drifting on the magic carpet: memories of that pleasantly acrid, smoky cap gun paper smell after we used ’em up in a shootout and headed to grandma’s for windmill cookies

A case of the blahs at the Fremont Sunday Market: Lackluster-looking and not least of all because Sinister Guy cryptically warned Adam (who was being exceedingly careful and polite with the rusty piece of junk in his hands such that it bordered on comical) in the event a piece in the assemblage of old-time cap guns was broken when its hammer was pulled back could possibly turn out to be worth upwards of $200. Ugh. The boys blushed and nodded graciously.  The looking may have been so-so this particular morning but golly we fixed that browsing the basement of the Fremont Vintage Mall- that’s always fun! We like it there. The ratty settee I almost brought home a couple months ago was gone.  Wish I’d gotten it. Currently, we have a furniture-falling-apart problem starting with our twenty year old sofa. At any rate, the boys had fun goofing off with a Speak and Spell in the shop before we departed for a social engagement across town on Beacon Hill.

deceptively bayonet-like flora of the desert

It was the day before we headed upstate along the Wasatch Range to visit the boys’ uncle thereabout Salt Lake City for the weekend: Adam and I took a thrilling walk along the eastern rim of Zion Canyon. The path was characterized by relentless exposure and dizzying switchbacks- I found it to be one of the more enjoyable trails I’ve explored the past few years.  By certain measures (there’s an elevation gradient of 5,000 feet in the park) our journey was a tame one but the journey was more fantastic than I anticipated.
Zion CanyonBy the time we pulled ourselves up and over (and then traversing to edge’s end) morning was getting on and light was a tad bright. There was just enough sidelight for a handful of scattered, nice exposures. The end of the walk wasn’t really the climax, however. It’s about hidden slot canyons and dark pools under towering sandstone walls in the early morning cool.

Yucca can be deceptively bayonet-like and unyielding, as I have found out in the past when behind distorted cover of super wide angle lens. Rest assured, I was very careful here. It was the edge of a long way down!

twee in the moss of misty foothills

A significant portion of last rainy weekend (both Saturday and Sunday) was spent in the foothills meandering around boulders, waterfalls, creeks and humongous patches of trillium. In the woods on one of the mornings, we met Squirt Dog (Lucy doubtlessly must have been channeled from on high) who had an extremely pointy tail that was fun to pet. Also, the boys played on old mining equipment. Afterward, we gorged ourselves on cheeseburgers and donuts. Late in the afternoon on Saturday, Adam caught a few innings behind the plate for the big game. I was worried maybe he got worn out walking in the woods so long but he played a decent game. He led off the first inning with a walk and even scored a run.

early spring edition (confusing composited reflections of an unparsed, wordpressish nature regarding the intoxication of spring and barred owls of a nasty disposition)

Big brother arrived home from school yesterday: As usual kicking off his shoes in the middle of the front porch to the chagrin of the latest out-of-breath United States Postal Service mail carrier trainee to get stuck in our neighborhood (one of the notoriously least desirable, most transient routes in the city owing to the relentless hilliness) and immediately reported upon the abrupt relocation of physical education class to the gymnasium as a result of the lunatic screaming of a roving naked (waist down) inebriate on the school playground.  Adam recited the litany of hazards which may result from the chronic overindulgence of alcohol and after the sanitized tome (phys ed teacher written all over it) for good measure Oliver Fern added his two cents that pirates were a perfect example of the troubles of the quixiotic beverage, what with all the hijacking and maiming they get up to.

We were on our way to the university for the flowery spectacle of Yoshino cherry blossoms a couple of Saturdays ago but on the way I had a change of heart for as I contemplated the more I couldn’t bear the idea of rubbing shoulders with big-rig baby strollers and selfie sticks so when our bus arrived to the stadium the boys and I switched to the train and headed south for Kubota Garden.  From the Othello Station to Kubota via foot on the Chief Sealth Trail is approximately 1.1 miles. Little old Vietnamese ladies with scoliosis regarded us with scornful amusement as we threaded our way through used condoms and discarded mattresses on the side of that first hill (rampant public dumping) which nevertheless affords an interesting view of the valley and power lines behind. An angry, barefoot woman struggling with an overloaded shopping car on the side of the hill nearly ran us over. Soon this was left behind and the paved path offers wonderfully voyeuristic views into large backyards with chickens, herbs and veggies.

Kubota Garden was lovely despite practically nil bursting of the bud. Greenness, at least. The Little Heart Bridge is peeling, it needs a paint job something bad. There were no security guards stalking the premises in search of tree-climbing ruffians! The boys loved hiding under the pines which have been poodledogged into elvish canopies with holes for children to stick their heads out like prairie dogs, they find Kubota enjoyable in spite of the questionable manicuring. On the way home, we stopped for a quick snack at the pizza place on Rainier Avenue and the boys dragged us into a hipster rummage sale that was just awful. Following this, brownies at the Columbia City Bakery. Not just regular brownies……. ludicrous brownies. What couldn’t be eaten without making ourselves sick was carried in a brown paper box down the street to the Columbia City branch of the library where we loaded up heavy. My library card was maxed out (fifty items) so Adam pulled out his card like a high roller and we did a lot of beeping and bipping at the self-checkout.

Moving closer to now, some time last weekend finally should have been the family outing to the university’s famed spectacle of cherry blossoms (that first time would’ve been too early) but upon receiving additional reports of partypooper campus security protecting old trees from the children not to mention a record-breaking number of selfie-sticks, Adam and I decided this was a job better tackled by the junior varsity: So we dropped Oliver Fern and his mother off at the Montlake Bridge. They had a lovely time of it on campus though there was the minor incident involving Oliver who being tall for his age yet still learning how to read, caused a temporary ruckus in Red Square after reaching up a metal pole to press a button for emergency assistance customarily reserved for those who have been assaulted by fraternity brothers or fans of the notorious recent Greek demagogue.

All the while, Adam and I engaged in early spring baseball on a mushy diamond at Dahl Playfield. This morning was the occasion of his first little league game, a tedious affair of base-on-balls rivaled perhaps only by the Cricket World Cup. I knew this would be the case and so Oliver Fern and I had taken our time arriving to the game via bus. While we waited for our ride to Garfield High School, lo and behold the proprietor of the best ice cream shop in Seattle stopped and shouted to Oliver and he informed me it was so-and-so’s mother from school. On the bus ride to the field I contemplated how wonderful it must be to have a mother who runs an ice cream shop. At any rate, about the game: Having receiving a mere two at-bats for his hours-long efforts on the splintered bench (stir crazy utility infielders started a round of fungo in the dugout) Adam was starving for catching and batting someplace and I ignored the disapproving glances from Wedgwood soccer moms unnerved by the bowlegged, werewolvish hoss throwing batting practice to the nerdy boy standing in a butterscotchy puddle at home plate in the raindrops.  One hundred pitches was all I could manage (not counting just catch) but it was worth it- Adam was beaming at the end. Baseball fever! Before returning to the other side of the Ship Canal we stopped at the bookstore in Ravenna to treat ourselves to a handful of titles (despite reserving a certain enmity for this bookseller, the cause of which was a dictionary purchased from there some years ago which contained approximately 75 pages upside down).

On the Sunday following the baseball game, Oliver Fern and I boarded a ferry and crossed Puget Sound for an easy hike to the woods to a small lake and a pleasant sliver of salt water beach. The path in question has a reputation for bloodthirsty owls notorious for utilizing walkers’ noggins for portable helipads. At the beach on Port Orchard Narrows, we ate cookies and found what we decided was an early historical railroad spike (from the Puget 49er Bonanza Brilliant Diamond Mine which heretofore has remained secret in the annals of history) garnished and crusty with barnacles although it’s entirely possible the thing was thrown overboard from a tugboat in the 1970s.

This afternoon, Adam and I pushed Oliver Fern’s bike up the hill to school in short-sleeve sunshine. While preparing to cross the street so we could head back down to Miller Park (Adam and I played catch while Oliver drank a huge bottle of chocolate milk) an elderly man lay down in the middle of the street with one shoe off and traffic came to a standstill. Internally debating the rendering of assistance (but how) with shaky Oliver tipping back and forth on lopsided training wheels, the problem was solved when the fellow stood up and his pants drooped down to reveal a horrific old man wedgie and the geezer cackled and shuffle-darted to sidewalk safety. Thus was necessitated that thrice-yearly talk with the boys which spans mental health doozery, the straw-breaking craziness of real life and those frequent, curious going-ons at Seven Hills Park.

We played catch at Miller Park for a short duration. Adam has a surprisingly good arm but his glove is atrocious when we’re warming up so I had him stand against the brick wall of the community center so he wouldn’t have to chase every third miss.  Ah, spring was in the air! Maybe it was the grass-stained baseball? Oliver finished his chocolate milk and rode his bike home the rest of the way (we spotted him on the hills). I preheated the oven for dinner and tucked the ice packs in my shoulders.

if a chipmunk could chuck nuts in the chuckanuts, how many nuts could a chipmunk chuck?

Anyone around here worth their salt knows Chuckanut is a native word for “throws badly and foolishly hits in the back of the head she-who-is-hormonal-and-has-the-temper-of-a-jilted-sea lion” although colloquial, muddled translations exist owing to blockheaded imperialism. We took the boys for a walk up north in the Chuckanuts on a blue sky Sunday, last weekend.
puget sound from the chuckanuts
This low range, an extension of the Cascades and backyard to the mossy college town of Bellingham, slopes downhill (precipitously sometimes) to picturesque rocky coves on salt water and offers views of gigantic cargo ships and blue-green islands.  Our path was muddy as heck at first, so much rain this winter on the whulge. After several miles of walking later, whilst nibbling on lunch at a small, brushy lake we discovered a disheveled little bat clinging to the tree trunk at our backs. The poor thing gingerly craned its neck a handful of times to peer (forlornly, I thought) at the chewing, chomping rovers who dared so rudely disturb the dire predicament which it found itself in. One could only imagine the acute disorientation of its echolocation sensors in the presence of this strange, bickering family. We left the bat in peace, hoping it would see fit to not bite as moving wasn’t an option as we had been talking about cookies for the past two and a half miles and nothing was standing in the way (even rabies) of them and the precious curtains of sunlight which warmed our faces. Adam traded places with Oliver on the lunching log so as to better studiously observe the critter and you could almost see the bat breathe a sigh of relief.  Oliver was the fastest hiker on the way down which meant there was time in the evening for playing on the beach below the trailhead. On the way home, we worried more about the little bat.

The morning following this walk in the Chuckanuts, the first day of spring dawned. My shins were excruciatingly sore despite the seemingly gentle downhill the day before- far too many easy beach walks this winter but ah the spirits were soaring from sunshine! Two days in a row!  After several hours of gardening (mostly, cutting back a motley collection of perennial grasses left overwinter for birds and critters) Oliver Fern convinced me to stagger after him on his rusty bicycle for three miles around Green Lake for my Canadian Goose Monster Turd merit badge. Alas, the badge was earned but horrors for the absentminded, pigeon-toed albino duck which nearly collided with Oliver’s bike. Never such twisty-nifty maneuvering did you see. The squawking, jaywalking quacker shot a beeline for the bushes and Oliver was crestfallen as his Hubba Bubba bubble gum went flying through the air. The gum was promptly sniffed and gobbled up by a typically non-discerning pooch.

On the subject of Puget Sound: Finally, I’m partaking of Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics after being asked by the 752nd person if I’ve read it and although I’m enjoying it quite a lot I have to be honest and say I’m getting awfully tired of the author repeatedly referring to Puget Sound as the Puget Sound. The jet-set, millennial Carpetbagger iPhone Tip-Tapper Nervosas flooding Seattle the past couple years from places like New York and Pennsylvania are one thing (it takes a while to learn the local lingo) and I’ve been tolerating this sort of shitty copy editing from the The Seattle Times for the past few years (newsrooms across the country are doing more with less these days and it shows) for the sake of democracy but the umpteenth-whatever sold copy of a New York Times bestseller by the Hoity-Toity Publishing Group? Then again, my nine year old finds mistakes in his grammar books every other week (he gleefully reports them to me so we can rage together). As Weenie Arbiter Supreme of WordPress Dweeb Blogs and the Run-On Sentence Club I may not have the firmest moral ground upon which to stand but does this sort of thing bother anyone else? Am I turning into one of those lonely, batty old coots who pencils letters to the editor on looseleaf notebook paper?

on the uses and abuses of expelliarmus at lincoln park and the 2017 emerald city comicon

Of the handfuls of younger children moving through the convention in shimmery-green capes, Oliver Fern (pictured here) moved with uncommon aplomb and funny panache except when getting barreled over from time to time by enthusiastic fat guys wearing spandex superhero costumes (or nearly getting stepped on by a seven foot tall Chewbacca) but still there was plenty of breathing room in Artist Alley during the last few hours of 2017 Emerald City Comicon.  The show was painfully unwieldy as ever, continuing its risky spiral into ever-higher levels of vainglorious bigness but each year we peel back more layers for nice surprises and decide being spun around in a human blender is mostly worth it.  We split the convention into two days, this year.


The off-gassing of polyvinyl chloride from toys and related memorabilia gave me a handful of unpleasant, dull headaches. It’s hard to believe how both astoundingly realistic and expensive fantasy paraphernalia is getting- give me a scratched-up, big head variation of the Kenner Han Solo, anytime! On the subject of off-gassing, the degree of stealth farting at the convention approached comically gross proportions. It’s unavoidable the engaged conventioneer will variously lean, bend and contort in order to more closely peer upon comics, books and related art and it isn’t a stretch to imagine these low-grade calisthenics must have the mechanical effect of squeezing and kneading the colon like silly putty, henceforth producing stimulative gastroenterologic effects. Speaking of special effects, the cement floors of the exhibition center killed my feet which as you can imagine only increased my fondness for carpeted areas of the convention and often I would feel the urge to curl up into a ball on the floor and purr like a cat. Inadvertently (I hope) I was groped a half dozen times by several large medieval characters on their way to cosplay and while tattooing was not available at the convention this year you could get a pair of elf ears or the usual variety of steampunk accessories (the intended uses of which frequently eluded me, much as they appeared oftentimes similarly designed for either the head or buttocks region, the weird holes made it hard to tell). The last thing we did at this year’s comicon was make the acquaintance of Kazu Kibuishi, author of Amulet, the series of books which are regularly unshelved by the boys out of the second-from-the-bottom spot of the living room bookcase during the occasion of not infrequent dinnertimes during which their hardworking mother is not present to enforce a certain degree of sociable manners. The boys are descended from a long line of shameless but very productive reader-eaters.

Before I conclude this amalgamation of words which sadly has exceeded five hundred in number and is going to be a grizzly bear to decipher (and how can I blame my dear loyal readers upon rejoicing at the news that I’m very slowly transitioning the site to more of a classic photo blog?) let me just say that last weekend also marked the conclusion of my foray into the world of Hogwarts as I turned to the last page of the final book in the Harry Potter series. I found all of the books rewarding but I have to be truthful in saying I’m relieved to be done with the wizard and magic business. We took the boys to Lincoln Park in West Seattle on Saturday morning for several hours of beach-combing and bluff-strolling and Adam unleashed a barrage of pent-up editorializing and analysis regarding characters such as Voldemort, Snape, Dumbledore, Dobby, Black and Lestrange. Oliver Fern joined in as we discovered magic wands that had been inexplicably lost on the beach and we practiced spells on each other. Expelliarmus!

madness of the tides

Twice I came here last weekend for balancing (pirouetting?) on slippery rocks and timing my shutter the best I figured how with the rhythm of the surf:  Alone the first gloomy night and with the boys the following, very dark afternoon. Easily some of the rainiest, drippiest time I’ve spent on the Oregon coast (and there have been plenty of rainy days since the Willamette Valley era).


The first evening of shooting I nearly came to blows with myself, barely staving off the primal temptation to smash my camera to smithereens on the rocks suffering as it is from two known major recalls (such little faith do I have in Nikon that I’ve chosen to work around the quirks) which have been getting in the way at the most aggravating of times and then making matters worse I got sloshed undangerously but quite rudely by the surf and stood there silently- very numb and not zen before retreating to a nearby cave for the tedious chore of eliminating the salty, translucent grimy brine from the front of my glass. Rialto Beach was still very much in my head and somehow, in the hullabaloo, my ISO got turned up a few too many notches. This would not have been cause for irritation if it weren’t for the grind of a six-stop neutral density filter parked on front of the lens for most of my shooting…….. akin to riding a bike up a steep hill while squeezing the handbrakes as hard as possible.

The noise from the unwittingly higher ISO ultimately left me feeling bitterly disappointed in my pictures but on the other hand the misty night air already held a certain gossamer quality to it. This one was at least fine for the web: Uncorrected distortion notwithstanding (I feel dizzy) hopefully you find something to like about this four second exposure from the first night. Windshield wipers would have come in handy, I ended up standing here because it was one of my few good options for being sideways and having the lens stay clean from salt-spray for at least one or two exposures. The little umbrella I brought along for protection (while the shutter was open) got busted inside-out after two minutes. Incidentally, that little squall touching down on the right horizon between the near and distant rocks was the preliminary furious blast of rain and it set off Jason’s Comedy Photography Routine. The distant offshore rocks are the ones that separate Chapman and Crescent beaches. The following evening was more rewarding despite continued trials of ineptituditity (the details of which I will not burden the reader) because at least I could turn around and spy the boys having barrels of fun and so there was the feeling of accomplishment even if I was mostly perching on the rocks like an injured puffin.

It felt unusually nice back in town, cozy in the little round house overlooking Elk Creek and by the fireplace with a book and sweets (various concoctions melding flavors of peanut butter and chocolate) from Bruce’s Candy Kitchen. The boys played games, did puzzles and watched movies like Swiss Family Robinson. During the times when it did not rain, we walked on Cannon Beach proper. One morning, we met a blind pug named Blazer who was rescued from a farm where terrible neglect reigned.  Speaking of which, a few days ago I finally emptied Lucy’s water dish and added it to the supply of dog things piling up by the washing machine and then another morning Adam and I took possession of her ashes from the animal hospital. Fourteen cute and silly years she was part of the family and we couldn’t bury her in the yard like I always figured- but heck if she was gonna end up anyplace but home so we had her cremated.  We didn’t really know the people at the vet’s office but they were gracious. Lucy always went to the place on 15th Avenue East but the kindly doctor there lost her lease on the building in favor of a cannabis shop. Every time I drive past the place a picture sort of forms in my head of cats and dogs on the other side of the rainbow bridge getting high on afterlife.

counting ladybugs with a hairy sasquatch at guillemot cove

The eastern shore of Hood Canal on a beach speckled with Pacific oysters is a good place to spend a Sunday afternoon, the Olympic Mountains loomed a mile away to the west. By evening, incoming tide forced a gradual retreat from the boys’ fort in the tangled branches of a fallen madrone and so we moved to the mouth of Boyce Creek where they played for some time. Unbeknownst to me, Adam would smuggle home several pounds of empty oyster shells in his backpack, I discovered them last night after the smell began leaching out very slowly like a faulty nuclear reactor. The odor: It was more offensive than if you imagine Sasquatch is real and has a problem dribbling pee on himself (the shagginess and whatnot) and the whole matted, knotty uriney mess is fouled by his own rotten saliva (having recently savored left-over entrails of a diseased cougar) after an unsuccessful spit bath on himself for the purposes of disentangling a chaotic chunk of crusty braids. Adam is harboring artisanal notions of barnacle-encrusted oyster shell jewelry and he explained to me how the fluted shells could hold photographs and precious stones although the wearer of such rather large pieces may contend with attacks from aggressive gulls.


Before setting out for the trailhead (on a hill high above) at sunset, at our urging Adam abandoned the wayward oyster trap you see him wearing here after it swung around for the umpteenth time and smacked him in the kisser (he kept forgetting he was wearing a trap when stooping down for interesting rocks and shells).  It was an unwieldy beast which I found earlier but bequeathed back to mother nature in order to avoid contracting Mad Shellfish Disease (just wasn’t in the mood for gross briny stuff). As a consolation prize, Adam kept the floats……

A bit more terrestrially-speaking: Slipping into Elliott Bay Bookstore on Saturday afternoon for just a spell before an engagement, Adam and I hoped to find some sort of reference for the flight simulation program we’ve started working with but we came up empty.  I did leave with a copy of Paula Becker’s Looking for Betty MacDonald: The Egg, The Plague, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and I. We shortcut across Cal Anderson Park, observing scruffy, radical skateboarders on the tennis courts taking meticulously choreographed iPhone videos of each other in various stunts whereafter we cut a diagonal course for 15th Avenue East and I dropped Adam off for a friend’s birthday party.  On the trudge home, I stopped at fancy Ada’s Technical Books which feels as sterile to me as the day it opened but nevertheless has become a popular gathering place for millennials and their laptops.

Finally, if you will allow me to vent insectorial matters of recent frustration: I stopped counting ladybugs into the bug-collecting jar the other day at number 27, all in one south-facing bedroom window. Egads! At night most of them tuck into the cracks of our drafty double-hung windows for bedtime and dream about springtime buffets of aphids but there’s always at least one renegade who gets overly excited after my reading lamp has been on for a spell, occasionally pinging me in the side of the head while twirling in small circles like a Dutch swing and extremely beneficial critters though they may be- our guests have sort of turned into the lazy couch surfer friend who leaves gobs of peanut butter in the jam jar and takes half-hour showers. One morning, I slid out of bed and noticed I’d fallen asleep on a ladybug and a moment later it slow-crawled away and when I came back it was perched on the bed post like it wanted to get my attention and I felt a little like Horton the elephant and transported the little speck but I can’t do that for all of ’em……..

security blankets

This coastal image comes several hundred miles to the south from a little town on the Oregon coast we like to visit a couple times annually, usually in the wintertime and early spring.  We often splurge and rent the same place right on the beach so if bad weather beats us back we can press our noses to the windows and shiver in triumph at the rain. In order to find some peace and quiet from all the Portland day-trippers, it will necessarily behoove one to sneak off and I’ll admit that daring adventures have taken place in the gap at the toe of the distant headland, over the years. However, typically it is necessary to go up-and-over and one must take care to not slip in elk dung on the way down.

Adam and I explored for miles to this point, crossing four distinct beaches, a swift creek, the lush evergreen headland where false lily of the valley was probably invented and then some tide pools to finally arrive at a colorful-but-foul purplish kaleidoscope of slime and moosh: Velella velella (by-the-wind sailors).  Several days prior, Oliver Fern had an apoplectic fit the first time he inadvertently stepped into a mushy pile of this jellyfish-like creature while barefoot.  It’s distinctly possible this particular unusually massive die-off of Velella had something to do with the warm blob of water that was parked stubbornly off the Pacific coast at the time. Lord knows, there has been plenty of depressing weirdness going on in the oceans these days. Continued, very close monitoring of our world waterways is more critical than ever if we have any chance of figuring our asses out from our elbows (before the entire food chain collapses would be a good goal) which is why I grieve moreso everyday at the cavalier charlatan standing at the helm of the United States along with his various superrich oligarch appointees, collectively stunningly belligerent to good science or environmental stewardship that extends beyond useless, corporate day-of-caring sort of baloney. If I were a fish, I would head for the bottom (evoluting into something bizarre such as with a little lantern perched on my forehead, no doubt) and just stay there with the tube worms.


In other more polite news: Seattle was blanketed with snow earlier this week. Snow Day!!!! Er, for some of us: The boys’ mother dusted off her snow boots, backpack and trekked to the train station in the dark of early morn. Adam and Oliver Fern slept in: Upon waking and blinking with shock at the storybook whiteness outside they bull-rushed their way past me to the closet for snow pants, gloves, balaclavas, scarves, hooded parkas……. they seemed to think we were venturing out onto the icy Pole in search of The Thing so I had to start ’em over.  The morning was delicate and a bit tricky- little brother was recovering from pneumonia. I was relieved after a half dozen trips up and down our hill (one of the steepest streets in the city) for sledding- all that slippery trudging lowered his enthusiasm a few notches.  We chucked a few snowballs and he was ready for hot cocoa. It’s true he occasionally soured and grimaced askance at the picture window in the living room when he caught glimpses of Adam zooming down into the valley but for the most part we were cozy and happy to be inside.

After sledding on his own for an hour, Adam picked up the fellytone and called his pal down the street who had enough of his big sisters and brought a few friends with him up the hill and I was shocked at how fast the kids were negotiating the hill. I made Adam put on a bike helmet. He and his posse of fellow bespectacled nerdy nine year olds got chilled and they disappeared to the warmth of someone’s house in Montlake for the rest of the day. He would resurface in the evening. Oliver and I had ventured out for a walk to check on the neighborhood when Adam appeared out of the fog like a ghostly apparition, albeit one with the unmistakable glaze of tired satisfaction- along with pizza sauce, cookie crumbs and God knows-what-other junk food consumed in ridiculous quantities- plastered across his face.

postscript: I’m retroactively publishing this tepid commentary about oceanic crisis and unsafe urban sledding, only patches of snow remain. We’re reeling a little. The night of the snow day was our last walk with Lucy the pug.  Born fourteen years ago in St. Helens, Oregon, she died this week very unexpectedly.  Lucy was one of the sweetest, friendliest dogs you could ever hope to meet. I’ll look forward to sharing a little ditty about her later when it becomes easier to focus on wonderful memories instead of the horrible empty space.  In the meantime, Adam won’t let me wash her filthy, stained quilt. All of us have always groaned about how disgusting it is there in the living room for anyone to see, God forbid you would touch it by accident and contract Pug Leprosy. Now Adam’s using it as a sort of throw on his bed for nighttime. This morning, a severely mentally-ill homeless fellow with a reddish beard and battered, white construction helmet stood in our driveway for ten minutes profanely telling the world off……fuck this, fuck that, fuck everything. I even heard him tell Donald Trump to fuck off (he wasn’t completely out of his mind, then).  Whenever I witness someone so profoundly disturbed, I can’t help thinking about what their life was like when they were five, ten or fifteen years old and I just weep inside. And this is the thing I dislike about snow days: That temporary, very sober period which follows when the snow melts and everything suddenly loses its brightness.

a brief account (or perhaps a tale of friendly caution, if you will) of how our journey to Hole in the Wall is rudely interrupted as i am cast to the ground by the sea like a sort of mangy rag doll which has floated to the pacific northwest from a faraway land

Last Saturday, the exploding surf was as high on the beach at Rialto as I’ve had a chance to see in some time and the obstacle course of tangled, skeletal driftwood was getting more and more complicated for Oliver Fern’s short legs and it was getting close to lunchtime so we decided to stop for a couple hours to admire the hissing and rumbling and let the boys’ imagination run wild amidst nooks and crannies. We were on a gravel, forested bench- scattered, gnarled spruce and fir around us with a most excellent view of the surf and yet it was higher ground with mini bus-sized driftwood piled up in front of us that hadn’t gone anyplace for awhile so we had a reassuring bulkhead. Still, every few minutes: Cold, wet lightning struck in the form of biggie waves splashing over our barrier and we collectively flinched and shuddered and nervously laughed. The boys’ mother and I reminded them over and over: Stay vigilant, stay alert…. be wary of the surf. Never keep your back turned for too long. Get away fast if you see anything bigger than yourself getting washed ashore. Know where your exit is. Keep an eye out for sea glass.

So I was thoroughly thunderstruck after getting blindsided by icy surf while standing higher than I am tall, atop an enormous cedar which constituted the superior portion of our bulkhead. Absorbed with the breathtakingness in my viewfinder (James Island, plus I was trying to position an infuriatingly uncooperative gull in a better spot for my frame) little old me got walloped and the bird watched me take momentary leave of common sense: Leaping into the air like a worn-out salmon desperate for a final homecoming (run for the trees) so far did I fall it felt like sky-diving except for landing flat on my face in a gruel of rolling, miniature cobbles and splintered branches which absorbed much of the impact (along with the salty backwash).


The boys stood transfixed as if they’d just witnessed the Goodyear blimp executing a landing on the beach. I moaned and dragged myself to our gravel bench, lay completely still on my back for a spell and delicately reviewed the important pain centers of the body to gauge short-term consequences. Miraculously, other than the nasty jolt of a landing and the vicious knot in my upper back that lasted for several hours, I was spared damage to either wreckage of my shoulders. The contusion on my knee was the least of my concerns.

My boys are such sweethearts, it took comedic theatrics but they helped me overcome the stark gloominess I felt at my carelessness: Acting out a variety of hilarious, faux injurious falls they forced me to laugh at myself but what made me feel that not all had been lost was the stern lecture I received from the boys about following my own gosh darn advice. After cheering me up, they went back to playing on the gravel bench with their mother while I shambled away for a circuitous trek to the trailhead for a desperately-needed change of clothes. After all that backtracking but mostly because of the madness of pulling off wet, heavy jeans and underwear in the front seat of our station wagon like a wounded sea lion with its flippers tied behind its back, I was chastened for the rest of the day. By the way, in case you’re wondering- the camera emerged unscathed in the fall except for wetness and some scrapes on the lens body (glass okay).

Later in the day, the surf finally began the imperceptible withdrawing for evening tide and so big brother ventured with me to Hole in the Wall. Somewhere after Ellen Creek I took this picture. Adam sang himself silly while devouring half a bag of Sour Patches but as I had compromised most of my moral authority earlier in the day I could only sigh to myself in silent dismay about battle-picking. The unceasing, never-ending hopping through the Driftwood Labyrinth of Insanity to our prize destination might have burned into my brain for the rest of the evening like a Tetris binge but we took plenty of time gazing atop a small headland with nice views and the walk back was easy-peasy on that dark cobble of Rialto which I love so much.