Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rain & Gratitude


I struggle to decide what to wear. Rain is predicted, but we hope to finish our hike before it begins. Not having worn long pants all summer, I opt for lightweight leggings under my skort and carry both fleece and Gore-Tex®. Just in case.

Choosing a hike also proves challenging. We hope to escape the forest fire smoke by heading north from Seattle, then east on Highway 2. In Gold Bar we stop to reconsider. The smoke is hanging high, so we decide to avoid elevation and nix our plan for Heybrook Ridge given the view will be nominal. Instead, we head for Bridal Veil Falls, a hike I’ve never done despite a lifetime in the region.  
We picnic at the side of the falls, breathing in the damp fresh air, grateful for respite from the smoke and for the firefighters struggling against the violence of a changing environment. Like writing, hiking grounds me when the stresses of our physical and political world become unbearable.
The long awaited rain begins as we descend from the falls, this gray rain so desperately needed after a summer of drought. I hold open my hands, my mouth, like a happy child, hopeful this rain will be enough to control the fires. I feel the rain on my face and think of my mother a child of the Dust Bowl dreaming of rain, and I am grateful.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Haunting Synchronicity: Podcast Interview


 
Two weeks ago I walked into the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service Building. In 2004 INS vacated the 85-year-old building haunted by the history of Seattle’s immigrant community. Now repurposed and renamed, Inscape is “the largest arts and culture enclave in Seattle.” 
I was invited to Inscape for an interview with Laura Allen of Two Ponies Press. As we discussed my work, my distracted mind wandered the corners of her studio and wondered what joys or horrors it once held. I didn’t vocalize these thoughts during the interview, perhaps I should have, but the odd synchronicity of discussing the influences of immigrants and refugees on my writing within the walls of a building that once held power over their future did not escape me.

I hope you enjoy listening to the podcast of our conversation as much as I enjoyed my visit. 



Friday, August 25, 2017

Totality


What a month: August 13th I cycled a hundred miles for cancer research, August 16th I announced the re-release of my three novels, August 21st I observed a total solar eclipse.

My husband and I were invited to camp with friends at their nephew’s home in Camp Sherman, Oregon, a ranch at 3000 feet elevation in the Deschutes National Forest. Here at my Seattle desk, I can still smell the fragrant air: dry grass, wild flowers, ponderosa pines. And smoke.

We’d experienced two weeks of Canadian forest fire smoke in Seattle earlier in the month. Now we were again engulfed in smoke, this time from a fire only nine miles west of Sisters, Oregon. I found it unnerving. Camp Sherman is fifteen miles north of Sisters.
As we set up tents in a small meadow next to Canyon Creek in the late afternoon sun, I wasn’t mindful of the drop in temperature we’d later experience. That night when it fell to just above freezing, memories of childhood camping trips interrupted sleep: cold so intense feet became ice, head burrowed inside sleeping bag, condensation collecting. A thick woolen blanket from our hosts made the second night much more comfortable.

Sunday we hiked through burned snags and new growth, reminders of a forest fire fifteen years earlier. A terrible beauty. A wilderness restoring itself, the miracle of nature. My phone registered 9.1 miles, my blisters insisted more, but the eerie beauty made me oblivious to both until hours later.
We drove five and a half hours to Camp Sherman and thirteen hours to return to Seattle for one minute and forty-one seconds of magical magnificence. The sky darkened like winter dusk. The temperature dropped approximately twelve degrees. The moon crossed over the sun in perfect alignment leaving inky blackness surrounded by a glorious rim of fire. As it crossed in front of the sun, the craters of the moon allowed light to seek passage creating a spot of brilliance: a diamond ring.
Was it worth it? I’m asked. For me, those thirteen hours driving home were physically and mentally as tough as cycling a hundred miles the week prior. But was it worth it? Absolutely. It was more than a total solar eclipse. It was the generosity of our hosts, their family and friends, the communal meals, the breathtakingly beautiful surroundings. The totality of people, place, and natural phenomena made it a weekend I’ll never forget.  

What a month! And it’s not over yet …