Once Upon a Time, Not Long Ago…

I know you’re still young, and can’t remember a world that wasn’t like the one that we have today. That’s entirely the fault of human beings, and I’m really sorry for what you’re missing out on. I hope someday you grow up to make the kind of differences that we adults have failed to make for you.

Once upon a time, we could breathe the air without a filter.

Once upon a time, the sun was so bright that you couldn’t look directly at it.

Once upon a time, you got to see the full face of everyone you encountered, and that made it a lot easier to know how they were feeling.

Once upon a time, there were things called concerts.

Once upon a time, you could see the stars.

Once upon a time, kids your age enjoyed riding bikes and playing little league.

Once upon a time, you could travel to other countries.

Once upon a time, people could hug one another.

Once upon a time, people actually went outside on purpose, for pleasure. (You’d have loved camping.)

Once upon a time, there was a thing called democracy.

Once upon a time, the rivers weren’t choked with algae.

Once upon a time, we didn’t fight over water.

Once upon a time, people got together in large groups for school and just for fun.

Once upon a time, the world was a lot more populated, and maybe that’s where everything started going wrong.

I’m so sorry. We have no excuse for what we’ve done. I wish you had had the chance to know the world the way I remember it. You deserve so much better.

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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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Water Light and Dark

As I write this, I’m in the midst of an epic downpour here in Seattle. Six inches in a 48-hour period. Now I completely understand why the least favorite word in the English language is moist.

This has me thinking about the love/hate relationship we all have with water. We can’t live without it. It’s refreshing on a hot day. It’s fun to swim and surf in. It is vital for food growth and production. And since the world revolves around me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that my job as a bridgetender depends on its existence.

On the other hand, as global climate change plagues us all, the sea levels are rising, and areas that used to put up with mere nuisance floods are now inundated. In other parts of the world, severe droughts are destroying crops and causing fires the likes of which the world has never seen. People the world over are being forced to relocate. Thanks to our meddling, nature seems to be struggling to find that balance between too much water and not enough. At either extreme, the results can be deadly.

In this current downpour, as I descend the hill from my house, I’ve witnessed water jetting up to three feet out of the storm drains, either because of a blockage down below, or because they simply cannot handle the volume. This has caused the street in the valley below to be closed. Landslides are happening in the region, and more than a few large Pacific Northwest trees are toppling because of the waterlogged soil.

If I were Queen of the world, I’d send some of this water down to California, where it’s desperately needed. But as it stands, I can barely convince Quagmire, my fastidious dachshund, to go outside to potty, so that tells you how powerful I am in the face of this storm. Water can be quite humbling that way.

Singin in the Rain Adam Cooper

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Plant Panic

I just watched an interesting video, 41 seconds long, entitled, “Scientists Discover Plants ‘Panic’ When It Rains”.

It says that droplets of water, containing bacteria, viruses, or fungal spores, are the main cause of disease spreading among plants. For that reason, when it rains, plants release a protein that causes the plant’s genes to prepare to defend themselves. So it’s kind of like human panic. Red alert, all hands on deck!

Nature is amazing. I’m impressed that plants have this coping mechanism. Anything that allows them to thrive is spectacular.

But it also makes me sad, because one of my favorite things to do is water the plants in my garden. I know I have a tendency to anthropomorphize things, and that’s a bad habit, but as I water my plants, I’ve always imagined them thinking, “Ahhhh, that feels good. Sweet relief. I was thirsty.”

Now I get to think that I’m freaking them out.

The last thing I want to do is cause my plants distress. At the very least, I’ll be directing my water stream at the roots as much as possible from now on, in hopes of maintaining a peaceable kingdom. I’d like my garden to be as Eden-like as possible.

garden-of-eden

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Cities from the Water

Anytime I’m visiting a city that’s on the water, I make an effort to take advantage of their ferries and water taxis. Since these modes of transport are often used by the locals, they are usually reasonably priced. In addition, the face of a city that is gazing upon the river, canal, lake, or ocean is often its best side, and gives you a perspective you wouldn’t have otherwise. It also gives you an opportunity to rest your weary feet while still sightseeing.

Recently, I visited Vancouver and enjoyed riding on the False Creek Ferries. You can get a 16 dollar day pass and ride to 9 different stops along the shore as many times as you like. They share 8 of those stops with a competitor named Aquabus.

False Creek Vancouver

But upon reflection, I’ve done this type of thing many times throughout the years. Here are some other trips I’ve taken.

In Istanbul, I took a ferry across the Bosporus from Europe to Asia and back. You get some amazing palace views that way. I also took a car ferry from Selçuk to Istanbul and that was kind of a cultural crossroads experience.

Also while in Turkey, I took a boat from the city of Side to Manavgat Falls. It was a lovely, lazy trip on an old teak vessel equipped with hammocks. The water was so turquoise (a color description that originated in Turkey) that it almost made my eyes hurt.

From Side to Manavgat Falls in Turkey

If you ever visit Toronto, Canada, I highly recommend the Central Island Ferry. It gives you some unforgettable views of the city from Lake Ontario. And Central Island is a delight.

TN1_003SkylineFromCentreIslandFerry.JPG

One of the first boat trips I took out here was from Edmonds to historic Port Townsend, Washington. What a gorgeous town from the water and on dry land. Highly recommended.

Port Townsend

I’ve also been to Vashon Island, Washington a few times now. What a treat!

Vashon Island Ferry

If you ever get a chance to go to Venice, Italy, and don’t get out on the water somehow, if only by Water taxi, then you haven’t done it right. But I really recommend that you spring for a gondola ride. It’s the trip of a lifetime.

Gondola Venice.JPG

To get to Venice in the first place, I took a ferry from Piran, Slovenia, across the Adriatic Sea. That was an amazing trip.

Venice from the Ferry.JPG

I’ve also cruised down Rhine River in Germany, and gazed at the many castles along the way. But that trip was so long ago that my photos, alas, aren’t digital, and I’ll probably never get around to scanning them.

I was thrilled to discover that you can take a ferry down the entire coast of Croatia for next to nothing. I actually felt guilty. At the time, it was less than 5 dollars. I hope they’ve wised up since then.

Croatian Ferry

And I took a hydrofoil from Fethiye, Turkey to Rhodes, Greece. That was amazing. (The tiny boat next to the two large cruise ships was our hydrofoil. And that’s me standing in the water.)

Hydrofoil at Rhodes

If you want to see the very best of Seattle on an amazing vessel, I highly recommend that you charter the Mallory Todd, through the Seattle Locks. Check out my post about that here.

Mallory Todd Through the Locks

And what better way to experience the Mississippi River than to ride on paddle boat from Hannibal, Missouri, hometown of Mark Twain?

Hannibal Missouri

I also recommend checking out the canals in Utrecht and Amsterdam, Holland. There’s nothing quite like that.

Holland.JPG

Any city on the water should be experienced on the water. You’ll be glad you did.

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Looks Can Be Deceiving

At work, I spend a great deal of time watching boats float by on Seattle’s Lake Washington Ship Canal. After a while, you start thinking of it as just another road. It’s water, but it seems solid. Slippery, yes, but solid.

Until it doesn’t. It’s a transit system, but people swim in it, and jump in it. People fall off paddle boards with a screech. Dogs leap in after balls. Fish jump out of it, and back in. Raptors dive in and pluck those same fish out. Occasionally a vessel sinks. People drown.

The one time I had the opportunity to take a kayak on it was very unsettling. Suddenly the whole depth thing was very, very, real. That, and if I wasn’t careful, I could actually get wet. What a concept!

It’s hard to remember how deep the water is, because all you deal with, usually, is the surface. (Before you ask, it has an average depth of 32 feet. But I had to look that up.)

You stop thinking about what lies beneath. The truth is, you can never be completely certain what’s down there. We humans do not enjoy uncertainty.

Looks can certainly be deceiving. But that’s mainly because most of us never bother to delve deeper. I think we’d all be much better off if we did.

Ship Canal

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Brine Shrimp

I have two awesome friends that I like to get together with every week to just hang out and talk. We’ve done so for over a decade, and we never know where our tangents will take us. We do tend to ramble on. That’s half the fun.

On this particular night, we were discussing a dystopian novel called The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi, which, incidentally, I highly recommend. From there, we talked about water, and how scary it would be to have so little of it that we have to fight for it. That got us on the subject of desalinization, which somehow brought us to the Great Salt Lake, which I opined would provide about a cup of water if it ever were to be desalinized.

I then mentioned I had gone swimming in the Great Salt Lake, and that it was really wonderful, once every single paper cut stopped screaming, and once I got past all the brine flies on the shoreline, which are rather disgusting. Which brought us to a topic that I can’t say I’ve thought much about. Brine shrimp.

That sent me off to Google, of course. I’ve come to realize that brine shrimp are fascinating little creatures. Here’s what I learned.

They rarely grow to be more than half an inch long. They can be found all over the world in inland salty lakes. Scientists believe that they were once fresh water animals, but they adapted to extremely salty conditions so that they could avoid being preyed upon by fish. They have been present in the Great Salt Lake for 600,000 years. Brine shrimp do not live in the ocean.

Brine shrimp produce both eggs and cysts, each of which, at birth, take about two to three weeks to mature. The convenient thing about the cysts, which are embryos covered in a protective shell, is that they can be stored and, in essence, reconstituted at will. This means the harvesting of these cysts is a multi-million dollar industry. Brine shrimp are great food for everything from migrating birds to fish and crustaceans in aquariums.

And they’re hardy. I suspect they’d survive the apocalypse. They even traveled with John Glenn into outer space. Cysts are vacuumed off the surface of the lake, or shoveled from shore, then frozen, washed, dried, and vacuum sealed into containers for sale.

Another fun fact about brine shrimp is that if you’re my age, you might have bought some from an ad on the back page of your comic book. They are marketed as Sea Monkeys, and you can still order them, from a poorly designed website, here.

They sure aren’t as cheap as they used to be. But the nice thing is, this family company now puts much of its profits into a nature preserve in Maryland. To purchase these little guys, you still have to fill out a written form and mail it in, which is, in this day and age, quaint as all get out. Ah, the memories.

So, that’s everything you ever wanted to know about brine shrimp but were afraid to ask. This is what comes from rambling with friends. Isn’t it great?

Brine shrimp

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My Summer of Water and Smoke

As I write this, I am so sleep deprived that I question my own coherency. But these moments can be a fruitful source of artistic inspiration for me. For example, today, driving to work in a total mental fog, it suddenly dawned on me that my summer has been entirely shaped by water and smoke.

I planned my vacation assuming that British Columbia would once again be on fire, and it would once again send its smoke down to choke Seattle like some toxic gag gift. Boy, was I ever right about that. By the time we flew out of Sea-Tac airport, the sky was already turning brown, and I was having trouble breathing. (Thanks, Canada.)

As we flew past Mount Rainier, the tallest thing in the state of Washington at 14,410 feet, we would not have been wrong to assume that it would loom over the landscape. But it was so socked in with smoke that instead it looked like a tiny island floating on a putrid brown sea. We were lucky to be leaving Seattle, because the air quality here that week was worse than that of Beijing. (Incidentally, poor Beijing! I’d hate to be the world’s poster child for air pollution.)

Arriving in the Sonoran Desert, we spent the week highly focused on what a valuable commodity water is. The very air around you seems to suck moisture out of your body like a vampire. And then a monsoon would appear, like magic, and transform everything, from the landscape to the flora to the temperature. Water, man. What a miracle.

The value of water was also brought home to us by visiting Biosphere 2, which was originally created to determine how we might manage to survive on another planet. The importance of moisture to sustain life could not have been more emphasized. And then we went to Kartchner Caverns, an unbelievably gorgeous cave full of amazing formations that were created over thousands of years by the movement of water.

From there, we went to Glacier National Park, which happened to be on fire, so half the park was closed off from us, and smoke was in the air. And then it wasn’t, due to a torrential, icy downpour which left the mountains covered in snow. And of course, every single feature of this stunning landscape was carved out by the movement of glaciers, which are composed of frozen water.

Water and smoke: the elements of my summer. I wonder what my autumn will be composed of. Surreal.

Mount Rainier
The tip of Mount Rainier.

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Let’s Talk About the Weather, Shall We?

I’m looking forward to a rare day of sunshine here in the Pacific Northwest, and the temperature is expected to rise to a delightful 65 degrees. Spring! Happy dance!

Meanwhile, a dear friend in Kansas had to hunker down the other day in anticipation of 2 to 4 inches of snow. In April. This is not normal. The world has gone mad.

It used to be that the weather was considered to be the safest of all possible topics. We are all told to avoid politics and religion over Thanksgiving dinner, but the weather… we could all agree on that, couldn’t we?

Not anymore. The weather has become political. At a time when California is burning to the ground, islands are sinking beneath the ocean waves, there is severe flooding, drought, dust storms engulfing entire cities, super storms of all kinds, and unprecedented ice cap melting, we are expected to avoid the meteorological elephant in the room. Even governmental websites are deleting any references to global climate change.

I never thought I’d see the day when liberals would be considered the most conservative people on earth, but we are the ones that are wanting to take precautions to safeguard the planet. Even if you don’t believe in the overwhelming science of climate change, even if you refuse to look at the evidence before your very eyes, how can you justify not wanting to take steps, just in case? If this really does turn out to be our last chance to save ourselves, don’t you want to be aboard that ark?

What is wrong with reducing our dependence on fossil fuels? Why not recycle? Would it kill you to plant a tree? Is it really so hard to be a little bit smarter about your water usage? Why is expecting our corporations not to pour their toxic waste into our rivers and streams so controversial?

Seriously. Explain it to me. Because I don’t get it.

global-warming
Surely we can all agree that this isn’t the best idea we’ve ever had.

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The Sun Will Still Rise When the World Ends

It baffles me that wanting to save the planet is even the slightest bit controversial. What are the down sides to it? It may take time and money, yes, but those are things we won’t have anyway, if we continue to destroy the environment.

It seems that the most primal motivator for humanity is, unfortunately, greed. The worst perpetrators of global destruction are those who are exploiting resources to get every single penny out of them while they still can. To hell with the future. They are only concerned with instant gratification. They think trees were put on this earth to provide the wood to build their three-car garages.

Perhaps those of us who are ringing environmental alarm bells are going about this all wrong. Selfish people, by definition, care only about themselves. They are incapable of the concept that we need to put the planet first. To get them to hop on this life-or-death bandwagon, we need to make the issue about them.

Here’s what these selfish people need to know. We don’t need to save the planet. The planet is, basically, a rock that’s hurtling through space. There’s not much that we can do that is going to mess with that rock. We can burn the entire world to the ground, blow everything up, kill every living creature and leave not one drop of drinkable water on the earth’s surface, and that rock will continue on its path around the sun. The sun will rise and set, and the earth will spin, with or without us.

What we need to save is ourselves.

For humans to survive, we have to maintain the environment in a state that is conducive to humans. It behooves us to keep it from getting much hotter. It’s a good idea to make sure we can grow the food we need to eat. We may also want to think about the fact that we need air to breathe and water to drink. And maintaining this system is rather complex. It means that we need bees to pollinate, and a diverse web of flora and fauna, or the whole project will fall like a house of cards, and that, dear readers, will be the end of us.

So if you can’t be bothered to care about the planet, think about saving yourself.

Environment conflict

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