Saw some of my favorite things in Bellingham yesterday – a rainbow sailboat, a jolly otter, and a seagull in the seaweed…
I had a wonderful morning in Bellingham. The sun was shining, the birds were chattering in the trees, and there was that briny smell coming off the bay that always makes me feel like I’m some care-free tourist on vacation.
I started my walk off at Tony’s Coffee Shop in Fairhaven – picked up a mocha and headed towards the boardwalk. As I was crossing the crosswalk to take me to the trail I almost got run over. The car started to accelerate as it it came towards me – the driver screeched to a stop a couple feet from me – I realized I had my hand out – I think I was getting ready to push myself onto her hood. The driver – a young woman – said the sun was in her face and she didn’t see me – but she saw my coffee cup from Tony’s. She was really shaken up and apologizing. I reached in and put my arm around her shoulders and told her I was glad she had quick reactions. “You did good, Grasshopper,” I said. We both laughed. Sometimes we meet nice people in unexpected and odd ways. I am feeling really grateful.
When I got to Boulevard Park I decided to continue on the trail to downtown Bellingham and check out the Farmers Market. There were lots of piles of leaves on the side of the trail to swish through on my way there – and you’ve got to swish through the piles of leaves, right?
The Farmers Market had all my favorite farmers market stuff – tables piled with veggies and fruits and home-made honey; musicians musicianing; colorful people; and good will to man and womankind.
On my way back I found myself walking behind three generations of a family – they were all putting their arms around each others’ shoulders and talking and laughing together. None of them were on cellphones. They were totally connected to each other. It made me happy. I snapped a couple pictures and then caught up to them and told them what I’d done and asked them if it would be alright – if the pictures turned out – if I posted them on my blog. They said sure and smiled, nodded their heads, and introduced themselves. There were two aunts, their niece, the niece’s love-friend, and the niece’s children. The aunts were out visiting from Colorado (Denver and Boulder). I brought up the pictures I’d snapped on my phone to show them and get their approval, and as they came together to look at the pictures, I liked the way all their feet made a circle of shoes – so, of course I had to snap a picture of THAT. Then they told me I should include my own feet in their circle – which… okay, I have a couple black toes from a hike I took on Mount Rainier last summer (my toes kept smashing into the front of my boots)… but… what the heck, right? So I joined the circle of feet and snapped a photo.
Dad (Dee Molenaar, 99) is still in bed at noon.
Karen: Do you just want to stay in bed and rest today?
Dad: (looking up at me, hopefully) Unless somebody wants to go for a drive.
Karen: Do you want to go for a drive?
A half an hour later Gwen has Dad dressed and fed, and we load him into my car. I head south on I-5.
Dad: When you and Scott retire are you going to travel the world?
Karen: That sounds fun!
Dad: I’ve seen a lot of the world. (This is an understatement.) I can tell you where NOT to go.
Karen: Where should we not go?
Dad: New York City.
(I’ve been to New York City and enjoyed it – but I’m wondering when Dad went and what he experienced there.)
Karen: Where else should we not go?
Dad: Well, you’re on the freeway. Any place from the freeway is fine. It’s easy to go anywhere from here.
Dad: Where are you taking me?
Karen: I thought we’d go south and see if we can see Rainier. It might be kind of hazy today, though. There’s a forest fire in Canada.
Dad: Rainier’s too far. Baker will be all clouded in today. (We pass a sign for LaConner.) Let’s go to the old waterfront part of LaConner.
Karen: You want to go to LaConner?
(As we’re driving through the countryside towards LaConner, Dad is taking note of what he sees.)
Dad: This area looks a lot like the midwest, except for the hills in the background.
(We pass a sign with a Dutch name on it and I point to it.)
Dad: Roozengarde – there’s a Dutch name. We could be driving through the Netherlands – except for the mountains in the background.
(We get to LaConner and Dad decides he wants to go to a museum. I’ve wanted to take Dad to the Skagit Historical Museum since he moved up here a year ago. Maybe today is the day this will happen. I drive to the museum and park maybe 30 yards from it. I don’t realize there are a lot of parking spaces closer to the museum, but, when I park where I park, 30 yards doesn’t seem like much of a walk. I am wrong. We unload Dad and his walker, and begin the walk to the museum. After about ten yards Dad says he needs to sit down, and we find a place for him to sit on a little wall.)
Karen: Let me go see if they have wheelchairs in there. Stay here. Are you alright?
Dad: (nodding) Okay.
(I go into the museum to see if they have wheelchairs. They don’t. A rolling chair seems promising, though. I ask if I can use it to get Dad around, and Ann, the woman tending the counter, says sure. I bring the chair down to where Dad is sitting, and help Dad get into the rolling chair. A nice couple about to go into the museum approaches us to help. Steve says he can push Dad from the back, and Danielle guards Dad from the side, and I pick up Dad’s feet so they don’t drag on the concrete. When we get Dad inside he decides he wants to use his walker in there. He heads into the room that displays a history of technology.)
Dad: That looks just like my first car!
Karen: Your first car was a Model-T Ford?
Dad: Yeah. Model-T Ford. 1925.
(I am grinning now. I love that I’m walking through an historical museum with a walking piece of history. Dad is starting to get tired again, and we bring back the rolling chair for him to sit in. We head into the World War II exhibit. Dad served in the Coast Guard in World War II and he seems fascinated by what he sees in there. He notes that the Coast Guard doesn’t seem to be represented in there, but says that’s okay – the Coast Guard was more in the South Pacific, and this exhibit is more about the campaign in Europe.)
(Danielle, the woman who helped Dad earlier, approaches Dad to tell him she looked him up in Wikipedia and wants to thank him for his service during the war. Dad thanks her and asks her if she was in the Coast Guard. Danielle says no, but her brother was. Dad likes that. I get a picture of Dad with Steve and Danielle. Dad asks me their names, and I introduce them. He shakes their hands. He has just met two new friends.)
(Dad is tired now. He’s ready to go home. With colossal effort he manages to use his walker to get himself back to the car – which I have now parked right next to the door. He asks where we’re going now, and I tell him I’m going to get him a root beer float and then take him home. He nods his head in agreement. I stop for his root beer float.)
Karen: You really earned this one.
(Dad nods his head in complete agreement, and then we head to his home. Dad looks completely exhausted. He has sucked down his root beer float by the time we get to his place. I open the passenger door for him, and inch by inch he turns himself around in his seat.)
Dad: Every little movement takes so much energy now. And I need to rest after every movement. (He closes his eyes and sighs and leans back to rest for a few moments, before making another movement to get out of the car.) You have a doddering old Dad.
Karen: No. I have a mountain-climbing Dad.
Dad: That was a long time ago. (He looks up at the house.) I think I’m going to take a little nap when I get in there.
Karen: I love you, Daddy. I’m proud to be your daughter.
Dad: I love you, too, and I’m proud to have you for a daughter.
In the little town of Edison, Washington, there is a place where magic happens. It is called Tweet’s, and I never fail to find friendship and laughter there. Also, really good food.
A couple years ago I wrote a post about running unexpectedly into the daughter of the Methodist minister who had married my husband and I three decades before in a town three hours away, on the other side of the Puget Sound. I’d never met the minister’s daughter before and wouldn’t have known that we had any connection to each other if we’d just passed on the street. But we began chatting at Tweet’s as we ate our breakfasts, and discovered that her father had been the minister who had married Scott and me.
That same day I ran into some of my former students – and it was so good to see them again and to learn about the wonderful lives they were making for themselves. And it was that day, too, that I met WWU students Hannah and Marlo – and they later ended up being in the same classes as my youngest son.
Another morning at Tweet’s I discovered a table of young artists talking about their art – and, being who I am, I, of course, had to listen in to what they were saying from my little table in the corner of the deck. They were funny and bright and had me cracking up to myself in my corner. Soon a young man joined them – his hair was sticking up and he was kind of bleary-eyed and he announced to his friends that he’d just had an all-nighter watching an entire Zombie series on television. His humor and description of the TV show and his aura of good will completely won me over. As I left I stopped by their table and admitted I’d been listening in to their conversation and really enjoyed it. They all started laughing, and we chatted a bit before I left. A week or two later I ran in to the zombie-watcher at an espresso stand, recognized him, and introduced myself. He said, “You’re Karen?! My friends have been telling me I needed to meet you and your husband!” And he introduced himself as Benjamin Swatez – an artist who has worked with Syrian refugee children and other young people, doing art projects with them. He is an amazing human being. And I first met him at Tweet’s.
And yesterday I found more magic at Tweet’s. I found another old student there, Austin, who recently discovered his gift for photography. And I met some visitors from Vancouver, Canada, who’d passed me on their motorcycles as I pedaled my bike to Edison. They were friendly and kind and funny – and I had such fun chatting with them. And there was Charles – the owner of Tweet’s – coming over to greet me and give me a hug.
And, just now as I was typing this, I realized what’s so magical about Tweet’s: It is a place filled to brimming with love.
Looking north from Bellingham, Washington, the Canadian Coastals have been spectacular this week…
It was so beautiful on Sauk Mountain yesterday that I teared up from the sheer dazzling wonder of it. The wildflowers were amazing – Indian paintbrush, and tiger lillies, and daisies – and the air was scented with that sagey alpine smell that I’ve only ever smelled in the mountains. A marmot was whistling his song, and the sound of laughter echoed through the hills as a group of about a dozen friends and their mascot, Sadie, worked their way up the switchbacks. It was a perfect hike in every single way.