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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last-minute Gift Guide for the Serious Procrastinator

Forget the good intentions, folks. They won't help you now. Once again, we revive the time-honored tradition of "panic shopping," that seasonal adrenalin rush that keeps life so interesting. But never fear. I'm back, with a second installment of the official Good Life Northwest Gift Guide.

No standing in line at the post office, no watching for the U.P.S. truck, and no worries, with these instant gratification ideas. The chance to cross that last name off your gift list is only a few clicks or a phone call away.

1.) A MEMBERSHIP-- Who wouldn't love to learn they just received a year's membership for a gym, a museum, club, or any organization they have an interest in? So many times we put others first and don't indulge in these things that we could enjoy all year long.Here are a few of my favorite suggestions:

Sound Experience    You've read plenty of my blog posts about the 1913 schooner Adventuress, Puget Sound's own environmental ship. Membership has many benefits, but you could also simply make a gift purchase of a single sailing experience. Be sure to check out the options. A nice alternative to the same old boring gifts, and it all goes to help preserve this historic ship while educating the public.

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology I mentioned the lab's own gift suggestions in my gift guide post last week, but just take a look at their site in general and see all it has to offer. I've blogged about them many times and we're on a first name basis. Of course you can't go wrong with Audubon either. Both organizations' memberships include subscriptions to their outstanding magazines.

National Trust For Historic Preservation  Again, the magazine alone is worth the price. Your gift can help preserve our nation's history, much of which is threatened.

YMCA   Give someone the gift of a "Y" membership and you'll give them the gift of better health in the new year.

2.) TICKETS - Here's a great waste-free gift that gives the recipient something they might not indulge in for themselves. Take a look at the theater, special event, or travel options in your own home town. Here are a few ideas: a ride on a train, plane, or even a ferry boat, movie tickets, musical theater, comedy, a special exhibit or concert, or maybe even a lecture with a celebrity, like this one, that benefits Seattle's Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance.

Please click on the following links to my recent articles on University Place Patch for last minute gift, waste free gift solutions that help support the arts in Pierce County.

Shopping for Gifts in an Artful Way(Video)

Take in the Fun at "Joe's Diner"(Video)

3.) TIME - I'm not talking about a new watch folks. I'm talking about giving a gift of time, yours or theirs. It could be a homemade gift certificate for babysitting, errand running, handling chores, or maybe taking over for a few hours for someone who is a caregiver for an elderly parent or other family member who needs a constant presence. How about giving an unhurried phone call to a lonely person, maybe an older relative who would rather hear your voice and know you care than receive any material thing?

4.) YOUR LOVE - The most important gift of all never cost anyone a dime. And this last one, my friends, is what Christmas is all about.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good Life Northwest Holiday Gift Guide

The rainwater gurgles through the downspouts outside my window here in Tacoma on this dark night of Dec. 9, 2010. But here in my cozy office, what do I care? If you read my previous post, you know I'm happily home in the Northwest again and working on my promised list of gift ideas. You won't see these items in any newspaper insert or TV ad.

Here they are, in no particular order.

1. A RAIN BARREL   No joke. Check this one out. It's the gift that keeps on giving year 'round. I wrote a blog post about Dan Borba's rain barrels in 2009. Note: GUYS-- I wouldn't recommend this one for your wife or girl friend unless she has specifically requested one. It could definitely land you in "the doghouse." (However, maybe I should ask Dan himself how this gift goes over with the ladies. I've noticed that he's always smiling. Hmmmm...)AND THEY'RE ON SALE THROUGH THE END OF DECEMBER.

2. THE FYDDEYE GUIDE TO AMERICA'S MARITIME HISTORY by Joe Follansbee is  NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE for only $6.99. Here's a great gift for anyone, anywhere, with an interest in old ships, lighthouses, maritime museums, etc. across the nation. Perfect for people who like to explore the nation or for arm chair travelers. Read some online reviews, including mine, here.

3. A HAND-CRAFTED GIFT FROM "BEYOND THE BEACH"  Barry Crust, of University Place, Washington, makes one-of-a-kind walking sticks, canes, sculptures and birdhouses from Northwest woods, including driftwood. Here's my profile of him on University Place Patch. His original wood-burned designs accent his creations.

4. Anything, absolutely anything, from the PACIFIC NORTHWEST SHOP I love the way the owner, Bill Evans, supports Northwest artists, artisans, food producers, authors, musicians, and more by seeking out and choosing to carry the things they create. Delight everyone on your list. His mail order business is booming, even in our current economy, so order soon.

5. A TIBBE-LINE or two, or three. For those who want to live "green," here's a way to dry clothes, indoors or out, using hangers instead of a conventional clothesline and clothespins. It's perfect for RV owners, college kids, traveling by car, small apartments, and VERY reasonably priced. Here's my blog post about inventor Rose Marie Pacheco.

6. I don't want to say I've saved "the best for last" because these are all great ideas that I personally recommend, but if you know people who love birds (and that is most of us) be sure to see the exciting offerings in the CORNELL UNIVERSITY LAB OF ORNITHOLOGY "Gift Guide for Bird Lovers."  How about the world's only mobile application for locating birds? Or maybe you'll choose birding guides with digital birds songs built in, or an illustrated weekly planner.

There you have it, dear readers. I hope you have fun looking at these links and considering buying something different as you shop for gifts this year. Don't delay!

Thanks for reading. Please come back soon.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Missing Blogger Returns to the Northwest

Warning: If you prefer Arizona to Washington in the winter, you might want to click your way out of here before I accidentally offend you. Move slowly, aim your cursor toward that X in the corner of your screen, and no one will get hurt.

I don't mean to be rude. Some wonderful people live in Arizona, like those in my husband's family (with whom we spent Thanksgiving and about nine other days) and friends of ours who talk, talk, talk about going south in the winter. Traitors. Who is left to rake their wet leaves away from the storm drains while they are gone, to keep the street from flooding? And in this economy, do they really feel good, knowing some poor sucker who works in a windshield wiper blade factory might lose his job because they didn't need to buy new ones?

That's another thing I don't understand about people who move to Arizona: all they do is hope for RAIN! So why did they leave the Northwest in the first place? They moved away from the trees, and then, if they live in a part of the state where trees can actually grow, they plant some, only to worry about drought and fire danger. On the rare occasions when it does rain, they're excited. If you overhear two women bragging about how many inches they got the night before, don't blush. It is not what you think. But some things never change; they're probably exaggerating.

Okay, okay, so the sun shines there almost all the time and your aches and pains go away. Big deal. Do they have mushrooms ready to pick right outside the back door? An adequate supply of oxygen available at a reasonable altitude? Good seafood? Ferns? Moss? Umbrellas in every color you could ever want? I think not! Not only that, people get more wrinkles. And I'll take slugs and slippery leaves in my back yard over wild pigs, rattlers, tarantulas, and scorpions any time.

When we returned to Washington, I wanted to kiss the ground. And I would have, except that I didn't want mud on my face. What I did do was take a long, deep breath of moist marine air. I could feel my lungs heave a sigh, and my parched skin plumped up like Mom's stewed prunes. My hair curled  into ringlets again, the "frizzies" springing back to life like magic. Oh, how welcome would be the sound of a seagull, a fog horn, or a ferry boat whistle, and the taste of clam chowder.

A neighbor picked us up at Sea-Tac Airport. As she drove Interstate 5 back home to Tacoma, I closed my eyes in peace, just relaxing and listening to her talk about a storm that came through while we were gone and how it broke off tree branches that, of course, we didn't need anyway since we have so many. As background music to her voice, there came the familiar hiss of drenching road spray from the tires of a monstrous truck speeding by in the lane next to us. Ahhh... home sweet home. Did you miss me?


One of the best things about being back is writing blog posts for Good Life Northwest again. In addition to this site, look for my feature stories and arts column on University Place Patch too. And don't miss the official
Good Life Northwest Gift Guide, coming on Friday, Dec. 10, 2010. I guarantee that these aren't your everyday ideas. See you then. And by the way, Arizona lovers, I was just kidding. Sort of.

Text and photo Copyright 2010 Candace J. Brown

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A busy week in mid-November--1939 and now.

November still offers beauty in my yard.
When I sat down to write this blog post I saw two books on my desk: my father's 1939 diary and my beloved, dog-eared dictionary. How ironic that, instead of getting to work on my writing, I would waste the time I have too little of by thumbing through the dictionary to look up the word "busy." It isn't as though I don't already know what it means. 

Maybe I needed to focus on the word I would use as my excuse for not producing a post for eight days. The dictionary provided  these definitions relating to my busy week: "engaged in action," "full of activity," and "full of distracting details." That sounded right, but it would take opening the diary to put everything into perspective. 

I'm not complaining. My life here in Tacoma overflows with people and activities that interest and excite me. During the past eight days I attended a writers' event in Seattle as well as the Arts Symposium sponsored by the Tacoma Arts Commission, and did two interesting interviews for articles. I even had the experience of being in the Blue Mouse Theater when the power went out during Monday night's big wind storm

I enjoy my life, my husband, socializing when I can, my dozens of projects, and of course, writing. But sometimes I still feel overwhelmed with all the things that keep me so busy that I've tried unsuccessfully for months to meet a special lifelong friend for lunch. It's November and another year is almost gone. I need to think more about what really matters, like seeing my friend.

By reading Dad's words, I realize the difference between a life where busy means hectic and one where busy meant the kind of hard work required just to live, but balanced with many simple joys. In my parents' generation, people did a lot of hard physical work, but I think they maintained more balance in their lives. Here are some excerpts from Dad's diary during this week in November 1939, when he drove a freight truck from Vashon Island to both Seattle and Tacoma, sometimes both during the same day, to support his wife and two young sons.

Dad circa 1939
Sun. Clear and sunny most of the day. I worked all day repairing and painting the truck body. Rosalie did her washing this afternoon.(They didn't have an automatic washer back then, and drying took place on the clothesline, IF the weather cooperated. It was a chore that could take up most of a day, worthy of mention in a diary.)

Mon. Last night at 11:45PM we had quite a hard earthquake. Some damage was done in most Western Washington towns. The European war threatens to break out in earnest at any time now.

Tue. A very bad day. I clipped a curb in town (meaning in Tacoma, during his freight truck route) and cut a big gash in one of my rear tires. Forgot my lunch pail. Got a dent in my front fenders hauling wood. What a day. What a day.

Wed. A beautiful, bright Fall day. Max and I loaded an ice cream cabinet at Robbins store this P.M. 790 lbs. Danny is right up to par again.(His two-year-old son had been sick.) Hauled four heifers on one load for Ed Lande today. (Lande owned a dairy on the island.)

Thurs. Had quite a row over the price of hauling the cabinet. We practiced the second degree at lodge this evening. Played cards till after eleven o'clock. Rainy tonight.

Mom and son "Danny"
Fri. An Acme transfer truck dented my right fender in the alley back of Fisher Co. this A.M. I don't know how I'll come out on it.

Sat.Brought Dad's big truck over so I can use it tomorrow for a moving job. We went for a ride after supper this evening. Dad and Mom went to the show. Beautiful night.

My parents' diaries from those early years of their marriage are full of descriptions of exhausting physical labor and tedious household chores. But while they had very little money and no modern conveniences, they enjoyed life in ways that cost them nothing and gave them everything that really mattered. They visited friends and family constantly, shared suppers, played cards, went on picnics, attended lodge meetings, parties, and dances. People babysat each others' children so the parents could go to "the show" at the island's theater. And they helped each other with everything from hemming new curtains to building barns. Along with the hard work, the diaries describe a time during which people never seemed too busy for each other.

Dad lived to the age of 96. That's a lot of years. But once, near the end of his life, he told me those early years, even though they included the Depression, were the best of all. I hope I will always remember, no matter how busy my day or my week, to notice and be grateful for every "Beautiful night." Be busy, but remember to be happy too.

 Copyright 2010 Candace J. Brown

Monday, November 8, 2010

Shared Housing Services Makes "Home for the Holidays" More Than a Dream

     Lisa Conklin and I both love our work, but the tough decisions her job requires make me shiver as much as some of the people who need her help, many literally out in the cold. As a writer, I make decisions about things like which word to use in a certain place. As Program Assistant and Case Manager for the Transitional Family Housing branch of Shared Housing Services here in Tacoma, Conklin has to choose which families, from among the many worthy applicants, will end up with a temporary home and practical help in starting a more stable life. A word left out of a story feels no pain. A homeless child left without shelter does.
     "I currently have two, 'one-plus' bedroom units available," Conklin said. "However, I have about seven families that are looking for housing. The majority are living with friends, 'couch surfing.' One is staying in the car and motels when they can afford them."
     In addition to providing opportunities for home sharing through their Referral/Match service, SHS owns about a dozen housing units for their Transitional Family Housing program. It isn't a handout. The program offers a hand up, a chance for families to recuperate from whatever situation caused them to be homeless in the first place. The head of the family needs to at least be looking for a job and they do pay a modest amount for rent while receiving mentoring, counseling, and educational classes in life management skills and parenting.
      Have you ever tried to prepare for a job interview when you have no good clothes, no shower, no child care, and not even a good night's sleep because you spent it in a car? I can't think of anything more depressing, except not even having the car for shelter. Even people with homes, a wardrobe, and easy access to good hygiene can't find work these days, so imagine the courage it takes to even try when you have so many disadvantages. But by offering basic stability, SHS makes all the difference. They have permanently changed lives. You can read all about it in a feature article I wrote for a website called Neighborhood Life. The success stories told there will warm your heart, just as they do Conklin's.

SHS clients know the meaning of Thanksgiving

     That's all good, but in today's tough economy the need keeps growing. Each month Shared Housing Services meets 400 NEW individuals seeking alternative housing through their Referral/Match and Transitional Housing programs combined. That means 1,600 homeless people in this local community alone will desperately need the help of SHS between November 2010 and February 2011, the coldest months of the year.        
       "There is a tremendous need for affordable housing," Conklin said,"and with the holiday season fast approaching, a place to call 'home' is very important!" Your help could change the lives of people who are trying hard to get back on their feet. Please consider getting involved in this exercise in compassion. If you'd like to help, please click on this link.
         Many people in Tacoma have made a commitment to SHS. "A great big 'thank you' goes out to Auto Warehousing Company for supplying our TFH families and staff with Thanksgiving turkeys every year!" Conklin said. Her gratitude reflects that of all the familes she's met and helped.
     In the words of SHS Executive Director Byron Cregeur, "There is probably no other time of the year when a home is so much more than just a place to live. Home is where we invite friends and family to our house for a feast and they are greeted with the aroma of turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving! Home is where your Christmas tree comes alive with ornaments of memories..."
         I've met some of these kids and I hate to think of their memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas involving hunger and cold. Don't you? They are our fellow Americans, right here at home, and many more live only one missing paycheck away from the same situation. Think about it, please.

Remember that many victims of homelessness are children.

Photos are the property of Shared Housing Services and cannot be used without permission. Text of this post is copyrighted by Candace J. Brown 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Autumn Storms and Secret Places in the Heart

      The wind attacked the house in gusts last night, here in Tacoma. Tree branches scratched against the outside wall in their helpless frenzy and rain slapped at the window. Those gentle, golden days of autumn, when I planted pots of chrysanthemums to sit on the front porch and watched for the first turning leaves, are gone. The "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" described in the famous poem "To Autumn" by John Keats, now lies tucked away in the secret place where I store my memories like so many Johnathon apples kept in a cellar for winter days.
       But I still love autumn. Maybe because of my family's 130 years in the Puget Sound area, I find a pleasure in this weather I hesitate to admit to among those who live to complain. Only a native would understand. A sense of the cozy nest wraps around me as I sit and write, grateful that freelancing means working from home.
      Now is the season of knitting with woolen yarn, a steaming kettle of soup on the stove, and a still life on my 1910 farm table composed of a book I've waited to read, a cup of tea, and the last of the garden's roses, rescued from the storm just in time.
      Spring, so young and pretty, charms everyone. In summer the year reaches adulthood; plants bear fruit, young animals grow, fledglings leave the nest. Fall speaks to me of the poignancy of life. The maturing year compensates for the loss of its youth with a richness and depth of meaning.  Through its ripening colors, the way the sun hangs nearer the horizon, and the cooler nights, it is the beginning of a goodbye.

       In this "season of mists" some blur my vision and fill me with a mellow sadness. I think of my father, who would have been 97 this week if he had not died during the spring. I've written about him in earlier posts like one called "Raking in the Memories." As a decoration for his 90th birthday party, seven years ago, I bought a Christmas cactus covered with blooms in terracotta orange. Today I noticed its especially heavy crop of buds, some open already. When my father's birthday arrives in a few days, the cactus will be in full bloom, right on time. How can nature be so wise?
        Embrace the autumn storms with gratitude. They teach us what to be grateful for: shelter, safety, food, family, and the harvest of a life well-lived, which is respect, and most of all, love.

Rest in peace, Dad.

Text and photos copyrighted by Candace J. Brown 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Fyddeye Guide to America's Maritime History"-- new book should matter to all of us

      One day in 1999, Joe Follansbee stepped aboard the decaying, three-masted 1897 schooner Wawona and fell in love, too late. Time was already running out for the old ship, but Follansbee, a Seattle journalist and author, joined the effort to save Wawona. He put his substantial writing talents to work in the attempt to convince people that this important piece of Northwest maritime history should be preserved.
       Follansbee wrote a fascinating book, Shipbuilders, Sea Captains, and Fishermen: The Story of the Schooner Wawona, plus a number of articles. But if you have never seen Wawona, you never will. In spite of the efforts of many people, this piece of history was demolished.
      The sad fate of Wawona affected Follansbee deeply and caused him to adjust the rudder on his writing career. Before discovering his fascination with the doomed schooner, he probably never expected to write even one book on maritime history, and now, in addition to the story of Wawona, he has edited and published a second book: "The Fyddeye Guide to America's Maritime History- 2000 + Tall Ships, Lighthouses, Historic Ships, Maritime Museums, & More." 
        One motivation Follansbee cites in the preface, is the fact that he became "aware of the fragility of our maritime past." That was also one of the reasons he created his website called Fyddeye, an online source of information about all things related to America's maritime history. It's also a gathering place for enthusiasts to share comments, updates on preservation issues, and photos. The site drew such a strong response that the book was a natural next step.
       Between its glossy covers, this impressive work contains everything a person could want in the way of information about our country's historic maritime treasures, as well as some interesting articles. Whether you are doing research of a scholarly nature, or simply planning a vacation, the well-organized format (indexed by city) makes it easy to find not only heritage vessels and sites, but also organizations, educational resources, and more. In the "Museums" chapter, I was happy to see a large entry on the Foss Waterway Seaport here in Tacoma, but the book also contains the most obscure listings imaginable. Follansbee recognizes the importance of every single one.
        I can't even imagine how much time it took to put all of this together. At $24.95, I would call it a bargain. Chapter headings include:
  • Ships
  • Shipwrecks
  • Museums
  • Research Libraries
  • Lighthouses & Lightships
  • Lifesaving Stations
  • Education
  • Districts
  • Structures and Sites
  • Markers and Monuments
  • Organizations
  • and "Other"            
      "Perhaps if people understand the breadth and scope of our heritage by presenting it in one place,"  he wrote in the book's introduction, "they might recognize that keeping our history is part of what keeps our country whole."

Sometimes the efforts of one individual add significantly to that history. This is one of those times, and I am among those who appreciate what Joe Follansbee has done. You will too.



Monday, October 4, 2010

University Place Celebrates Its "Patch" of Turf on the Web

You didn't hear the rumble and roar of propulsion, but a launch took place today and is making history. The City of University Place, Washington, is the first in the state, and one of the first in the West, to claim its own edition of Patch, an exciting new phenomenon spreading across the nation faster than crabgrass but a lot more welcome. Editor Brent Champaco is already known as an award-winning journalist. He wrote for several newspapers, most recently the News Tribune in Tacoma, and brings to this new position a love for, and deep knowledge of, University Place, after covering this community  for several years.

So what is Patch? It's the web's latest, greatest way for people to get up-to-the-minute news, information, photos, and a chance to participate in all of those things through a website designed specifically for their community. Headquartered in New York, Patch is a dream now manifested for a team of professional journalists and others who want to give people in cities with populations of 15-100 K,  relevant, timely, useful, meaningful, and most importantly, HYPER-LOCAL coverage. What it is NOT, is another generic, one-size-fits-all website supposedly offering local information when it's all just gleaned from the web. University Place Patch get's its news by being a real part of the community. There's just one "place" it's about and that's University Place. People there are excited.

So am I, because I'm part of Patch too. Today you can read my story on the unveiling of the Terry D. Reim Memorial sculpture at the University Place Civic Building, taking place on October 16,1010. I'll be writing a regular column on the arts as well. So, in the words of Editor Brent Champaco, here's a welcome to the wonderful world of Patch. Watch it grow. Maybe your town needs one of its own.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hummingbirds Perch High to Spy on Human Homeowners

This little fellow likes a view.
       If it seems to you that hummingbirds never quit moving, don't be fooled. Every morning two males compete for the best vantage point from which to spy on us while we sit at the table in our Tacoma home, having breakfast.

       From the very tip-top of the paper bark maple tree, two stories high, they perch in complete relaxation for as long as a couple of minutes, and they seem intent on watching us. I took these photos through the glass, which is why the quality is rather poor, but there was no other way. I had to wait for a chance to catch profile shots because most of the time they stare straight in the window.

       I would love to know what's going on in those tiny bird brains. Is our window the hummingbird equivalent of a big flat screen TV for and are we a soap opera of human life? What do you suppose they find so interesting? Sometimes I think they just enjoy the view from way up there, or maybe like to play "king of the mountain."  After one has had his turn, the other comes along and chases him off. Then that one is chased off himself. Occasionally they will each take one of the top two branch tips and tolerate the shared position long enough to give us double the scrutiny. Is it my famous buttermilk scones they are after, or do I just look funny when I first get out of bed? For whatever reason, we humans and the hummingbirds enjoy a mutual fascination that has gone on all through the past year.

    That's right. I mean the entire year. Hummingbirds do winter over in the Pacific Northwest. I still get comments on a blog post from January 2009, called Hummingbirds at Home Through a Northwest Winter. I hope you'll take a look at it again, or for the first time, to learn more about their lifestyles. Speaking of lifestyles, I hope yours is the kind that brings you plenty of peaceful moments to observe nature and our fellow creatures, with whom we share a world full of wonders.

close view of paper bark maple limbs

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tall Ship Adventuress News: "Get Kids on the Boat" with the 29 Dollars, 29 Days Campaign

Executive Director Catherine Collins with young sailors.
As every parent knows, childhood sails by faster than a schooner in a stiff breeze. The quality of those most important years depends on adults who are often overwhelmed with work or their own concerns, and many kids miss out on the kinds of healthy, exciting experiences that shape lives. Instead, they sit around indoors playing computer games or watching TV. Wouldn't it feel great to give them memories they'll never forget?

On Saturday, September 25, 2010, Sound Experience, the not-for-profit organization that owns the historic tall ship Adventuress, will launch a new fund-raising campaign. It's called "29 Dollars, 29 Days: Get Kids on the Boat" Twenty-nine dollars is what it takes to give one young person a three hour sail. Twenty-nine days is the duration of this fundraiser. Every day and every dollar counts.

Join the many friends and crew members of Adventuress to kick off this event at the Theo Chocolate Factory in Seattle, between 7 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. this Saturday night. The cost of attending the "Party for Adventuress: a benefit with live music" is, as you might have guessed, $29, and along with the live music you get food, beverages, and a lot of fun. You'll find all the details for registration when you click on the party link.

If you've been reading Good Life Northwest for awhile, you already know how much I've loved Sound Experience and Adventuress, ever since my first sail during Tall Ships Tacoma. This restored 1913 schooner sails the waters of Puget Sound offering environmental education with an emphasis on youth. I've personally seen how even one afternoon out on the water can change a child forever. This is hands on. They learn to raise the sails and feel the power of nature as the wind swells the canvas. Excitement builds as the deck tilts and water hisses by the bow when it cuts through waves. Sunlight glints off the layers of varnish on century-old wood. Wouldn't you love to give a child this opportunity? Even if you can't attend the party, please consider giving an online donation. Who knows?  The childhood memory you make might be the best one ever. Thanks, and "Fair Winds."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Still Remembering Luke Rogers

Two years ago this week, I sat here in Tacoma staring at my laptop in a state of shock, unable to comprehend a tragedy. This brief post is for those of you who have been thinking of Luke Rogers and his family all day, as I still am. We have not forgotten.

I'm sorry that I was not able to write earlier today, but I did receive and publish a new comment. Thank you to whoever sent that.  I know you are still out there, his many friends and loved ones, and even though I will never meet most of you, we remain united in our memories of Luke.

I will simply  share what I wrote on that sad night two years ago, in memory of Luke.

Peace and love to all,


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Buzz, humm, chitter, and chirp -- the world of small living things

I wonder if my neighbors, or people driving by, noticed my bizarre behavior yesterday. There I was in the front yard of my home in Tacoma, crouched down and motionless in the middle of a flower bed. You see, it takes patience and perseverance to photograph bees.

This is the type of crazy thing I do after I've spent too much time on the computer. I'd been working hard on a freelance writing assignment most of the day, and about 4 p.m. I knew I HAD to get outside into the fresh air and sunshine. I wanted to to listen to the birds, breathe in the scents of nature, and reconnect with the real world. That afternoon, to my delight, nature reminded me that the real world is full of millions of tiny creatures, all living around us, each one on a serious mission. It did me good to spy on them for awhile and realize that what they were doing was at least as important as what I'd been doing.

 I noticed their personalities. Honey bees will take their time on every little blossom. Bumblebees do a hit-and-run. Hummingbirds get in your face and ask what you're doing there. Moths seem aloof; they make a brief and silent appearance, then dismiss us with a wave of their wings. Flies are flies. They couldn't care less about a gorgeous flower and are probably just as happy exploring something rotten and vile. Thrushes and robins won't let you get near. Spiders want to be left alone. Squirrels run around with peanuts in their mouths (thanks to a neighbor who feeds them) and act totally manic, digging holes in the yard. Do they really remember where they hide everything?

Most of my little photo subjects chose to ignore the human with a camera in hand. I'm grateful that they tolerated my presence in their world. At first I tried to follow their movements paparazzi style, hoping to get the perfect shot. Then I learned to be still and let them come to me. There's a lesson here. Slow down. Stop the mad chase. Enjoy the moment you're existing in.

The little creatures around us don't think about yesterday or worry about tomorrow. For them, life is all about the "now" and maybe ours should be too. Take a break today and see what you find outside your own door. Happy September.

All photos and text copyrighted 2010 Candace J. Brown

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dahlia Time at Point Defiance Park

On Tuesday's perfect summer afternoon I started feeling restless. The season is almost over and I haven't spent as much of it outdoors as I should have. I picked up my camera and headed north on Pearl Street to Tacoma's gem, Point Defiance Park, to see how the flower gardens looked.

How quickly things change there. It's fun to watch the beds go through their phases from spring bulbs to the bold colors of late summer's zinnias, Black-eyed Susans, and more. I go to the park often, but it still surprised me to see the Dahlia Trial Garden in full bloom. I know the plants haven't reached full size, and many more buds and flowers will be produced, but now is a perfect time to visit. The many varieties look gloriously fresh in all their different colors and forms.

The garden is different each year. If you choose a favorite, you won't be able to go buy it, just yet. Tubers planted in this trial garden come from all over the country to audition. Judges from the American Dahlia Society decide if they merit inclusion in their classification book, and those ranking high enough receive a name. Only then do they end up available to home gardeners.

Thanks to members of the Washington State Dahlia Society, who sponsor this display and work at keeping it beautiful, we can enjoy one of the largest dahlia test gardens in the United States and Canada. Just when your home flower beds might be looking a bit bloomed-out and bedraggled, do what I did; treat yourself to a visit to the Dahlia Trial Garden, as appealing as a new box of crayons. You might be inspired to grow your own.

Please scroll down and enjoy my little gallery of blooms.

All photos and text copyrighted by Candace J. Brown 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Marmot Madness-- videos and more

While hiking on a rocky slope at Mount Rainier, a friend of mine enjoyed the kind of luck outdoor photographers dream of. She happened to come across the rare sight of a mother marmot nursing her baby. Since some people have never even seen a marmot, I decided to do a some research and provide more information, including videos.

Apparently, the world's animal population includes about 14 species of marmots, and those native to the alpine regions of the Pacific Northwest are often seen by hikers. Here's an article from the Washington Trails Association about backpacking trips to see marmots. Hoary marmots can be found around Mount Rainier and Olympic marmots(marmota olympus) on the Olympic Peninsula. Many dig burrows in rocky places, and I suspect our mommy here isn't far from her own front door. They are known for making a chirping or whistling sound as they socialize with their fellow marmots. That's why the owners of a popular restaurant on Chinook Pass named their business Whistlin' Jack Lodge.

If you enjoy photos of Mount Rainier, here's a site called Mount Rainier Photos, that also contains a lot of valuable information of interest to hikers in the Pacific Northwest. The photographer behind this site is Sally Johnson and in "Sally's Blog" I found a post about marmots.

Who would think I'd also find a blog called Furry Marmots, dedicated entirely to these captivating little guys? Just for your entertainment, I'm listing some links to marmot videos as well. Remember this: you never know what you'll learn by reading Good Life Northwest. Please keep coming back.

Fighting Marmots at Mt. Rainier

Hoary Marmot Eating Plants at Mt. Rainier

Hoary Marmot at Mt. Rainier

Chirpy Marmot on Mount Rainier

Olympic National Park Marmots Boxing

copyright Candace J. Brown 2010
Photos copyrighted by Maryann Huang 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

August Twilight at Point Defiance

Every day of our lives includes twilight, an event that occurs 365 times each year and is often ignored. Then after it happens, we realize the light is gone. Every 24 hours twilight arrives, brief and silent, but with a message as clear as the cry of a gull. Are you listening? It reminds us of this request of life, one you've heard so much that it too is ignored: "Be present in the moment."

Last Monday evening, with a profound awareness of that message, I walked along the beach at Tacoma's Point Defiance Park with three other people. We witnessed a melding of sea and sky, day and night, like I'd never seen before. The tide on that occasion was high against the bulkhead, so high it seemed we could reach out and touch the water of Puget Sound as it spread like rippled satin in shades of apricot, lavender, plum, and indigo, still touched by the distant luminosity of a sunset just missed. Our friend, so affected by the scene, almost whispered, "How do you even begin to describe this?" I've tried here, but he and the others could tell you I've failed. My best efforts can't equal the experience of "presence."

Around sunset last evening I once again craved the beach. I went down to Point Defiance with my camera, hoping to find that scene again. What I found had its own beauty, a sense of peace and tranquility and the essence of the maritime Northwest. But I can't give you what I witnessed on Monday night. Those moments are gone, except in memory, and even the best memories are less than what "now" has to offer. If I had known that fact in the past, I would have wrapped my arms around all those other pieces of what was then the present and cherished them more deeply.

The present, like the look in a person's eyes, the taste of food, a whiff of the sea, a musical harmony, a gentle touch, and especially the company of beloved souls, must be savored with gratitude during that very second. What have you missed already, that will never come again? Have you ever tried to hang on to the sound of a loved one's voice after they are gone? Did you ever wish for just a few more seconds during an embrace, or a snippet of time from a long ago childhood? These things all slip away.

August enters it's last phase and we notice the days getting shorter. Tonight, when twilight returns, as brief and silent as always, just be still and think about what it symbolizes. These moments are your life and tomorrow's memories. Don't forget to pay attention.

Copyright 2010 Candace J. Brown

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Alpine wildflowers and motherhood in nature-- more hiking photos from Mount Rainier's Wonderland Trail

Tacoma hiker and photographer Maryann Huang can't seem to stay home these days, and that's fine with me. Every time I receive an e-mail from her I know I'm in for a treat. So are you. On August 4, I posted some of her photos from the Snow Lake Trail in Washington's Cascades, and I thought those couldn't be surpassed. But a few days ago she picked up her camera and headed for the Wonderland Trail, 93 miles of challenging terrain that takes you in a circular tour around Mount Rainier. She captured the scenery, the wildflowers, and more, witnessing a rare sight I'll share at the end. Just click on each photo to see a larger version. Enjoy.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tibbe-Line Makes Doing Laundry "Greener" For All of Us, Including Inventor

How time flies when you're having fun, doing laundry. Just ask Rose Marie Pacheco from Colorado and the fans of her clever invention. A whole year has gone by since I first mentioned her Tibbe-Line, in my feature article on the resurgence of clotheslines in America, which appeared in both The News Tribune and The Olympian on August 1, 2009. It dealt with the fact that certain neighborhoods discourage, or even ban, the practice of drying clothes outdoors, and I reported on the national movement to encourage the "greening" of laundry methods. (Please see my article Clothesline Controversy and the web site Project Laundry List)

I also gave information on different types of clotheslines, and among those for indoor/outdoor use I listed the Tibbe-Line, a unique product using eyelets and hangers instead of clothespins. This invention uses units of flexible plastic that pop right onto any kind of line and have eyelet holes along the bottom. You simply hook the clothes hangers through the holes. It makes it easy to dry up to 21 garments in 39" while saving time, energy, money, and space. It also makes your clothes last longer by avoiding the wear dryers cause. This new approach came about because Rose, as she says, "always loved the smell of clothes hung outside to dry."

I've met a lot of interesting people through writing but never one quite like Rose Marie Pacheco. I'm glad we've kept in touch because now I get to share her wonder and excitement as she watches her dream come true, a dream nurtured for years, during which she always visualized success and found perseverance through her faith. At an age when many women start thinking about retiring, Rose is as energized as a freshly-washed shirt hung out in a breeze. It's all because her Tibbe-Line invention is about to change laundry day for lucky users all over the nation, and possibly the world. At $14.95 for a package of three, plus shipping and handling, they're a lot cheaper than a dryer, don't need electricity, are almost indestructible, and are flexible enough that even those with arthritic hands can install them in seconds.They can be used to hang clothes in cars or while camping, are perfect for college students and people in small apartments, and are affordable for just about anyone. The potential is unlimited. I'm thrilled for her, and as the old cliche' goes, "No one deserves it more."

You see, Rose is a "giver." A loving mother and grandmother, her heart is as big as the balloon bouquets she sells. That's one of her jobs. She's also a licensed cosmetologist, and when she doesn't have customers in the chair, she gets in the car and goes right to the folks that need haircuts and maybe can't afford them, or can't leave home to get them, donating her talents to lift their spirits and improve their self-esteem. "It just makes people feel better about themselves when they have a good haircut," she said.

My clothes dry under the roof of my sun-warmed backyard deck in Tacoma, Washington, on the Tibbe-Line I bought last year, and I'm probably the only person in the neighborhood who owns one. But now this ingenious product is about to be introduced to America in a big way. Rose's commercial will appear on TV on August 16, 2010, and will run for two weeks on HGTV, WE, and SOAP networks. It will also be on YouTube. Next you'll see the Tibbe Line on Home Shopping Network, QVC, and in catalogs. The La Junta Tribune-Democrat published an article about her on July 30, 2010.

Rose envisions her invention being used around the world, in urban or rural environments, even making life easier for people in villages without electricity, or for victims of natural disasters. "I'm excited," she told me. "This has been a long time coming."

Rose Marie Pacheco's Tibbe-Line business has been a one-woman operation so far. This whole thing could be called the story of a cottage industry with a fairy-tale ending, except that there's no end in sight. "The first thing I do when I get up in the morning," she told me on the phone this week, "is to turn on my computer to see if I have any orders." I hope she has a hearty breakfast and a comfortable desk chair, because Rose's little invention could give a whole new meaning to the "green" aspect of her laundry methods. Wouldn't that be nice?

Copyright Candace J. Brown 2010
Photos are courtesy of Rose Marie Pacheco and cannot be used without permission.