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tranquil power

One winter's day last year I took a leap.   I decided, as I riding the bus to work and the sun was rising over Lake Washington, that I would travel alone to the other side of the country to spend a few days by a very different lake. I had just read about Squam Lake and the Squam Art Workshop that had been happening there for the past 10 years.   At the time, the future of the workshop was up in the air, so it felt like a 'now-or-never' type of moment.   What I really wanted, more than anything, was to connect with other women who had the same love of craft as myself.   Attending a retreat in New Hampshire seemed a bit counter-intuitive to finding craft friends, but I just went with the impulse.  

After making the leap to sign up for the Fall workshop, I had to wait 9 months for it to come around.   Not unlike another process that takes that amount of waiting, the time felt slow in passing.  Eventually September arrived and I left for the East Coast early one morning.   I had planned in some time with one of my oldest friends in Washington D.C. before the start of the retreat, which worked out well for the transition in time zones and for having a few days with someone really familiar before meeting so many new people.   After three days of good food and culture, I flew up to New Hampshire with lots of excitement and a bit of trepidation.   Luckily I had planned to share my rental car with 3 other ladies on their way to Squam so I had some faces I already knew going in to the week.   One of the ladies was from Portland, Oregon and we already shared some connections.   We chatted about knitting and sewing on the short drive up to the camp and my trepidations were subsiding.   Two of the women were friends who had met at Squam years before and since they new the ins and outs of arriving and registering, that made me feel less anxious as well.  

The lake was beautiful, and a bit magical, just as promised.  The cabins of the camp are charmingly rustic and well cared for.  There is an actual ice-box (and ice house) stocked with ice cut from the lake in winter.  I met my cabin-mates soon after getting settled and we all went down to our little dock to put our feet in the water.  Already it was feeling good to be there and I just decided to be my most open and outgoing self that week.  Everywhere you looked there were people gathered, knitting and you could just join right in.  There were also women at the workshop who were painters or photographers.  The gathering pulled in all kinds of people who were filled with the impulse to be creative and to make, and that was what was most suprising and uplifiting.   

The first full day of the workshop I took a wooden spoon carving class from the man behind Linen & Spoon (he's the spoon -- his wife is the linen).  Barry was a great teacher and made spoon carving look much easier than it actually is.  I enjoyed the process of taking a rough block of wood (slightly spoon shaped) and making it into something useful (albeit rustic).  I also learned to respect the carving tools as one of our classmates had to visit the local urgent care for a few stitches.  My table-mate Carol and I clicked right away and chatted a bit about knitting while we carefully carved away.   I bought a few more spoon blanks and some carving tools and have some plans to practice the craft this summer.  

The following day was a knitting course taught by Gudrun Johnson, whose patterns and style I had admired since my early days of knitting.  She taught us some "peerie" knitting techniques -- the colorwork style from her native Shetland Islands.   After working so hard the previous day learning something completely new, it was a relief to slip back into knitting.  I also loved seeing the color combinations that everyone had selected and how they looked as the pattern worked up.   Gudrun was lovely in person and I enjoyed meeting her and picked up some helpful colorwork tips.   

Saturday was free for exploring, relaxing or what have you.  The weather was absolutely perfect for the retreat and I decided to walk up the local "mountain" and then come back for some lake swimming and knitting. Thinking the trailhead was closer to the camp than it was, I set out on foot.  Luckily I was picked up by another group from the retreat and they gave me a ride to the trailhead and some company on the hike.   Squam lake was perfect for swimming and I found some friends lounging at one of the docks.   We ended up eating a picnic dinner by the lake as the sun set and having some great conversations.  

Sunday rolled around and it was time to start packing up and say good-bye.   It was hard to leave, but I already had formed some plans to meet up with a few new friends over the next and that in of itself felt amazing to me.  I had been sewing Rae's patterns and following her blog for many years and I knew she was going to be at Squam.  I was nervous about saying hello the first night we were at the retreat when I saw her -- but at breakfast the next day she sat down next to me and I just went for it.   She was a delightful person in real life and we connected right away.  Her parents live near Seattle so we made plans for a Christmastime meetup at Dry Goods Design.   She introduced me to Meg, who was a teacher at the retreat, and whose patterns I wasn't familiar with, but have become a huge fan of since.   She lives in North Carolina and I had plans to be there for a friend's wedding and I promised to get in touch.   Both women are inspiring and fun to be with and I feel lucky to have met them.  Carol and I made some plans to try to get to the Shetland Islands someday....

All in all, it was a pretty magical few days.  Elizabeth, the founder of the workshop, spoke a little to this magic during the opening meeting.   She talked about "tranquil power"  that can come from the act of doing something creative and finding other's in your tribe.  There is nothing comparible to being with 200 other people who all need making in their life, in one form or another.   It validated my own need for my crafts and that I could see them in a more artful way.   

Winding my way back to Boston and then back to Seattle was a bit of a process, but I knew that Squam was going to continue with new women and energy behind it and that it would be there when I needed it.   I also felt like I could seek out the connections I needed, that I had learned how.   While waiting for my flight to Boston, I spied a woman sporting a Squam tote bag.   Turns out that she was also from Seattle and somehow we had not met during the workshop.   We also found out that we live about a mile from each other and split a cab ride home.   So in the end, I did find some friends in Seattle from going all the way to New Hampshire.  


somewhere in the middle

 This year was my seventh consequetive year doing the SeaFair Triathlon and my fourth in the Olympic category.  While I had more hours available for training this year, I felt slightly bored with training and am thinking I'll switch gears next summer to another event.   However, I might consider doing the Sprint distance again, just to see where I stand there.   Right now, I think I've maxed out my abilities with the Olympic, this year putting me at a similar time with my first Olympic.   It is hard to make a comparison though, since this year the bike course changed, and not for the better, in my opinion.    I had a goal of beating my best time, and possibly getting my goal of a sub 3-hour finish, but that was not in the cards.   Here are the details:

Olympic Triathlon 2017

3 hours 20 minutes  (212 of 231 overall ::  72 of 81 female)  

This is 9 minutes slower than my best time in 2015 -- which I attribute to the change in the bike course (more hills and worse street conditions) and swimming with a wetsuit.   I think I woud have to make some radical changes to go any faster and I'm not sure I'm that interested.  I've decided to be okay with being somewhere in the middle and let go of the competition.  

Nick and Jonas woke up early with me and helped cheer me on.  It definitely gave me a boost to see them during transitions and Jonas challenged Nick to some sprints while they waited for me.  

We will see how I feel about next year when it rolls around.  My triathlon buddy Bronwen had to miss out this year due to a foot injury, so I might want to at least do something with her next year.   For now it feels good to let go of the training, do some other athletics I enjoy like hiking and biking without worrying about my pace.   

Jonas also seems keen to try the kids triathlon, so we'll definitely be at Seward Park again soon.  


kauai: north shore and kilauea town

The North Shore of Kauai is the wetter, more lush side of the island so we fully expected some cooler temperatures and rainy days.  However, we lucked upon a dry stretch of weather and only had a bit of rain the night before we left.  We were able to get some more beach time in and Nick could do his hike on the Na Pali coast that he had been planning to celebrate his 40th birthday.  

We rented the bottom part of a house from a French couple, Brigitte and Guilaume, who had lived in Kilauea for over 20 years.  They had transformed their banyon tree into a treehouse for their son many years ago and now let guests climb up to see the view.   We arrived right around sunset and Jonas immediately needed to get up into the Bird's Nest to check it out.   It was a bit rickety in places, but sturdy enough that we weren't too concerned for safety. 

The bridge in the background was off limits to us, used mostly by the house dog, Chantee.   She liked to hang out in the tree house and was very friendly.   We enjoyed spending time relaxing at the house; playing cribbage and lounging on the porch. Jonas also was quite enamored with Brigitte, one of the hosts, and would follow her around to help her water the garden and tend to things. 

The village of Kilauea is rather small, but has a few nice spots to eat and check out.   We were in town for the monthly night market which had music, food trucks and vendors.   There was also a spot for minigolf and Jonas loved it so much he just kept wanting to play.   

While Nick was off hiking the trail and camping, Jonas and I hit up a few more beaches and tried snorkeling.   The snorkeling was a good attempt, but we didn't quite get the hang of it well enough to see any fish.  The North Shore beaches are lovely and have good sand and nice, clear waters.   The two beaches we visited were at Ha'ena State Park and Anini Beach.  


We went through the town of Hanalei several times while driving the road to Na Pali and it was a nice place to stop for smoothies and fruit.   We were on a mission to eat as much fruit as possible before heading home, and we're mostly successful, but couldn't find a decent papaya.  We also forgot how good the bananas are and didn't nearly eat enough before the end of our trip.  

There is a lighthouse and wildlife preserve down the road from Kilauea.   Jonas and I managed to get out there during one of the times it was open, but we were not early enough to join the tour of the lighthouse.   Still, the conservation group that runs the area has binoculars on loan to watch the various seabirds nesting and wandering about.   


When Nick returned from his overnight trip, he reported a very sucessful hike and had some lovely pictures to share.   The exposed trail makes the hike a bit treacherous, but maybe in 10 years we can revisit it together.  

For the last day, it was my turn to get out for a hike while Nick and Jonas had some time together.   I tried the Okolehao Trail that cruised up a ridgeline to get some views of the area.   The trail continues out as far as you feel comfortable going and it does get a bit narrow with some steep drop-off.  

I had to psyche myself up once or twice to navigate some steep chutes in the trail.   The biggest one I very nearly stumbled down, which almost had me turning around.  However, I managed to collect myself and get down it (and many others afterwards) and it was nice to make it to the 'end' of the trail.  

On one of the last nights, the sunset was looked promising, so we scaled the banyon tree to watch from the Bird's Nest.  Eventually an intense pink light bathed everything around us.  

The sunset was a lovely send-off to a idyllic week spent on Kauai.  We will definitely visit the island again to continue our exploring and perhaps another round of mini-golf.    


kauai: in and around waimea

To celebrate our collective birthdays this year, we decided to explore Kauai for a week and escape one of the wettest winters on record in the Northwest.   We arrived on the island late at night and drove the dark roads along the southern end of Kauai to find our lodging in the outpost of Waimea.   There is something to be said for arriving to a new place at night -- building the anticipation for what you might be surrounded by when morning comes.   Our house was tucked away up-country from the town and was a historic plantation house.  We settled in to sleep for a few hours before the roosters began their crowing at dawn.   

Morning came with bright sun streaming in and a cold breeze blowing through the screened-in living room.   Nick and Jonas had already ventured down to see what Waimea had to offer.   Coming down the hill to meet them, the temperature warmed quickly and we knew we had a beautiful day ahead of us to explore the Waimea canyon.   We stocked up on groceries (realizing all the cafes were closed for President's Day) and after a late pancake breakfast, we headed up the road. 

Jonas loved scrambling along the red dirt and we stopped at most of the lookouts so we could walk the trails and get different views of the canyon.  

Nick was also scouting out ideas for a solo hiking trip he might take later.   We tried to spend the whole afternoon walking around so that we could wait for sunset, but eventually things got a bit too cold and we had run out of places to go, so we headed back to our house to get some rest.  Still, we enjoyed some great vistas and got a bit of exercise. 

The following day also had a warm, sunny outlook, so we headed to Poipu for a bit of beach time and hopefully some hiking.   Poipu beach park was noted to have a good kids' area, but we might have missed that part and ended up with a bit more surf.   Still, the water was calm enough for Jonas and I to get out for some swimming and playing.  We even managed to get Nick in for about 2 mintues before he decided the water was too cold.   He prefered to lay out in the sun (and at one point became encircled by a group of older ladies doing their post water aerobics cool down on the sand).  

After getting enough sun, we went looking for lunch.  We ate excellent burritos at Da Crack, a mexican joint named for its locale (being not much more than a crack in a wall of a shopping center).  Whie we ate, we talked about our plans for the afternoon.   Given a choice between botanical garden and walking the lithified cliffs, Jonas picked the garden. We stopped first at Spouting Horn Park to watch a blowhole in the lava rock.  Then we opted to tour the McBryde garden since it was self-guided and the Allerton tour seemed more structured (and expensive).   The tour requires a shuttle ride through some private property and glimpse of the Allerton estate.  Our driver was quite the character and fed us bits of trivia along the ride.   

We explored all areas of the garden until the last shuttle departed.   Jonas especially enjoyed the mist tunnel and we spent lots of time activating the mist and then walking through.  There were lots of beautiful orchids and other tropical plants -- plus some information on how the organization is working to preserve native plants. We ended the day with a stop at the fancy market in Poipu and then home again for another early night.     

For our last full day, Nick took the car back up Waimea to do some more extensive hiking while Jonas and I walked to town for a sunny afternoon of exploring and a quest for shave ice.   We spent a good amount of time out on the pier watching some guys fish (their only catch was a baby hammerhead shark that they let thrash around on the floor, wanting to use it for bait).  The beach in Waimea isn't very welcoming (and the water is rough and muddy), so we went to town and debated on which Jo-Jo's shave ice we should try.  There are two within a stone's throw of each other and it doesn't appear that they have the same owner.   We went with the guide book recommendation and it was good although Jonas was a bit put off by the artificial taste of the syrup.  We lounged the rest of the day at our house and greeted Nick when he returned from his adventure.  

We headed out of Waimea the following day and took a slow and scenic route towards the north shore of the island.  We visited the oddly desolate menehune canal and suspension bridge just outside of Waimea (not really worthwhile), learned about the brief Russian involvement in the islands at the Russian Fort, and stopped by Salt Pond Park and Hanapepe.   Salt Pond ended up being a rather nice swimming area, so Jonas and I suited up and jumped in.   There was a large Monk Seal resting on the beach there as well.  

I dragged Jonas out of the water so that we could go find some lunch.  As we were toweling off, two more monk seals swam into the area we had just been in and frolicked around for quite awhile.  I was very glad they waited until we were out of the water to arrive! 

After watching the creatures for awhile, we headed into the Hanapepe and ate a very local-style lunch at Bobbie's.   Bobbie himself was there to explain the offerings and what exactly was in saimin.  Afterwards we checked out the suspension bridge which was much more impressive than the one in Waimea.  We also walked along the levy road.  

Heading back to the car, we made one last stop at a very local farmer's market for some fruit then hit the road for Kilauea, only stopping briefly in Kapaa for groceries so we could get in before dark.  


new york

Considering that this October was the wettest October on the books in Seattle, we feel lucky to have escaped to New York State for a week of sun, leaf peeping and festivities.   My brother was getting married in the mountains near Buffalo, so we decided to make the most of a cross-country flight and do some touring as well. Coincidentally, some of Nick's extended family reside on a property at the edge of Lake Ontario outside of Rochester, which they named Oakdene.  Nick hadn't been out since his teen years and I since I have heard many stories about Oakdene  we figured we were due for a visit.   

But first, Niagara.  

On the advice of many friends, we crossed over to Canada to experience the falls from that vantage.   It gives you a much better view of both American Falls and the Horseshoe, or Canadian Falls.   Plus, it gave us an excuse to use our passports again.   The town near the falls on the Canadian side is quite touristy as well, but once you get down closer to the river, that element mostly disappears and you're left with some great views and a lot of mist.   You an get rather close to the brink of the falls and it is amazing to see the volume of water that is tumbling down.  

We also found the Nikola Tesla statue and read up on his ideas of hydro-electric power. Nick has Serbian roots as well, and I thought he bared a bit of resemblance to the man.  Certainly we both felt humbled by how much he accomplished by a young age.  

It was time for us to head out to Oakdene, so we pried Jonas away from the touristy funicular train (that went up about 200 feet and cost $5) and headed back to the states.   We arrived in Wolcott at dark, and after some backtracking, finally made it out to where the property began.   The family owns roughly 100 acres of forest, largely undeveloped.   There is a central cottage that is shared between the families (Nick's grandmother is one of 5 girls who inherited the property).  

Some families live at Oakdene year round, while others gather there in the summer months.   The property sits on a bluff above Lake Ontario with trails that wind down to the shore.  In fact, the original stone cottage has since plummeted down the bluff as its foundation eroded away.   

Part of the foundation of the original cottage

Nick's mother's cousin Chris lives at the property year round with his wife Sue and they were gracious enough to get the cottage set up for us and help us find it in the dark. They own a schooner named the Sara B and were planning on taking her out of the lake the next day for the winter season.  That morning they asked if we'd like to go out with them for the last sailing and we were happy to tag along.

The rest of our time at Oakdene we spent sunning ourselves at the lake, exploring the forest and looking for the Grandmommy and Granddaddy oak trees. We enjoyed the rustic quality of the cottage, having fires to warm ourselves at night and lots of candles to see and eat by.  

As we departed, Chris rang the old bell that hangs by the new cottage and we vowed to make it back to Oakdene before too much time has past.  

On our way to Ellicotville for wedding festivities, we drove the length of Lake Seneca, one of the finger lakes and hiked through Watkins Glenn.  

The slate canyon has been carved away by the river and has a few trails to explore.  We learned that tour busses drop their loads at the top of the canyon and hoards of tourists clog the trails occasionally, taking numerous selfies and generally blocking the path.  We surfed through 3 groups before we had the canyon more or less to ourselves.   It was still a beautiful waypoint, especialy with the golden leaves floating down and landing on the dark, wet rock.   We hiked both ways and made sure to find the suspension bridge on the way back to our car.   

Elliocotville was a charming town and we enjoyed spending a few days there seeing family and being in the wedding.  The day of the rehersal dinner our family went out to the nearby Allegheny State Forest to enjoy the sunny morning.   The grandparents took Jonas while Nick and I did a hike on our own.  We hiked a pleasant loop trail, watching out for the newfound slipping hazard of acorns hidding under dry leaves.   

For the wedding day, Jonas was the ring bearer and looked sharp in his vest and bow-tie.   I made the outfit to coordinate with the wedding party and put a few little colorful surprises in the linings.  

My brother and his wife looked beautiful and their ceremony was thoughful and simple.   Jonas wanted to dance the night away, but we had an early flight in the morning out of Buffalo, so we said our goodbyes early and headed to bed.

Our return home was uneventful (the typhoon that was predicted to hit Seattle never materialzed) and we endured the soggy weather of October with colorful memories of our trip.