Women Painters of Washington Gallery

Normally, I plan to visit an art gallery. I’m therefore anticipating a feeling of delight and awe, and even a bit of envy, when presented with such talent. I’m emotionally prepared for those exquisite feelings.

But on this particular, pre-pandemic day, I wasn’t expecting to be treated to dozens of stunning works of art. I didn’t have the opportunity to look forward to it. I wasn’t braced for an influx of emotion.

The Women Painters of Washington Gallery snuck up on me. I had other business in the Columbia Center Building, Seattle’s tallest skyscraper. I planned to do that. I didn’t plan to do this. But there it was, on the third floor, beckoning to me, splashes of vibrant color peeking through the windows, an antidote to the evergrey of a Pacific Northwest winter.

“Hello,” I thought. “I wasn’t expecting to meet you. I didn’t even know you existed.”

This encounter happened at an opportune time. The gallery is only open Monday through Friday from 11am to 4pm. Otherwise I’d have had to content myself with pressing my nose against the glass. And admission to this treat for your senses is absolutely free.

I not only enjoyed the art in this gallery, but also the very premise of it. According to their exquisitely designed website, the Women Painters of Washington has a wonderful mission statement:

Women Painters of Washington empowers professional women artists to create, exhibit, and market their work while fostering art appreciation within their communities and beyond.

This group was founded in 1930 because, as I’m sure will come as no surprise to you, women artists face certain limitations when attempting to realize their artistic potential. What a fantastic idea. Three cheers for strength in numbers!

I encourage you to check out their website, where you can see dozens of works of art from the comfort of your own home. But if, like me, you think the website is of fabulous design, you really need to visit the gallery when this virus burns itself out. Its walls each contain a giant metal wheel which can roll along a metal track so that the placement and design of an exhibit can change with each passing display. I’ve never seen such a brilliant use of limited space.

What follows are pictures my husband took during our visit. Let me know what you think. And if you get a chance, stop by and visit one of Seattle’s best kept secrets!

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þetta reddast

It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to live in Iceland. Harsh winter weather, earthquakes, volcanoes, severe storms, avalanches, isolation from the rest of the world, and days with only 4 hours of sunlight are just a few of the challenges that Icelanders have faced. According to this article, the country’s founders arrived in open boats in the 9th century, fleeing Norwegian slavery. With no maps or navigational devices, they braved the harsh North Atlantic, and their descendants have thrived.

After enduring so much, it’s really impressive that their unofficial motto is þetta reddast, (pronounced thet-ta red-ust), which means, basically, everything will turn out okay.

Are they foolish, cock-eyed optimists? Not exactly. They just have confidence that they can fix things, combined with a capitulation to the fact that so much is out of their control. It’s a comforting phrase that helps them get through the harshest conditions. Perhaps we all need to adopt this attitude during these trying times.

Once we realized that our trip to Italy had to be cancelled, we considered Iceland. That was in the early days. But at the time of this writing, Iceland had reported 890 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths. I’m sure by the time you read this, those numbers will have increased. May their positive attitude see them through.

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Traveling Vicariously

I’ve had several trips cancelled now, in this new, scary COVID-19 world in which we live. And travel is my reason for being. I love to go places where I’ve never been and see things that I’ve never seen. So, yeah, I’m getting a bit depressed. I’m feeling kind of claustrophobic. Which means, clearly, that I need to get creative.

I’m reading more about foreign lands. I’m watching more movies set in other countries. I’m thinking of clogging up my laptop with the Google Earth application again. I’m listening to songs sung in other languages. I’m looking at exotic recipes and wishing I could go out and get the needed ingredients. And then I’m wishing that I actually liked to cook.

I’m also playing Pokemon Go. Through that game, I’ve gone to this website and made friends from all over the world. We send each other digital postcards. It’s kind of fun, peeking into the lives of people I don’t know and will never meet. Every day I get these postcards from Spain and Norway and Mexico and Israel (to name just a few), and for a moment I feel like I’m there. There’s some fascinating art in the world.

Here are some of the postcards I’ve received that I found worthy of a screenshot. Sadly, I can’t tell you where most of these things are, because unfortunately the descriptors are less detailed than I’d like them to be. I just know that they’re anywhere but here. And that’s pretty darned cool, because at the moment, that’s someplace I can’t be.

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Croker’s Mountains

If you believe in something desperately enough, you can make it real. At least to you. That’s the main takeaway from today’s post. You can stop reading now. But then you’ll miss out on learning about an entire mountain range that never actually existed.

According to an article entitled How a Fake Mountain Range Slowed Down Arctic Exploration, a guy named John Ross, a British Naval officer, was sent out to find the Northwest Passage. The British Admiralty made it sound like it would be kind of fun. Find the entrance to the passage, cruise on over to the Bering Strait, report back to London, then head out to Hawaii for some R&R. Cool!

But of course, it wasn’t that easy. In June, his ships got trapped by icebergs. For about two months, the only progress they made was when the crew dragged the ships through the slush. In mid August they finally got to Baffin Bay, a large patch of water south of Greenland. They began to explore.

After a couple days exploring the area, they actually found the entrance to the Northwest Passage, but they didn’t know that, because when the fog cleared, Ross came up on deck, looked up, and saw a mountain range, which he named Croker’s Mountains, after somebody or other who was important at the time.

Now, nobody else saw these mountains. And many crew members attested to the fact that weather conditions were not amenable to some kind of mirage. No. Ross saw mountains because he expected to see them, and probably wanted to see them after months of icy misery. And so he declared the area impassible, and had the ship turn around.

The crew was extremely disappointed and frustrated. The next year, one of his former crew members, William Parry, returned to the area, and easily found the entrance, and no mountain range at all. The entrance is now called Parry Channel in his honor.

It’s safe to say Ross kicked himself for the rest of his life. But one has to wonder what really possessed the man to conjure up an entire mountain range out of thin air. That’s one impressive imagination, I have to say.

I once wrote this post about an island the size of Manhattan that had been on charts since 1772, and it was only discovered that the island never existed in 2013. I have a new theory. This island, which I vaguely remember as being off the coast of Australia, somehow broke free, and floated around the tip of Africa and up to Greenland, where it lodged in the entrance of the Northwest Passage. Then, sometime between Ross’ visit and Parry’s, it floated away again, to God only knows where.

I’m sure it’ll turn up eventually.

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You Just Can’t Satisfy Some People

Over the years I’ve blogged numerous times about my love of the National Parks here in the United States. And what’s not to love? Every American owns 84 million acres of land that gets maintained by the government for our enjoyment and education.

I’ve visited, and subsequently blogged about:

I look forward to every visit.

So when my husband sent me this link entitled “I Illustrated National Parks In America Based On Their Worst Review And I Hope They Will Make You Laugh (16 Pics)” I did have to laugh. It’s an artist who illustrated posters for each of the national parks with a hilarious twist. The posters are based on one star reviews that the parks have received.

Yes, there will always be people who can be put into the most gorgeous places on earth and still find something to complain about. I suggest you check out the link to really get a feel for these beautiful and comical posters, but here are some of the one star reviews that she used.

  • “There are bugs and they will bite you on your face.”

  • “Trees block the view and there are too many gray rocks.”

  • “No cell service and terrible wifi.”

  • “All I saw was a lake, mountains, and some trees.”

  • “Nothing specific to do.”

  • “Scenery is distant and impersonal.”

All I can say to the above is… wow. I’m so glad I am not these people! I can’t imagine being presented with such natural beauty and still managing to find fault with it. I can’t imagine being so full of negativity that I couldn’t see the closest things to paradise that we have on earth for the priceless thing that they are. You just can’t satisfy some people.

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Cold, Hard Adrenaline

Recently I went snowmobiling with my husband at the Kachess Road Sno-Park here in Washington. It was my second time snowmobiling. I’ve blogged about it, and my mixed emotions about the environmental impact, before. But, still, what a blast.

I love being out in the wilderness, and with this COVID-19 pandemic, it suits me just fine to be dozens of miles away from civilization. And the conditions were perfect. The paths had been groomed just before we got there, and it was a sunny day. It was obviously cold, and we were riding on about 24 inches of snow, but we were equipped properly, and it was a glorious day all around.

I was really rather proud of myself on this second ride. We did 26 miles, and I was able to go faster than the first time, and we got to some locations that most humans will never get to see. When we weren’t tooling around on the paths or playing around in the large, hilly bowl that is kind of snowmobile nirvana, we were sitting there in the quiet, taking in the gorgeous views. Lakes, waterfalls, mountains and valleys galore. Check out the photos and video below.

I was really starting to get why people are addicted to adrenaline. I was feeling like Superwoman out there, speeding along with a powerful engine beneath me, whipping through switchbacks, hitting bumps and (I think) catching air a time or two, with a rooster tail of snow behind me. What a rush. I never wanted it to end.

That is, until I did. Ah, hubris.

I was following my husband up a ridge with steep drop-offs on either side. I don’t really do well with heights, but at this point I was feeling pretty invincible. I was carpe-ing the hell out of that diem!

Then, one of my snowmobile skis hit a rut and jerked my steering wheel sharply to the right. That made me panic and grip the steering wheel even harder, which was the worst possible thing to do because the accelerator is, of course, on the hand grip.

You know that feeling when you’re poised at the very top of a roller coaster? This wasn’t that feeling at all. There was no excitement, no anticipation. Just sheer terror.

The next thing I knew, I was plunging about 50 feet down a 60 degree decline, going what felt like about a million miles an hour. That, I probably could have handled, except for the fact that at the bottom of the decline was a 60 degree incline. I loved geometry in school, but I was rather busy, so I wasn’t going to calculate that angle, but I can tell you it was pretty effing acute. The entire situation was acute. I was sure I was going to crash into the rapidly approaching hillside, fly over my handlebars, and die.

It’s really amazing how things go into slow motion when you think you’re about to cash it in. The whole experience probably took less than 2 seconds, but I remember distinctly every single thought that went through my head as I screamed and employed a lot of expletives. First of all, of course, was the image of me breaking my neck, and the anticipation of the excruciating pain and then nothingness that I was convinced I was about to undergo. Then I thought about how badly it would suck to die on the second anniversary of the day we started dating, and how wonderful these past two years have been. And then I got very sad, because we’re just getting started and I really don’t want it to end. Not yet. Not any time soon. And then, oddly enough, I thought, “Well, at least I won’t have to deal with COVID-19.”

Then, just like that, I was at the top of the incline that I thought was going to be my undoing. I have no recollection of the ascent. I was too busy bracing for impact. I have no idea how my snowmobile managed to get up there. Somehow it defied geometry and physics, and I was alive.

But I wasn’t out of the woods yet. My snowmobile was tilted very sharply to the right, and I was sure that it was going to roll any second. So I turned off the engine and carefully got off of it and stood out of its path, waiting for my husband.

The wait seemed like an eternity, but in reality it probably wasn’t more than 15 seconds. He keeps a close eye on me. He was out front, so he didn’t see my death plunge, and couldn’t hear anything over his engine, but he quickly figured out that I was no longer behind him. Naturally he turned around and came back. I got to watch him ride along the ridge, right past me, because he wasn’t expecting to find me on a completely different hilltop. But he then saw me and made his way over via a much safer route.

Miraculously, I wasn’t hurt at all, and neither was the snowmobile. My husband hugged me and said he was proud of me. But I felt like a total idiot, and I was seconds away from losing it. I knew that if I sat down in the snow and burst into tears like I desperately wanted to do, the rest of the day would be ruined, and we had been having so much fun.

So I breathed deeply, and kept repeating to myself that I was alive. Alive. Alive. We slowly made it down off that hill. And lest we forget, we were still far, far away from the parking lot, so I had no choice but to press on.

My confidence was pretty shattered. I did sniffle a bit in my closed helmet, as we proceeded on less ambitious trails. My husband showed me a lake and a waterfall. He let me take things at my own pace. Snowmobiles do require a certain speed so as not to overheat though, so at one point he passed me and that encouraged me to speed up a bit. I was able to do that. That felt like an accomplishment.

It really was a wonderful day, despite the adrenaline rush and the dance with death. It really was. And I genuinely do look forward to going again.

So, yeah, that happened.

When all is said and done, I was grateful for the reminder of how good my life is. I hope I never take that for granted. Life is so incredibly precious.

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Do the Right Thing, Costa Rica

I’ve never been to Costa Rica. I hope to go there someday. In my mind, I’ve always thought of that country as a neutral, benevolent, safe place. Sort of a “foreign travel light” kind of location. A place to go if you want to experience a different climate and culture without really venturing too far out of your comfort zone.

But now I’m wondering if that image isn’t terribly skewed. Based on what I’m reading in a Reuters article entitled, “Indigenous leader killed in Costa Rica, second in a year”, there are tensions. There is violence. And there seems to be a great deal of injustice.

According to this brief article, Costa Rica passed a law back in 1977 that states that its 24 legally recognized indigenous groups are entitled to reclaim lands taken from their ancestors, but the law has never been implemented. This is an outrage. And now that the indigenous groups are fighting back, two men, so far, have been killed.

Just as the primary cause of divorce tends to be finances, the primary cause of regional discord tends to be land. And land, when all is said and done, boils down to finances. It’s how and where people live, how they eat, and how their families survive. It’s an emotionally charged situation.

But in this case, it seems pretty clear cut. Costa Rica passed this law. Costa Rica needs to enforce it. The land should be restored to its proper owners. And murder should be treated as murder. You have no right to kill someone just because you don’t like it when they’re demanding their rights.

Costa Rica, you can’t expect to see any of my tourism dollars until you do the right thing by these people. I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment. The eyes of your people, and the eyes of the world, are watching you.

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