More Snow

February 11, 2019

As I write this email, big fat snowflakes are coming down again on Seattle. Makes me wonder about tomorrow’s downtown commute.  Remember, Seattle has hills and more hills, and navigating those hills with sheets of ice is quite dangerous.

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But on the fun side of Snowy Seattle, here are a few photos from today’s walk around Green Lake.  The lake is starting to freeze over.  You can see thin sheets of ice in some of my photos below.  I thought to do a Dog Fashion Show Photo Shoot because I saw so many cute dogs wearing coats, hoodies, knit snow pants, and other adorable fashion statements, all in vivid colors…maybe next time.

Silhouette: Early morning hummingbird visit outside our window. The hummingbirds are hungry and we have to make sure their food (sugary syrup) doesn’t freeze!

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Cloud Reflections on Icy Green Lake:

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Adorable Westie named Mikie!  Check out his coat!

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Seattle Snow

February 9, 2019

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Yes, we got snow!  And more snow coming our way tomorrow and next week.  It’s beautiful and I feel so lucky to live right across from Green Lake.  Just outside our window, I see people skiing along Green Lake’s outer and inner trails on cross-country skis, kids on sleds, dogs wearing dog coats and sniffing the snow, and adults happily walking around.

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Here is our Honda covered in snow:

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Rick and I went out early this morning to enjoy the hushed beauty of the fresh snowfall.  Already, people were out skiing and walking around the lake!

I’d say the downside of such a rare heavy snowfall is that we have a hard time driving around.  All it takes is two inches of snow and the city shuts down or operates at low capacity.  The reason for this is because Seattle is surrounded by hills. Melted snow freezes into ice overnight and the combination of ice and hills is treacherous indeed!  Furthermore, since we rarely get much snow, the city has a limited number of snow plows and only major roads are cleared. It is also unusual for the city to salt the roads because it is bad for the environment (the city uses sand on icy roads), so slippery surfaces come with the snow.

I was looking forward to leading my annual two-day February workshop this weekend east of the mountains, but we had to cancel due to this winter storm.  Here in Seattle, the snow upsets our work schedules and, rather than drive, commuters take city buses. The city buses have chains on their tires, drive on snow routes, and the buses are so crowded that there is standing room only for many of us.

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The upside is the sheer beauty of the snow!  As you can see from these photos, the snow makes way for a photographer’s dream.

Three views of Snow Crow:

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Definitely no swimming at Green Lake for a while:

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Fishing dock:

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Rick, the birthday man of the day, got a blanket of snow from Mother Nature!  He says this is the first time it has ever snowed in Seattle on his birthday:

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More snow is expected to come our way and the temperature is at a freezing point in Seattle. Some areas got over 12 inches of snow.  It is 32 degrees at the moment. One might ask, “Is this the most snow Seattle has ever had?”  No, definitely not, but it is unusual.  On average, we get about five inches of snow every winter season.  There are some years when we have no snow in the city.  Records show that the greatest snowfall in one day in Seattle was on February 2, 1916, when 21.5 inches covered the city.

The 1916 Seattle record snowfall almost sounds like the Great Blizzard of January 1978 that hit the Great Lakes region (Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio got hit the worst), including my hometown Merrillville, Indiana, and dumped over 20 inches of snow on top of the previous 5 inches already on the ground.  The blizzard was accompanied by winds that made snowdrifts that covered houses and brought temperatures to well below freezing!  I was a teen and had cabin fever because we were all stuck in the house for about a week.  At the end of Week One, I was feeling very housebound. My childhood friend Simone came by my house in a van driven by her new and odd boyfriend, Pico.  Reluctantly and totally out of character, my parents gave me permission to go out for a “drive” with my friend and her new boyfriend.

Pico decided it would be cool to drive over to Lake Michigan.  So off to Lake Michigan we went.  He drove his van very close to the frozen edge of the lake.  Not a soul could be seen in any direction. Winds howled around us. “Hey, let’s walk on the lake! It’s totally frozen over.”  Against my better judgement, I bundled up and off we went.  Brilliant Pico kept the van running so it would be nice and warm upon our return.  As I walked, I could barely see anything because the wind was whipping fiercely and tears were running down my face.  My lungs burned from the frigid temperature.  We slipped and slid on the frozen waves, at first giddy with laughter.  But within minutes, a deep panic set in!  We were only about thirty-five feet from the van and I said, “We have to go back to the VAN now!”  No one questioned me. Somehow, we made it back to the van just in time.  Our hands and feet, even though we wore warm mittens and heavy boots, were showing signs of frostbite.  A deep throbbing pain set in as our hands and feet defrosted in the warmth of the van.  Simone cried because her fingers hurt so badly. I refused to cry.  I was, instead, angry at myself for going on this death-wish of an outing. We could have run out of gas or we could have locked ourselves out of the van because the keys were in the van with the engine running.  These sobering thoughts kept me sharp and made my sixteen-year-old-brain think more clearly about the idea of “safe adventures”.

So, you see how the snowfall brings back memories of days gone by!  When we first woke up this morning, both Rick and I immediately thought about our cat, Little Bear, who died March 2012. We had him for almost 18 years and he so loved the snow! And we loved him more than I ever thought it possible to love a furry being. I guess that’s why his little spirit came to mind today.

And back to the pristine beauty of snow at Green Lake:

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Silverswords and Moonlight

January 23, 2019

I’ve been back from Maui for almost two weeks now.  My last blog post had a slideshow that didn’t post properly in everyone’s inbox.  Some got it, some didn’t!  The mysterious glitch produced an advertisement for skin tags!  What a disaster!  I will try to include the slideshow again at the end of this blog post. If instead of tropical paradise, you see an advertisement for skin tags, moles, warts, or men’s underwear, simply ignore.

One of the aspects I love about writing is that blogging and/or writing is a learning experience for me.  When I see unusual flora, for example, I can do a little research and share what I learn with you, my readers!  Below are four learning encounters I experienced in Maui.

SILVERSWORD

Haleakala Silversword (or ‘ahinahina as is their Hawaiian name) is an endemic plant.  It is found nowhere else in the world other than on the slopes of Haleakala on Maui.  It grows on volcanic soil and puts out a strong taproot so it can withstand high winds. The panel at the Halekala National Park had this to say about it:

Despite harsh conditions, ‘ahinahina can live up to fifty years. It flowers only once in a lifetime, then dies.  Its seeds, as many as 50,000 in a single flower stalk, dry out and are dispersed by the wind.

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The Haleakala Silversword relies on the native yellow-faced bee for cross pollination.  Alien yellow jackets and Argentine ants are preying on the pollinators, threatening the long-term survival of the ‘ahinahina.

The information panel at the park listed the exotic and gorgeous silversword as an “endangered” plant, but on line I read that the plant is “vulnerable”.  There is a world of difference between “endangered” and “vulnerable” when referring to the continuing existence of a plant or animal species. I hope what I read on line is true and that the information panel at Haleakala Crater is in need of being updated! Either way, there is a risk of losing this plant forever. If protected, I hope this plant can make a strong comeback and survive!

Apparently, once upon a time, Haleakala’s volcanic mountain sides were covered in silverswords.  A long ago traveler to the Haleakala Crater, Isabella Bird, wrote the following stunning-but-simple description of what she saw in 1890:

We came upon thousands of silverswords, their cold, frosted silver gleam making the hillside look like winter or moonlight.

This is from an information panel from Haleakala National Park:

‘Ahinahina is believed to have evolved from a California tarweed that arrived here (Maui) millions of years ago, perhaps hitchhiking on a bird.

When I think back on my experience of Haleakala, I still see the glimmer of the silverswords, its succulent spikes shining like pieces of aluminum foil reflecting sunlight.

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PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVERS

BIRDS!!  With the Hawaiian Islands being the most isolated land in the world, the closest neighboring land mass being 2467 miles away in California, it is astonishing to think that Pacific Golden Plovers fly past California, all the way to Alaska. In fact, Pacific Golden Plovers make an annual migration back and forth from Hawaii to Alaska.  That is a nonstop bird flight of 2,982.5 miles one way! I am clueless as to how the Pacific Golden Plover can make such a migration without stopping to rest, eat, or drink.  I kept thinking about them while on the flight back to Seattle.

Plovers are ideal subjects for this kind of research because they return to the same wintering territories every year, so scientists know exactly where to go to find a particular individual. “They’re so strongly site-faithful that we can predict where they will be with almost 100 per cent accuracy,” explains Johnson. “If they’re alive, it’s almost certain they will come back to the same place.”

On their spring flight northwards, the birds averaged 63 kilometers per hour and covered around 4800 kilometers in about three days. They made the return trip in around four days.

Plovers are well-known as fast flyers, and in this study some birds reached incredible speeds, presumably with the wind behind them – for example, the ground speeds of three individuals ranged from 167 to an exceptional 185 kilometers per hour.

A few facts about these Super-Birds:
  • The Pacific Golden Plover eats molluscs, insects, worms, crustaceans, lizards and is known to eat birds‘ eggs and small fish.
  • Breeding: The Pacific Golden Plover breeds in Alaska in June and July. The breeding habitat of Pacific golden plover is the Arctic tundra from northernmost Asia into western Alaska.
  • It nests on the ground in a dry open area.
  • A beautiful shorebird, the Pacific Golden-Plover breeds in western Alaska and Siberia and winters on islands across the Pacific Ocean, through southeast Asia, to northeastern Africa. It is uncommon in North America and is found breeding in Alaska and migrating/wintering in small numbers along the Pacific Coast.

EDDIE PU

Next I have the story of a native Hawaiian from Maui called Eddie Pu.  He was a legend on Maui and he often said of himself,  “I’m just a simple Hawaiian.”  This made me think of the Dalai Lama, who says in a similar fashion, “I am just a simple monk.”  Simple, but extraordinary!

“I wake each morning before sunrise and meditate to thank the land, to thank my ancestors for what they have given us.” -Eddie Pu

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(above: Jack on the Eddie Pu Trail)

I first learned who Eddie Pu was as we walked along a portion of the Eddie Pu Trail.  He was a park ranger, lifeguard for over twenty years, a man who meditated every morning and connected to the land and to his ancestors. It is said that when he was young, he had a dream in which his ancestors came to him and asked him to walk the ancient sacred trail that circumnavigates the island of Maui.  This trail is 211 miles long. It is the original shoreline trail used by the ancient people of Maui. It is overgrown and winds around the coast and is also known as the King’s Trail or the King’s Highway.  I was very impressed to hear that Kelley met him once and her parents knew him.  Eddie Pu passed away or, more aptly put, returned to his ancestors in 2012.

Eddie Pu was a legend, and earned the nickname, The Walking Man of Maui.

He was hired in 1972 as one of the first park rangers at ‘Ohe‘o Gulch, a series of pools and falls now part of Haleakala National Park. Over the years, he saved many lives, including those of the Saudi ambassador and his wife and son, who were swept out to sea. Pu dove into the waves and rescued them one by one, though he ended up in the hospital for several days. Later, the “simple Hawaiian” was flown to Washington to be thanked in person by President Ford. In the decades Pu stood guard at ‘Ohe‘o Gulch, where flash floods in the mountains catch seaside bathers unawares, no one drowned. Since he retired, seven people have died.

Imagine Eddie Pu walking on the strenuous trails in the hot sun, passing coves, black beaches, and sharp lava formations on his solo annual pilgrimage. I imagine him communing with the off-shore humpback whales and sea turtles from the trail.  I wonder what kind of shoes he wore?  And how did he survive the 211 mile solo annual spiritual trek with just a bag of dried fruit?  Where did he sleep? I wonder if locals took him in for the night? What an honor it would be to open up one’s home to this living link of the ancient Hawaiian culture.

Pu always walks the nearly 200 miles alone. “A spiritual walk to heal my soul,” he explains, and his secret route changes from year to year.

I really like the following camera story:

Pu has come across sacred ruins and even human remains. “I bring no camera, draw no map—these things must be left there and not disturbed,” he says. He tells a story about how on his first two trips, all the film he shot came out black. After the second trip, he dreamed he must go to the island of Moloka‘i. A young girl met him at the airport and said, “You follow me. My great-grandmother is waiting for you.” They came to a home where an old woman sat on a porch chair, rocking and laughing.

“Eddie Pu, you should throw away your camera,” the old woman said, still roaring in mirth. “Your film will never come out. Your mind, that is where you must store pictures, so our ancestors will not be disturbed.”

The following was written about Eddie Pu in 2005, when he was still alive. I was not surprised when I found out that Mr. Pu and I share the same birthday:

It is hard to guess Eddie Pu’s age. His long gray hair is pulled neatly back and kept in place by a ti-leaf headband to ward off headaches. In a few weeks, he tells me, he would set off with a towel, a walking stick, and a bag of dried fruit to do what he has done nearly every birthday for more than 25 years: Walk around Maui. On November 25, he turned 75.

SEA BURIAL

After a long walk one morning, we saw two long traditional Hawaiian canoes out at sea, moving quickly in tandem towards the beach. The canoes were decorated with large green leaves.  The rowers, both men and women, wore traditional sarongs and had wreaths wrapped around their heads. As they made their way from the sea towards the sandy beach, a large group of locals had gathered to welcome the rowers.

When we arrived at the site where they had pulled ashore, I introduced myself to one of the rowers and asked him as politely as I could about the ceremony taking place.  He was so kind.  He shook my hand and explained that a dear friend had “gone back to her ancestors” and that this was a traditional Hawaiian sea burial.  My guess would be that the deceased was a Harley rider because most people gathered on the beach wore their Harley leathers and chaps.  There were children standing near their parents and people were holding hands and hugging, comforting one another.  I fear that Stacey, for that was the name of the deceased woman, was most likely a young or middle aged woman who lost her life in a motorcycle accident.

Then the chanting started.  The leader would say a stanza of prayer in Hawaiian, ending the prayer stanza with Hui Hou Stacey.  When he said Hui Hou Stacey, the group of grievers would say it aloud in unison with the prayer leader.  It was so beautiful.  And like magic, calling out Hui Hou Stacey seemed to calm the masses.  I later learned that A Hui Hou means “Until We Meet Again”.

Until we meet again, Stacey.

I refused to take photos.  All the tourists on the beach gathered around the grievers and were clicking away.  I am sure it would have been fine to take a photo or two, but I was so moved by the ceremony and I just wanted to pray for this unknown Hawaiian woman whose community of loved ones had so deeply moved my heart.

After the prayers, all the grievers and the traditionally clad rowers carried the two large sea-going canoes out to sea.  I couldn’t believe I was an accidental participant in this sea burial.  I watched transfixed as the Hawaiian pallbearers carried the two canoes out to sea, canoes carrying the ashes of their loved one.  Then the grievers stood in the sea, as the waves lapped up around their legs, they silently watched the canoes swiftly row out to the sea.  Once far from shore, the rowing stopped. The canoes rocked in stillness.  People from ashore solemnly witnessed Stacey’s ashes returning to the sea.  The rower I spoke to at the start of the ceremony had told me, “She loved the sea and she will return to the sea today”.

Read more about Hawaiian sea burials.

VIDEO (3 minutes long)

Below is my three minute video from Maui.  The video is set to a song called Kolonahe, meaning From the Gentle Wind, by the artists Ku’i Lei Awapuhi  (vocals) and  Keola Beamer.  Thanks to Kelley for introducing me to this song! The song carries the rhythm of the island. It’s very soothing. Turn up your speakers!  If all else fails: click here to see the video

From the Gentle Wind

January 21, 2019

Hopefully the slideshow will come through the second time around?? -fg

I’ve been back from Maui for just over a week now, but I still think about the sound of the waves, the feel of warm sunshine on my skin, the palms swaying, and the freedom I felt while on vacation there.

Two more blogs about Maui coming your way soon, I hope!

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I put together the following Slideshow Video with my photos from Maui. It is only three minutes long.  The video is set to a song called Kolonahe, meaning From the Gentle Wind, by the artists Ku’i Lei Awapuhi (vocals) and Keola Beamer. Thanks to Kelley for introducing me to this song! The song carries the rhythm of the island and goes well with the photos. It’s very soothing. Turn up your speakers!

‘Twas Twain’s Maui

January 12, 2019

I’m back from Maui and my heart is happy to have traveled there. It was relaxing to bask in the sunshine, enjoy the warmth of the island, and marvel at the lava-red sunsets. I still have a few Maui blog posts to write and will write them and line them up for the next couple of days so you can travel vicariously with me! img_7310‘Twas Mark Twain whose heart was captured by the great beauty of Maui way back in 1866. Mark Twain was Missouri’s famed son. He was a quick-witted American writer, journalist, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, lecturer, silver miner, world traveler, popular public speaker, and keen observer of life.  One of the most influential American writers, he painted word-portraits of the world he lived in.  He was only 30 years old when he traveled to Maui, Oahu, and Hawai’i Island.  Clearly, he had a great time:

Twain hiked through Hawaii’s beauteous jungle. He surfed naked on a wooden surfboard. He rode horseback across the plains.

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When Twain visited Maui, the Hawaiian Islands were a full 93 years away from American statehood.  Hawai’i wasn’t even a US territory when Twain traveled there. It became US territory in 1898 and became the fiftieth state in 1959.  Back in 1866, the islands were known as the “Sandwich Islands”, so named in 1778 by Captain Cook after the man who sponsored Cook’s voyage, the Earl of Sandwich.

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Twain spent five weeks in Maui during an overall four-month visit on the Hawaiian Islands and for the rest of his life, he longed to return.   I had prepared the following excerpts before traveling to Maui, hoping to share them with my fellow traveling friends on the day we went to Haleakala Crater and National Park.  I thought the following Twain quotes would be inspirational because Twain climbed the same crater we were at and described it as the “sublimest spectacle” he had ever seen.  However, sharing what I had prepared was not to be while in Maui, so I am now sharing my selected excerpts from Mark Twain below, along with some of my photos.

On the trail: Haleakala Crater

Haleakala National Park: above the clouds at 10,023 ft (3055 m) above sea level.

“I went to Maui to stay a week and remained five. I never spent so pleasant a month before, or bade any place goodbye so regretfully. I have not once thought of business, or care or human toil or trouble or sorrow or weariness, and the memory of it will remain with me always.”

“The native language is soft and liquid and flexible and in every way efficient and satisfactory–till you get mad; then there you are; there isn’t anything in it to swear with,” he wrote.

No alien land in all the world has any deep, strong charm for me but that one; no other land could so longingly and beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done. Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same. For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf-beat in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore; its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud rack; I can feel the spirit of its wooded solitudes; I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.
– Samuel M. Clemens (Mark Twain), Paradise of the Pacific, April 1910

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This is the most magnificent, balmy atmosphere in the world–ought to take dead men out of grave. -quoted in Mark Twain in Hawaii

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Poet, Botanist, Birders, Librarians, and Educators

January 5, 2019

Poet, botanist, birders, librarians, and educators….Yes, that’s quite a line-up of front stage performers and they happen to be the company I am keeping in Maui!

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There are six of us exploring this green oasis of an island together. It’s an exciting group to be with. Everyone has his or her area of expertise and so our island time is also a great opportunity to learn from one another.

Randall is a botanist. From him, I am learning so much about trees and the lush flora around me. Sounds odd, but I had never heard the term “tree scar” until I heard it from him. Now the expression seems to be a common description, a part of being in the tree world. Below you have a great example of a tree scar I observed at Ahihi Bay. The lowermost fronds of this tree eventually die and new fronds grow above it. The dead fronds drop off and leave a scar in the tree. Tree scars create patterns and can be very beautiful like the cordate scar below. The tree was covered with this heart-shaped pattern.

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We went to the historic town of Lahaina yesterday. We took two cars and it was decided that when we arrived in Lahaina, we’d simply all meet at the Banyan Tree. I was secretly wondering how we would find the specific banyan tree rendez-vous. Really, I need not have been at all concerned about finding it. The banyan tree, our meeting point in Lahaina, is the largest banyan tree in the United States. This Banyan Tree was planted in 1873 and now covers an entire acre! It’s super hard to miss! And it is quite impressive.

The banyan tree spreads by way of aerial roots! The aerial roots grow thick and then eventually reach the ground. The original massive trunk is in the middle of the park and there are a total of 16 major trunks all belonging to the parent banyan tree. Below you can see a detail of the famed Banyan Tree.

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While roaming around Lahaina, the old whaling village which hit the height of its whaling boom in the mid 1800s, Rick and I went to the Plantation Museum. We also found a great bookstore and, thanks to Kelley and Jack, we discovered a beautiful art studio featuring the art of Vladimir Kush

Kush, a surrealist painter, sculptor, and jewelry maker, creates a metaphorical and mythical world filled with dragonflies, butterflies, ladders, water, trees, and human figures. His work seduces you to enter a creative, delightful, sometimes disturbing, always wondrous world of clouds, animals, eggs, embryonic forms, butterfly windmills, and banana hammocks.

While ambling about, Rick and I also found the historic Pioneer Hotel, now a Best Western. It’s been around since 1900 and overlooks Lahaina harbor and the Pacific Ocean. We sat in the quiet inner courtyard, enjoying the breezy shade and marveling at an antique seafaring canoe. Below is a detail from the carved masthead of the Hawaiian outrigger canoe displayed in the Pioneer Hotel courtyard. The photo captures one eye of a don’t-mess-with-me creature fearlessly facing the sea and leading the way.

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Below: a statue in front of the Pioneer Hotel. This fellow demonstrates how your ears and nose keep growing as you age.

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Our birder Kelley helped us identify birds at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge.  Kealia is the year-round home for two of Hawaii’s native and endangered waterbirds: the Hawaiian coot with its gorgeous white forehead and the Hawaiian stilt. We were fortunate to see both.

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The boardwalk was lined with great explanatory panels. This panel has a painting of a Hawaiian coot in the foreground.

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Beach alongside the Wildlife Refuge:

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After the wildlife refuge, we went to Iao Needle. There are no trails leading to the Iao Needle.  The photo was below was taken from an observatory deck.  The hike we went on led us along a river with boulders and swimming holes, rushing rapids, and lush vegetation. Below is from the information panels:

The traditional name for this 2,250 foot high peak is Kuka’emoku. The peak is known as the phallic stone of Kanaloa, Hawaiian god of the ocean.

During periods of warfare, the peak was used as a lookout by warriors. It was here that some of the Maui warriors retreated from the forces of Kamehameha I during the Battle of Kepaniwai.

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Maui Magic

January 5, 2019

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On our first full day here, we went snorkeling at Maluaka. It had been years since I last snorkeled. And that was back in Thailand.  So, when I entered the warm waters of Maluaka on Wednesday here on Maui, it took me a little while to get used to having a mask on and breathing into the little snorkel tube that juts up above the water.  Kelley led the way to the coral reefs.  Rick took off in a completely different direction.  Jack, thankfully, stayed close by me, until he was certain I felt comfortable using my snorkel equipment.  I’d say it took me about ten minutes to feel like the sea was my home and that the tube wasn’t going to fill up with water and cut off my oxygen supply.  Once I was confident, I entered a sea world where flying and swimming merge, where schools of colorful fish swim by, and where enormous sea turtles swim gracefully.

My buddy and protector of the day, Jack McHenry. Jack is also one of my dedicated blog readers. Mahalo, Jack!

The water here is calm and clear, making it easy to observe marine life.  How I wished I had an underwater camera.  But I don’t, so my memory will have to hold the vivid colors of the tropical fish and my words will have to suffice to share what I saw during the hour and a half snorkel experience.

I saw Angelfish, butterfly fish, trumpet fish, yellow tang, sea urchins, wrasse, and reef triggerfish in these coral gardens.  The most exciting for me was to see the giant sea turtles swimming by or to see them burrowing or hovering on the sea floor. I also saw and learned the Hawaiian name for the Rectangular Triggerfish, which is Hawaii’s State fish:  humuhumukunukunuapua’a!

Humuhumunukunukuapua’a: Hawaii’s state fish

And a sad word on the coral reefs at Maluaka: they didn’t look good.  I look back on my Thai experience of snorkeling along the coral reefs there and clearly remember that the coral was vibrant and very healthy.  That was a long time ago. Perhaps it has changed there, too?  The coral reefs I saw on Wednesday in the protected marine area were clearly dying.  Much of the coral dying has to do with climate change as well as human use of chemical sunscreens.  People going into the water are encouraged to wear water-shirts or zinc or titanium sunblocks instead of chemical sunscreens. Even in small amounts, chemical sunscreens are highly toxic to coral and fish. How I wish there could be a world wide ban on chemical sunscreens!

And so you don’t leave my blog in a complete state of coral-despair, the next day, Thursday (yesterday), we went to Ahihi Nature Preserve for more snorkeling. This time I chose not to snorkel and instead did a solo walk on a lava trail so that I could focus on taking some photos with my Leica. Meanwhile, the others in my group went snorkeling and reported that the coral at Ahihi Nature Preserve looks much healthier than what I saw in Maluaka the previous day.

And here are a few photos from my lava trail solo time.

I have to include a foot-foto. Perhaps this type of photo proves I really walked this beach of black lava stones.  And you can be sure that I took my shoe off just for the photo and put it back on before walking on this rougher-than-pumice stone lava beach.

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Lava and Coral Collage with Shell Fossil in Lava Stone:

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Black lava in the foreground:img_7044

How in the heck did a caper plant and flower (photographed below) make it to Maui all the way from the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria?l1410143

Here in Maui, I see tropical plants, in their natural environment, growing to be at least ten times larger than when grown as indoor houseplants back home.

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Interesting how this photo of my lava cairn looks like a black and white photo when it is not.

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I will never understand why people feel the urge to carve their names into trees.  Aina, don’t you see?  You’ll be the death of this tree?

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Sunglasses, Sunhat, Frangipani (or Plumeria as it is called here in Hawaii):

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Granola for the New Year

December 29, 2018

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It’s raining here in Ocean Shores. Been raining nonstop for some time now.  I bravely don my rain parka, tighten up the hood, and dash out to the garden to pick a variety of super greens (mustard greens, spinach, chard, kale, collards) to clean, steam, and make the spinach ball recipe as seen in my previous blog post.  These greens are the tough Super Heroes of the winter garden, standing bravely against the winds coming off the ocean, the relentless sheets of rain that fall sideways, the hail, and the onslaught of hungry moisture loving slugs. Here at the coast, until we get a deep frost sometime in late January, the greens grow tenaciously in the garden.

But this post is about GRANOLA.  And this post makes me think about a question I have.  What makes a recipe yours?  How many alterations later can you claim the recipe as your very own?  Since I am clueless on the subject, if you have any input, I’d love to hear your comments below.

I refuse to buy granola.  I find it is too sweet.  Store bought granola practically makes my teeth shiver from the cloying sugary morning kick it delivers.  I have collected many granola recipes and this one included here is my favorite.  The original recipe was given to me from my friend, Betty.  If Betty is looking at this recipe, she may ask herself if this is her recipe because I have altered it slightly.

This is the perfect batch to make for the new year!  Make it now and enjoy it through the first days of the new year. It lasts a good two weeks in a sealed container.

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Granola Recipe

5 Cups rolled oats
1 C unsweetened large shredded coconut flakes
1 C Wheat germ
1 C Walnuts
1 C Almonds (I use slivered almonds)
Sunflower Seeds (half cup) and Pumpkin Seeds (half cup)

2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
¾ C Vegetable Oil (I use Olive Oil!)
¾ C Honey and Maple Syrup (equal mixture of both)

Preheat 350 degree oven. Mix above ingredients together in BIG bowl. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Spread half the mixture on one sheet and the other half on the other sheet.
Bake, stirring @ 5-10 minute intervals in the beginning. Then in the last 10 mins. Stir every few minutes until brown (light)

IMPORTANT: I keep rotating the sheets every time I stir.  The sheet on the bottom rack moves to the top rack and the one on the top goes to the bottom.  Or you can just bake one sheet at a time and skip the rotations.
Careful on the last 10 minutes it can burn quickly.
Let it cool and store in a tight container.
Each batch takes +- 30 mins.

Serve with milk, almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk, or yogurt. Don’t forget to add your fresh fruits and dried fruits. Sliced bananas, chopped apples, raisins, and fresh blueberries are my favorite toppings.

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Winter Solstice 2018

December 22, 2018
Contrary to wanting to sit in stillness, I find myself rushing to post today’s writing.  My goal is to post this before the last rays of this short day recede beyond the horizon. Today, here in Ocean Shores, the sun will shine for only 8 hours and 25 seconds.
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Winter Solstice this year comes with the promise of a full moon, and a meteor shower later tonight.  But best of all is that, here at the coast, we have clear skies with a few billowy clouds and no light pollution.
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Winter Solstice is an invitation to slow down.  It is an invitation to listen, to be attentive, to savor what little light comes our way.  Winter Solstice is glancing out the window and admiring the Winter Trees.
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Winter Solstice is bundling up and taking a brisk walk. Winter Solstice is a bright burning fire in the wood stove and a cup of hot tea.
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I am including a poem, Winter Trees, by William Carlos Williams, as well as an anonymous poem, followed by some of my favorite winter solstice photos I’ve taken over the years.

Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

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From the reaches of the north,
a place of cold blue beauty,
comes to us the first winter storm.
Wind whipping, flakes flying,
the snow has fallen upon the earth,
keeping us close,
keeping us together,
wrapped up as everything sleeps
beneath a blanket of white.

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Biophilic Spheres

December 15, 2018

Over the course of a few years, I witnessed the jungle-like biodomes of Amazon’s headquarter campus emerge from the ground on Seventh and Lenora. I curiously observed the three spheres billowing out from the raindrop-splattered window of my bus.  I eavesdropped and heard my fellow bus riders-turned-critics unhappily refer to the spheres as Bezosballs“.  I giggled and googled.  Yes, I giggled at the critics’ comments.  And I googled turn-of-the-last-century black and white photographs of the old Denny Regrade, as seen from 7th and Lenora, fired my imagination, and marveled at this current transformation of Seattle.

For a long time, I resisted going inside the spheres.  I’m not a part of the Amazon world (or am I?) and questioned why I would want to visit this employee lounge and workspace.  To be honest, negative thoughts concerning Amazon’s monopolistic behaviors had me planting my feet firmly far from the spheres, not wanting to go there.  But finally I succumbed to my curiosity and stepped inside the biophilic spheres with my friend Anna. I’m so glad I did because only now can I fully appreciate these conservatories and workers’ green lounges in the heart of the Denny Regrade!

The spheres have meeting spaces and can seat a total of 800 people.  They are of biophilic design, meaning they incorporate nature into the built environment.

The three glass domes are covered in pentagonal hexecontahedron panels (see the shape below) and serve as an employee lounge and workspace. The architects looked for biologically inspired patterns.  I found this pattern motif to be incredibly fascinating!  If you look at each of the photos where you see architectural structure, you can see this pentagonal shape repeated again and again.

Biophilia is defined as follows:

Biophilia (according to a theory of the biologist E. O. Wilson) is an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world.

Biophilia is the theme running through the spheres. The word refers to the rich natural pleasure that comes from being surrounded by natural organisms.

Spheres: Origins

The Spheres are a place where Amazonians can think and work differently–surrounded by plants.  In their design, we were inspired by biophilia: the idea that humans possess an inherent love of nature and other life forms.  But what began as a concept for adding plants to the work place evolved over time into a lush botanical conservatory, home to thousands of tropical plants and trees. Today The Spheres offer nature immersion for its visitors working in the heart of the city.

The domes house 40,000 plants. The plants were not taken from the wild, but cultivated in various nurseries. The bulk of plants were cultivated in massive greenhouses on the Eastside.

Your Brain on Plants

We created The Spheres to give Amazonians a chance to refresh and restore themselves. Imagine a work conversation happening near a waterfall or a flowering wall of orchids.  Even short doses of nature have been proven to boost well-being. Immersed in greenery, we’re more relaxed and alert–we can think more creatively.

Much like a climbing vine or the veins of a leaf, we wanted The Spheres to be built of highly detailed, organic shapes. There are no corners in nature.

Smart Sustainability

Our new buildings in The Regrade, including The Spheres, are heated with recycled energy. This district energy system captures heat at a non-Amazon data center in the neighboring Westin Building Exchange and recycles that heat through underground water pipes instead of venting into the atmosphere.  Nearly four times more efficient than traditional heating, this innovation saves energy and makes long-term sense. Meanwhile, the energy we recover is enough to heat about 365 homes each year.

District Energy

How does the system work? Warm water from the Westin Building runs through underground pipes to a heat exchanger in the Amazon building, Doppler. From here, heat recovery chillers raise the temperature of the water, which is used to heat three campus buildings with two more planned for the future.

A note on “biophilic design”:

Last month, global report by Human Spaces into the impact of workplace design revealed that, “employees who work in environments with natural elements report a 15 per cent higher level of well being, are six per cent more productive and 15 per cent more creative overall”. Some call this ‘biophilic design’ – the introduction of natural elements into the built environment – but the term perhaps risks over-complicating something profoundly simple: people just feel better when they are closer to nature. And the office shouldn’t be an exception.

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