt connected to that beautiful land by a common thread of saltwater. I was thrilled by the awe of the fellow passengers. People were stunned and gobsmacked by the beauty, even the man who wore his MAGA hat each day. I saw him sitting at a table for hours, watching the sea and the landscape with his binoculars. It reminded me of our share human connection. Just that reminder, alone, gave me some comfort in these challenging times.

As I’ve written before, I sometimes wish I could coast or cruise through life. It is just a fantasy. But cruises, literally and figuratively, happen. I intend to participate.

Peace, friends.

-Elizabeth

Mom brought Dad on the cruise so he wouldn’t miss out.

Juneau: Nugget Falls and Mendenhall Glacier. We saw lots of orca and humpbacks on our whale watching tour that day, too, but I tend to just watch instead of take photos with animals.

 

Mom and I looking snazzy for one of the formal nights. (My blogging friends may recognize my dress from my 25th wedding anniversary from four years ago. Like the comedian Tiffany Haddish and her white formal, I will wear a good dress every time the opportunity presents itself.) Note: I’m not sure why this photo is so big. Oh well, fun with technology.

Skagway and Haines. We saw four bear! For extra credit, try to spot the brown bear who is blending in with her surrounding.

Was Glacier Bay really this beautiful? No, it was one million times prettier!

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Saxman Village, Ketchikan.

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I am more comfortable giving than receiving emotional support. Nonetheless, I have found my self being “a friend in need” more than not recently. I have also been working a lot, trying to keep my head down, and keeping myself busy. It worked to a certain extent then it didn’t.

I had also planned a busy summer with lots of fun activities, spending time with friends, spending time with family, and spending time in nature. I was very much looking forward to spending three days with friends from out of town. I knew that it would be fun, they would have fun, and there would be some light and easy times.

And then it happened. I lost track of myself, my fatigue, and my anxiety. The beginning of the visit was marked by my anxiety and the bags under my eyes. I wasn’t fooling anyone. I was tired. I have slept solidly through the night once in the last two months and sometimes I am awake for a number of hours. Not sleeping well takes a major toll on me. I took on more than I could handle comfortably and then life gave me much much more. And I didn’t ask for enough help and when I didn’t do it in the way that solicits a whole lot of empathy.

Lo and behold, after a brief but intense temper tantrum, I got my shit together and focused on having a break from my daily grind, spending time with dear friends and with my husband. I had a wonderful three days. I went to mountains and islands. We talked and laughed. The tight worry in my chest and the cotton in my brain eased. I remembered what it is like to have relaxed joy.

Then I came back to my regularly scheduled program of life. I immediately picked up on the stress and anxiety in my household. Initially, I felt disappointment that I was getting wound up again so quickly. Then I remembered that I have skills. I have things to try. I started using paced breathing, a technique to strong emotions quickly. It worked. Today, I am feeling the anxiety again. And now I am writing, another strategy that helps. My heart is slowing and I am finding myself more and more in the present moment as I type these words.

I am a friend in need and I got the support I needed from both other people and from my own internal resources.

Today, I am grateful for my family.

Today, I am grateful for my friends.

Today, I am grateful for nature.

Today, I am grateful for my tenacity.

 

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I am on vacation with my family in British Columbia, Canada. Until yesterday, we were staying in Ucluelet, an incredibly beautiful place on the sea. We’ve spent a fair bit of time on boats. There was the Washington State Ferry ride from Anacortes, WA to Sidney, BC. There was a boat tour to see humpback whales, of which we saw several including one named, “Pinkie”. I thought, “Holy crap, please don’t tell me that this whale got it’s name to promote breast cancer awareness.” No fear, friends, her name is pinkie because she has a pink underside, which I was able to see with one of her great lunges out of the water. Unbelievable!

One of the boat rides we took was to Meares Island, off the coast of Tofino. It is a tiny island with giant trees. We spent two hours hiking on short but difficult trails before going back to the shore to wait for a small boat to take us back to the Tofino. Dennis, the captain of this 4-seater, was a character and regaled us with tales from the local area, most of which I believe were actually true.

Dennis pointed out a tiny island, “This island is for sale for $850,000.”

I don’t have that much money, but still, less than a million for a whole island? Plus, there is the Canadian/U.S. exchange rate, which today would knock nearly 25% off of the price. And it was a beautiful little place, not far from the large island of Vancouver. I could see two or three houses on it. What a deal. What a find. What an idyllic place to live.

I was gazing upon this little lump of paradise on a beautiful sunny day. Then I thought of living that close to the sea. Then I thought of the winter storms that are here. I also thought of the steep rocks on the side of the island. I wondered how many houses have fallen into the water! I suspect that keeping a house in shape there would cost a fortune, not to mention require a great deal of time and effort to maintain. Then there is the fact that it is located in one of the rainiest parts of the world.

Every moment and every thought were real. This island is idyllic. It is dangerous. It is costly. It is beautiful. It is miserably wet. This has been a wonderful vacation, by and large. I have reconnected with my family, with nature, with much needed rest and adventure. But travel is also exhausting and at times quite difficult.

Yesterday, I experienced the swell of good times, like catching a good wave of meeting delightful people and traveling through incredible natural beauty. But there were also times, when I got the shit kicked out of me, pummeled over and over, in that way that at the time, I fear that I will never get my head above water.

Fortunately, this did not last the whole day and even in the midst of my misery, at one point, I was able to shift out of it enough to get some perspective and hope that the situation could change. The wave that I was being pummeled by was the difficulty of parenting.

The sea is beautiful, powerful, and always changing.

I like on that little island whether I pony up the $850,000 or not, whether I wanted to or not, whether I planned for this or not, whether it suits my lifestyle or not.

Sometimes this feels like the greatest blessing and sometimes it feels dark and scary.

I don’t know what today will bring. My family is sleeping in.

Today, I will remind myself that every feeling has a beginning and an end. Every feeling lasts only about 30 seconds as long as we don’t respond to it in a way that keeps it firing in our brain. When I think of this, I realize how powerful our brains are. Our brains can sustain a swell or break it.

This is not easy power to exercise but it is possible. This possibility creates a sense of safety and hope for me today. I will try to remind myself of this.

Today is my last full day of vacation.

I have only one more full day of sightseeing to endure or enjoy. To a significant extent, a powerful extent, I have a say in how this plays out.

In the meantime, I’m going to reconnect with some of my photos from the trip, which gives me joy and peace. Perhaps they will bring you the same.

 

DSC02421On the ferry from Anacortes, WA to Sidney, BC, looking toward Canada.

 

DSC02449Anemone from the Ucluelet Aquarium, a small gem, in which they catch and release animals from local waters, every season.

 

DSC02514Part of the Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet, BC.

DSC02545I was enchanted by these puppets, designed by First Nations artists. This bear, holding a salmon, was designed by a Haida artist. It contains a teaching, “Be strong. Take care of those who are less strong.” I thought it was beautiful and adorable so I bought it for my friend, Greg’s grandkids. Then I immediately sent him a photo of it so that I wouldn’t get tempted to keep it for myself. Then I bought one for myself a few days later!

DSC02596Cox Bay, Tofino, BC.

DSC02671Meares Island.

 

DSC02682 (1)An unexpected twist on a deer fern. Meares Island.

 

DSC02703 (1)Bald eagle, Tofino.

DSC02715Middle Beach, Tofino.

DSC02785Coombs Market, famous for the goats that graze on the sod roof. Alas, I was too busy socializing with my friends, Kathryn and Nel, below, to remember to take a photo!

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It is very warm and dry here for Seattle. I’ve captured some lovely summer sights on my walks around the neighborhood. I thought I’d share a few with you. I hope you are enjoying nature and the outdoors!

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My husband and I are on vacation on the Oregon Coast, just the two of us. We are having a marvelous time. We’ve hiked on the beach, in the forest, and along cliffs above the coastline. It is just the break we needed. An ideal vacation in an idyllic location.
It only makes sense that 100 percent of every moment of the vacation should be positively perfect, right?

If you’ve ever traveled or even lived for more than one minute, you know this is untrue.

It seems that during nearly everyone of our vacations, I am irritated with someone in my family, including myself.  Yesterday, I had hiked seven miles along the coast. We drove to little towns and through amazing farmland. I was tired and in need of getting out of the sun. We got back to our hotel on the beach. If we hadn’t already made plans to eat on the picnic table overlooking the beach near our room, I would have changed into my nightgown. My husband said, “Hey, let’s go fly a kite!”

I am a person of inertia. Once I am at rest, I have trouble changing gears. The day before, John had convinced me to go out at night to see the sunset after I’d already collapsed for the day. I got myself going and was so glad that I did. So in the spirit of being a good sport, I said, “Okay”, put on my shoes, and followed him to the beach. My husband asked me to hold the kite while he walked away, un-spooling the kite string. As he was getting farther and farther away, drowned out by the sound of the ocean, I thought, “What does he want me to do? What is HE doing?”

I have flown kites in my day. He was doing it “wrong”. The first attempt failed. Then I asked him, “What do you want me to do?” He explained the game plan. Communication, yes! Now we had a plan. I was game, so I thought, despite the fact that he was doing it “wrong”. I’m not unreasonable. The kite flying was his idea. That made him in charge and me, the helper.

We made our second attempt and it failed. Then I did something I rarely do. I accepted that I was too cranky. I didn’t tell myself, “You are being silly. It’s just a kite. You have no reason to be annoyed.” I told my husband, “Honey, I’m tired. I’m going to go rest for awhile.”

I rested for about a half hour and then we started to make a beautiful fresh seafood dinner. When I brought the food outside, I saw the kite flying, tied to the arm of a patio chair. We had a wonderful dinner. I don’t think John even knew that I was getting cranky. I let me be me, I didn’t invalidate my feelings, and gave myself the space I needed to return to being an excellent traveling companion.

This may seem like a small thing but I know that small irritations can turn into a bad day and bad behavior on my part. Invalidation, makes emotion bigger, rather than smaller. All emotions are understandable even if we don’t like them.

I know that my life is going to contain upsets, big and small. Sometimes I will make things better, sometimes I will  make them worse, and sometimes, nothing I do will change anything. But I am grateful that yesterday, I was able to take a step away from my expectation of perfection and just gave my imperfect self what I needed.

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Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Today I am exactly 49 1/2 years old. Today is a new day. Three years ago today, at about 10:00 am, I was told that I had an approximately 1 centimeter tumor, invasive ductal carcinoma, in my right breast. I was about as surprised as I could be. I had only a limited idea of how my life would change. Today is today. I am spending it in rural Washington, on the beach. Yesterday was a wonderful day, much better than I expected. Today, I may be in the mood to write, I may not. (I wrote this post yesterday.) I am hoping that today is a good day. I try to be grateful for each day. I mostly succeed.

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The view from the rental house in La Conner, WA. Can you believe this?

Deception Pass Anacortes, WA

Deception Pass
Anacortes, WA

Old warehouse in La Conner. The exterior was dilapidated. What a surprise to see this beautiful ceiling. Also, we probably should not have been in this building.

Old warehouse in La Conner. The exterior was dilapidated. What a surprise to see this beautiful ceiling. Also, we probably should not have been in this building.

I look at poppies all of the time and very closely. This one held a whole new universe.

I look at poppies all of the time and very closely. This one held a whole new universe.

My best food photo from tonight's dinner. In all, I made salmon, salad, oysters, and these clams.

My best food photo from tonight’s dinner. In all, I made salmon, salad, oysters, and these clams.

This is another poem I read in the woods while visiting Bloedel Reserve earlier this month. It is a good reflection for me today.

The Art of Being

The fern in the rain breathes the silver message.
Stay, lie low. Play your dark reeds
and relearn the beauty of absorption.
There is nothing beyond the rotten log
covered with leaves and needles.
Forget the light emerging with its golden wick.
Raise your face to the water-laden frond.
A thousand blossoms will fall into your arms.
-Ann Coray (2011)

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Yesterday was a gloriously sunny spring day. Actually, it was like a summer day. It was 77 degrees (25 degrees C). I was taking my daily walk in a different neighborhood than usual. A light breeze carried the scent of lilac, bearded iris, and wisteria. At times, I could see the mountains and the sea. At one point, I passed a man working in his yard. I greeted him, “Beautiful day.” He looked at me, smiled broadly, raised his palms toward the Heavens and exclaimed, “This. Is. Seattle.” I replied, “Yes, the city at its very best.”

It is gray today and considerably cooler. I am wearing long sleeves and walked from my car wearing my waterproof and hooded trench coat.

This. Is. Seattle.

The statement is as true today as it was yesterday. And yes, I am using the weather as a metaphor.

And yes, you are no doubt familiar with this metaphor.

My daughter is a very bright and sensitive teen. She is as cynical as Hell with liberal doses of wit. Just yesterday, she responded to friend of mine’s sincere compliment, “Aren’t teenagers GREAT!?!, ” with “No. All we do is complain about you guys ruining the economy and being close-minded.”

To her, the negative aspects of life are more real, at least from an intellectual standpoint. I was the same way at her age; it is part of growing up, realizing that the world is complex and largely uncontrollable. That part of reality sucks.

But it is part, not the whole. I come back to this metaphor time and time again as well as to just the thought that almost no situation is all good or all bad. A lot of my blog posts are about this very topic, staying positive, but realistic. Staying in balance.

I almost didn’t write this post because I thought that the theme was too much of a cliche. Then I realized that there are things that never get old like saying, “I love you” or giving someone appreciation, or even TALKING ABOUT THE WEATHER. Those are actions that tie us to our loved ones and to our communities as a whole.

I repeat these thoughts, the importance of seeing both the positive and negative, the good and the bad, the painful and the joyful, because they tie me to my own mental health. My life is not going to be about pink ribbons. But it’s also not going to be a black out of light. If there’s a flower to to look at, I am going to do my best to see it. If there a need for compassion, I will do my best to give it. If there’s a loss, I will do my best to grieve it.

This.

Is.

Life.

Geum.

Geum.

Nemophila.

Nemophila.

The roses will be at their peak in about a month.

The roses will be at their peak in about a month.

The bees have been back for awhile and the lavender has just begun to blossom.

The bees have been back for awhile and the lavender has just begun to blossom.

It’s spring.

I have wonderful family and friends.

I am thankful.

DSC04736Salmonberry blossom at Fauntleroy Creek, Seattle.

 

DSC04835Peony. Seattle Chinese Garden.

DSC04998 (1)Dogwood from the neighborhood.

 

DSC05025Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, WA

DSC05044Skunk cabbage looking glamorous.
Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, WA

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DSC04444 (1)Neighborhood cherry blossoms.

DSC05031Pileated woodpecker at the Bloedel Reserve.
She flew from this tree to her nest, located in a hollow in a nearby tree.

I am still getting my bearings from the move of my business. Yesterday was the first day and all went smoothly. I will write a post later with photos after I’ve done the finishing touches.

In the mean time, I thought I’d share a couple of my winter photos, taken in my neighborhood. This is the first winter that I’ve walked with a camera other than the one on my phone and it’s been nice to be able to take better quality photos. Perhaps some day I’ll even get a real, real camera!

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Mt. Rainier, to the southeast catching a bit of last night's sunset colors.

Mt. Rainier, to the southeast catching a bit of last night’s sunset colors.

 

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