Monday, March 18, 2019

Where are you from?

“Where are you from?”

I get asked quite often. For me, it’s not an easy question to answer. Do you mean where did I start out? Where did I live while growing up? Where is my favorite place? The list is long. One day I counted them up. Eighteen houses in way more places than people want to hear about. So I tell them Seattle, Washington.

I moved there when I was 10. I left when I was 16. That’s where I came of age. Where I got braces on my teeth. And my first kiss. And a driver’s license. And a portable radio. And life-long friends. And my first bra.

In the fall of my 16th year I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to the East Coast where the kids at my new school wore Bermuda shorts and had funny accents. They played lacrosse and field hockey, games I knew nothing about.

At Queen Anne High School in Seattle I was vice president of my sophomore class. At Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia I stayed after school to catch up. And when I got home, I wrote letters to my Seattle friends. I wasn’t good at adjusting to this strange place.

We moved to Philadelphia because my dad quit his job and couldn’t find another one in Seattle. None of us wanted to move East. The people weren’t friendly. It didn’t feel to me like the City of Brotherly Love.

My dad sympathized. He allowed me to spend the summer between my junior and senior year in Seattle with a friend. Her family had a boat. We cruised the San Juan Islands and sometimes slept on the beach. That made it all the harder to go back to Philadelphia.

I have been working my way West ever since. When my dad said, “Not one dime to go to college west of the Mississippi River,” I chose Ohio. When my soon-to-be husband planned to go to law school in Ohio, I convinced him to go as far west as Boulder, Colorado. When he died, 30 some years later, I went to Seattle to lead bicycle trips for a summer, thinking I’d move back at last.

But the place had grown and changed. I had kids and grandkids and friends in Colorado. And so I came home. But there’s a part of me that says Seattle is still my place. I have old friends there, and now a grandson.

And a pile of memories.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ice on the lake

There’s nothing quite like getting your workout for the day by cruising around a frozen lake on cross-country skis. My friend and I got an early start. Single digit temperatures might have made us reconsider for a moment, but then, there was little to no wind, a brilliant sun was warming up the world, and it’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to visit.

The sun was illuminating and reflecting the work of Jack Frost who, overnight, perhaps assisted by a breeze or currents circulating below the ice, has created a wonderland.  I don’t know how it came to be.

What I do know is that within moments we were comfortably warm and sliding along over a thin layer of sparkling snow. Soon we came upon nature’s artwork. Luckily, my friend had her camera along and pulled it out of her pocket when we paused to get a closer look.

Amazing handiwork! Before us, all across the lake, were patches of extraordinary beauty. Some of these places resembled a field of fluffy feathers, others looked more like delicate leaves shimmering in the sun.

What a way to start the day!

                                                         photo by Seraina Gessler

Friday, March 1, 2019

Off and on

My hot tub won’t shut off.  My washing machine won’t turn on. My “lower level” rental unit is in disarray awaiting a long overdue makeover. New floor covering, new paint, new kitchen cabinets and light fixtures.

No. I’m not bored. I like to paint and scrub and fix stuff, but I’m finding that I can’t work 8 hours at a stretch the way I once did. Grrr.

The good news is it’s fun to make something clean and new after years of neglect and mistreatment. This time I’m choosing my basement dweller with great care. I’m not a neatnik, but there is a limit to the lack of reasonable housekeeping that I can endure.

I’ve rented out my basement for almost 25 years and nearly every tenant has been a pleasure to have around. They keep to themselves and sometimes have even taken advantage of space to grow a garden.

More often than not, an undertaking becomes more challenging than first anticipated and this project is no exception. I can see that in the next few weeks I’m not going to have much time to sit around. By the time my basement comes back to life, spring will be well on the way—a good time for renewal.

And with any luck, my hot tub will behave once again and my 1982 Maytag washing machine will have another chance at life. I’d be sad to see it give up the ghost and go away for good.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Get Educated

I’m not a fan of flowery book reviews that seek incorporate strings of superlatives, even though many of them are clever and well-written. Now that I’ve said that, I’m in a bind I suppose.

I just finished reading Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated and I’m feeling compelled to suggest that anyone who knows how to read and is a member of a family might consider delving into it.

It’s hard to put my finger on why I feel that way. Perhaps it had such a powerful impact on me because I read the whole thing in less than a 24-hour period. I’m glad I turned out the light 30-some pages from the end last night because it would have been difficult to sleep if I’d kept on reading.

Perhaps it is because these days, it is easy to google an author, observe the interviews she has given, and come away feeling as if you have some insights into who this person is.

Perhaps it is because I have longed questioned radical religion and been puzzled about the harm it is capable of causing.

Perhaps it is because I have these feminist leanings that recoil when I see how some members of the masculine gender view the opposite sex and feel compelled to exert  power in a frightening way.

Perhaps it is because I’m blown away by Westover’s skill as a writer and by her willingness to defy some of the conventions writers are asked to abide by if they are to be successful.

It’s a book that will make you think: about family relationships, the real nature of education, the role a set of beliefs play in a life, and the amazing resilience of human beings.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Into the hills

Slap skinny boards onto your feet. Strap a pack bulging with sleeping bag, food, and water onto your back and step, a little tentatively, into the wind scouring the high country, blasting snow into your face.
Ski with friends. They’ll plod along with you, keep you on the path, and join you to celebrate when you reach the sheltering hut, home for the next couple of days.

It’s hard to explain just how the special camaraderie always happens on these tenth mountain division hut trips every year.

In 2019 we were ten—a smaller group than most years but no less enthusiastic. We cooked for each other--pancakes, spaghetti, and cocoanut chicken curry. We told story after story. We read and snoozed and headed out to ski to a ridge in the distance. We gazed at the stars, shared a sauna, a snowball fight and a roll in the snow. We got up at 6 a.m. for a pre-dawn ski in a snowstorm and risked losing our way.

When it was time to leave, we hadn’t quite had our fill of this kind of fun. Blessedly, the wind was at our back as we trekked down hill. Bright sun, grey skies and snowflakes took turns as we headed toward home.

Too soon we found ourselves part of a long line of barely moving traffic and we knew why it was so important that we’d made this annual trip that has become a sacred 20-year tradition.