Monday, February 22, 2010

Seagulls, Butterflies and Dinosaurs... Oh My!

We took a day trip into Seattle this last Saturday.  It started with a ferry ride from Bremerton, up the Sound into Seattle.  Although Bremerton is mostly pretty industrial looking, it is beautifully surrounded by the Olympic Mountain Range.  When you take in the panoramic view, they seem to go on and on and on.  Blue, and gray and white - sharp contrasts with misty bases.

The seagulls love to draft off the ferry.  I imagine it's not only the more economical use of their energy to cross the Sound, but the fact that eager passengers are generally fairly generous with bread crumbs and other goodies.

I'm a bit jaded, being a native Pacific Northwesterner... the Seattle skyline is still beautiful and awe-inspiring to me, but I rarely feel inspired (or am lucky enough) to catch a truly magnificent shot of the famous vista.  One of the things I do love about Seattle, and never really seem to tire of, is the interesting combination/contrast of the svelte metropolitan facade and the decidedly industrial feel of parts of the waterfront.  Art Deco buildings and stark, purposeful lines... all in shades of blue and green.

Our family tradition is to, without fail (or it's not considered to be a "successful" trip) stop at Ivar's for fish & chips.  The standard is to get fries with your fish, whether you want them or not.  In my case, I'd be perfectly happy with just the fish.  The outdoor dining area is the primo gull gluttony arena.  In fact, signs encourage diners to share generously with the "dainty eaters."  They're not only quite adept at performing (loud) acrobatics to earn their dinner, they're not at all shy about telling you that you're being stingy.  Although discouraged, pigeons and little birds provide quick clean up of the floor and won't tell on you if you ignore the sign and share a little love with them too.

I know it's a little weird, but I'd never ridden the Seattle Monorail until this weekend.  It's been there since 1962, pre-dating me be a couple a years, but I'd never been on it.  BDB (hubby), knowing this, planned it as part of our day.  The ride over was interesting, albeit, nothing scary.  The ride back - a little (okay, a lot) more intense.  We sat in the VERY front and could (clearly) see just how we could (in theory) fall from the side of this narrow concrete rail, several stories in the air - into a building or the hard asphalt below.  I should probably state here, that I was the one worrying about these (im)probabilities.  The guys just enjoyed the ride.

We arrived at the Seattle Center after a short 90 second trip.  This is the home of the Space Needle, the Experience Music Project (EMP), the Pacific Science Center, the Science Fiction Museum, etc.  Lots and lots of good stuff - not to mention a pretty cool carnival and outdoor sculpture garden.

Our primary goal of the day was to visit the Tropical Butterfly exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, but we had to get through a variety of distractions first.  Obviously, there are numerous angles in which to capture the Space Needle with your camera.  Most of which have probably been captured by someone else, who walked there before you in days past - but that's not going to stop any self-respecting amateur photographer from trying.  Like I was told in photography class (so many years ago, back in high school - when they still used REAL film... I don't miss the dark room at all), every day presents a new and unique perspective of the every day.

At the Seattle Center, they were having a (National?) Yo-Yo contest... we snagged our varied Orange Julius treats (both of the guys totally love strawberry... I'm a bit more "exotic" with my tropical leanings) and scurried back out into the glorious, February sunshine.  In addition to multiple, modern, metal sculptures, the Center is host to a beautiful, carved totem pole.  It's situated so that a viewer can see our native history and (implied) future (via the nearly 50 year old Space Needle) in one blink.  Artistically and culturally - it's a pretty interesting contrast.

We eventually tore ourselves away from that desperately needed Vitamin D.  Another new experience for me was visiting the Pacific Science Center.  We chose the back left corner first (questing for my butterflies).  The guys barely made it in the door before encountering a shuffle board (used to explain friction).  I then spent time prying them from the exhibit that demonstrated gravitational patterns and bubble racing.

We chose to skip the tidal pool (we're planning a trip to the Newport Aquarium, in Oregon, later this Spring... and quite honestly - there's no comparison).  I met Lydia the Leopard Gecko, marveled at naked mole rats, laughed at the funhouse mirrors and tracked my genes (not blue).

Finally, we made it to a (deceptively) cooler wing of the center, and were greeted by Zorak (come on, there's got to be at least one, fellow Space Ghost geek out there).  He was 2 1/2 stories tall and robotic.  Pretty cool.   

And finally.. the butterflies.  So many... so pretty... really not shy.  There was only one species of "local" butterfly... the Monarch.  The Owl Eye Butterflies seemed to be the most abundant of the species.  One of the butterflies hitched a ride on BDB's hat for almost an hour.  People were constantly coming up and asking if he knew someone was hitching a ride.  A very precious little girl (5 or 6) with a little, pink camera wanted (and was accommodated for) pictures.  I won't post the pictures of the "Butterfly Whisperer" or "Lord of the Butterflies" because he's not nearly an enamored as I am by them (but they are in my Flickr Photostream).

I think, perhaps, one of my favorites was this colorful butterfly on the "Crown of Thorns" flowers, but it appears the crowd favorite was this Golden Helicon.  Another of the Looks-Pretty-Tastes-Yucky-to-Birds variety.

The website said the butterflies were attracted to red and yellow.. but, truth be told... they like sweat.  It's hot in there (they are after all, "tropical" butterflies..).  They LOVED BDB's work hat and I guess I was tasty too - had one land on my blue-jean clad calf and ride around on my shoulder.  I had to be "de-butterflied" as we left.  Darn thing must have REALLY liked me - kept jumping off the attendant's de-butterflying baton back onto my shoulder.  I felt special.

We finally left as dusk was falling.  I love the architecture of the Science Center.  Very 60's Futuristic!  Arches, lines, space-age... then add in the eco-features of being in the Pacific Northwest - Orcas, Seagulls, Dinosaurs (?)!  The beauty of pictures of architecture at sunset - the awesome color!

We finished our day, wandering around the semi-deserted carnival.  I'm guessing it doesn't rev up fully until there are enough Summer tourists to pay for it.

Despite the dark skies, there were enough ground effects to adequately light the paths and sculpture gardens.  One particularly interesting combination (IMO) was the Space Needle and a bright, orange piece called the "Olympic Iliad."

We hiked around town for about 8 hours, over just a few block of Seattle - and then it came time to go "down hill" to the water front to catch the 7ish ferry.  Have you ever experience 60 degree angles before?  My knees still aren't talking to me... and we missed that ferry.  We finally caught the 9:05 ferry - which put us home after 11 at night.  Thankful dogs greeted us at the door (both for dinner and outdoor time), and I spent most of Sunday snoozing, resting and/or knocking back kidney killers (anti-inflammatory meds)... but it was TOTALLY worth it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

From Someone Who's Been There...

I have this friend, okay, she's actually my daughter's best friend, but I adore her.  She's a young mother of two, her husband is deployed to the Middle East (again) and she's feeling the growing pains of finding her "Self."

Being the avid giver of unsolicited advice, I sent the following message (which is something I really wish someone would have shared with me when I walked in her shoes many, many years ago):

"Read your latest blog posting, and take what you will from this comment from someone who's walked the path before you...

Yes, it is important that your spouse finds value in your efforts and your dreams, and it is vitally important that they support you while you discover how those dreams actually blend into your life. You must, however, absolutely acknowledge those dreams and hopes for your own well being. A spouse that loves and cares for you will naturally fall in line with helping to you attain them.

For a very long time, I (unintentionally) allowed my "self" to be martyred (by me) for what I thought was the best interest of my family. Turns out, it wasn't necessary to give up all of my wants to fulfill their wants and take care of them as best I could. As parents and partners, we often feel that if we place ourselves on equal ground (not above, not below) to those we love, we are in some way being selfish. The reality is that when we de-value our "self," we are short-changing those we love. We are sharing less than we can of who we are and what makes us special and valuable to them.

So to you, dear (Name), I say this.... find the time to explore what makes you happy and fulfills you as a person. Your family will benefit from your increased contentment, and blossoming self-esteem. Your husband will continue to compliment you, and instead of questioning those compliments, you will take them as they were intended and it will feed your creative soul... and that well-nourished "self" will bring a new level of closeness to your husband and a better understanding of you to yourself. Your children will benefit because you will offer the example of how to discover and follow your dreams, and still be a thoughtful, caring and confident person. Your friends will also benefit because a self-assured, confident person can better help them through their own troubles and self-searching.

I wish you the joy of discovery and the contentment of awareness on your journey."

For the record:  My husband 1001% supports my dreams, in fact he regularly kicks my dreams in the backside to get them motivated.  My dreams tend to get a little lazy... often, they'd rather snooze in front of the TV versus drive to the other side of the Canal to discover hidden forest ponds.  When I lost my urge to draw or paint and fell into a pretty significant depression... he bought me a camera and a new Muse came knocking.  Last year for Valentine's Day, he gave me a tri-pod.  This year I got butterflies (they're beautiful, but don't ask me to explain) and a hiking stick.  Today, he's taking me to Seattle to see and photograph the butterflies... you see the pattern?  This is only a few very examples of his on-going support.

And how do I practice what I preach?  It's not easy... but I try to find the things that make me "happy," and then actually do them.  At first, I resisted going to Seattle today - I've been sick, and I feel so tired, and money's tight, and so on.  Then, I realized I was shorting myself again - I really wanted to go. 

So, as for being sick and tired... I'll take it easy, take breaks as I need to and let my guys baby me.  They do, when I let them.  Money's tight... Well, let's see what we're getting for our dollars.  A ferry ride (two-ways) across the Puget Sound on a clear, sparkling February Saturday that only requires a fair be paid one-way.  A ride on the mono-rail to the Pacific Science Center... both of which are new experiences for me, even though I'm a native northwesterner.  An exhibit with thousands of colorful, exotic and live butterflies to photograph and swell my "self" with joy (butterflies have that effect on me).  Okay, so we're looking at $5 for all-day parking at the terminal to take the foot ferry (2 adults and 1 youth) for about $20 (the trip is about hour each way), $10 for the bus to the monorail (again, round-trip), $12 for the monorail experience (to and from), and $37 for admission to the Science Center.  About $84 for a day's entertainment for 3 people.  There is, of course, the obligatory fish and chips at Ivar's so we can feed the seagulls our fries (a must in our family, in order to "keep clam") and probably a mocha somewhere in our day too.

So, in closing... although the Hubby came up with this idea to spark my Muse and get her off her lazy backside, it's up to me to embrace the opportunity to feed my soul, nourish my "self" and become more, in order to give more back to those I love.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reclaimed Estuary

We visited the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge yesterday. I'd been wanting to visit since we first moved up to Washington (June 2001), after crossing the Nisqually River and being mesmerized by endless vista of watery, reclaimed pastures, with it's layer upon layer of color and texture.

The area had been drained and farmed for many, many years. Dairy cattle lived and dined on the rich grasses grown in the silty, nutrient-filled soils.

Since that time, the Nisqually Tribe, together with the Federal Fish & Wildlife program have worked tirelessly to allow the estuary to return.

Today, two, abandoned dairy barns sit picturesquely near ever encroaching bracken, marsh waters. The Canadian Geese mill about in throngs numbering in the thousands - their calls are deafening when they become startled and take to the skies. I was challenged by one gander. He was standing sentry on a shallow hill, protecting his mate from my (unwelcome) presence. I never really came near her, but he let it be clearly known that I was (in fact) far too close and treated me to some very obvious displays of his willingness to take this encounter to another level. As I was in his home (however transient), I moved away. He went back to eating.

The ghostly skeletons of pasture trees still dot the waterscape, providing interesting texture and contrast. I was especially intrigued by a long, leggy structure that the Mallards, Wood Ducks and other waterfowl liked to circle.

As we were finishing up our 3 hour hike (I use the term loosely - there are no inclines, and a good portion of the paths are wooden foot bridges over the marsh ground), we were treated to the sight of, not one, but two American Bitterns. Hidden in the marsh foliage, perfectly camouflaged - only the soft rustling sounds, followed by their odd, characteristic jerky movements brought our attention.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Visit to Lake Quinault

Yesterday, we drove about two and a half hours to Lake Quinault, which is in the Olympic Rainforest. As the crow flies, it's not really that far from where we live, but it can't be accessed by "summer roads" right now and we had to drive west to Aberdeen and then north.

It was beautiful; not unlike the area I live in - only "more." By more, I mean more of everything that I see from the window of my home office. More trees, bigger trees... so much bigger. 400 year old spruces. One of the fallen trees had a section cut away to allow the path to progress. The width of the tree came up to my mid-chest (I'm 5'6"). Other fallen trees still had their root systems intact, albeit in the air... they were easily 12 feet across, if not more.

This area of Washington gets 144 inches of rain every year... Although it wasn't raining, you could see drops of water dripping from the ends of lichen and moss, and collecting in tiny streams that lead to the creek. Deep in a ravine, a "hidden" waterfall tumbled and formed rapids near a foot bridge.

This particular park is maintained by the Quinault Indian Nation, which includes the Chinook Tribe. My husband's paternal grandmother and aunt are registered members of this tribe. To park and use the trails, a (very) small fee is collected. The fee is used to maintain the trails in a safe fashion and keep the forest healthy.

It was a wonderful afternoon.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Still Around

The best of intentions can be waylaid by the unexpected. I've been ill, and consequently, no new pictures or motivation to wax poetic. Next week, I'll visit a doctor to attempt to get a referral (have to love managed care) so we can figure out what's wrong and how to fix it.
Until then, I doubt I'll be terribly reliable in my postings. But we can hope...
Today's word: Quest
Wish me luck on my quest for answers and the ability to get back to the business of living.