Peaceful Protesters Aren’t Rioters

There’s definitely a lot to protest about these days. Personally, I’m emotionally drained by it all. My whole life, I’ve never been more horrified by what’s going on in this country than I am at this moment. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks with your own set of horrors. That’s the worst part about it. The list is endless.

The truth is that I’m glad people are protesting. It’s the only way that our voices will be heard. I’ve participated in a few protests myself. And every single one has been peaceful and nondestructive.

I get so frustrated when people equate all forms of protest with riots, looters, and vandals. Those things are a sickening side note that has nothing to do with the protests themselves. When a riot breaks out at a sporting event, as so often happens, do you blame everyone who attended the sporting event for that? When looters come in after a hurricane, do you blame the evacuees or the hurricane for that? When vandals tag a blank wall, do you blame the architect or the construction workers or the building for that? No? Then why are you blaming peaceful protesters? Is it because you really think it’s their fault, or because you want to add additional pressure to shut them up because you don’t agree with them?

In fact, according to this article, there is growing evidence that the trouble makers at these protests hold views directly opposite to those of the protestors. They’re trying to give them a bad name, when in fact it’s the right wing militia/domestic terrorists who should be accused. It’s horrific.

A lot of people are really angry right now. And unfortunately, some of those people are choosing to express that anger in very violent and destructive ways. That does not further their cause. In fact, it causes a lot of people to get hurt, tensions to ratchet up, and our tax dollars to be stretched even thinner to clean up after them, which depletes our ability to provide social services that might have prevented these problems in the first place.

But I genuinely don’t think looting, riots and vandalism have anything to do with the protests themselves. These destructive people are not trying to urge others to see their point of view. They’re just having a public tantrum, and using a protest as an excuse to get away with things that they normally couldn’t get away with.

I strongly encourage people to peacefully protest, and I genuinely believe that the vast majority of protests are, indeed, peaceful. There’s no need or excuse for things to escalate into violence or destruction. That would play right into the hands of those whom you are protesting against. Protesters know that. Please don’t lump them into the same pile with the destructive forces of this world. If anything, protesters care very deeply about this country and want to see it change for the better. Destruction doesn’t achieve that end.

What follows is the aftermath of some vandalism that happened at South Park Bridge in Seattle the other day. It’s a beautiful bridge, or at least it was. This does not win people over to your point of view, but I doubt that was the agenda in this instance.

As a bridgetender, I realize that I’m biased. I always hate to see a bridge damaged. It feels like a violation. It makes me sad.

Just a Leisurely Swim in the Shipping Lane

The drawbridge I work on is the University Bridge in Seattle, Washington. It’s located between Lake Union and Portage Bay. There are a lot of houseboats in the area, as well as people who live aboard their boats. It’s also a heavily trafficked waterway, used by sailboats, pleasure craft, research vessels, cruise ships, Coastguard cutters, and the daily transit of a 3000 gross ton gravel barge.

So imagine my shock when I looked out the window to see something I’ve never seen before in the 6 years I’ve worked here. There was a woman doing a leisurely backstroke in the shipping lane. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, where to begin.

I immediately jumped on the marine radio to warn a very large research vessel that was headed my way. He was grateful for the head’s up. But not all vessels monitor their radios, as stupid as that may sound.

As a matter of fact, a very inattentive motorboat was aimed straight at her, and she was too busy enjoying her swim to notice. I tried calling the boat. No response. I tried blowing my horn. No reaction. I tried shouting out the window. Nothing. They missed caving in her head by about 12 inches. She behaved as if this was business as usual.

I called 911, but by the time the Harbor Patrol arrived, she had already swum back to her boat. She did a few pull ups on her ladder for good measure, then calmly toweled off, and entered the cabin. I told the Harbor Patrol which vessel it was, and they approached it, but she either refused to come out or miraculously didn’t hear them.

I am stunned that there are so many people in this world who don’t think of the consequences of their actions. Get yourself killed through your own stupidity all you want, but don’t do it at the mental and emotional expense of the person who accidentally kills you or those of us who have to bear witness. That’s just not right.

If anyone knows the woman on the blue-hulled vessel called the Jenny II here in Seattle, please tell her, for me, that she’s a selfish fool who is very lucky to be alive.

Jenny II, the home of the errant bather.

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The Ghost Town of Franklin, Washington

To celebrate my 6th anniversary of relocating to Seattle, a place where I had never been before, my husband and I decided to spend the day in places I had never been before. I’ve already written about Flaming Geyser State Park and Green River Gorge Resort. Now I’ll tell you about the last stop of the day, the ghost town of Franklin, Washington.

The remnants of Franklin are very close to the town of Black Diamond, Washington. So close, in fact, that you can hear the gun shots from the Black Diamond Gun Club while standing in the middle of the Franklin Cemetery. That kind of detracts from the ambience. (Or maybe it adds to it, depending on how you look at it.)

Franklin was a coal mining town that was established in the 1885. It was named after Benjamin Franklin. The whole area was lousy with coal, which was why Black Diamond was named Black Diamond. And since I’m digressing anyway, let me tell you that my husband handed me an actual lump of coal the size of my hand recently and it was freakin’ heavy! Am I the only one on the planet who assumed that coal was light like charcoal briquettes? I stand corrected. Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah! Franklin!

Franklin was rather a big deal in its time. It was established in 1885, and had a post office by 1886. At its height, it had a population of 1,100, and the town had a school, saloons, a hotel, a blacksmith shop, and of course, countless company houses. The Seattle to Walla Walla Railroad was extended to Franklin so that coal could be shipped from there to San Francisco. Its people were mostly immigrants from 15 different Eastern and Western European countries.

It was a rough place to live. There were labor conflicts throughout its history. In 1891, the company brought in African Americans as strike-breakers. The scene erupted into violence and two people were killed. The National Guard had to be deployed to quell the strike. Then, in 1894 there was a fire in one of the shafts and the smoke suffocated 37 miners. It was later determined that the fire was intentionally set by one of the very miners who died.

As so often happens with mining towns, as the coal output slumped after 1908, the town started to die. The last mine was closed in 1922. There was some scattered mining here and there until 1981, but by then the town had all but melted into the undergrowth. During its history, though, 4.15 million tons of coal was extracted from the Franklin mines, and there were 88 fatalities.

So now let’s return to the present day, and visit the ghost town. When you leave the parking lot, you have a few choices to make. The first one comes up pretty quickly. Do you want to go to the right and visit the ghost town, or to the left and see the coal car in Green River? We chose right. My husband told me he had pictures of the coal car, and I was sure there’d be plenty online, too. Here’s one. You’re welcome.

Coal car green river

So off we went, on a very well-maintained, wide gravel path which the Washington Trails Association claims is an easy walk on a gentle grade. But I think we gained 400 feet in elevation, and I’m here to tell you that my heart nearly exploded. If anyone with any influence reads this, that path is crying out for benches. (Or maybe that was me.) My advice to you is to wear sunscreen and bring water. The views of the cascade foothills are gorgeous, though.

At some point you come across another coal car, and I was ever so grateful to sit on it for a spell. Then you have to make your second decision. Do you go right, to explore the town, or left, to check out the Franklin No. 2 Mine Shaft and the cemetery?

It was an easy decision for me. I love cemeteries. And we ran into a few hikers that said the town basically consists of a few concrete slabs, so I didn’t mind missing it, at least this time around.

Onward. The path was starting to get narrower, but it is still quite well maintained. A lot of the climbing was over with, too, to my everlasting joy.

Before reaching the shaft, we stumbled across bits of building here and there that appeared to be leftovers of the mining operation. We also saw what looked like a train track suspended about 30 feet in the air, which I later learned was once used to support the pipe that brought water into the town.

The mine shaft was rather fascinating. It was built to go 500 feet below sea level, and we were already pretty freakin’ high up, so the shaft was, according to the plaque in front of it, 1,300 feet deep. I yelled down it. Hello? It echoed. (If some disembodied voice had said, “What do you want?” I’d have made it back to the car in record time.) I also dropped a pebble down there. I never heard it hit bottom. (I wonder how many pebbles are at the foot of that shaft now.) The shaft is covered by a massive grate consisting of railroad tracks and rebar. It looks sturdy, but I still wouldn’t suggest that anyone stand on it.

Beyond the shaft, the trail to the cemetery gets really narrow, as in, deer-path-through-the-deep-woods narrow. And you can tell that in damper times of the year, the path is covered in deep mud. On sunny days like this one, the mud flattens out and dries, and the path has a weird springy feel to it, as if you’re walking on the surface of a drum. Your footsteps make a hollow thumping sound. It’s kind of creepy.

Finally, the path opens up into a giant sloped clearing, and you know you’re in the cemetery. But it’s choked with blackberry brambles. There are a few winding pathways that someone was kind enough to bushwhack for us so that we could visit the few headstones that peek out from the berried vines. People have left coins on the headstones over time. I found that to be very poignant.

The whole place felt very isolated, and I became even more aware of the hollow drum-like thumps that my feet were making. Surely there are dozens of graves here whose headstones had disappeared. Was that hollow sound just the mud, or was I trodding upon graves that were just waiting to cave in?

I wouldn’t want to hang out there at night. But during the day, as I said, you could hear the gun shots from the Black Diamond Gun Club, and, too, we unfortunately ran into a school outing of some sort. About 20 twelve-year-olds screaming and hollering and acting the fool. I don’t enjoy such encounters even in the heart of a metropolis. I really didn’t appreciate it out here among such solemn history.

Still, I stood amongst the graves and brambles and thought about how quickly this bustling town has been reclaimed by nature. So much happened in this place. Lives were lived and lives were lost. And yet, in a few years, much of it will have melted into the landscape and it will be forgotten by most of us.

We all think we make our mark in some way or another. But it’s all so temporary on the grander scale of the universe. It really makes you think.

It reminds me of a poem by Percy Shelley:


I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

If you’d like to learn more about Franklin, Washington, Wikipedia suggests two publications: The Coal Miner Who Came West by Ernest Moore, one of the last residents of Franklin, and From Smoke to Mist: An archeological study of Franklin, WA – A Turn of the Century Company Coal Town. If you read either of them, please let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, enjoy these photos that we took on our hike.


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A Brief Taste of Green River Gorge Resort

To celebrate the 6th anniversary of my having moved to Seattle sight unseen, we decided to visit some other unseen sights. I’ve already blogged about Flaming Geyser State Park, and I will soon post a blog about the ghost town of Franklin, Washington, and when I do, you’ll be able to find it here. But between those two stops, we also popped into the Green River Gorge Resort.

There’s a lot of breathtaking beauty to this place. But to enjoy much of it, you have to be willing to descend into the gorge itself. While I wouldn’t have minded do that, I would have minded the ascent back up quite a bit indeed. And I was anxious to check out the ghost town, so we only had a brief taste of this amazing place. I suspect we’ll be back. If you’d like to see more of the gorge in this area, check out this post by a fellow blogger, Lisa Parsons. Her photos and descriptions are a delight.

Instead of climbing, we chose to park and walk out onto the one lane bridge that crosses the gorge. Hoo, but it’s a long way down! From there we could see the lovely Green River, and the swimmers who were basking in the sun. I definitely can see why people make the effort to go down there, but this was just not the day for it, for me at least.

Washington State has such a varied landscape. Here I was, still in the county in which I reside, gazing at this paradise! Moving out here was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

After enjoying the bridge, we went back to the parking lot, and there was a stunning spring. It was crystal clear, and poured down to various pools before waterfalling into the gorge itself. There were hoses set up so you could fill your own receptacles with spring water. We happened to have a gallon jug in the car, so we filled up and dropped a donation in the box. It’s wonderful water. You can taste the minerals. I felt healthier for having drunk from this spring.

What follows are some photos we took during this brief stop. We didn’t linger, because there was a ghost town in our future. Watch this space!



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Flaming Geyser State Park, Washington

To celebrate the 6th anniversary of me moving across the continent to Seattle, a place I had never seen, we decided to visit some places I had also never been. I hope we make this a tradition, because it’s quite fun.

Our first stop was Flaming Geyser State Park. I have been passing signs for this park for several years now, and the name has always intrigued me. I just never quite got around to visiting up to this point.

Let me start off by saying that if you’ve been to Yellowstone and seen the awesome geysers there, you’ll find flaming geyser, like 2020, very underwhelming. According to Wikipedia,

“The park was named for a flame which burned through a concrete basin, fueled by a methane gas pocket 1,000 feet below the surface. When the pocket was discovered by prospective coal miners in the early 1900s, the test hole hit gas and saltwater, shooting water and flames 25 feet into the air.”

Alas, that methane pocket has since been depleted, so the Flaming Geyser is now flameless and geyserless. You’ll see more action from those foolish boys in every generation who think it’s amusing to set their farts afire.

And yet the park is still very much worthwhile. It’s a beautiful, idyllic place, not far from Black Diamond, Washington, and it’s a part of the Green River Gorge State Park Conservation Area. The park is 503 acres, and it borders the Green River for 3 miles. It has several picnic shelters scattered here and there, and there are 4.3 miles of hiking trails and a mile of horse trails, but it’s probably best known for its fishing, swimming, kayaking and rafting opportunities. There’s even a designated radio-controlled aircraft flying area. When the salmon are spawning from October through December, there are plenty of places along the shores and bridge to view their shenanigans.

If you’re ever in the area, and, like me, are heartily sick of this pandemic, I highly recommend Flaming Geyser State Park. Keep your mask on hand in case you encounter other people, but otherwise, enjoy the fresh air and the gorgeous views. You’ll be glad you did.

After this, we also made a brief stop at the Green River Gorge Resort and then went on to the ghost town of Franklin, Washington. Those are other places I’d never visited before. Blog posts about them will be coming in a few days, and when they’re live, I’ll link those posts to the names in this paragraph.

What follows are some of the photos we took during our visit to Flaming Geyser. Enjoy!

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My Most Memorable Year

On my way to work the other day, I was thinking about the fact that, ten years from now, if people are asked what their most memorable year has been, a good percentage of them are going to say 2020. That’s heartbreaking, because this year SUCKS. I’m sure most of the memories from this year won’t be happy ones. I’ll be happy to get past this year and move on, no matter what that looks like. I think that’s the scariest bit. We have no idea what the world is going to be like after this year.

Fortunately, 2020 is not my most memorable year to date. If I had to pick one, it would be 2014, because it was overflowing with the really, really bad, but ended up really, really good. It was the most pivotal year of my life.

For starters, in 2014 I went to visit my favorite aunt, Betty, in Connecticut. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the last time I saw her face to face. I wish you could have known her. She was amazing.

Unfortunately, while I was there, I got a phone call from the Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff’s Office telling me that they found my boyfriend dead in his truck, still clutching his asthma inhaler, in the pharmacy parking lot a few short blocks from my apartment. Upon hearing that, I instantly came down with the flu, and couldn’t hear a thing for three days, which made flying home in tears quite fun. It felt like I was ground zero at a nuclear blast, such was the devastation this caused in my life.

There was a huge family conflict over whether or not I should attend his memorial service (thank God I ignored them and went), and the taking of all his possessions (and a few of mine) by his adult children. Other than that, I really don’t remember much about those next few months, except a lot of tears, forgetting to eat, and a constant ringing in my ears. I did go to work, though. I had to. Fortunately, there can be tears in bridgetending.

Not long after that, my landlord, who lived in the other half of the house, figured out that I’d probably not be able to make the rent without my boyfriend’s assistance, and she kicked me and my two dogs out of my apartment with no notice at all. I was too devastated at the time to fight it.

Fortunately I had a place to store my stuff, but I got to experience a brief stint of homelessness there. Nothing quite like sleeping with two dogs in a crapped out Buick LeSabre to make you appreciate all the comforts of home. Then I did a bit of couch surfing and realized who my friends really were.

Finally, I found a place to rent that I could just barely afford. I hunkered down in anticipation of an existence in which I would be all alone, working a dead end job, and living paycheck to paycheck. I was resigned to my fate.

I was talking to a coworker about just that when he mentioned that there was a job opening for a bridge operator in the City of Seattle. I had never been to Seattle. I had never even been to the state of Washington in my life. I didn’t know anyone there. But man, was I ever due for a do-over. My life was going nowhere fast and I was miserable. So what the hell, I applied. What did I have to lose?

And, what the hell? They hired me. Sight unseen. Over the phone. Just like that.

Now I had to figure out how I was going to move across the continent. Fortunately, my sister and my husband not only loaned me money, but they gave me a more viable van. And for the rest, I dipped into what little savings I had, and also did a crowdfunding campaign.

That campaign was amazing and humbling. Not only did friends from decades ago come out of the woodwork, but also total strangers gave me money. Without all that generosity, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Because of that, I do my best to pay it forward every chance I get.

House hunting from a distance is not at all fun, but somehow everything fell into place (including the breaking of a lease I had only signed 2 months before) and the next thing I knew, I was driving across the country with two dogs and entirely too much stuff.

The cross country trip was amazing. (Read more about it here.) You have no idea how vast this nation is until you drive 3100 miles across it. It’s magical. I will never forget that experience.

And then, on this very day (August 24th) in 2014, I arrived in Seattle. I was scared half to death, and second guessing myself the entire time, but I was also extremely excited for this fresh start. And my life has been, despite a few false starts, an ever-increasing high ever since.

Because I came here, I’m actually making a living wage for the first time in my life. Because I came here, I published my first book. Because I came here, I bought a wonderful little house. Because I came here, I met my amazing husband-to-be and was married for the first (and only) time ever.

No one at my wedding had known me more than a year or two. That kind of smarted. But, as a dear friend says, onward and upward and into the future!

I’ve met some wonderful people here and have had too many exciting experiences to list. (You may want to check out the archives of my blog for that.) And I’m happy to say that I feel as though I’ve made an excellent life for myself.

So, yeah, 2014 beats 2020 all to hell. And because of that, life is ever so good, and I am exactly where I want to be. You just never know what’s in store for you. Truly, what a ride…

Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklers

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Mid-Month Marvels: Young Women Empowered

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’ll be calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

When I read the first line on the “our story” page of the Young Women Empowered website, it gave me pause. It says, “Research shows that girls’ self-confidence peaks at age nine, then drops as they advance through high school.”

It gave me pause because, instinctively, I knew that this was true. I know it because I lived it. And I’ve seen so many other women and girls live it. We are taught to be our own worst critics. If it’s not body shaming, it’s assuming that we’re inferior in a whole host of other ways. And it has to stop.

Enter Y-WE (Young Women Empowered). I’m so proud that this Seattle-based non-profit exists and is celebrating its 10th year. It is a safe space for all young women, including people of color, trans, and nonbinary individuals. It’s a place where, to hear one participant describe it, you can “feel heard and loved and valid and smart and worthy 100% of the time.”

Y-WE is a leadership program that helps build confidence and self-esteem through a variety of activities, including camping, coding, artistic pursuits, performance, health and wellness, creative writing, and social justice. It currently serves 845 young women a year.

I hope you’ll join me in supporting this amazing organization! Please donate here.


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Rounding Tahoma

On the day in question, it was going to be hotter than blue blazes in the Seattle area. For my purposes, that’s about 90 degrees. I know that my Southern friends will scoff at that, but remember, we don’t have air conditioning. I was anticipating misery, so I began casting about for ways to beat the heat.

My husband and I decided that the best way of doing that would be to go to higher altitudes. Specifically, we planned to go to Mount Rainier National Park. We are lucky that this gorgeous mountain is but a day drip away for us.

Mount Rainier is called Tahoma by the Native Americans in this area. I think that’s a much better name.  Tahoma is 14,410 feet high, which means it’s the tallest peak in the Cascade Range. People have been visiting this mountain for more than 9,000 years. It became a national park in 1899.

We decided on this day that it would be fun to circumnavigate the entire mountain. This meant that we’d have to use roads that were quite often outside the park itself. But the views were spectacular regardless, and we got to visit some very enchanting small towns along the way.

Our first stop was for ice cream in the little town of Greenwater. We also got to check out a couple statues of Bigfoot. This made me wonder if the plural of Bigfoot is Bigfoots or Bigfeet. I don’t suppose this question will loom large in my life, but it was something to think about rather than feeling guilty about eating ice cream.

Next, we entered the park and headed toward the Sunrise Visitor Center. The State of Washington’s highest paved highway ends there at 6400 feet. Needless to say, we were treated to several switchbacks along the way, and the roadsides were blanketed by a variety of colorful subalpine wildflowers. We also encountered the fascinating remnants of some columnar lava, and enjoyed the glacier-clad slopes in the distance. We got to see Emmons Glacier, the largest American glacier outside of Alaska.

We had packed a picnic lunch, and enjoyed that in the Sunrise picnic area. Two million people visit this national park each year, but we had the picnic area pretty much to ourselves. We adhered to strict social distancing and mask guidelines whenever we saw another human. Mostly, we were surrounded by flowers, and got to watch some chipmunks play. I relished the peace and quiet.

I was a little sad that I wasn’t able to obtain a stamp for my National Parks Passport, because the ranger station was closed. But the gift shop was open, so we were able to add another fridge magnet to our collection. Yay!

After that, we headed south along the east side of the park. We were smack dab in the middle of nowhere, without even a hint of cell phone signal, when we came across a family standing beside their broken down car. They wrote down contact information for a relative, along with their membership number for AAA, and asked if we could please contact that relative as soon as we got a cell signal, and have him call a tow truck. We said we would. We also took a picture of where we thought he was located, more or less, on a map, because needless to say, there were no intersections or addresses to be had.

It took us about a half hour to get a signal and make contact, and we texted the map photo as well. By then it was about 6:30 pm, and we knew that this would be no quick rescue. At that elevation it would be quite cold when the sun went down, so we worried about them. We asked the relative to contact us and let us know they made it out safe. And in fact, they didn’t get home until around midnight. So that must have been a really rotten day for that poor family.

But for us, it was shaping up to be a lovely day indeed. We were getting to see Tahoma from all angles. It’s a formidable mountain. Here’s a quote from the national park brochure we received at the entrance:

“Mount Ranier is an active volcano. Active steam vents, periodic earth tremors, and historic eruptions provide evidence that Mount Rainier is sleeping, not dead.”

Steam still escapes from its summit. I’ve seen it from Seattle. It’s not a gigantic, eruptive plume. It’s just a gentle mist that wafts from the top at unexpected moments. It reminds me of the power of nature.

We stopped for dinner at the little town of Packwood. There are a few restaurants there that rely on the tourist trade, a museum, and an outfitter for outdoor pursuits. That’s about it. I don’t even remember if there’s a stop light. This town relies on gigantic swap meets twice a year, on Memorial Day and Labor Day, for the bulk of their income, and those swap meets have been cancelled due to the pandemic. I have no idea how this town will survive. The elk seem to still like visiting it, though. They were everywhere.

From there we entered the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It was fun to see all the different people camping along the creeks. Personally, I’ve never camped outside of an official campground, because I like having an actual bathroom, but camping rough seems to be the thing to do in this area. It certainly is a bucolic setting.

We arrived home late in the evening, having successfully driven all the way around Tahoma. When we pulled into our driveway, we discovered that we had driven 214 miles. I cannot get over the beauty and variety of this state and this country. I feel so lucky to live here.

All the photos below were taken on our journey. Enjoy them. And I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Of all the fire mountains, which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.” John Muir

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude! Read my book!

A Most Excellent Adventure

Comet Neowise has left us, and won’t be back for 6,800 years, so it’s safe to say that if you didn’t get a chance to see it, you’re now out of luck. I tried many times to view it, both in the obscenely early morning hours and just after sunset. I managed to glimpse a smudge in the sky from my yard, but the city lights of Seattle are rather unforgiving.

Therefore, while Neowise was still wandering through our patch of the universe, my husband and I decided to go somewhere where the ambient light was less of an irritant. So off we went toward Mount Rainier, on State Route 165. The further from Seattle you get in that direction, the less populated it becomes.

We drove through the sleepy little towns of Buckley, Burnett, Wilkeson and Carbonado at around 11 pm, and calling them sleepy is putting it mildly. There were no signs of life in any of them. It was as though everyone had been abducted by aliens. All the cute little shops were closed, and all the houses were dark and silent. There’s something unsettling about seeing a place for the first time after dark. But I hope to see them in the daylight in healthier times.

You know you’re truly going off the grid when there’s an actual sign that warns you that there is no cell signal or gas beyond this point. It made me think, “Here there be dragons.” I tried really hard not to focus on the fact that if our car broke down, we’d be in a bit of a pickle. But we’ve been in worse pickles, without a doubt.

Occasionally along this road, we’d stop and try to catch a glimpse of the comet. At first, there was still too much light. And then after that, there were too many trees. At each stop, I was blown away by the profound quiet all around us. The dense forest filters out what little sound there is. All I heard was the occasional running water from the melting glaciers.

We saw rabbits and bats and field mice in our headlights as we entered the dense forest. This is Bigfoot country, and when you’re in the thick of it, you can understand why so many people are believers. It’s also the land of serial killers, because there are so many places where you can hide bodies out here where they’d never, ever be found. (More things not to think about after one loses one’s cell phone signal.)

And even as I tried not to be creeped out, we came around a curve and I was so creeped out that I shrieked. Our headlights caught sight of two people, standing on a bridge, only a few feet away, with their backs turned toward us. That was the very last thing I was expecting at that moment. We hadn’t seen a car.

The car was parked on the other side of the bridge, and it turns out that they were star gazing just as we were. The Fairfax Bridge spans the powerful Carbon River, which is melt from the Carbon Glacier. And the valley is running in the perfect direction to see the comet. So we parked behind them. It was probably their turn to be creeped out, because they immediately left, even though we all exchanged pleasantries.

There’s no lighting on this bridge, and I only found out that we were standing 250 feet above the river when doing research for this blog post. I could certainly hear the river roaring down below, but I couldn’t see it. And besides, my primary focus was skyward.

And sure enough, with the help of a monocular, we quickly spotted Neowise. What a beauty. What a phenomenon. It felt like such a gift to witness it.

Feeling satisfied, we arrived home well after midnight. Our dogs were very confused. Shriek notwithstanding, it felt as though we had been on a most excellent adventure, indeed.

Fairfax Bridge

I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that?


Loony Candidates of the Pacific Northwest

A few days ago, I voted in a primary and special election here in the Seattle area. They really make it easy here. You vote by mail, and they provide you with a nice thick pamphlet which tells you everything you need to know about the various candidates and issues.

People in the State of Washington really have no excuse not to vote. It’s not like you have to stand for hours in a blistering hot parking lot, waiting for the chance to vote, and have to conduct hours of independent research to know who to vote for, like I did for decades in Florida.

The pamphlet for my area was 91 pages long this time around. I adore these pamphlets, because they help me do my homework on the candidates. I can eliminate many people on their statements alone, and then do further research on the more serious ones if I feel the need.

But I also enjoy the pamphlet because there are enough loony candidates to turn it into a joke book. Anyone can run if they meet the requirements. But jeez, it really makes you wonder why certain ones bother.

For your amusement, here are some of the more lunatic fringe candidates (in my opinion) running for office here in the Seattle area, and some quotes directly from their statements as included in the voter’s pamphlet. Suffice it to say, I voted for more sane, serious, and qualified candidates than these.

  • Alex Tsimerman is running for Governor of the State of Washington and says he prefers the StandupAmerica Party. Under his Community Service, he lists, among other things, receiving “over 12 trespasses for a total of more than 1,200 days from going into the Demo-Nazi-Gestapo Council Chambers.” In his statement, he simply repeats the following sentence 25 times: “Stop Seattle/King Fascism with idiotic face!”

  • “Goodspaceguy” has been running for one office or another for as long as I’ve been in this state. This time he’s running for Governor. Apparently this is his legally changed name. He says he prefers the Trump Republican Party. His statement includes the following. “Viruses will always attack you. Your immune system defends you. As governor, I will not shut down your businesses or forbid you to go to work….How many robots would you want to supervise to make your work easier? … Please refer to our world as ‘Spaceship Earth.’ This concept might improve your descendants’ future.”

  • Omari Tahir Garret is also running for Governor. He prefers the Democrat Party. He says he’s running as a spokesperson for anti-apartheid/reparations now movement, and claims that “the current Governor’s biggest mistake is turning Seattle’s SVI building over to proven historical Negro vampire criminals.” He also says that “since race is arbitrarily based on ‘skin color’, redefine ‘race’ based on hair color, which is much easier to change.”

  • Jared Frerichs is running for Lieutenant Governor. He says he prefers the Libertarian Party. Under “Elected Experience” he says he was the student council president at his high school. His statement is short and, I suppose, to the point. “Poverty is bad for business. I have some wild ideas on how we can end poverty forever, but I need your help. I don’t need your money. I need your vote.”

  • Cameron Whitney is running for Commissioner of Public Lands, and prefers the Republican Party. In his Community Service section, he states, “I’ve never been to jail.” And his statement is as follows: “I like environmental protection. I don’t like fires. Let’s work together to clean up the environment and stop fires. President Trump says we need to rake our forests to clean up debris that exacerbates fires and that’s where I intend to start.”

  • Mr Whitney’s competitor for Commissioner of Public Lands is Steve Sharon, who also prefers the Republican Party. He says that “If elected, I will direct an independent, state funded study of the effects of 5G cell-phone towers upon living things. My research indicates that this radiation is killing trees, birds, honey bees, human life.” He also assures us that he will stop chemtrails in Washington state, and says he’s against eugenics, Satan, the New World Order and the Green New Deal.

  • Stan Lippmann is running for Superintendent of Public Instruction. He states that “Sometimes I think it would be better to start all over from 550 BC with a Pythagorean Academy, since it’s been all downhill in the common sense department since then.”

  • David Spring also wants to be Superintendent of Public Instruction. He states that “it makes no sense to shutdown schools for months at a time when there is not even a single case of any child in any school anywhere in our state transmitting the corona virus to any adult.”

  • Chirayu Avinash Patel is running for Insurance Commissioner, and he prefers the Republican Party. He wants to do so in order to manage 168 students so that he can major in every degree at the University of Washington. He plans to run the office externally like the Reagan Administration and internally as the Jefferson Administration. He says he’d be the external commissioner 60 percent of the time, and two other candidates would have the role the other 40 percent of the time. He says he would fill the roles of Ronald, Nancy and Nixon, and the other two would be Carter and Ford. Internally, he says, 168 insurance agents would hold the position in one hour increments.

  • Peter Thompson, Jr. is running for Representative. He prefers the Republican Party. Under Professional Experience he says he’s a Machinist who has worked at one shop owned by a real machinist and two shops owned by bureaucratic shareholder welfare queens. Under Community Service he says, “Praying for the souls of roadkill. Opossum coffins are not awesome.”

Don’t you just love the democratic process? Who says voting is no fun? All jokes aside, though, I’m sitting here poking fun at these people under the assumption that a nut can’t possibly get elected. But I thought that in 2016, too.


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