Archives for posts with tag: Seattle

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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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.

You may have heard that it rains a lot in Seattle. It does rain more than average, there’s no getting around it. But there are a lot of much rainier cities. We don’t even make the top 10 rainiest U.S. cities, by a long shot. The entire eastern seaboard of the U.S. gets more annual rainfall than Seattle. Here’s the deal, though. We get primarily light rain. And it’s spread over many many days. While a significant portion of the nation has the rainiest time of the year in the summer, we have our rainiest time in the winter. Here, up north, it’s really dark, too. Seattle knows how to pile on the dreary during winter.

But even in winter, there are beautiful days. Yesterday, Christmas Day, was one of them. My husband and I walked down to the beach. The wind was gentle and the sky was blue. I spent a good bit of the walk stripped down to a short sleeved t-shirt. Granted, I had a Lupron shot last month and the furnace usually kicks in about this time but still, I was walking on a Seattle beach during winter in a t-shirt. What a glorious day.

I happen to think that the contrast between how our city looks on a sunny day versus a cloudy or rainy day is one of the reasons that we have a reputation for being a wetter city than we actually are. It’s disappointing to visit Seattle after seeing all of the glorious photos of the mountains and the sea only to be drizzled upon. But I don’t visit here. I live here. I know that the sun will come out again and that I will see it.

People in my city, especially natives, such as myself, often remark that our part of the world would not be so beautiful without the rain. This is true. We have some of the most beautiful summer weather I have ever experienced. And there is so much sunlight with very long days. Without the rainy, dreary days, though we would not have the abundant greens, the trees, bushes, mosses, and lichens. Winter is a time when plants focus their energy below the ground. The rain is essential for root growth, the foundation of plant life. Without precipitation, there is no snow on the mountains. We are so lucky to live in a city bound by two snow-capped mountain ranges. The winter snow on our mountains is also our water supply for the dry months of the year.

We need the wet and dreary days for life. It’s not just that the bad weather makes us appreciate the sunny days more because of the contrast. We actually require it. I’ve been thinking of this a lot in terms of how it relates to life, in general. Are sadness, disappointment, grief, and other painful emotions and experiences necessary for life? More so, do they enhance our lives?

I don’t know. I am pretty sure that seeking out suffering is a bad idea. Let’s not look for trouble. And denying suffering in oneself or others is invalidating. I am working a lot on acceptance of the things in my life that weigh on me heavily on a daily basis and are sometimes terrifying. Okay, it’s not “things”, it’s a thing. The thing is parenting my 16 year-old brilliant fireball. A few weeks ago, I had an epiphany followed by some meaningful adjustments in my behavior.

I realized on a deep and visceral level that I can’t protect her from the world or from the consequences of poor judgements that she makes. I didn’t abdicate responsibility but I relinquished the fantasy of control. I am still as busy parenting as I’ve ever been but my efforts are less frenzied and whirling. This acceptance was also accompanied by deep sadness. But the sadness was grounding instead of frenetic and anxious. I’m not going to kid myself and announce that acceptance is my new permanent state of being. My state of being, especially as a parent, will continue fluctuate. But this is an important shift.

I don’t know the future so I really don’t know how to end this post. What I do know is that every sunny time is to be celebrated and that the dreariest times cannot be wished away. I am learning more and more not to manufacture suffering; why would I want more of that? I am learning more and more to accept this as how life should be simply because that’s the way life is.

Christmas at the beach.

Christmas at the beach.

This morning, I awoke at 4:15 am. As is usual for me, I typically sleep poorly the night before I have to wake up early to catch a flight. Last night was no exception. I awoke at 11:00 pm thinking that it was morning, again at Midnight, and again at 2:00 am. I don’t know if my mind doesn’t trust that my alarm will go off or if I’m just too excited about upcoming adventures, or if perhaps, I have wound myself into a tizzy getting loose ends tied up before I leave for a trip. I suppose it is likely a combination of all of these things.

Having not slept deeply, I was able to get ready quickly. I am going out to dinner with my friend, Robin when I arrive in Raleigh. Consequently, I used my friend, Cheryl’s conference travel trick of wearing comfortable traveling clothes that will also be suitable to wear at social hours and dinners out. The comfortable clothes part was fairly easy. I have a stylish professional and dress wardrobe. However, I stopped wearing clothes that need ironing or dry cleaning years ago. So all of my dresses are pretty comfortable. I also used my trick of wearing my bulkiest pair of shoes on the plane to save room in my luggage. This morning, it was a toss-up between my blue hiking boots and my black wedge sandals. The sandals are both very cute and comfortable, having been made by a savvy shoe company that caters to the middle-aged foot. Though I am not above wearing boots or sneakers with dresses in an airport, I opted for the sandals.

I typically get to the airport about 1 ½ hours before a flight. Yeah, I know that they say to get there two hours early but seriously, who does that? The cab arrived a little early and the drive to the airport was quick, and my airline was one of the first gates. So I was at the airport 1 ¾ hours early. I went through security (shoes are coming off again), found my gate, and bought a coffee at Dilettante Chocolates (they coffee is so much better than Starbucks’ plus there was no line, they are also local, and did I mention chocolate?)

By the time I sat in the gate area, I still had 1 ½ hours to kill. I sent out some silly Facebook postings, sent an “I love you” text to hubby, and watched the rain hit the tarmac with a steady strum. Time passed quickly, I boarded, and after the usual wait, the pilot’s assurance that we would be underway in a “minute or two” (airplane-speak for waits ranging between and minute or two and a several hours), we took off.

Despite the rain, the lower skies over Seattle were clear. In the early morning darkness, the city lights sparkled like fireflies. I could see the Puget Sound and islands in the distance. It was quite lovely. The effect reminded me of the beauty of my home town as well as a nostalgic reminder of the fireflies I found so enchanting when I lived in the South, which is where I am headed today, to the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. I lived there for six years as a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student at UNC-Chapel Hill. This Saturday, my Ph.D. program is having its first ever reunion, an idea prompted by the retirement of my dissertation adviser, Joe Lowman, after 40 years with the program, not counting his own years as a graduate student there. One of the faculty figured that since Joe had taught almost every living alumnus of the program, it was only fitting to have a reunion for all graduating years.

When I started graduate school in 1990, I was 24 years-old, and a newlywed of six months. I was one of the only married students in my class of 13 students. I had never lived out of the Seattle area having grown up in Renton, WA and attended college at the University of Washington in Seattle. I was one of only two six children to move more than a one hour long drive from my parents’ house. My younger brother, James and his wife, Meagan lived in South Bend, Indiana for three years while she was in law school at Notre Dame. But everyone knew that they were moving back and in fact they moved the day after her commencement.

At that time, I was planning to become a professor and knowing how few universities there are in the Pacific Northwest, I did not think I would ever again be more than a visitor to the part of the country I love so much. I remember at our first grad student orientation meeting, asking our department chair questions to clarify when the school breaks and vacations would be. She and my classmates probably thought I was a lazy student! The truth was that I was anxious and already homesick. I wanted reassurance that I would see my family again. All of these transitions, not to mention the fact that my childhood dog has passed at age 15 on my wedding day, created an abrupt take off to independence.

There were also the cultural adjustments. I had only been to the East Coast once not counting my changing planes in New York on the way to and from my honeymoon, from which I had just returned a week or so earlier. I had never been to the South and by that I mean the southeastern part of the U.S., which for cultural reasons, does not include Florida. (Having subsequently lived in north central Florida, I beg to differ.)

The first cultural adjustment was the humidity. It was August in North Carolina. I had just been in the dessert near the Egyptian/Sudanese border. This is one of the hottest places on Earth during the hottest time of the year. You know when people say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity?” Word.

Okay, I know what you are thinking. Humidity is not culture; humidity is climate. Well, I believe that it impacts the culture there. The humidity in the South is like a character in a story. At night, walking outdoors among the outlines of live oaks and hanging Spanish moss, it feels like a seductive and exotic embrace. During the day, it is brutal, relentless, and soul-crushing. Life is lived, as much as possible, in air conditioned environments during the hot time of the year.

The second adjustment was the fact that I was only one of three students in my entire program who was from the West Coast. There was only one other student, Steve Geller, who was from Seattle but he was an advanced student who quickly left the area to complete his internship. Five years after I moved back to Seattle, I coincidentally became his office mate in our neighborhood of West Seattle, until he moved to Hawaii in the summer of 2013.

Chapel Hill is a lovely colonial college town. We don’t have colonial era architecture in Seattle. The oldest homes and buildings are from the late 1800’s and those are rare indeed. I only know of one, which is the oldest home in Seattle and the site of a small museum. In Seattle, we have totem poles that old but even Native American artifacts are not in great supply at least in western Washington due to wood being the most plentiful building material and our wet climate. Things rot. To see the old buildings in Chapel Hill, with their red brick that mirrors the color of the Georgia clay in the soil, was a lovely treat, like living in an outdoor museum.

My husband and I adjusted to living in North Carolina. In fact, we loved living there and would have considered settling there. We loved the rich history of contemporary fiction. I remember attending a short story reading in a converted 1700’s barn in Fearrington Village. These were authors who used words that painted characters with deeply saturated hues. And the music of the language was stunning. I loved it. To this day, some of my favorite authors are contemporary southern writers. Anyone who says, “Southerners are stupid” needs to pick up a damn book.

And maybe it has something to do with all of the eccentric, strong women in southern literature that allow my strong personality made waves in the South, it was not as bad as one might predict, though part of that may have been because I was in academia, an environment in which I have felt comfortable being direct and opinionated.

The last adaptation was adjusting to being in one of the most rigorous Ph.D. programs in the country. Psychology is a funny discipline. At the bachelor’s level, it is considered one of the easiest degrees to obtain. Now I took a more rigorous course of study to obtain a B.S. instead of a B.A. but even so my husband’s undergraduate program in computer science was so much harder than mine. But at the doctoral level, especially in clinical psychology, which requires both research and clinical training, psychology is a really hard course of study. Good God, the first semester kicked my ass. And it wasn’t that I performed poorly academically, it was just that I felt that I was working all of the time and running scared. For a while, I feared that I would be kicked out of the program. One of my classmates, who was an older student and therefore wiser said, “Elizabeth, you are solidly passing all of your classes (we did not get A, B, C… type grades). Why would you get kicked out?” Thank you, Craig, wherever you are. Eventually, I became a confident student. Honestly, I loved graduate school.

I have not been back North Carolina for eight years and my past trips have been brief. This is also the first time I’ve been there traveling without my husband. That makes it more of an adventure and a reminder of very exciting and important times in my early adulthood when the world opened up to a big big place.

I look forward to seeing you, my home away from home. You are the place where my husband and I built the foundation of our young marriage and shared our dreams for the future. You are the placed I learned a profession I love deeply. You taught me the importance of friendship and how friends can be like family. For awhile, you gave me a cool accent and you performed the miracle of getting me interested in spectator sports with Dean Smith and the Tarheels.

Chapel Hill, you were good to me, except for that damned humidity.

As you know, I walk between 3-4 miles every day. This week, I’ve had a couple of interesting encounters. The first was an encounter with a black hen that had gotten out of her yard. There are actually a number of chickens and a few roosters that live in the neighborhood. Actually, there are fowl living all over my city thanks to the Seattle City Chickens program. I enjoy the chickens, though not as much so as my husband who will change our walking route so that he can encounter the most chickens. He likes animals, in general, but also used to raise chickens when he lived in Oakland, CA. And yes, I mean Oakland, CA. He and his brother were riding the BART train into Berkeley and they saw a pet store. They loved pet stores so they eagerly walked into the doors of a REPTILE PET STORE. They immediately saw a group of baby chicks. “Why are you selling chicks in a reptile store?” The reply? “Those are boa food!”

So they emptied out all of the money from their pockets (allowance ear marked to buy comic books) and bought as many chicks as they could. Then they brought them home. “You can’t have chickens in Oakland” their mom reasonably said. Then they started crying, “But they’re going to feed them to snakes!!!!!!”

So the boys got themselves some chickens. The population quickly dwindled to one rooster, Cruiser. (There were a number of coyotes in the area.) Cruiser was quite territorial and used to sit on the roof behind the chimney, waiting for the postal carrier. When the postal carrier arrived, Cruiser would swoop down for an attack. The postal carrier promptly started delivering their mail to the neighbor’s house.

Okay, now for the second encounter. Perhaps I should give it a title.

Encounter #2: Elizabeth is not the only spy in the neighborhood!

I was out on my walk today and an older man driving a truck, stopped and rolled his window down. I thought he was going to ask me for directions. Instead he said, “You must walk about 3 miles a day.” (“Hmm,” I thought, “how does he know that.”) I replied, “Yes, how do you know that?” He said, “I live at the intersection of x and y streets. I see you by my house.” (“Hmm,” I thought, “we are not three miles from the intersection of  x and y streets. You look harmless older man but I will be on the look out for black trucks in the future.”)

At this point, probably harmless but possibly creepy stalker-y man says, “Are you walking for exercise?” I reply, “Yes, I am.” He says, “That’ll make you live longer.”

I said, “Yep, hope so.”

So thank you, probably harmless older gentleman for reminding me of the reason I have walked 735 miles in the last eight months.

 

Poppies get a bad rap in the Wizard of Oz. I mean, come on, the Wicked Witch of the West used them for nefarious purposes, to thwart Dorothy and her friends from their quest to see The Wizard. Plus there are those horrible, nightmare inducing flying monkeys!

Poppies are in bloom in my neighborhood and they are oh so beautiful! Enjoy!

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As you may know, I have been tracking my daily walks since 12/2/12. Earlier this week, I passed the 400 mile mark (644 K). Today, I did a 6 mile (9.7 K) walk I have been wanting to be able to work toward for a long time but thought the earliest I’d be ready for it would be next fall. The walk is from our house to Lincoln Park, which is on the Puget Sounds and faces the beautiful Olympic Mountains, which is the lesser known of the two mountain ranges in our state. The walk is not just longer than my usual walk but it is quite hilly. John took us an indirect, switchback route so that it wasn’t an unrelenting climb.

The park and the walk were beautiful. We saw a seal pup on a wooden float off in the distance. In the 13 years we’ve visited the park this was a first time sighting for us. John and I really enjoyed this time together.

Puget Sound, Olympic Peninsula, and Olympic Mountains. (I know I keep promising to use a good camera for my nature shots instead of my phone...)

Puget Sound, Olympic Peninsula, and Olympic Mountains. (I know I keep promising to use a good camera for my nature shots instead of my phone…)

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