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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.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Low Tides in Puget Sound Offer Rare Views

A friend from Vashon Island told me on the phone this morning that the tide was so low he could almost walk to Tacoma. Well, not quite. But in spite of his delight in my legendary gullibility, this time his statement contained more than a clam's squirt of truth. The low tide near the Narrows Bridge, for example, was predicted to be -2.7 feet, just after 11 a.m. this Monday, Aug. 9, 2010.

Now let me tell you something I probably shouldn't admit; I'm a person with a weird and hard-to-satisfy curiosity about crazy things like what it would look like if you could slice down through a mountain, stand behind a waterfall, or use X-ray vision to see underground burrows of little critters. As a teenager I once wiggled down through the slanted opening of an abandoned bear den dug into a river bank in Alberta, Canada, there to discover the bear's secret world: a cozy little room with a padded floor and a ceiling of tree roots. But that's a story for another day. Anyway, back to the low tide; obviously I was dying to see what was usually under the waves of Puget Sound.

Unfortunately, I had an 11 a.m. appointment with my physical therapist that could not be changed. I begged my husband to get down to Titlow Beach, since I couldn't, to take some photos of the old pilings there, ghosts of the beach's busy past when Titlow had a ferry landing and other waterfront commerce. He obliged, then gave me a bonus by heading to Point Defiance to take additional photos there. So in case you're curious too, here they are. Enjoy! Scroll down to see them all.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tacoma Hiker Glorifies Cascade Range With Her Photos

Since no words can adequately describe the beauty of these three photos taken by my friend Maryann Huang, I'll keep them to a minimum and give you more time to just stare in awe. She used a Canon digital camera during a recent hike on the Snow Lake Trail in Washington's Cascade Mountain Range, with spectacular results. Here's proof of why we call this region the "Great Northwest."

"I had to climb way up high to get that one," she told me on the phone, describing one of the photos in her email. She thought I'd like them. Like them? Just looking at these scenes, while seated at my desk in Tacoma, is a mini vacation. When it comes to hiking, I'm kind of a wimp, but I've spent enough time in the mountains to be reminded, almost painfully, of what I've been missing.

Can't you smell the scent of sun-warmed evergreens in fresh alpine air? Have you ever experience the silence, broken only by a bird call, a bit of wind in the trees, or the clink of a rolling rock? It all feels so real that you might want to hold onto something so you don't slip over the edge. Enjoy.

Many thanks, Maryann.

All photos copyrighted by Maryann Huang 2010.