Wednesday, June 24, 2015

When flying is fun, a little floatplane love

Yesterday was a slice right out of heaven. Sat on a dock in early morning sunshine waiting for a plane from Kenmore Air (north Seattle) to Victoria, Canada. Aren't they cheery, these yellow-and-white birds floating at the dock?

 No long security line. No TSA groping. Just swiped my passport and boarded with two other passengers.

 The de Havilland Beaver floatplane is cozy. From my back row seat I could see the pilot and a bit of the instrument panel.

 We kicked up a little rooster tail of water as we glided over the water and then lifted off Lake Washington. (They hand out earplugs to mute the roar of the engine.) Kenmore Air has been flying since 1946. About 125,000 people board their planes annually to destinations in western Washington and Canada. The company is known for maintenance of floatplanes like the Beaver and de Havilland Otter built in the 1950s and 1960s. The planes, which have both air and water rudders, are favored for rugged design and ability to take off and land in short spaces.

 The views were gorgeous as we flew over Puget Sound.

 Landed smoothly in Victoria and watched other floatplanes and boats as we cruised into the harbor to dock.

Victoria’s water taxis have to win a cuteness award. Right? Like they belong in Roger Rabbit.

 My daughter and I had tea at the Empress.

 And we wandered Chinatown, where we saw a working phone booth (!!!) and a not-so-functional phone booth in an artsy coffee house. Fabulous coffee, too.

 Return flight was aboard the larger Otter. Again gorgeous views and smooth flight. Next shot is over the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Olympic mountains beyond.

 A nice view of Mt. Rainer and the city of Seattle greeted us on return.

 A final note on how this is so, so different than commercial airline flight. There is a safety speech when you board, short and to the point—the placement and workings of the exit doors and handles, the life vests…and the location of the survival kit. These are bush planes, after all. Exciting, right?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Deception Pass will get you

Wobbly knees, anyone?
Surprised myself when my knees got a bit wobbly and I clutched my phone/camera in a vise grip sure I'd drop it 200 feet to the swirling water below. This is Deception Pass Bridge connecting Whidbey and Fidalgo islands in Washington. The two-lane motor bridge is more than a quarter mile in length with a three-foot pedestrian walkway. We walked over and back, having already hiked trails along the forested cliffs.

At one spectacular moment, two bald eagles soared right over our heads mid-way across the bridge. What a thrill! The nearby Upper Skagit River Valley has one of the largest populations of wintering bald eagles in the continental U.S.

Look closely and see the steel arch of the bridge through the trees. The trails, some quite narrow and rocky, are breathtakingly close to sheer drop-offs but the jade color of the water is equally breathtaking. The area was carved by glaciers and is a deep channel connecting the Strait of Juan de Fuca with the Saratoga Passage.

Before the bridge was built in 1934 by Civilian Conservation Corps and local farmers, travelers would hit a metal saw with a mallet to call a ferry operated by the first woman ferry captain in Washington, Bertie Olson.

Travel+Leisure lists the Deception Pass bridge as one of the scariest in the world.
It is certainly also one of the most beautiful.

Deception Pass State Park has 35 miles of trails with almost 15 miles of saltwater shoreline.

It was a most excellent day, which I recommend to anyone visiting Washington.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Walking into the sky

For some reason when I saw this blue opening in the sky I thought it looked like a path, like I might step into the sky, wander into the Other.

It felt more magical than a tiny fairy door because the potential was enormous, as big as the universe.

Or maybe my subconscious was remembering how I felt long time back reading the final lines of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass: "So Lyra and her daemon turned away from the world they were born in, and looked toward the sun, and walked into the sky."

I've always thought that is one of the most brilliant ends to a novel ever.

Different day. Different sky. No openings except those one makes.

steady lap of waves,
mountains serene--sudden
cacophony of crows

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The things I see

Surprise, surprise. While hiking in a wooded park by Puget Sound, we came across a happy face drawn on this mossy tree stump. The beautiful scenery and fresh air already had me smiling, but this made me smile even wider.

Despite all the bad news in the world, life on this incredible planet can be mighty fine.

Another day, walking along a huge lake I wrote a haiku (the birds were too speedy for a photograph)

warm March on the lake,
'whoosh' of coots make a rooster
tail of white water

Saturday, February 21, 2015

haiku while walking

winter on the lake,
for the perching cormorants
a pewter mirror

Friday, January 9, 2015

today and its haiku

ghost trees loom in the
shroud of fog--I silently
tread down the mountain

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Brilliant reads

I may not have been reading, writing, and computing as much as I usually do, but I did read a few books that have stayed with me long after their covers closed.
Each of these shines with brilliant imagination and fearless exploration of possibilities. I'd say I wish I could write like this when I grow up, except I'm grown up and then some.
If you've read any of these, I'd love to hear your take. These stories are a walk on the wild side with totally refreshing views by David Levithan, Sally Green, and Andrew Smith.

Riveting, hold-on-to-your-seat storytelling that sucked me in to Half Bad, churned me in its vortex, and spit me out breathlessly at the end. Warning: this YA story is quite brutal at times. A lot of times. But there are also tender moments and people who stand up to the brutality giving the story hope and redemption. Kudos to author Sally Green for creating three-dimensional characters and a flawed society that carry the depth and substance of reality.

The protagonist, Nathan, is half bad, because he is the son of a notorious Black Witch father and a White Witch mother who died after his birth. Raised in the White Witch community he is, at times sullen and combative, but that isn't surprising since he's always been shunned and tormented. As he grows, treatment becomes more and more harsh, both psychologically and physically.

For brief sections the story is told in second person. I wondered at this device until I realized how brilliantly it was used to show the breakdown of Nathan as he struggles to maintain his sanity when imprisoned and beaten. It is a kind of disconnect that allows him to scheme, fight back, survive.

This story isn't about white and black witch societies, one being morally better than the other. It's about all the gray areas that allow people to believe they have the higher ground no matter how they achieve it.

 Excrementum Sanctum! About this book I'll say just as the teen-age protagonist, Austin, says with frequency, "Holy shit!" And not without cause. 

I don't know how Andrew Smith keeps doing what he does, but it's always brilliant, always a fusion of real-life messes and wonders mixed with crazy-pants stuff that makes me laugh out loud. Grasshopper Jungle may be the craziest of all his stories. 

Not only are Austin's hormones on hyperdrive and his confusion over his sexuality dragged along with that, but the world around him turns into the most outrageous, sci-fi horror show imaginable. Yeah, Austin struggles with being in love with both of his best friends--a boy and a girl-- while giant, people-eating bugs appear to be taking over their town. What do you do with that? Andrew Smith does amazing things with that. Entertaining and thought-provoking. Not for the squeamish or prudish.

Every Day is one-of-a-kind, a stroke of genius by David Levithan.

I don't find it easy to concentrate in waiting rooms and airports, but fell into Every Day each time I opened it no matter where I was--captivated by the dilemma, the characters, the truths about life.

The story has a supernatural element but is rooted in the realities of identity and relationships. The protagonist wakes up in a new body every day, never knowing what gender or race he/she will be in that borrowed life. Currently a teen, this means new parents, new school, new friends, to navigate. Some days are sweet, some are nightmares. Since nothing is permanent, love has remained elusive. Until now. 

That's all I'm going to say, not wanting to give spoilers. If you trust me, read it and be amazed.