Sunday, July 30, 2006

Seeking Nature Where We Find It


As I find my life getting busier and busier, I never fail to notice that a need for nature creeps into the peripheries of my mind. It's one of those things that I miss without even being aware of it, until the deprivation grows to the point of longing. Since my schedule has kept me away from "nature" in the wild sense, I've gone to find it outside my back door.

It's amazing what one can observe, study, and find remarkable if we only take the time to stop and really see. The industry of the bees as they test out each and every tiny flower on a stalk for nectar. The intense aggression of battling hummingbirds fighting their arial battles in the sky over the crocosmia. The constant, blind, wriggling of the worms in the compost as they go about their business of turning my leftover garbage into wonderful compost. Even the play of the light shifting as the afternoon progresses can be a source of pleasure and wonder.

Do you ever find that when something is on your mind, that strange little coincidences occur? While I was pondering the thoughts above, I found the quote below in a book I happened to pick up, and it spoke to me. I haven't read Lorraine Anderson's book, but I think I'll have to now.

"Nature offers us a thousand simple pleasures--plays of light and color, fragrances in the air, the sun's warmth on skin and muscle, the audible rhythm of life's stir and push--for the price of merely paying attention. What joy! But how unwilling or unable many of us are to pay this price in an age when manufactured sources of stimulation and pleaure are everywhere at hand. For me, enjoying nature's pleasures takes a conscious choice, a choice to slow down to seed time or rock time, to still the clamoring ego, to set aside plans and busyness, and simply to be present in my body, to offer myself up."

--Lorraine Anderson,
Sister Of The Earth

Friday, July 14, 2006



All of us have our own definitions and expectations when we think about the concept of simple living. For some it’s living a life of purpose, living consciously in the here-and-now. For others it’s living a basic life, without the use of machines and techno items Sometimes it’s losing the clutter and living in a spare, clean environment. And often it’s just reducing the hassles of life--paring down to what matters most, however you define that.

I see the benefit in all these definitions. But one of the main points in my mind is the work/life balance. I know that I was experiencing a terrific disconnect between all the hours and the stress of work and having a life--finding that for all the success I had there, it left me precious little time for enjoying my real life at home.

I have been out of the work force for nearly four years now. Slowly, I’ve been creeping back in; little by little, dipping my toe in the water by consulting for a company here, and another one there. Now, just when I’d planned to enjoy a delicious summer in the garden, I find myself with two clients, both of them ramping up their work. Yesterday I received a call from a new company asking to meet me to see if I would be willing to help them out while someone is on maternity leave. When it rains it pours.

While I’m flattered by being sought out, I’m also hesitant to accept more on my plate. And yet sometimes I miss the fast-paced world of marketing. I guess I’m trying to decide whether I can make a life by setting my own hours (within reason and clients’ project parameters) doing work that I find interesting for clients that I like and still be at home. This seems to me to be the best blend; time for me, our family, home, and community plus doing good work and contributing monetarily to our household.

It comes down to choices. Choices about how we want to live, to spend our time, which after all, is really the only thing we truly have. It’s valuable. It’s worth thinking about.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lot's O Lavender!

This year I vowed to actually use my lavender for something rather than just having it dry up on the plants and get tossed into the compost pile. Last year at my Master Gardener's Perenninal group, a woman gave a talk on lavender and its many uses. To augment the talk, the refresments were lavender lemonade, lavender shortbread, lavender scones, etc. Yum. There are some great recipes here. I'm not sure what variety these plants are, so I'm hesitent to use them for eating (some lavender oils aren't good for you), so I'm planning on making sachets, etc. with them. In any case, they are making the garage smell wonderful while they're drying!
Here's the lavender bed prior to it's haircut.


It's now been shorn.


Look at all the lovely flowers I have to use!

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Marley & Me: It's A Great Dog Story.

I just finished reading Marley & Me by John Grogan. It's a great book for dog lovers, but while it's about dogs, it's also about the making of a family. It's a fast read, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

It made me a little melancholy, I felt like I was reading about our lab, Winston. We got him right after moving into our brand new house; new carpet, new furniture, new everything. After Winston came, nothing looked new anymore.

He was a broken dog--taken from his mother when he was way too young. We were young as well and didn't know enough to run away. Winston suffered terribly from separation anxiety; he too had a terrible fear of thunder. His fear morphed into a fear of rain eventually--and we live in Seattle!

We had an elaborate routine we established each time we left the house so that if there was thunder we wouldn't face destruction when we returned. Sometimes it didn't work. I once had to call our computer helpline to reorder equipment. There had been a storm and Winston had chewed through every cable and power cord on both the computer and printer. He was lucky that he didn’t electrocute himself. We got free replacements because the service rep told me it was the best story he’d heard yet.

Winston had ear infections. He had allergies. The vet tested him for 50 allergens—he was allergic to 48 of them. My husband gave him shots every week for ten years. We spent literally thousands of dollars on that “free” dog. I know that people thought we were nuts, freaks, weirdoes, for taking such efforts and caring so much about a troublesome animal. In later years we adopted a stray that came to stay. Maggie is a wonderful dog, sweet, well mannered, infinitely manageable. Winston loved her and we feel that she kept the life in him for a few more years.

In the end, Winnie (or Pooh, or The Pooster as we called him) had bad eyesight, bad hearing, bad hips, bad breath, and all the other things that advanced age brings. He shared our lives for 15 years--that's a long time for his breed. When we finally had to have him put down, we cried like babies. We still do from time to time, and it's been a couple years now.

We love our Maggie, but I don't think we'll ever have another dog that we love as much as that crazy lab. We have his ashes in a beautiful wooden box. It’s on a shelf with his collar, his picture, and his tags. I couldn’t bear to bury him in case we ever moved and I had to leave him behind.

I knew a woman who once had a dog she loved. When it died she said she’d never have another—she couldn’t take the pain of the loss. I know what she means, but what about the joy?

Film--What's that?

Usually I forget to take my camera when we go places, or else I forget to take photos while I'm there. My DH is much better at this than I am. On this last trip though, he brought along an old 35mm camera that we dug out of a closet. He shot a whole roll of film that we are going to develop to see if the camera still works.

Who would have thought that "film" would become something rarely used except by "real" photographers that want to have more control over their photos? That's one of the things about our everyday world that has changed very quickly. I guess that getting older, one naturally starts noticing these things. How many of us have old typewriters in a closet? You hate the idea of throwing them out, but you can't even give them away at a garage sale. They are too big, take up too much room and not many people even want to use them anymore. We still have a beautiful electric typewriter that my MIL gave to my husband for his birthday when we were first married. I know that it cost her a lot of money, so psychologically, we can't throw it away. It sits, gathering dust.

I also have an old 1930's typewriter that I used to type up all my college papers. It's lovely--truly a beautiful object. But I don't even know if I could find ribbons for it anymore. Yet I can't get rid of it. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Hiking We Will Go!

We just returned from four days at the lake. We used this a base camp for several hikes within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Wilderness/Forest. We are lucky to have literally dozens of wonderful hikes closeby and even more logging and forest roads to explore. The two main hikes we took were the Mt. Baker River trail and the Mt. Baker Wilderness area where we were able to briefly explore a lovely alpine forest. Even in July, (temps were in the 80F range) there was still a great deal of snow.This surprised us, and since we were not prepared for that, we kept our hike short and simply had a picnic. Hiking safety is something that we take very seriously.Many more experienced hikers than us have been caught in bad weather and being prepared can mean the difference between a bad day and no more days! However, the weather was perfect and we had a wonderful time.

Here I am with Maggie on the trail.

We also hiked the Mt. Baker River trail. This was an easy hike and lots of fun. It was surprising that not that many people were on the trail, since it was a major U.S. holiday, but the solitude was nice. And we did enjoy some of the kids out hiking with their families. They were quite excited to share with us that they'd seen a snake! We countered with our vole sighting...(Not quite as interesting.)

We saw a hugh beaver dam. It really was an impressive sight.

Mt. Baker from the River trail right by the beaver dam.


Finally, I thought that this was such a lovely sight, seeing the sun from behind this wonderful tree that I had to capture it.