Marching In Pink

When the Bainbridge ferry docked in Seattle the day of the worldwide women’s marches, Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, declared over the loudspeaker that pink would be Washington’s official color this day. Presenting every pink hue in hats, coats, and handmade signs, a flood of foot passengers unloaded off the car deck and the passenger ramp, and headed up Seattle hills toward Judkins Park to the start of the march.

People shoulder-to-shoulder, stretching three miles long and building to building wide – a polite and cheerful tide of rosy-capped humanity waving or wearing clever signs – some sassy, some serious, all heartfelt. After weeks of the new regime’s peculiar relationship with words, “alternative facts,” I guess they call falsehoods now, I loved being surrounded by words of caring and truth – often expressed with great humor.

The only unSeattle-like thing was the weather, skies cleared and real sunshine warmed us as we headed down Jackson toward the city center – such a treat after the drizzle and gloom of Inauguration Day. Along the route above us on an apartment balcony, a couple cheered and blasted Bob Marley’s “Stand Up!”

But mostly the walkers were as quiet as thousands of humans – women, grandpas and young guys, babies in strollers and people in wheelchairs – can be. Only occasionally, a powerful wave roar of voices would come from behind, catch us up, and then move beyond. Downtown, soapbox orators spelled out possibilities for action going forward into these four years.

Signs reflected the litany of protesters’ concerns including the Affordable Care Act, Planned Parenthood, NATO, climate change, the rule of law. And although marchers showed up for all kinds of reasons, I kept thinking that the unifying energy demanded push back against this newly sworn in president – his bleak view, his lies, his disrespect for earth and people. Threats surround us, press freedom, immigration, the dismaying cabinet choices.

Many young women’s signs advised Trump to keep his tiny hands off their bodies, and one suggested “Grab Trump By His Putin.” My young friend made me a sign with Hillary’s words, “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights,” a phrase repeated over and over.

The bobbing, moving flush of pink caps thrilled me – a brilliant idea manifested in a multitude of creative ways – knitted and crocheted, made of fleece or wool, pink wigs and pink hair, families or friends united by their matching headgear. A man had fashioned a pink party bag into the pointy ears of a pussyhat. A red ball cap startled me, I could only see the first words “make America…” but my friend could see the rest: “…gay again!”

I don’t know what I expected, maybe that the event would be somber and negative. But no, it was joyous and affirming to be with good friends and part of that historic crowd – more than 120,000 by all estimates – the largest civic demonstration ever in Seattle.

All those shades of hats and skin (one poster showed the only unacceptable skin color to be orange) coalesced into a moving statement of hope, lessening the despair of the previous day and acknowledging the work ahead.

Stronger together.

pink-pussyhat

Summer Alaska

In July we overlapped with Sweet Baby and her parents during a visit to Anchorage. She is three years younger than her cousin Lady Baby, whom she clearly adores and admires, always watching and imitating when she can.

At Lady Baby’s soccer game (nothing is cuter than three and four-year olds in tiny but still oversized soccer shirts on a mini soccer field, chasing a small ball, sometimes in the right direction). Sweet Baby sat rapt, holding a soccer ball and staring at the jolly chaos on the field.

At home the two cousins pushed doll strollers full of babies and “stuffies” around the house. And they went to the playground together – Lady Baby runs on the jiggly bridge, climbs to the top of the netting, swings high, and whizzes down the steep slide. Sweet Baby watches, and following encouraging instructions, “do this slide,” “come up here,” does her best to keep up.

One weekday, those not at work headed north to Rendezvous Peak at Arctic Valley, (the original Anchorage ski resort). The hike is perfect for little legs, just a mile and a half above the timberline from the parking lot, up to a saddle overlooking a dramatic view.

Both girls started out walking – Sweet Baby holding one of Lady Baby’s fingers (refusing to hold a whole hand, Sweet Baby willingly clasps just one finger). When Sweet Baby paused with her attendants to drink mom’s milk and load into the pack, Lady Baby said: “Let’s go!” and began to run up the trail.

At a small bridge over the creek that runs through the valley, Lady Baby told me she wished she had a little house right on the bridge, and that I could have another one right next door, and that the doors would always be open between them. Below she’d have a beehive with friendly bees, and maybe she’d be the queen. We allowed as how it would be nice to dip feet in that creek on the way down.

Apple slices helped our upward momentum, as she chatted and climbed, eager for us to stay in front. The trail is narrow and sunken in tundra, full of bearberry, tiny ferns and many wildflowers to either side. We spoke of blueberries, and found two ready to eat.

The others caught up, and we scouted a flat spot for lunch of egg salad sandwiches, chips, and chocolate warm and soft from the pack. Lady Baby found a wide dip in the tundra with a stand of yellow arnica covered with dozens of orange butterflies.

Lady Baby maybe thought we’d head down after lunch (I could have warned her that the Trail Boss always finishes the up). By then I’d worn out the naming of plants, attempts to encourage staying in front, my songs and stories (even the one about hiking the trail with her father when he was small, and in a patch of heather stretched his arms wide and twirled in a perfect Julie Andrews “the hills are alive” moment). The trail got steeper and led to a sit down declaration, “too tired to go on.”

Poppa Jim and Sweet Baby’s parents began the miraculous hike-saving game of hide-and-seek: “We’ll close our eyes and count to 20.” Lady Baby darted on – running full-tilt uphill! She can hide in stands of dwarf fireweed and be gleeful when discovered.

Trying to hide, I laid down on the fragrant tundra cushion, looked at the blue sky, and remembered other days on this mountain – meeting my husband here as beginner skiers and bringing our sons to ski and hike. The past combined with the present to fill me with gratitude.

Lady Baby soon led us to the top – proud of the climb – but more so of her hiding prowess. The downhill walk is easy with Anchorage in view far below – and the promised wading creek.

Oh Alaska water is cold! But we did it, held hands, stepped gingerly on gravel to a flat sun-warmed rock, and cheered.

Cousins

 

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Sweet Baby Travels – England

After a little more than a two-hour flight from Sevilla to London Gatwick, we exchanged T-shirts for sweaters, sandals for umbrellas, tapas for pub food, and formal gardens in dry terrain for the lush gardens of England.

By this time Sweet Baby expressed definite opinions about tolerated confinement, whether pack or stroller, car seat or high chair. But she is always glad to ride in her pack on her dad, the family gardener, and we planned three garden visits with lawns and space for running.

In the Kent countryside we stayed in tiny Biddenden Village (a pub, a post office, and a smattering of other buildings smack beside a busy road) in a 400-year old Tudor house – low ceilings, creaky floors, steep staircases, and comfortable rooms.

At Great Dixter (made famous by garden writer Christopher Lloyd), in spite of borders of glorious color and meadows of wildflowers, we loved the house best. Built by Lloyd’s father and the architect Edwin Lutyens, it combines two 15th century dwellings to reimagine a medieval manor. A great room with vaulted ceilings and leaded windows downstairs, and a solar upstairs, with worn rugs, bookshelves, and lived-in chairs cozied up to a huge fireplace. A little hungry for home comfort by now, we might have settled in.

The day of our Sissinghurst visit we woke to cold rain, but after Sweet Baby’s morning nap the clouds lifted. Sissinghurst (my favorite garden) is romantic and full of story, and in spite of summer solstice and the full bloom of Vita’s famous roses, weather kept the crowds down. We walked paths through the white garden, the herb garden, the cottage garden, and climbed the tower. For lunch we ate ratatouille made from produce grown in the Sissinghurst vegetable garden.

The threat of Brexit had begun to color things even before we left Spain, and in the UK tension was palpable. In the village, angry Brexiters complained to us about Obama’s statements to remain, and in London the night before the vote, vocal supporters of each side lined tube station entrances. Our old friends were divided, he to stay, she to leave. And the day after the vote, people looked stunned as they carried on.

Founded in 1673 as an apothecaries’ garden, the Chelsea Physic garden is a tranquil, walled space overlooked by buildings, full of labeled medicinal plants from around the world. On the same day as the huge and sad memorial for Jo Cox in Trafalgar Square, I walked the paths, pushing a sleeping Sweet Baby in her stroller, thinking about the commonality and continuity of plants, looking for solace in the centuries-old garden.

On our last day – a final walk through London and history. From our place near Covent Garden, west through Trafalgar Square (setting up for the Gay Pride Festival), along the Mall to St. James’s park (many visitors, a polyglot of language), ate waffles sitting on a bench, and watched the crowd gather near Buckingham Palace. Then we circled back past Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, toward Parliament (posters and stickers littered the sidewalk). We turned onto the Victoria Embankment along the Thames, and crossed the Millennium Footbridge (a bride and her wedding party walking in the midst of the crowd). We spent time in the Tate Modern (Sweet Baby running the ramp in the Turbine Hall), then walked on to the Borough Market for lunch.

Sweet Baby took her parents home for the afternoon nap, but the two old, true London lovers finished it out – back across the bridge and up to St. Paul’s, along Fleet Street and the Strand, and through Covent Garden.

Overhead a jet plane flyover trailed tricolored smoke and thunderous noise – and a downpour began, wilting feathers and costumes and melting face paintings on passersby.

That evening, in the midst of post-festival crowds, Sweet Bride miraculously found us a table at a Thai restaurant where we ate and replayed Sweet Baby’s first big trip.

“Wow!” we said.

Sissinghurst I

Sissinghurst II

 

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A Long Post About A Short Weekend

Lady Baby and her dad flew down on a Friday in the middle of May and spent the weekend – a father and daughter trip. We met them in Seattle where Lady Baby outlined the immediate plan: “Ride the ferry, eat dinner, drive to the Buffalo!”

The next day, drizzly and gray, we all wandered up the beach searching for treasures like special rocks, the shells of limpets, oysters and crabs, particular pink seaweed, and kelp “balloons.”

That afternoon Lady Baby and I visited the Port Townsend Marine Science Center at Fort Worden. It’s housed in an old building on an equally old wharf, and dedicated to inspiring conservation of the Salish Sea (the name for all the connected waterways in this part of the world). Water from the Bay below constantly circulates in and out of several touch tanks and a tall aquarium containing fish, sea stars, sea anemones, sea worms, chitons, urchins, and more. A magical place.

The Center teaches by touch. We learned to touch only the tops of sea stars to protect their vulnerable feeding tubes – and watched a large sea star efficiently pull a whole closed oyster toward its mouth on its underside (the stomach comes out of the mouth to accomplish this!). When touched, little feather dusters that sea worms stick out to catch their food instantly retract. While we watched a crab clean the scraps from a shell, a docent explained about crabs molting when they outgrow their own shells: “Imagine you have a zipper up your backbone and could unzip and step your skeleton out!”

We were often in synch with a little girl and her dad, visitors from Seattle, and soon the girls were sharing a sturdy footstool and concentrating together on the tanks – rapt. And as the visitors thinned out, Zofia, a young Citizen Scientist Educator, revealed the trapdoor/porthole in the old floor so they could toss an empty oyster shell back into the sea.

She asked if the girls wanted to see where “tons of crabs hang out,” and took them below the Center where the flukes of a gray whale float in netting attached to a dock. (After a whale washed up on a Seattle beach, the rest of the whale was buried at sea till the bones are clean and the skeleton can be rebuilt.) Wriggling crabs covered the netting, and fat bubbles from the whale bobbed to the surface.

Invited to look through a microscope (a first for both girls), they took turns gazing at teeny critters in seawater. Lady Baby said in that excited voice of discovery: “They are so small and then so big!” As we left, the girls dashed down to the beach together.

Armed with our new knowledge and intending just another rambling walk, we returned to the beach on Sunday morning. When she spotted a good treasure, Lady Baby stopped, patted her tummy, and called: “Guys, guys, come here!”

After her dad provided an energy bar and water snack, we found ourselves well into our daily walk along the beach, through a campground, and heading up a hill to the bunkers.

That hill always punishes. This time Poppa Jim suggested singing – singing? I thought – but it worked. Variations on “Wheels on the Bus” got us nearly to the top, and then a tossed piece of sticky weed took over – its Velcro adherence to our clothes causing much giggling and repeating.

A strong four-year old can outwalk us, the enemy is boredom, so for the rest of the hike we did the simplest, most failsafe kid-on-a-hike game – hiding! Oh she loved it – so delighted with her hiding skills. We would walk ahead, lamenting that Lady Baby and her dad had disappeared. What could have happened? Maybe she’d be at the sunny meadow because she likes sunny meadows, or maybe she was back at the car. Then she’d run up and “surprise” us, shriek in delight, and repeat.

On Monday she turned the drive down to the ferry into a long conversation. She’s figuring out what is real and what is not, what was in the past and what is made up. She told me people in storybooks were once alive but now dead (sometimes true I said, but I write stories about her and she is certainly alive).

We had a long discussion about her insect dislikes “red ants, mosquitoes, and bumblebees,” and why bumblebees might be removed from the list. And fun when she isolated words from the history podcast playing in the front seat and grinned in glee: monster “Oooh that’s scary,” or hero “Those are good guys.” She told me the guys on the podcast (Assyrians, Greeks) came before the dinosaurs.

The chronology is a little mixed up – but she’ll get it. Probably soon. What a wonderful visit.

postcard - shells

Mother’s Day

On NPR a story told how Mother’s Day began because a daughter sought to honor her mother. But as the holiday grew popular, and Madison Avenue got involved, the founder objected to the increasingly commercial aspects. A lot of marketing surrounds Mother’s Day, and it can be a complicated holiday, but I like to hear reports of how people spend the day presenting gifts of weeding, chores accomplished, cemetery visits, flowers, phone calls, festive meals, and even pipe cleaner butterfly mobiles.

Because my husband was out of town, and our beloved house sitter was hosting her mother on the bluff, I’d spent the night before with my old friend who lives on Bainbridge Island. On Mother’s Day I planned to go to Seattle with my niece (home to Bainbridge for a well-deserved break from medical school) to have brunch at a favorite place, Plum Bistro.

But early in the morning, in a fine drizzle, my old friend and I took a long walk on the road by Rockaway Beach. When I first visited, we used to leave the children with their fathers and run this route – a hilly road, skirting the water across from Seattle.

Now 40 years on, there are changes. One obnoxiously sized house obliterates the view for a patch, but at a spot called Hall’s Hill Lookout, the Portland artist and landscape architect, Jeffrey Bale, built (at the request of a local landowner) a stone mosaic labyrinth in a forest glade. His complicated and very beautiful paving forms a meditative path, and the stones chosen from Washington beaches vary in color in meaningful ways. I loved reading Bale’s blog about how he gathered beach cobbles without disturbing the tiny sea creatures sheltering below and hauled thousands of pounds of it in buckets to construct this treasure: (http://jeffreygardens.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-labyrinth-project-beginning.html).

In this quietly landscaped place and near the labyrinth, a bronze prayer wheel by the artist Tom Jay provides a chance to spin the wheel with something in mind – nine times round, the bell rings, and one’s thought goes out into the world.

And a little further along Rockaway stands a memorial to the terrible day in 1942 when the 246 Japanese-American residents of Bainbridge Island were taken from their homes by soldiers with rifles, brought to this harbor, loaded on a ferry, and sent to interment camps. A long and beautiful wall and walkway with terracotta friezes and tiles with family names memorialize their walk down the pier. It’s a sobering reminder of an awful and unconstitutional mistake – the motto of the memorial is Nidoto Nai Yoni, which translates as “Let It Not Happen Again.”

I’d always heard about this part of Bainbridge and American history – but never before knew the faces and stories of mothers and children, farmers and students, integral members of the Bainbridge community, two thirds of whom were U.S. citizens.

The website tells much more about this beautiful contemplative place:

http://www.bijac.org/index.php?p=MEMORIALIntroduction

We were cold and wet, moved but content at the end of our Rockaway tour. I’d be glad to make that walk and brunch a Mother’s Day tradition!

Flower burst 1

In Jokes

If I wrote write here: “I’m going to bed with a beer and a book,” my old friend on Bainbridge would laugh – and picture the two of us bottling raspberry jam while four crabby and bored small children flailed around us, surprised by the sudden appearance of her husband suffering a cold, and his seemingly reasonable announcement.

Some of these one-liner phrases enter the lexicon of intimates never to leave, and can live on, because they’re useful. They’re code words – replaying a chuckle or a belly laugh, or inviting the joy of absurdity when applied to a new situation.

On one of my first trips with my husband, a waiter (barely hiding his displeasure) brushed “ein noodle” from a white tablecloth. To this day any small, single, slightly icky, misplaced object becomes “ein noodle.” And many years ago on a backpacking trip, as we broke camp in the morning, a two-year old traveler, engrossed in setting up his “guys,” and not inclined to hit the trail, said plaintively, “Can’t we just poop and play army?” a phrase capturing exactly the feeling of being hassled by commitment and demands. (I really loved it when I heard Mrs. Hughes use it aptly to describe a situation.)

Lady Baby produces memorable lines now, and gets it when she is part of, or the creator of, an in joke. Sometimes she uses the more formal language of literature, words like cupboard and grandmother. One day she told her amazed mother: “I’m satisfied with you mommy.” She often asks “why?,” both in a two-year old reflexive way and in a legitimate expression of curiosity. She seems to know when the question can’t really be answered, but isn’t it fun to ask – repeatedly.

I missed the heyday of “I know, but…,” which apparently became for a time a frequently repeated, wee bit argumentative comment, as in response to a parental directive for bed time: “I know, but I must do x or y first.” And a few weeks ago, when her dad told her he loved her, her response was “I know, but I love Uncle Tutu.”

And that stuck. Luckily we all love her Uncle Tutu, so now when we say “I love you,” and she grins and replies, “I love Tutu,” then we say “I love Tutu, too.”

I recognize this as one of those jokes that may not be the least bit funny here in the retelling. But she knows we are all enjoying ourselves. She makes the joke, gets the joke, and makes us laugh.

What a gift. Little repeated phrases that are a quick laugh when reapplied or applied anew – with or without irony – I love that.

And I love Tutu, too.

Lady Baby and Tutu

 

 

A Walk in the English Countryside

Lady Baby - ready

Interrupting the saga of “Friends for Frances” (for sure to be continued), here is Lady Baby at Heathrow Airport after an overnight flight with her parents and paternal grandparents, wearing soft purple boots, pulling a suitcase disguised as an owl, and about to embark on four days of walking in the Cotswolds, a famously scenic part of England.

From Heathrow we boarded a bus to Oxford, where our younger son and his sweet bride met us at the bus stop. We overnighted in that fabled city, and spent the next morning at the nearly 400-year old University of Oxford Botanic Garden with grass for Lady Baby to run on and ducks for her to greet.

Our route, through classic Cotswold countryside, led from Cheltenham to Winchcombe, to Broadway, then Chipping Campden, and finished in Moreton-in-Marsh – three nine-mile days and one of six, up hill and down, through villages of honey-hued stone buildings, colorful with flowers and tourists. A luggage transport service wrestled our flotilla of bags (including car seat) to each night’s B&B, small inn, or pub.

Lady Baby - doorstep waiting

Wearing her little hiking pants and sun hat, and wielding my poles collapsed to her size, Lady Baby walked plenty. She also rode on her parents’ shoulders or in a backpack, and most often in the Bob (an all-terrain jogging stroller of much durability and flexibility). One or the other of her strong parents pushed the Bob uphill, through rutted, matted fields, and along narrow tracks and small lanes. Helped by Lady Baby’s aunt and uncle, they lifted the Bob, with sometimes snoozing passenger, over stiles and “kissing gates” (neither of which allows a cow or a sheep or a stroller to pass through).

Lady Baby - doing it herself

Miraculously the weather held steady all week – morning sun, then cooling haze and breeze in the afternoon. When we lunched in the shade of huge trees, Lady Baby walked amongst us and offered “crisps” to all.

In spite of early-on jet lag sleepless nights (with Mrs. Hughes bearing the brunt of those wakeful hours), Lady Baby upheld her reputation for genial, coping resilience. Her resourceful parents seemed always ready with a diversion – a topic for conversation, a song, an animal sighting – and they anticipated snack and nap needs. (We could cover a lot of ground during an unbroken hour and half of stroller sleep.)

In Moreton-in-Marsh, at our final hotel, the tilty-floored 17th Century Redesdale Arms that once hosted Charles I, we celebrated. In the morning, we woke to a steady rainfall, and soon caught a train bound for London’s Paddington Station.

I’m holding dear some Cotswolds moments – the whole family spread out in sheep-dotted fields – twosomes shifting as different pairs held long conversations throughout the day. A pastoral, bucolic, gentle landscape of lore – and the rhythm and joy of long days afoot, with people you love.

Lady Baby - approaching Broadway