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: (

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:

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

A Bungalow in Eagle Rock – and a Spring Salad

Flying from Anchorage and arriving in Southern California for the weekend felt such a treat – similar cloudless blue skies, but much warmer temperatures and no late March ice underfoot! We visited gardens in bloom, worked in our son’s garden, and ate great meals.

Our son and his sweet bride have made their classic California bungalow, in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, so welcoming. One-story with a garage on a fairly busy street, it has commonalities with Downtown Abbey and our house in Washington – white walls and fir floors, books and pictures – but it invites one outdoors.

A few steps up from the garden, a large, veranda-like covered porch stretches across the back of the house. With newly dark-stained wood floors, an old blue-cotton covered loveseat, cushioned wicker chairs and a hammock, everything about this porch makes you want to linger with a book. The guest room opens onto the porch (all the back doors are sliding doors, no snow or wind to keep out), and I love to step straight out in bare feet.

The young couple has transformed their barren back yard, a rectangle of scrubby grass, into a city oasis. Just a small square of spring-green grass remains and around it, in generous garden beds, grow a pomegranate, persimmon, olive, lemon, orange, and banana tree. (It astounds me to write that list.)

A tall wooden spirit house from Thailand occupies one corner, surrounded by shrubby drought-resistant plants, and St. Francis stands in another corner amongst rosemary, lavender, and blooming sweet william. A row of closely planted podocarpus screen the near neighbors.

The winter kale was ready to be pulled and replaced by zucchini, pepper plants, and tomatoes (later in the season they might come north to Alaska and Washington). After planting, watering, and weeding it’s March bliss to a Northwesterner to have a beer under a sun umbrella on the brick patio – and to eat breakfast outdoors as well.

The new kitchen is brightened by tubular skylights, white walls and cupboards, and made colorful by open and glass-fronted shelving full of pottery and travel treasures. An eating counter with stools replaced the wall between kitchen and dining room. It’s great place to perch and watch a fabulous meal come together, thanks to the sweet bride!

She served “Vegetables and Brown Rice Salad,” and later sent her recipe. (It seems like you could easily vary both the vegetables used and the quantities.)

In a large bowl mix together a couple of diced carrots, a cup of white beans, a couple of chopped tomatoes, a tablespoon of sliced shallots, a zucchini (cut in half and sliced), finely sliced kale, and kalamata olives. To dress this mix, the sweet bride recommended regular oil and balsamic vinegar salad dressing, suggesting I add a little soy sauce or sesame oil. She warned me to add the dressing sparingly.

Mix in a cup of cooked brown rice, combined well with a tablespoon of lime juice, and season with salt and pepper.

Rice and white beans and real spring – treats!

Wm:T house

“On Whirlwind Hill”

Blogs and houses suit one another, and within this month’s house focus, I get to tell you about my painter friend’s brand new blog – “On Whirlwind Hill: an artist’s memories of a family farm.”

For longer than I can even imagine – some 300 years – her family has lived in their part of Connecticut, farming on Whirlwind Hill. Although other houses also appear, a beloved farmhouse occupies the center of her story. With my childhood homes being many and motley, I am drawn to people who live their young lives in one place – with roots in houses like the farmhouse on Whirlwind Hill.

In part this blog came about because of an exploration during sessions of The Workroom, so I’ve read some of the story (and seen wonderful drawings of the farm), but I don’t know how the narrative will unfold in this blog as memoir. I like to watch my painter friend’s creative mind turn memory into writing and image, and look forward to following along.

I hope “Her spirits rose…” readers will have a look, Mondays and Wednesdays and the occasional Friday. The address for Whirlwind Hill is

It would be great to see you there!

Wilderbee Farm

For a couple of years now, when we drive to North Beach to walk, we’ve noted the progress on a piece of property on the road over from ours. We watched as a farm emerged from raw fields – a big red barn, fences, chickens, sheep, rows of lavender, fruit trees, another building (looking like a little school house), flowers in colorful rows, blueberry bushes – all tidy, all interesting.

This summer when a sign went up, listing visiting hours for Wilderbee Farm, we stopped by for a quick visit, then stayed to meet the lively and engaging, self-described “farm geeks” Casey and Eric.

We also met Bob the huge, friendly Suffolk-Hampshire sheep, who along with a big guardian dog named Brina keeps track of a flock of British Soay sheep – also chickens (plentiful and beautiful) and a farm cat named Noodle.

The farmers invited us to trace a mown path around their property as it meanders the edge of ponds, a thicket of good-sized trees, beehives, a greenhouse, and the building site for the farmhouse to come. The whole farm is certified organic and proud to be part of the Port Townsend farming community.

It was fun to see how lavender is distilled, producing essential oil and lavender water (I bought some to spray when life requires the balm of lavender), hear plans for the future (my favorite – neighborhood movie night with a sheet on the side of the barn), and get to know the farmers (enjoying an unexpected conversation about “Game of Thrones”).

I’m looking forward to returning for more u-pick flowers (calendula, sweet peas, nigella, dahlias, sunflowers, cosmos, among others), Halloween pumpkins, and more lavender (I loved seeing the bunches of lavender hanging in the barn).

Welcome Wilderbee – we are lucky you built this great addition to the neighborhood!

September Light

If you ever think about moving to Washington, September is the time to visit. You could file away memories that would last through every contradictory rainy or windy or dismal day, you might ever encounter after your move. (Fewer than rumor suggests.)

Washington has everything: mountains, sea, tall trees, farmland, and a real city. September here is Tuscan gold, when slanting light burnishes fields, foliage, and each morning’s wide sandy beach.

The calling birds have gone, leaving those who stay for the winter, busy with provisioning and eating. It’s a privilege to cross the parched lawn and hang clothes, sun hot on my face.

Last week, after our window washers worked their magic, I walked around startled by the sparkle. September seemed a lottery prize, a reward for colder, grayer days. Some mornings the breeze has an edge, but day after day since Labor Day we’ve awakened to blue sky.

In the garden on the columnar trees, apples grow to real apple size. Blueberries ripen on the third and final bush. A surprise this year – huckleberries – many. They mature in the way of native plants, each berry cluster offers one ink blue berry at a time – enough to make batches of muffins and for the chipmunk that often visits.

Berries of all colors, ripe tomatoes, and every vegetable imaginable fill the Farmers’ Market and arrive in our CSA. From east of the mountains, fresh corn and bushels of stone fruit complete the harvest bounty.

I’m grateful to live here – and grateful for September!

Walks with Lady Baby

Each time I visit Anchorage I fear Lady Baby will have outgrown my comfortable pick-up zone. But not yet. In June she didn’t seem heavier but much longer, taller even. When someone holds her, she stands firm on those sturdy legs.

I took Lady Baby on morning walks, along with part of her entourage – Lady Cora and either Grandpa or my old neighbor. Lady Baby rides in a front carrier, the amazing Ergo, and begins the walk with a lively lookout – her face so small compared with the wide world. She gazes at trees and sky, hedges and houses till her eyes narrow, her lids grow heavy, and she leans into me.

On the long morning walks, I talk to Lady Baby, watch for traffic, and stay alert to sidewalk irregularities. But later in the day on a little sleep-inducing walk near the house, I am visited by memories of earlier times on exactly that sidewalk, by that street. Most of all I remember the days when our younger son (in a Snugli, front pack of those years) would sleep, while I walked beside our older son maneuvering his brand new two-wheeler.

For someone who had no continuity in my life before Downtown Abbey – a dozen childhood homes, none having any connection to anything else and not lasting for long – the constancy of place, in the same spot with a new generation, amazes me. And makes me feel very lucky.

Sometimes I wonder what I would say now to the young woman who walked there with her newborn and a four-year old – a parent in the trenches – tired, happy but distracted, thinking how the wobbly riding was getting better, wondering when the baby would need to eat, and what’s for dinner. How short my time perspective was at that point – how little I knew.

What if you could do that kind of time-travel and let your young self know things – like how fast the years of childhood will go – how rich those years will seem when looking back, how many more decades there will be for other things.

Most of all I’d like to acknowledge that it’s hard what she’s doing – seemingly not valued and not rewarded – but very important. I would like to give her a glimpse of the grown up product – show her the joy ahead – when they don’t need help to nap or ride bikes.

And wouldn’t my young self by surprised to see the granny with the baby of the bike rider!

Family Visiting

On the trip to Anchorage, we flew through Burbank (this requires a little geography manipulating but the rewards are great), and encountered three West Coast springs. In Anchorage, six feet of rotten snow covered the garden. Here in Washington daffodils and cherries bloom, and tulips begin. But in Southern California the garden center parking lot held many cars and customers’ little wagons many plants.

It’s been a joy to watch our California son and his sweet friend become gardeners while making a garden from an empty back yard. Permaculture beds built last year contain rich soil now, and the early plantings of lavender, dianthus, and alyssum flourish. This winter the garden gained unimaginable things (to me) – lemon, orange, and pomegranate trees, even an olive tree!

Saturday morning, the first day of three-day visit, we made a list: build a sturdy trellis for tomatoes, spread compost, weed the winter’s invaders, plant two trees in containers, shop for plants, plant the plants, paint the garage door (and the trellis).

April mornings in Southern California mean sunshine and a perfect temperature for eating breakfast under the sun umbrella. Middays heat up – and by the time we wandered the garden center, we were hot, and hotter yet at the lumberyard. We persevered – getting wood and recommendations for tomatoes and beans – buying a watermelon plant(!), hot peppers, and some drought tolerant flowers like cosmos and nepeta. We worked with a lot of jokes and also pride in our achievements.

Then we went north to join the staff at Downtown Abbey in food gathering and preparation, laundry, and dog walks. We made a list the first day there also – meals to freeze and meals we’d eat – stock, soup, and beans.

One day we “tag teamed” pizza prep – dough from the local pub, caramelized onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, peppers, tomato sauce, roasted cauliflower, steamed broccoli, pepperoni, and grated cheese, and invited our young friend and her parents to dinner so we could talk about London.

London is good for so many stories – we’ll be telling them to each other for a long time, perhaps till we visit our young friend when she is there on her own to study!

And maybe her parents will visit and grocery shop for her – or help in her tiny London garden – who knows? And who knew all this work could be such a joy – it’s flavored with love, that’s why.

Everyday Paradise

Mornings on Kauai mean fresh air through open doors, sunshine, birdsong, and big rumbling breakers – some days muddy from rain in the night, most days crystal, tropical blue. One morning my phone rang – an old friend, calling from snowbound Alaska. Hearing where we were, she said, “Oh I’m such a nester, I love to be in a familiar place – and that must happen if you go back to the same place for many years!”

When we first came to Kauai, more than 30 years ago, we stayed down south, at the Garden Isle Beach Apartments. The little cabins had limited hot water, an outdoor telephone on a pole under a thatched roof, and scuttling things I never wanted to see too clearly in the chest of drawers. Sometimes we stayed in a building that jutted into the sea – other times in the jungle across the narrow road from tiny Baby Beach. We thought it was heaven!

We were sad when those buildings blew away in a hurricane, and began to come to Lae Nani, a condominium complex on the East Coast of Kauai. Lae Nani means “beautiful point of land” in Hawaiian, and nearby is a sacred and protected promontory.

Hawaii is directly south and temptingly close to Alaska, and winter breaks to Kauai traced the growing up of our children. The year our younger son was four (chicken pox and all the Oz books). The year a grandfather came from Kansas. Years of high school homework and college Christmas breaks. Trips were always flavored by palms and papaya and changing tastes in evening entertainments – one year all the Godfather movies, this year the Downton Abbey finale. On this trip our Alaska daughter-in-law said now she begins to measure her life changes by Kauai visits – from before wife to new mother.

A monk seal, another returnee, frequently hauls up on the beach after a long night. It lies in the sunshine, secure behind yellow tape keeping people away, volunteer watchers standing guard. This year the seal lay in the sand in the sunshine, its face toward the water, a few waves bobbling its head as the tide came in. In spite all the differences, it reminded me of Lady Baby snoozing. It’s always tender to watch the up and down of a sleeping creature’s chest.

Others surf and body surf, hike through old water tunnels, play tennis or golf – I am easily pleased by the farmers’ market and grocery store, daily walks, hours and hours of reading, and one trip north and one south to sit on the beach and watch the surfer.

But the best this year was being with Lady Baby as she, like me, savored everyday life in a warm (no mittens, no hats, no socks – no sleeves!) and welcoming place.

Populated Mailbox

We often pass by a larger than usual, old and rusty rural mailbox where someone with a sense of delight in the absurd has installed a “set-up” of small plastic action figures and troll-like creatures. A figure who seems like he’s lost his motorcycle, but wears a party hat, holds down the top of the box. Inside pose a skinny Avatar figure and other bulging-with-muscles articuated beings I can’t name. Floofy feathers adorn some of their party hats since they are safely out of the rain. Recently, a seated, naked baby doll improbably joined the party, looming large behind the colorful crowd.



September 10th

On Saturday morning, a quiet morning, at the beginning of a weekend full of memories, we walked the beach, salt tang in the air, blue sky, and golden September light. Our boots scuffed and crunched on gravelly sand, gulls cried overhead and dropped their catch on rocks, and then, an explosive THUMP brought us to a stop. Out on the Strait, flashes of water, more thumps and moist, loud breathing – Orcas!

On the beach we paralleled them as they breeched, one after another, headed east faster than we could walk. Sound carried easily to us – tail slaps and blowhole eruptions – and we could see glistening splashes of water off black dorsal fins and flukes. The movements stretched a long way – “There’s another! And another! – Look over there!” – as they passed by little boats stopped at the sight.

The pods’ progress up the Strait ended between Whidbey Island and Point Hudson in a furious flashing of seven or eight shapes visible at a time – muscling in and out of churned-up water. Food is the target – driving panicked fish into a circle to eat.

The sound brought us close – sharing breathing with these creatures – so alien and so local – their excitement carried to shore. They reversed direction after the feeding and headed away. The beach silence seemed loud and empty. But they are there – out in the Strait, around the islands, plying the Salish Sea.

We are lucky!