Another mass shooting. Who are we?

Who are we? Have we changed since the last mass shooting? Are we different from the last time we heard someone insult, belittle, or mock another? Have we been changed since the last child was murdered – by gun, by neglect, by stranger or parent or relative? Since the last bystander was murdered? Have we grown kinder, colder, more compassionate or more distant? Have our hearts been broken so many times that healing is impossible? Have our hearts grown numb? Or, were they always numb?

Who are we? So many words spoken that say, ultimately, the same thing. Over and over, again and again – the same thing. Who are we to allow children to be murdered? To allow innocent people to be murdered? In a school. In a church. In a grocery store. In a parking lot. On a playground. In a nightclub. In a safe space. Who are we?

Who are we to allow anyone who wants one – anyone! – to own an assault rifle? Why? Who are we to allow this country to have more guns than people? A country with more guns than people. More guns than human beings.

Maybe a better question is this: what are we?

South Sound Prairies, Western Washington Grasslands

A small area in Thurston County, western Washington, contains a treasure – a native grassland prairie. This region, maintained by many volunteers and the Center for Natural Lands Management, is being meticulously restored through prescribed burnings, planting native plants, weeding, and careful soil management. And, it is open to visitors one day each year. (A short distance away is the Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve – another beautiful prairie landscape, open year-round.)

This year all things came together for us to visit this unique part of Washington state. The following pictures will give you an idea of the immense natural beauty – and importance – of a prairie landscape. To learn more about this area and the work being done to restore prairie lands, use this site:

Castilleja levisecta, Golden Paintbrush. A very rare prairie plant that we were lucky to see.
Camassia quamash as far as the eye can see. The landscape consists of mounds.
Desert parsley, Lomatium utriculatum

Correction: this is Collinsia parviflora
Balsam root or Arrowleaf, Balsamorhiza sagittata
A very blurry Fritillaria affinis, Chocolate lily. And a very windy day!
Cladina mitia, Costal reindeer lichen
The cause of the mounds is unknown, but at this time scientists are certain that the mounds were not caused by glacial action – or giant, prehistoric gophers.
Viola sempervirens
The last of Dodecatheon pulchellum for the season. This bulb blooms early in spring. We were lucky to see it.
The prairie in all its beauty.

I hope that these pictures spike your interest in learning about our vanishing, rare, and valuable American prairies. Be sure to click on the link I provided above for additional information, and a short video provided by the Center for Natural Lands Management.

And, as always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Walking Towards

So this is what it means: no time like the present – do it now before you change your mind – if you stand still you’ll freeze – no time to waste. There is wisdom in each saying far beyond the obvious; available to anyone willing to think for more than a moment. Of course we know that “everything changes”; after all, change defines life on this planet, and I assume it defines all life no matter where it is found. Change for good or ill, for progress or regress, enjoyable or unpleasant. Walk towards change and savor all it brings – no matter how difficult.

These thoughts came to me as I ventured out for a long walk the other day. A beautiful (though chilly) spring morning was a good time for considering options. Very few people out, although I did encounter a friend/fellow walker and we talked for a few minutes; otherwise, a quiet time good for thinking.

And this is what I saw:

Magnolia – M. soulangeana, I think.
New tulips coming on as the old fade.
Aubrieta, Rock Cress. I love this blast of color.
Cornus florida
Magnolia grandiflora – one of the most beautiful trees on my walking route.
A young little Pinus mugo
Coming out of hibernation – the dinosaurs of summer are waking up!

No matter what comes your way, keep moving forward. After all, there is something beautiful in every moment – sometimes it just takes time to find it.


Cannon Beach, Oregon

Bill and I recently returned from a few days at one of the most beautiful sandy beaches on the west coast – Cannon Beach in Oregon. I’ve been coming to this charming little town since 1998 when a close friend recommended the town to me. Her family has a summer cabin here (built in the 1940’s by her father) – and we have managed to take several short vacations here since my son was 4 years old. I’ve watched the town change from a quiet, low-key, family oriented town to a high-end, expensive destination with many absurdly-priced accommodations. But, just a few blocks away from the main street (Hemlock) you will find old, weathered treasures – houses built around the time of my friends’ family vacation home – and rented in the off-season for very reasonable prices. These are the types of places we stay in while visiting.

While we spend most of our time on the beach, we always take at least half a day to walk through the surrounding forest and Cannon Beach’s interesting Nature Walk Trail, which ends at Ecola Creek Park. I never pass up an opportunity to spend time in a forest, even when filled with the “fragrance” of western Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus), especially pungent when blended with blooming Salix, Sambucus, and the fiddleheads of Polystichum.

The following are just a few examples of the beauty of this area. If you haven’t visited Cannon Beach, don’t be put-off by the expense and “must-see destination” ambience of the town. Instead, search out the old, weathered, authentic treasures this place has to offer – you will be amazed at its beauty. (And, as always, many pictures are taken while on-the-move so they may be a little blurry. I appreciate your patience with my lack of photography skills!)

A blurry Mt. Rainier as seen from I-5, at 65 mph.
From the street to the beach!
Haystack Rock in the distance.
Home to countless birds, and the occasional eagle who comes by to raid nests.
Tide pools are finally closed to walkers.
More seastacks.
Due to intense wave-action, a very clean beach.
On the Nature Trail – equisteum as far as the eye can see. I love this plant!
Skunk Cabbage in full bloom.
Native wild ginger and a fiddle-head.
Beach grass – sunlight on raindrops on a windy day.
Rain one minute – clearing the next.
Beautiful ending to beautiful days.

Our drive home runs through small towns in the southwest region of Washington – South Bend, Raymond, Pe Ell, and other tiny settlements. As always, a stop at our favorite café in South Bend is a must.

Good tea and coffee served here.
So they say. . .
From the car – Willapa Hills lowlands on the way home. Highway 6 is a welcome change from I-5.

This shot embodies all that Cannon Beach means to me and my family. A visit to this lovely town – any time of year – will become a favorite travel memory.

Here’s to good weather, fun hiking, and great coffee to fuel the road!

“I’m not dead yet!”

It’s been a long, trying few weeks but the worst is over (referring to post of March 21). All test results were either negative or low-normal, and that’s a pretty good sign. Although I’m not seeing much improvement yet, I anticipate it coming soon. And, as Monty Python succinctly stated, “I’m not dead yet!”

In the meantime, I’ve been walking and gardening as much as energy allows. This is the season of voluptous cherry blossoms, magnificent magnolias, and cheerful daffodils. Brilliant colors stand out on early spring days and make a timid blue sky bold and bright. Surrounded with gaudy color – yellows, purples, pinks – it’s difficult to look away. But one color, in particular, brings us down to earth with a forcefully quiet presence. White flowering plants – the color of many straight species’ flowers – brings a boisterous spring garden down-to-earth. It is the perfect backdrop for an intense spring display.

Two of my favorite white-blooming trees are Amelanchier and Magnolia stellata. Along my walking routes, the city of Seattle has planted many Serviceberry trees (Amelanchier species) and they are in full, glorious bloom right now. The flowers don’t last long, but the bud and early leaf stages are almost as beautiful. I’ve eaten the berries when I can get to them before birds and they are almost tasty. But the reason I grow this gorgeous, small tree is for the flowers.

Amelanchier in full, glorious bloom.
Its canopy is open and graceful.
Outshining pink and blue. Amelanchier’s early leaves have a copper-reddish tint that creates a perfect back-drop for the flowers.

The other tree I mentioned, Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) is my favorite magnolia. Much smaller than M. grandiflora or other huge magnolias and a perfect addition to smaller gardens, its flowers are gracefully shaped and classically beautiful.

Gorgeous little tree!

Either tree – or both! – are elegant, easy-care plants that enhance a landscape as well as any flowering cherry or plum tree.

I wish you good health, clear skies, and easy gardening.

No Variations on this Theme

I was thinking about my dad’s phrase – “Don’t worry, it always gets better” while listening to my doctor last week. I’ve held that phrase, and dad’s tone of voice, in my mind for most of my life. In fact, I can’t remember any difficult times when his voice and that phrase were absent. But as I was saying, I was listening to my doctor explain why she needed to refer me to a specialist for more testing. For the past six months, I’ve been dealing with unusual fatigue, slight headaches and intermittent upset stomach throughout each day, and a few unusual bruises here and there in places I don’t remember bumping (although gardening creates lots of forgettable accidents). Swollen glands in my neck have been present, as well. So, my dad’s voice came to mind immediately when she mentioned a few cancers that these symptoms may indicate. “Nope, not that”, I thought to myself. I was hoping to hear something like “It’s probably a long-lived, undefined virus that will fade as mysteriously as it appeared”. I’m still hoping to hear that because, if for no other reason, it will prove my dad right – again!

The weekend that just ended was beautiful. Our son and his traveling companion, Beems the Cat, spent the weekend with us and we had good visits around his work schedule. Feeling refreshed and optimistic this morning after their visit, I went out for a long walk. The calendar finally agrees with meteorological spring and we see some beautiful colors. With such beauty around me, and such beautiful people in my life, there is no way I can feel anything other than hopeful.

I will take some time off from writing because I need to rest up (and get rid of this damn headache!). I anticipate hearing good news but if not, I will face the demon head-on, push my glasses up with my middle finger, and say “Nope, not yet. I have too much to do.”

In the meantime, here are a few variations on spring pink I encountered this morning.

Magnolia stellata, pink form of Star Magnolia.
Rhododendron PJM
Ribes sanguineum, Red Flowering currant.
A gorgeous Prunus, flowering cherry.
Erica carnea, probably ‘Springwood Pink’, with Mahonia in the background.
And at home, another favorite plant: Kalmiopsis leachiana, Umpqua Form. I’m proud to say that all four of my Kalmiopsis are finally thriving!

I wish you a spring full of beauty, fun, and good days.

Beautiful Days

The past week or two have offered days perfect for long walks and easy hikes. Visiting my favorite places here in my corner of our lovely blue planet – a few botanical gardens, a beach, and neighborhoods – has offered the beauty of late winter/early spring days.

From the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way (WA): The garden’s 22 acres house “the largest collection of Rhododendron species in the world”. I have visited this garden countless times in each season over many years, and always see something new, unique, and very beautiful. The following is just a hint of what the Garden offers.

In the Rutherford Conservatory.
The gazebo offers an expansive view of the formal lawn.
You will find something in bloom in the Garden year-round.

Kubota Garden, in south Seattle, is an historic 20 acre garden in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle. Created in 1927 by Fujitaro Kubota, who immigrated to the US in the early 1900’s, the Garden became public in the 1980’s. It is now maintained by Seattle Parks and Recreation. Here are displayed beautifully pruned conifers and large shrubs, reminiscent of the large public gardens in Japan. Creative use of rocks and moss have made this one of my favorite places to visit.

And a long walk on a gorgeous day took me through a local forest and down to the beach on a stunningly cold but clear day.

Looking northwest from Carkeek Park beach. Wouldn’t this huge old stump look great in someone’s garden :)!
About two miles from home, where the rich folks’ neighborhoods begin. They share expansive views of Puget Sound.

And last, for all those Pacific Northwest folks who search out blue on our cloudy days, here’s a recommendation:

I wish you interesting walks, beautiful skies, and a good read for those rainy days.

Willapa Hills State Park trail

Just outside the charming small town of Chehalis my family and I met up with one of the most beautiful hikes in Washington state. On a classically beautiful early spring day, all things came together for us – my son’s first day of vacation since 2020 (the hospital he works in has been struggling with insufficient staffing), my spouse set aside his projects, and the extreme fatigue I’ve been working through since October subsided – and we hit the trail. We began our hike at the Adna trailhead. This is an especially picturesque area as you hike along pasture, stream, and meadow.

Cows, sheep, lambs, and horses populate this area.

My phone camera doesn’t do justice to distance, but as you see, these little guys called out to us as we passed by. Also, we were talking with the lambs as I tried to take this shot.

As you leave the pastoral areas and cross Spooner and Clinton roads, a series of meadows and streams greet you. A combination of snow and heavy rains flattened grasses along the trail.

Down the trail, you cross the Chehalis River.

After crossing the river, the trail enters forested areas. This portion of the trail is quiet and filled with the sweet scent of moss. And at the start of this region, treats are provided for hiking companions.

Many hillsides along the trail show signs of considerable erosion from February rains, and an eastern portion of the trail was closed due to landslides.

If you haven’t hiked the Willapa Hills State Park trail system yet, I recommend visiting it soon. Spring is a beautiful time of year for hiking, and this trail system is one of our state’s easiest and most scenic trails. And, if time allows, ending your hike with a visit to the Market Street Bakery and Café in Chehalis is well worth the time!

I wish you a spring full of good hiking, clear weather, and open bakeries!

A Winter Garden, Part 2

The month of February is a very busy time for me and Bill. Our birthdays are eight days apart and this is the month we met 50 years ago, so we combine those dates to make the entire month celebratory. In addition, we’ve continued weekly walks through the Washington Park Arboretum. In my free time, I have continued walks and hikes in the neighborhood and a local urban forest while doing my best to avoid ice, snow, and some very slick trails.

The following are a few of the late winter delights I’ve encountered while out. Although I walk fast to keep warm (we have had many days of sub-freezing weather this month), I will always take a moment to stop for a picture or two.

A creative offering nestled in the Mahonia (or Berberis, but I prefer Mahonia).
In the ‘hood.
Same garden as the little sprite. Berginia cordifolia nestled among granite.
A neighbor. Nice guy – quiet and thoughtful.
I felt I was being watched as I walked along.
Camelia japonica at the Washington Park Arboretum.
I love this stand of Cornus at the Arboretum.
On the New Zealand trail. Arboretum.
A true blue day.
Good neighbors – a Madrone, a pine, and a maple. Arboretum.
At home – Ribes sanguineum, White Icicle.
The trunk of my venerable Pieris floribunda. No plant in my garden means more to me than this one.
And it’s in full bloom!
On the way up the trail to visit my brother. His ashes are giving life to a young Garry oak (Quercus garryana) in this forest.
This neighbor’s Amelanchier is still decked out for the winter holidays.

I wish you bright days, good trails, and delights to warm your soul.