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A long, hard week (and it is only half over!) called for a long walk with a girlfriend tonight, a late dinner, and no time to catch up on this blog.

Just a little playing with filters before I tumble into bed.

A cannon at Gettysburg, coupled with dreams of vacation.

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Getting Back Into the Swing…

Saturday night late, I arrived home from my cross country flight from Atlanta.  I kicked off my 2018 travels by spending a week there and had a wonderful time. The flight home was good; I watched three movies (hey, that’s a long flight!) and got up at least a half a dozen times to let my row mates out to go to the bathroom, over and over and over…  Note to travelers: if other people are already getting up, go to the bathroom.  Just go.  Don’t wait until 30 minutes later!

My favorite moment was after we landed, when Ms. Window Seat informed Mr. Middle Seat that we had a smooth non-turbulent flight because the captain diverted us south to avoid the Rockies…  I laughed out loud!  But I held my tongue and refrained from pointing out that there was not a cost effective flight path from Atlanta to the Pacific Northwest that could go far enough south to avoid the Rockies…  Me thinks that Ms. Window Seat failed Geography…

Of course, with the time change, I was awake at 6:45 Sunday after not going to bed until close to 1 am Saturday night.  Can I go back to sleep or take a nap though?  NO!  I am the world’s worst sleeper…  Until my body decides I have had enough and then I can sleep through a 777 taking off, a home invasion of the house next door (with shots fired and police searching my yard with dogs and floodlights), or The Ramones in an outdoor amphitheater concert (all true stories by the way…)

So instead of napping, I went for a 5 mile walk with a girlfriend, walked to the grocery store for some basics (read: wine – and totally other stuff too!) and did enough yard work to get me 20,000 steps for the day, along with a complete and utter exhaustion…

I need to get my next vacation planned!

 

Whidbey Half-Marathon 2017 Weekend

Last winter, I signed up for my ninth half-marathon, the Whidbey Island Half!  It was April 23, 2017. 
 
There was just this one little issue that came up: I was fighting one of the worst colds I have had in a while.  I had been completely down for the count the weekend before.  Like the kind of sick where you are awake for less than 2 hours and you already are in dire need of a 3 hour nap…  In fact, my only outing the weekend before the half-marathon had been to venture out for a very slow stroll around the tulip fields for a few hours, which had completely wiped me out and sent me back to bed… 
 
During the week I was feeling a little better, so I decided to still try to do the race, knowing I could just take it easy.  I didn’t need to run much, or at all, if I still wasn’t feeling up to it.  Katie, Shelley and I all met up at the expo, then headed off for a girls’ weekend excursion in scenic Coupeville, Washington.
 
We checked into our accommodations, the Wisteria Cottage at The Inn at Penn Cove.  It was a very reasonably priced option for Coupeville, where most of the lodgings are Bed and Breakfasts.  Most of the hotels in Oak Harbor were either booked, or had jacked up their rates for the marathon weekend.  The Inn at Penn Cove is also a historic house and cottage, consisting of the Jacob Jenne house built in 1889, and the doctor’s office turned cottage where we were staying, which is also historic (sadly I don’t know when it was built – trust me, it was old!). 

The Wisteria Cottage at the Inn at Penn Cove

Katie was convinced our cottage was haunted.  So haunted in fact that we had to drag the futon into the main room, because she didn’t want anyone sleeping in that bedroom alone…  The proprietors are warm and welcoming, giving us a rundown of the quirks of the place, and even letting us know that it was no problem at all to have a very late checkout so we could go back to the cottage for showers after the race.  And in case you were wondering, no, we didn’t see any ghosts…  However, the drawers in that bedroom wouldn’t stay closed – was it due to the fact that the floor was sloped, or something supernatural?!  You decide…
 
After getting our lodgings squared away, we poked around in some of the shops in the historic downtown area, and enjoyed a wine tasting at the Vail Wine Shop, where we chatted and laughed and enjoyed ourselves. 
After that, we enjoyed the lowering sun and the remaining afternoon while we waited for the Front Street Grill to have a table ready for us for dinner.  I love spending time with my girlfriends, and we thoroughly enjoyed the quiet afternoon relaxing.

We had a water view table at the Front Street Grill, and I had the Saffron Mussels and a beer sampler.  So delicious!

Katie and my beer samplers at the Front Street Grill

I had a wonderful day, despite my continuing fatigue…  After dinner we headed back to the cottage to turn in early.  We had some calorie burning to do in the morning!

 

Book Review: The Goldfinch

I was drawn to The Goldfinch because I had seen the painting once, in real life, on loan to the de Young Museum in San Francisco; an exhibit of the works of the Dutch Masters.  It was painted by Carel Fabritius, a Delft master painter who was a pupil of Rembrandt and a teacher of Vermeer (Girl with a Pearl Earring).  He died tragically in the Delft gunpowder magazine explosion in 1654 at only 32 years of age. Only about a dozen of his paintings survive.  The Goldfinch is exquisite; photographs really don’t do it justice.  It immediately became one of my all-time favorite paintings.

The Goldfinch – Carel Fabritius – 1654

So when I saw The Goldfinch novel, by Donna Tartt, on the library website, I checked it out without knowing what it was about.

Shortly after I started it, I went for a walk with a couple of friends; books are a topic that often comes up.  After I said what I was reading, one friend told me that her book club had tried reading The Goldfinch and had all quit, frustrated and disappointed.  They couldn’t get into it.

I kept going, and found myself drawn into the story of a young teenage boy, whose mother takes him to see the exhibits at the Met in New York City, and The Goldfinch is among those paintings.  What follows is an intriguing coming of age tale of art theft, drug addiction, grief, finding family, international crime and the Russian mafia.  The novel follows a circuitous route of the life of Theodore Decker as he learns to navigate in the world.  In an often bizarre twist of fate, the painting is his anchor.

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

You will likely either love it or hate it; I think this is a book where there is no in between.  I am in the former camp.  The novel held my interest, despite its length, and the ending has one of the best summations on life that I have read.  Enjoy.

 

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park History

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was established on August 1, 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson.  It was the 11th National Park established in the U.S., and the first in a U.S. territory. It contains and protects two active volcanoes: Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s largest shield volcano.  A shield volcano is one built almost entirely of fluid lava flows, and is usually lower to the ground than other types of volcanoes with gentle slopes; it is said to look like a warrior’s shield.

The park today consists of 323,431 acres (505.36 sq mi) of land, with more than 50 percent designated as the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes Wilderness area.  In 2004, an additional 115,788 acres of land were purchased through a partnership with the Nature Conservancy and added to the park, making it 56% larger than its original boundaries.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Historically, Kīlauea and the Halemaʻumaʻu caldera with it are considered by the Hawaiian people to be the sacred home of the volcano goddess Pele, and Hawaiians visited the crater to offer gifts to the goddess.  In 1790, a party of Hawaiian warriors (along with women and children) were in the area, and were killed in a violent and fast-moving eruption. Many of the Hawaiians killed and others left footprints in the lava that can still be seen today.

The first western visitors to the site arrived in 1823, and the volcanoes became a tourist attraction in the 1840s.  Several hotels and restaurants were built along the rim of the volcanoes to accommodate the tourists traveling there.  Now, Volcano House is the only hotel within the borders of the national park.

The park has an easily accessible lava tube that was named for the Thurston family, a family that was influential in the designation of the park as a National Park.  It is open and can be walked through, with only a short, paved walk to reach it.

There are also amazing hiking and camping opportunities – how often do you get to hike and camp on lava!  The park ranges in elevation from sea level to the summit of the active volcano Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet.  From ocean views all the way up to stunning and violent lava flows!  The climates in the park range from tropical rain forest, to a desert landscape.  I was consistently surprised by the range of climate and bio-diversity that I saw on my trip to Hawaiʻi.

There are also a couple of scenic drives, giving visitors amazing views of the volcanic craters and the ocean.  The Chain of Craters Road takes you past several craters from historic eruptions to the coast. However, some of the road has now been covered by more recent lava flows.  The landscape here is always changing.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and a World Heritage Site in 1987, designations that recognize its beauty and importance in nature.

It was a brief visit, and I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked, but I will share my visit in my next post!

Merry Christmas

The tradition of releasing Chinese paper lanterns is mysterious, but scholars generally agree that the first paper lanterns were created and launched about 2,000 years ago. They gradually became part of a festival tradition, and people write wishes on the lantern before lighting them and releasing them into the sky, where they float for a few minutes before burning out and returning to the ground.

I spent Independence Day weekend this year down at the Hood Canal with friends and we released our paper lanterns into the sky after dark one evening.  I can’t tell you what my wish was, as I’m still waiting for it to come true…

This photo of my friend Brandon releasing a lantern is one of my favorite photos of the year.  It reminds me of my new beginning; my chance to this time have my wishes come true.

To you and yours, Merry Christmas.