Greetings from Seattle



Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Serene Sunday Walks - Part II

After walking the "soft" trail, especially soft after 2.5 inches of rain, we continued onto the paved Springbrook Trail. This trail runs along a small stream which over a hundred years ago was formed as a drainage canal. This area used to be swamp. Now the wild green belt is an oasis between freeways, shopping centers and business parks.
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While the "spring" in the name is most likely the bubbling water kind, we were in search of seasonal "spring". The calendar says spring has officially begun, but the weather has not yet acknowledged it is so. However, nature has it's own timeline, and the signs of the season were abundant. Indian Plum is always the first to leaf out and open its white racemes. Oregon Grape is showing color. It will soon open to fragrant yellow blooms to which the bees will flock. Willows of various species are opening their flower buds.
Pussy willows are fully opened into the bloom stage.
Wild Red Currant is a real beauty. This one is ahead of the natives we have in our yard. Red Alder trees are in full bloom, their catkins filling the air with pollen. For those who are allergic, this is a difficult time of the year.
Just as nature renews in spring, it also recycles the old. Here bracket fungus is slowing devouring a dead trunk.
This mallard drake seemed to be taking a cat nap while the little woman was searching out a nesting site.
The green winged teal was much more attentive to his mate.
Thank goodness nature has its own calendar. Today it is 42 and stormy, and yet spring is still happening.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Serene Sunday Walks - Part I

Our anniversary was Sunday, but since we celebrated on Saturday, we decided to declare Sunday a holiday. We got the day off to a slow, relaxed start, read the paper, took a stroll through the yard. In the afternoon we went for destination walks in the sunshine.
Our first destination was the Black River Riparian Forest. We had gone there a month or so ago, and it was time to see if the Great Blue Herons had returned to the rookery for nesting season.
There were several herons standing around, but not like the large gathering we had seen several years ago. The nests were there, but was anything happening in them?
My camera lens is better than my eyes, and found the answer.
However, as I wrote last time, a pair of eagles has moved into the neighborhood, and last year wrecked havoc on the heron eggs and hatchlings.
Sure enough, the eagles are also back at the nesting site. All was calm and peaceful yesterday, but I'm afraid it won't stay that way.
See other "Nature Notes" at Rambling Woods.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

Forty Years

March 29th is our 40th Wedding Anniversary. Where has the time gone? Yes, we were young once. The pictures prove it!
We were married in Tom's family church in Puyallup, an area famous for it's daffodil fields and it's daffodil festival, and it was March, so of course our colors were yellow and white and our flowers were daffodils.
My three sisters were my attendants, and my two brothers were ushers. Tom's best man was his brother and his groomsmen were his cousins. This was definitely a family affair.
I guess there was a tizzy about the cake not arriving at the church, but I knew it was coming from the Albertson's across the street and wasn't worried. Obviously they had experience and were waiting for everyone to go to the ceremony and then they brought it over and set it up. It was chocolate, at a time when nobody did that. Fresh flowers to match my daisy bouquet adorned the top, rather than the traditional bride and groom.
Tom and I met while teaching across the hall from each other at Mt. View Elementary School in the Highline School District, south of Seattle. I taught 4th grade and he taught 5th, so some of my students went on to his class the next year. The two of us had quite a fan club, in a school where many of the teachers were "old".
It was not love at first sight, at least on my part, since I had eyes for the young PE teacher at first, but it turned out that he was secretly engaged, and he went away after the first year. Then Tom began to pay attention to me. It might have been his taking me to the family cabin on Whidbey Island one beautiful, warm summer day, that stole my heart. I do know that it was when I showed up there alone over Labor Day weekend, with all of his family present, that put him over the top.
We were engaged at Christmas and married spring break. None of our students knew we were dating except one special little girl, Denise, who saw us out together. We swore her to secrecy. We were discreet in those day.
Of course once we announced our engagement, we were big news. We invited our students to the wedding and the parents formed a car pool to get the kids there. Many of these kids came from poor homes, some in the "projects", and this was a very big deal for them. My goodness, were they dressed to the nines. The wedding day was the weekend of Palm Sunday, so I'm sure they were wearing new Easter finery. And they were very well behaved, but I do remember some groans and giggles when we kissed.
After a cake reception at the church, family members gathered at Tom's parents house near the church for a buffet dinner and gift opening.
And then we were off on our honeymoon, at the cabin on Whidbey Island, of course.
We were young teachers, not very high on a not-very-high salary schedule, and we paid for most of our own wedding. The cabin was free, which was what we could afford. That was before credit cards, and going into debt was out of the question. Maybe that's one reason we have lasted over the years, we have shared a common sense approach to finances.
We have had a good life together so far. After we were married, the district made me change schools over the summer, and I taught three more years before resigning to raise a family. Jill was born in 1973 and Jacob in 1975. I did the co-op preschool duty, served in PTA and as parent volunteer, taught Sunday School, and was a Campfire leader for eight years. Tom taught fifth grade, Kindergarten, PE, and back to kindergarten. He coached youth soccer for ten years and was president of the soccer club for four years. It does take a village to raise a child, and we were a part of that village. I went back to work as an educational assistant part time, then full time, and finally back to certified teaching. All those years we shared a profession as well as our family.
After renting for a year, we bought our first house, a three bedroom rambler with yard where we could play and garden and raise vegetables and kids. Before Jill started school we had our current house built and have been here for almost 31 years. The house is paid for and we are retired, and we are still sharing a love of gardening, kids and grand kids, new opportunities for travel, and of course, Whidbey Island.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Work and Weather at Whidbey - Skywatch

Rain clouds approach Sunlight Beach over Useless Bay, Whidbey Island, Washington State.
When you're gardening in March on Whidbey Island, you have to be a sky watcher. And sure enough, within 15 minutes of my taking these photos, it was raining hard.
Fortunately we had been watching the sky the day before and knew we had our window to do the work. March is the time to do the clean up, especially after the harsh winter here on the beach. We weeded, pruned, cut back what was dead or damaged, moved a few things around, and put down a layer of compost.
There used to be a cabin across the street. It was destroyed in a fire this winter, along with heavy damage to the cabin to the left. Both will be replaced with two story dwellings. We had a little fire of our own, back by the lagoon, to reduce our pile of clippings. I pruned the rosemary back hard and the smoke smelled quite good. Now we're all back to being ship shape.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cousins

Isn't it interesting that as we get older, as we move beyond those busy years filled with children and work and activities, we become more interested in our roots and in reconnecting with our extended family.
On Saturday we traveled to Tahuya on Hood Canal for a visit with two of my cousins, Kathy and Mike.
The Olympic Mountains were gleaming in the welcome sunshine, the first clear day in a while.
This is Kathy's cabin in Tahuya. This is the scene of many happy family gatherings for her, but now, as a widow and with her children and grandchildren in that "busy" stage, she seldom comes here. Cousins can become a good way to share this place with so many memories for her. We didn't play in the creek that runs through her property. Instead she met with a contractor to see about shoring up the eroding bank. Change happens.
We came for several purposes: to visit, to enjoy a fun day trip, and to share and exchange family stories, photos and genealogical records.
We took a walk around the community, to the beach access for those with beach rights.
We dumped oyster shells off the dock after those who enjoy them had some for lunch. The shells usually contain the starts of tiny new oysters and the old shells become the nursery for a new generation. This is the area where the Tahuya River empties into Hood Canal. An extension of Puget Sound, this is tidal, salt water where shellfish and crabs can be harvested. Kathy and Mike had done the gathering during the previous day's low tide. Kathy and Mike are the children of two of my father's sisters.
We are hoping to organize a reunion of all the cousins from the Norquist family. We have all grown up with separate lives, and yet we have a common heritage, a tie that binds.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tohono O'odham

South and southwest of Tucson is the land of the Tohono O'odham Nation. Formerly called the Popago by the Spanish, the native people have rejected that name that refers to "bean eaters" and adopted their current name, Tohono O'odham, which translates to "People of the Desert". The Sonoran Desert is their home, on the second largest reservation land wise in the country.
A common symbol of these Native Americans is the Man in the Maze.
This example was painted over a doorway in a side room of the Mission San Xavier del Bac, which is located in a district of the reservation. The Man in the maze is I'itoi, a mischievous creator god who resides in a cave below the peak of Baboquivari Mountain.
I'itoi is responsible for the gift of Hindag, a series of commandments guiding people to remain in balance with the world.
The symbol is found on petroglyphs and baskets. According to oral history, the labyrinth design depicts the experiences and choices we make in our journey through life. In the middle of the maze, a person finds their dreams and goals. When one reaches the center, we have the final opportunity (the last turn in the design) to look back upon our choices and path, before the Sun God greats us, blesses us and passes us into the next world.
I looked for representations of this life symbol, but they sell out quickly and not that many are available. I found this inexpensive pendant at a shop at the Phoenix airport. I'm wearing it now.
The Tohono O'odham are also notable for their basket making. Materials for everyday life were scarce in ancient times, and the native peoples made use of what they had in the desert. These baskets are made of bear grass and yucca. This display was at the Visitors Center at Kitt Peak, which is on Nation land. They have a lovely collection of baskets for sale. But I had already bought my little example at the Pow-wow several days before. The Pow-wow being hosted by the Tohono O'odham was on the grounds of the mission, so when we went there to tour the mission we were drawn to the Pow-wow also.
As we watched the dancing of visiting tribes of Plains Indians, a young man sitting near us gave us some background of what we were seeing. These girls are "jingle dancers". The "bells" on their costumes are the rolled lids of snuff cans! Their goal is to move to the singing and drumming rhythm while getting a maximum jingle from their costumes.
This girl is doing the shawl dance, and she is very good, according to our commentator. Most women's dances aren't very active, but this girl dances "like a man". That was a good thing. Of course the early Desert People did not have elaborate costumes, and these represent many tribes, but with at least four different singing and drumming teams, colorful costumes, competitive dancing, and just visiting, all were having a good time.
Not only did I buy a beautiful little basket from a young man who's grandmother makes them, but we also succumbed to the smell of the fry bread being cooked over mesquite wood.
Yum! A great finish to a wonderful experience.