Picnics

I used to have a gorgeous picnic basket. Made of beautifully woven reeds, with a double hinged lid, it had a removable wooden stilted platform inside so that you could keep your pie (of course) from being crushed by all the other food. It was complete with special slots to hold one’s cutlery.

I imagined many a romantic outing in gorgeous parks, taking in the view and sitting upon a pretty red and white checked blanket that I didn’t actually own. And the culinary delights, which I wouldn’t be able to cook, that would come out of that basket would be finished off by a bottle of wine, even though I don’t drink alcohol. And what the hell, why not, I’d be wearing something Victorian, with a gorgeous hat, which of course is not part of my wardrobe.

As you can imagine, I never used that basket. Not even once. And it didn’t make my relocation from the East coast to the West. It just took up too much space. I had to leave a lot behind.

No, my picnics usually consist of a Subway sandwich consumed while sitting alone on some rock or other. And that’s a pity, because food always tastes so much better outdoors. It makes me wish I were the pie baking sort.

In light of this pandemic, I think picnics should come back into fashion. None of us can afford much these days, and a lot is closed. But the weather is warming up and flowers are blooming, and all of that is free. There’s nothing to prevent us from lovingly preparing a meal that we’d be eating anyway, and sitting in our back yard or on our patio or even on the living room floor, and taking in the view of our partners in lockdown.

Yeah, it’s not a Victorian picnic complete with footmen to pour the wine, but it’ll do.

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What I Love about Seattle, Washington

I’ve been living in this delightful city for 2 ½ years now, and I have never been happier. It sort of feels like I went to bed in Florida and I woke up in the Land of Reasonable People. Not a day goes by when I don’t look around in awe. How did I get so lucky?

Now, more than ever, I’m grateful for the liberal bubble in which I reside. In the current political climate, I think it’s the only reason that what little sanity I still possess remains intact. I love that my senators and my representative are all Democratic females. I love that we have a member of the socialist party (also female) on our city council. I love that our mayor is gay. And granted, it was a federal judge who ruled against Trump’s travel ban, but that judge was located right here in Seattle. I couldn’t be more proud.

The City of Seattle also just divested itself from Wells Fargo Bank due to its involvement in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Integrity in politics. How refreshing. (Not that we always get it right. For example, the homeless situation here is abysmal, and there’s absolutely no excuse for it. But it’s a start.)

We’re also proud to be a sanctuary city. Immigrants are welcome here. Contrary to supposedly popular belief, that makes me feel safer. I don’t like the idea of people being snatched from their homes. That happens a lot more frequently in this country than any terrorist attack.

I love the fact that individuality is celebrated here. It means that creativity thrives. Because of that, you can experience a wide variety of art, music, culture, and food in this fair city.

Oddly enough, I’m glad that we have horrible weather in the winter. It makes me appreciate the rest of the year that much more. I spend a lot more time outdoors here than I ever did in Florida.

I love that no one here needs air conditioning (yet). I love the parks and the flowers and the diversity of the landscape. I want to explore this city and this state a lot more. I love that every neighborhood has its own personality.

I love that the environment is taken so seriously here. If you don’t recycle, you can practically cause a riot. And there are so many outlets for environmental activism.

I love that this is the most literate city in the country. I love that the library parking lots are always packed with cars. I love that people enjoy talking about books.

I don’t smoke pot, but I love that it’s legal here. I don’t drink coffee, but I love that it’s celebrated here, and I love hanging out in coffee shops. I am musically inept, but I love that you can’t sling a dead cat without hitting a musician. This is the land of Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, after all.

Now, if you want to talk about horrible traffic, out of control growth, and the outrageous cost of living… well, that’s a topic for another post.

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Secret Revealed: Everyone in the US Owns Land!

Real Estate is without a doubt the best investment one can make. People fight wars over land. The song “This Land is Your Land” makes all of us proud. And it should. Just by virtue of being a US citizen, each and every one of us owns 84 million acres of land. Yup. That’s million with an M. We’re rich! Most people don’t even realize that.

And check this out: you don’t even have to mow a single blade of grass on all this land that you own. You don’t have to pull a single weed. The National Park Service takes care of all the upkeep for you. All you have to do is go and admire and respect it.

Long before any other country on the planet set aside land for its citizens, our national parks system was created. As a matter of fact, the 100th anniversary of the system will be rolling around pretty soon. According to their website, the National Park Service was created by an act signed by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916, and our first park, Yellowstone, was established by an act signed by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. So this land was your land before you were even born!

Even more exciting is that this land is broken up into 408 different pieces and is scattered throughout the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Chances are, you can visit some of your land without venturing very far from the place where you live. How cool is that?

And no two places are alike. The website also mentions that they include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and even the White House. That’s a pretty impressive portfolio you have there, American! Don’t take it for granted!

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of spending 5 days in Yellowstone National Park, and it was magical. I’ll be writing several blog entries about it, but for now I will share pictures I took of some of your land, just for you. I wish they did it justice.

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Nature Calls

I love to observe nature as it unfolds around me, and I’ve moved from a subtropical climate to a temperate one, so a lot has changed. I don’t even recognize many of the bird calls here, and I’m sure encountering plant life that I’ve never seen before. It some ways Washington reminds me a lot of the Connecticut of my childhood, but in other ways it’s kind of like being on another planet. How exciting!

One of the first things I did upon moving to Seattle was to log on to Amazon.com and purchase a copy of the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest. If they publish a guide to your region, I highly recommend that you get one. This book is like nature’s bible, and it’s really helping me get used to this area.

Audubon Guides are very comprehensive. They describe the area’s topography and geology, fossils, habitats, weather, and even what you can expect to see in the night sky in any given season. (I was distressed to discover that I’ll only be able to see Orion well in the winter. That was the favorite constellation of my late boyfriend, and it always makes me feel connected to him.)

These guides also give you detailed images and descriptions of the local flora and fauna. They even give you a picture of the various animal tracks. It’s amazing the variety of squirrels, rabbits, birds, and beetles that live here that I didn’t even know existed. (I look forward to meeting a hoary marmot so I can commiserate with him about his name.) There’s also a detailed section about the parks and preserves in the region, and I hope to explore every single one of them.

It’s a bit of a culture shock being a bridgetender in a different part of the country. In Florida I used to sit at work and gaze at alligators, nutria, dolphins, manatee and ospreys. Now I see peregrine falcons, harbor seals, and salmon. It’s a different world. But if it means I never have to see another scorpion, water moccasin or two inch cockroach (they actually have a display of them here at the local zoo! Shudder…) I’ll be happy as a pacific littleneck clam, as described on page 177 of my guidebook.

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[Image credit: wikipedia.org]

Salting Pigeon’s Tails, and Other Games for Kids

My mother was one smart lady. She had three kids to keep busy and very little money to do it with, so she got creative.

We would often pack up a picnic lunch and go to the nearest cemetery. My friends think this is nuts, but I remember these as being very fun times. When you live in the city, a cemetery is often the closest you’ll get to the country. We were outdoors. We were enjoying our lunch, feeling the sun on our faces, and we could often glean stories from looking at the various headstones. For example, if a lot of the family died within months of each other during a certain period, it was probably one epidemic or another. And different symbols on tombstones mean different things. History, deductive reasoning, poetry, art…there is much to learn in your local bone yard.

She would also take us to parks, armed with nothing but a salt shaker. She would tell us that if we were able to put salt on a pigeon’s tail, we’d get to keep it as a pet. We’d toddle around for hours, wearing ourselves out and having a wonderful time, never quite salting that desired pigeon, and then we’d go home and sleep without complaint.

And you don’t have to buy bubbles and a wand to blow bubbles. You can use dish soap and water and glycerine a piece of bent wire.

One of my mother’s best purchases was a book of the local birds. While we were out on these forays, we’d often consult this book to determine the name of the various birds we’d see. I still have this book to this day.

Another book that I still have is the one describing a wide variety of card games. We could have fun for hours just playing cards.

Some of my favorite toys were the “blocks” that she had someone make by sawing up the remnants of discarded two by fours into various angles and shapes, and the collections of little bottles that I would fill up with various combinations of food coloring while pretending to be a mad scientist.

She’d also call leftovers “Dinosaur Meat”, thus igniting our imaginations and gaining our cooperation on eating the same meal for a third day in a row.

Sometimes we’d make candles out of our shortened crayons, or fry marbles or carve apples into shrunken heads. She’d somehow obtain the ends of rolls of butcher paper, and we’d draw for hours.

You may think it’s important to keep your child supplied with the latest electronics, but sometimes the greatest lesson a kid can learn is how to have fun with next to nothing.

bubbles2[Image credit: marvelousmommy.com]