Monday’s Meander: A Seattle Visit with Sweet Returns

I have several hundred pictures of Seattle to go through (on a new computer–learning its ways but so far, much better!) but want to share a few right now. Though we go a couple times a year at least (less since my sister and brother-in-law passed plus my niece and husband relocated to Texas…) we were excited to visit. Brisk, moist sea air that can be smelled and felt on the skin while walking up and down city center’s steep hills, coupled with beauty of Pacific waters and Cascade and Olympic Mountains ; the high energy of an innovative, bustling city with unique neighborhoods; the variety of architecture, shops, cultural options–well, you get the idea. And it’s the Pacific Northwest, our beloved home, only bigger and farther north!

It was a brief meander, a refreshing three days. The photos above and below are views from our hotel 25th floor room–with a little magnification–with some loss of clarity, sorry to note. Note the ferry on Elliott Bay (part of the more vast Puget Sound) glimpsed between buildings. The famous Space Needle, left of center, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, rises above and seemingly between several skyscrapers and has an observation deck at 520 feet. Marc suspected our room at the Renaissance Hotel (excellent beds and appointments) was nearly as high–alas, we were two hundred feet lower and that was high enough…I have night time pictures to best demonstrate that in another post.

The Olympics show up more readily in the larger 4th picture, and we were fortunate to have some sunnier days so they better showed off their splendor here and there.

The beauteous Mt. Rainier of the Cascade Mountain Range, seen from the inimitable Queen Anne neighborhood, rises above the city, above. A bit dusky here–as well as misty, usually the case in winter. It is 63 miles from Seattle, but we can see it from Portland at over 130 miles without massive cloud coverage. Additional info: Mt. Rainier is 14,411 feet as opposed to “our” mountain, Mt.Hood, which is 11,250 ft. Both are enthusiastically and frequently scaled. About 10,000 people attempt to climb Rainier; 5,000 perhaps succeed. Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and last erupted in 1894.

Here are few other teasers as I work on the bulk of photos later this week. They are from a variety of sights, from heavily visited Pike Place Market to Chihuly Garden and Glass, a fascinating art museum; to random city streets and the city’s vibrant waterfront and a marvelous outdoor sculpture park. And there is even more to come in future posts. Pus, I feel better restored on every level. May I suggest that when you get rough around the edges and feel worn out, don’t take a nap–take a trip!

Monday’s Meander in Autumn’s Palette: Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Preserve

I had so many enjoyable outings over past week-end it was hard to choose just one to share today. Marc and I always look forward to roaming Steigerwald Nature Preserve in Washington and especially the fall. We had a perfect day for roaming and wildlife scouting. We were met, however, with changes in the habitat. Strewn about were large tree stumps and roots and logs, for one thing. (Slide show below for a panorama of beauty.)

We learned that this year begin a $22 million habitat restoration that will entail reconfiguring a floodplain of this Lower Columbia River area. The refuge will be reconnected to the natural ebb and flow of the mighty Columbia; 2 miles of US Army Corps of Engineers levees will be lowered to natural levee height. A major reason is to allow six species of salmon and trout as well as lamprey to better benefit. Nine hundred acres will be restored over 3 years. Placing woody debris is part of preparation and invasive vegetation management has begun. We are excited to hear of the improvements and partnerships that are involved in this huge project for supporting wildlife and for greater public viewing.

I hope you enjoy the walkabout and will visit if you can do so.

Monday’s Meanders/Photos: Portland’s Saturday Market

Photos, Cynthia Guenther Richardson 2019

Take a gander at a few of our Portland, Oregon city scenes. I had a lovely week-end hanging out in city center, so had to shoot a few views. Our Saturday Market (also on Sundays) is bustling from March til after Christmas (despite formidable rains), and our diverse citizenry are as interesting as arts/crafts and random offerings. I picked up a few birthday gifts and enjoyed the afternoon with Marc despite it being in the upper 80s Fahrenheit; it made for sweaty browsing and walking for about 5 miles around the market and along the Willamette River.

I’ve ended up with extra time to post a little more–a change since our joy-eliciting and thriving twin grand babies arrived. There’s a different baby caregiving schedule, for now. And since I don’t always (usually, though) choose written language as my main mode of creative expression, this Monday spot will be primarily photographic pieces. I do like to share shots of places roamed and views that draw eye and mind, so Monday is once more for designated for just that.

Friday’s Quick Pick: Boat Cruise on San Diego’s Bay

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Since we both love boats, a ride around North and South San Diego Bay beckoned us. Hornblower Cruises seemed the way to go. We lined up, boarded and soon plowed across deep green-blue water.

If San Diego is anything, it appears to be a boating town. Everything from various-sized sailboats, motor yachts, tall ships, small sport motorboats, dinghies, fishing boats, battleships, submarines and so on share the harbor waters. The recreational boats tantalized me more than the Naval Air Station or the history/missions/repair work of naval destroyers and frigates, but the Captain and First Mate gave very good narratives, Marc assured me as my attention drifted here and there.

We passed 50 landmarks and historic sites along the way, but I recall most of all the chug and surge, the lulling slice though vast water. There is something invigorating and soothing, both, about being on a moving aquatic craft. With that temperate breeze and clarifying sunlight, I felt carried farther than the radiant bay to a place of blithe rejuvenation. I had a moment’s fantasy of becoming a genuine, permanent boat dweller….oh, I wish! Join me in viewing many of the sights we saw.

 

We head to Coronado Bridge, 2.1 miles long and 200 feet tall. It links San Diego to a peninsula of land called Coronado Island, on which is the resort town of Coronado. The northern two-thirds of that land mass is the Naval base operations. A sailboat glides before a background of Point Loma, which juts into the into open ocean. Mexico is approximately ten miles from the bridge. We could just make out a blurry coast due to a lingering marine layer of fogginess. Along the southern coastline of the city are naval destroyers and frigates, one of which was dry-docked and being repaired. They are duly impressive. I hadn’t realized how mammoth they are, that they can hold a crew of around 6000 people. There is also a shot of a white NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) ship. I have a fascination with the weather so this compact ship excited me!

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We passed the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier, now a museum at Navy pier, is the longest serving US  carrier of the 20th century. It was also the largest ship in the world for ten years. More than 25 restored aircraft are displayed but we did not visit the museum this time.  Next comes the elegant Star of India, still in use; it also appeared in the film “Master and Commander”. My husband, Marc, is seen enjoying the salt air and  narration as we venture north (his jacket billows in the wind so that he looks a bit like “the Michelin Man”!), passing more sailboats. We slip close to contented California seals, a lone floating pelican. The two bright Navy tugboats are powerful, used to move gigantic Navy vessels. Next, inactive sailboats bob along a palm-lined shore of the North Bay.

We head back to the dock and onto dry land to explore more streets on our way to finding dinner. The public sculpture is “Pacific Soul” by Jaume Plensa, 2017; an admiring person can easily fit inside it. We later settled on Liberty Public Market out of curiosity. It has been a successfully renovated group of large–at first glance austere–buildings, once a part of a military complex. It now offers attractive shops and restaurants with courtyards. There is all manner of food in the Market and I enjoyed a dish of freshly made, varied vegetable pasta with a scrumptious marinara. (Another night, Argentinian chicken empanadas.) After the meal, we sat outside in a courtyard, chatted at the fire pit as others joined us. We thought it entirely appropriate when we read the colorful sign on a building near the fire! A good way to end our second full day of vacation.

 

Part 1: A Most Excellent Gift and Part 2: A Writer’s Resolve

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Mt. Hood 12/ 2017, Cynthia Guenther Richardson

Part 1

It was all done in utter secret. I, who have taken some pleasure in being intuitive or at least canny and a reasonably good study of character–having long been a writer, a counselor and a very visual person–I was blind-sighted as surely as if I had no skills, at all. Or as if I did not even know my daughter or my husband. But I was caught up in a whirlwind of preparation for Christmas and shopping for others. When my eldest, Naomi, flew in with her friend, A., I wasn’t thinking of anything but being a welcoming hostess and a loving mother.

Christmas morning was defined by overlapping shifts of adult children and grandchildren coming to our home. We nibbled food, opened gifts, chattered away. There was an hour or two when all four of our kids (a fifth not present) plus two of the grandchildren (three absent) were gathered in the living room. I watched them open bright packages, enjoying the ebb and flow of unfolding events. Tired but content.

I was finally urged to open my gifts. I reached for one but Naomi insisted I start first with a smaller item from her. I noted it was the size of a padded envelope that had arrived days earlier as had all her mailed gifts to us, but I had no sense of it being anything unusual. So I was startled when inside were two gold elastic mitten clips, the type one attaches to a child’s coat sleeve  and then to a mitten or glove.

I burst out laughing as I examined the flashy things. Naomi likes good gags and this was just the clever, goofy thing for me. Turning to my spouse I wagged my finger.

“I see what you and Naomi are up to!–you told her I have lost a couple good gloves over the years! They’re a tad gaudy but I might even use them!”

Naomi was chortling over the good surprise. “Found them online–pretty fancy grown up clips, huh? They’ll look good with your jackets!”

“You sure better use those,” Marc said, “as you just lost your favorite glove again not long ago!”

Everyone agreed as I proceeded to the next gift.

When the tissue paper was opened to its hidden treasure, I took a sharp intake of breath. And was struck dumb. The room filled with questions as I stared, mouth open. I gingerly touched the items now in my lap as if they were precious things, then pressed the two velvety gloves to my chest and my face, the softness sweet against my cheeks. I looked at Naomi as she leaned toward me. sitting on the edge of her chair, her intent blue eyes sparkling.

“What…? How…?” I asked.

When I put them on a surge of joy mixed with disbelief rose up. “But it isn’t even possible, Naomi! My very own gloves! Where did you find my gloves? They don’t even make them, anymore–I went back to the shop at Canon Beach and we looked and looked online!”

“I researched until I did finally find them on Ebay! The very last pair anywhere, I think!”

Tears came in place of words as I jumped to my feet,  my eyes on hers, the eyes everyone says we share. We folded each other in our arms, hugged long and well and just cried. This daughter who holds her emotions deep within her, who doesn’t frivolously share them…she knew. She knew me better than I thought,  she knew how much such a simple kindness would mean.

I finally let go. “Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to find these for me. Just perfect.”

Sound a bit excessive? I do admit I’ve had an unusual attachment to these gloves for years. Sometimes we just feel what we feel about our stuff.  And many readers have already heard of their loss and retrieval. The first post on losing one glove then serendipitously finding it was posted in 2014, here: Case of the Velvety Glove .  The second was about losing one a last and final time and can be read here: The Magnitude of Small Things .

It may make more sense if you know I have Raynaud’s disease, causing reduced blood flow to extremities so that my hands, particularly, deeply ache and feel frozen a long while (then burn as they warm) if I even briefly hold something chilly–an ice cream carton, for example. This occurs in as warm a temperature as 55-60 degrees. (I blame this on repeatedly cold hands, even frostbite when figure skating as a kid and youth– without mittens… And later, years of smoking, sadly.) Having a pair of good yet not cumbersome gloves or mittens makes a vital difference since I am an outdoors enthusiast.

The pair I purchased on a beach trip as winter fell upon us a few years ago were just right for most circumstances where I live. I fell in love with for the combination of warmth plus beauty, their luxe practicality; they’re made of stretch velveteen with a layer of fuzzy insulation. I can wear them casually or  to dress up a bit. Nothing beats usefulness joined with attractiveness. Thus, I was quite unhappy when I lost the second glove the last time. I’ve tried other gloves and not been satisfied. My hands have gotten too cold this fall and winter. So my daughter finding the one pair I loved and used often meant a great deal to me.

Really, though, my anecdote is about love. I suddenly and fully felt her thoughtful, persevering love for me. The fact that she also made it fun is just like her. Here are some pictures to show them to you as well as those darned elastic gold clips–I use them, as you can see. Leaning over a bridge on a recent hike, of course, they dangle quite safely as they cannot jump out of pockets! (Please click on the photos for captions and bigger pictures.)

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Naomi and me (fuzzy pic by hubby, ha)

 

Part 2

New–really, revisited– writing goals were to be the topic of my first 2018 post when the glove incident took top billing. I have been cogitating about plans since attending a good writing conference in Washington last October. And there are still some fledgling ideas from then, more ping-ponging about my brain and so much the better.

The old year has passed, another has begun and I find it is high time to get back to work on writing projects I’ve been putting off. There are always so-called good reasons–devotion to this blog three times per week, health and family needs, and at times a monstrous lack of confidence that can strike right in the middle of fevered or serene writing. The kind that creeps in like black mold, felt as a perverse cynicism fought off anyway I can–fervent prayer, research on topics that attract for an essay or story, long walks that shake the oppression right off–or even superficial distractions like my magazines.

However, I am more akin to a sturdy work horse whose blinders help accomplish the job: I stick to my tasks, look neither left nor right, keep moving and writing and thus experience the fulfillment wrought of labor’s comfort…though mixed with bumptious moments. And occasionally an outright exhaustion of hope. Then I rest, begin again.

I keep on since there isn’t much I can do but write. Sure, there are a variety of interests,  proclivities, abilities. But writing is the thing that most shapes and energizes my learning and living and being. Aren’t those microscopic letters hitching a ride on cells in my blood stream?…It started at least by fourth grade when a poem was published then read for a state educators’ conference. I found it surprising that what I loved to do might matter to anyone else. (It wasn’t music, the fine art choice of my family. ) Writing was story/ It was also a natural way to access thought and feeling–it was not a mere daydream, and not some mighty goal I had to achieve.

But there came a time I sporadically submitted stories, poems and essays. Finally, it was more regularly most years. I’ve received many expected and far more unexpected rejections; I’ve also been pleased when submissions have been printed in anthologies and journals or published online. I tried my hand at very minor journalism. It was a series on domestic violence for a college newspaper that impacted many (there was a lot of data; it was then also reflective of my own life). Short stories and essays have become surprisingly appreciated, while poetry has appeared more often under three–okay, four–last names depending on changing marital status. A young adult short story was published and I’ve written several others, another genre that interests me.

I worked on a first novel, completed it over a span of ten-plus years only to have a fine and renowned editor tell me it was “overly ambitious but you are a real writer”. I felt depressed, then a little happy and quite right, that criticism. I published an excerpt from it, however and it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and have used chapters as springboards for stories I’ve posted here. For now I’ve put it away but it tends to return to me in other forms. (A mute widow who is a dancer–and keeps secrets about her drowned husband–meets a photojournalist, bereft after a mentor and friend disappeared in the Amazon.)

There are also two well developed but unfinished collections of interconnected stories and characters. My longer fiction has not been submitted since the first novel  gave rise to interest from two agents– who later bowed out.

You never know. Sending out writing is like launching a handmade paper boat with a small lit candle in it and watching to see if it capsizes or returns with candle snuffed out or gone overboard. Of if the little oat ends up reduced to ash. You make another and send it out as it is an adventure of sorts, in any case.

This is a shortened litany of efforts and projects and small successes laced with many rejections. I took a long break again; it has occurred many times over 60+ years, but not yet for forever. The last time I submitted was two years ago. The most recent pieces are in Spark: Anthology II–that was 2014. That is, I think. It’s been too long to recall clearly what went where without checking my files; there was another poem plus a photo published somewhere in the last 2-3 years. I hope that online journal is still going strong…must check. Might be another place to submit once more!

Meanwhile, I’ve tiled over strengthening what works and learning more of what does not, slowly putting the demanding, sensitive ego aside and giving stricter attentions to word and line. I try to cut back on verbiage, even improve typos but it takes more work.

This is what a writer does, of course, and is not noteworthy except when you’re doing it yourself and sweating it out.

The point is, I’ve been writing quite awhile. And barring a period from age thirteen to perhaps twenty-one, my goal has not been to be a noted author as much as to be a worthy writer, one who stays true to herself and offers nourishment of many sorts. Just as I’ve been nourished by diverse writers whose works I’ve read over decades. I can only hope born of sincere desire that what I write has value beyond my personal passion for language and story. Nothing can stop the writing, but can I publish more? Can it be read and enjoyed more often? Do I care most about writing for its own sake? Can I also manage to care about and work on becoming more widely read?

Time ticks away. My mirror confirms this if the mind knows only this moment being lived. I have much more to access via imaginings or night dreaming or life’s small sparks, the inspirations discovered courtesy of places and people. There are ideas that barge right in, or create a steady beat of melodic words that stir in my innermost ear. A hunger seizes me as mysterious intentions of language erupt and flow. And then I am brimming once more.

I have to make room for these pressing wants and needs, just as I have made room in my life agenda for the joy of this blog three times a week. And so, to the point!

I’ve decided to post fiction or nonfiction on alternating Wednesdays and a poem or photography on each Friday. The mid-week post will be entitled “Wednesday’s Word” (fiction one week, nonfiction the next) and the Friday post will stay “Friday’s Passing Fancy” for poetry but the following week will be “Friday’s Quick Pick” for photography. I also plan to refresh graphics of the blog soon. It’s good to engage in positive transformation!

It is motivating to determine that just one more day can aid in researching markets, preparing pieces to submit, and exploring greater opportunities in literary communities/publishing worlds. Opening rejection letters and perhaps now and then an acceptance. Risk is good, I remind myself.

Not the first time I’ve reworked the format of Tales for Life, this likely won’t be the last. It is part of the fun of blogging, how much freedom we have here and control of the work we share. But I appreciate being spurred on with comments and “likes”.

I hope you will enjoy what’s yet to come here at Tales for Life. I’ll continue to peruse and absorb as many of your unique offerings as I can. Thank you for being part of the huge creative community at WordPress. May your 2018 be sublime of soul, heart, mind, and your health robust–or good enough to carry your forward as is, gratefully, my own.

Below: two of my photos from the first posts, Oregon shots shared in 2011.

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