Monday, August 25, 2014

The Dungeness Spit

Dungeness Spit map at trailhead, Sequim, WA.
The locals (on the Olympic Peninsula) call it "the Spit," but the real name is Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge.  Established in 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson, it is 636 acres of a variety of tidelands, beach and upland forest, including one of the longest natural sand spits in the world.

Fortunately it is less than five miles from my home and is a grand spot for walks; long ones or short ones. Even on drizzly days, it is a delightful escape from the moderate traffic of the area.
Upland forest trail heading toward "the Spit."

Today the weather was perfect for a rather long trek, but I didn't tromp all the way out to the lighthouse. That is a 10-mile round trip and I don't think I've trained enough yet.

The walk starts in the forest, and pleasantly meanders gradually downhill until that last 1/8th mile when it is somewhat steep, but on a wide, smooth trail.

Then the trail opens up and suddenly you can see the upper end of Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and across to the island of Vancouver, B.C.
The waves from the Strait of Juan de Fuca create the Spit,
and the bluffs nearby are gradually eroded.
On this gorgeous day, there were plenty of people sunning themselves and even a few were swimming in the water. One woman was walking the beach water line looking for stones in the shape of a heart. She said she collects them. This, in spite of the admonition on one of the signs that the taking of wood, stones or other items from the area is forbidden.
People do a lot of rearranging of the stones on the beach.

Judging from the number of stones in varying stages of being grinded away by the salt water action, I cannot think that there is a great risk of them disappearing because folks are collecting them.

Do you suppose there is someone who has catalogued them and is keeping track of where they all are? A fine government job!
Well, it looked like a heart for a bit...
it's the white one.

When I visited the Pacific coast, up at  Rialto  Beach, I noticed the stones there are being shaped much rounder. Here they are being washed flatter. Even so, I found myself walking and looking down and here is what I found:

A ship loaded with freight heads out to the Pacific Ocean.
Naturally I left it there. I imagined getting back to the Ranger kiosk and having them force me to empty my pockets and then suddenly a large crowd would gather and I would be further humiliated by getting caught... wondering now what the Federal Register lays out as the punishment for removing rocks. No wonder the indigenous peoples are in wonderment about all our rules.

All kinds of creatures, feathered, finny and furry, take advantage of this refuge.

During the spring the seals use the protected harbor beach at the end of the Spit for their pups. In the fall and the spring, the migrating birds take a break from their journey and other native birds are here all year.

This is the sea grass that is essential for nesting birds.
I didn't see one bird on the ground anywhere today. Perhaps they took a holiday. Of course there were seagulls.
The hotter-than-average summer has made the waters in the
Strait less than frigid. 
On my way back up the path I found myself passing a couple who were dragging their feet. Noting they were considerably younger than me, I asked them if they'd had a nice day, curious to learn why they seemed so tired. "We've just completed the walk out to the lighthouse and back," the guy told me. "It seemed shorter heading out than it was coming back," his female companion added.

The Olympic range is off in the distance. The eroding bluff
is to the left in the photo.

I feel so fortunate that I live in such a beautiful area. And that this portion of accessible loveliness is pretty close to my home.

When my son was out visiting we walked along the bluffs. There has been so much erosion, portions of the path I walked a year ago have disappeared and the Rangers have re-routed it.

I have no idea at what speed it will progress, or what will happen to the park itself if the bluffs simply disappear. At least the scientists can't blame the erosion on global warming. Or can they?
Waves on the shore; small now, but come back when the
fall winds whip them up and see them then.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


This word has been winding itself around and through my brain for days now.

I had to go and look it up to be sure I understood the definition.

Here it is, folks: the word entitle is a verb meaning to give a person or thing a title, a right or claim to something, to call by a particular title or name or to designate a person by an honorary title. It originated about 1350-1400 in middle English.

Entitlement (by current definition) is a noun meaning the act of entitling, state of being entitled and finally Webster's defines it as "the right to guaranteed benefits under a government program, as Social Security or unemployment compensation." Its origin is newer, about 1825-35, but there was no Social Security back then.

It seems to me that this "right to claim" portion of the word is being lost. When we speak of 'entitlement programs' we are saying these are programs which can be claimed or given, and yet many of these programs have a limited audience.

We once were 'entitled' under the Constitution to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," which had a wide-ranging audience.

Some people feel, or more correctly - demonstrate -  a certain entitlement because they drive a very expensive car or live in an exclusive neighborhood, that somehow because they have acquired these resources they are 'entitled' to more respect or considerations.

And in some cultures or neighborhoods, a certain family tree or religion creates in the minds of those individuals, that they are entitled to more or less of something.

So I'm thinking that some of the greatest conflicts in our world history go back to this word of being 'entitled' or having an 'entitlement,' an assumption of deserving something.

If we are talking just about Social Security, I did the work, I earned the return of those funds now when I am older and retired. In my opinion, that is not really an 'entitlement,' but a return of value for effort.

But when we are talking about land, it really never can be owned - only leased - to live on and do business. So are we 'entitled' to land? Not like the nobles of the 1300's. We receive a title to land because we have purchased it, but if you fail to pay the taxes on that title, guess who will own it next? And if you are in the way of some corporate plan, you will be forced off that land. There is something quite ethereal about land when you think about it.

When we die, we no longer "own" it. I like the Native American concept of caring for the earth, recognizing we are supposed to be protecting it for the future generations.

I am entitled to the pursuit of happiness by the U.S. Constitution, and if I am not happy, it is not the obligation of anyone else to turn things around for me. That is my task. But an awful lot of people seem to be having a different attitude... "Make me happy!" And what if we decide we don't want to pursue that objective? Are we entitled to make another choice?

In the end, when each of us was born, we received no entitlements at birth, other than the Social Security number which is a documentation of birth, a title, not a guarantee. (It's probably different in other countries.) Then it is up to us.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Canceling a Membership

Most of us are members of clubs, organizations, groups or fraternities, sororities. Some of those memberships serve us well and some are just verbal clutter in the background of our lives.

I have become aware of being a member of a club that no longer serves me, so I'm withdrawing my membership today, here and now.

That club is the "Clean Plate Club."

I was joined against my will when I was too small and vulnerable to object.

My father and mother didn't realize what that club had for rules when they ordered me to "clean up my plate," and they have cast off their mortal coils and any rules they issued are null and void now.

One of the philosophies of the club was that children starving in Hungary, Armenia (Does that place still exist?), Africa and other remote places unlikely to be visited by a five-year old from New Hampshire, would directly benefit from my consuming everything on a dinner plate for an adult.

Cruel and unusual punishment? It was never deemed so by the grown-ups, for whom a full plate was an affirmation that the war was over, there was now plenty for all, so celebrate and EAT UP!

Questioning a Leo father as to how my eating all my food could possibly help someone so far away was deemed insubordination.

So was refusing to eat something that either looked or tasted peculiar to a five-year old. But Taurus stubbornness is hardly a match for Leo's pride. Or was it?

One Friday evening my mother and father were about to sit down for a French 'apéritif.' consisting of fresh, bright red sliced tomatoes (pronounced toh-mah-toes for this occasion) and sliced hard-boiled eggs with a light vinaigrette sauce and some freshly cut up parsley. (This prepared by my mother when she was still interested enough in furthering her relationship with my father; not to say that there is any blame her in any direction, but at some point, they both did things to each other that caused her to stop making an effort with food for him.)

This lovely plate was put on the coffee table in the living room, and I wandered over to see what it was. Expressing an interest in tasting it, my father insisted that I have three slices of toh-mah-toe and three slices of egg on my own plate and that I sit down and eat it.
The re-created French aperitif plate which launched the
War of the Toh-mah-toes of circa 1950's.
Never realizing that this would become the War of the Toh-mat-toes in the early 1950's, the battle was joined. Of course I sat down, and upon taking one bite decided that was enough. The red thing, years later, might hold some small appeal, but my youthful palate thought it was disgusting. And those delightful hard-boiled eggs were sullied with a nasty-tasting bitter juice.

"Yeuchhhhhh!" I called out, and my father and mother's evening was about to be ruined. Putting my fork back on the plate, I got up and started to leave.

This was the affront that the Leo was not about to tolerate.

"Young Lady, sit back down and finish what is on your plate." Taurus feet (mine) were firmly planted in the negative, and arms crossed against my chest, I refused.

Prison was a better alternative, and that was where I was sent.  "Go to your room and you will stay there until you decide you are going to finish what is on the plate," my father ordered.

Dinner time came and went, and my father directed my mother to bring that very same plate out for my breakfast on Saturday morning. As he was going fishing with my older brother, he wasn't around to watch the tears and refusal that ensued. Back to my room I went without any breakfast.

Act II, scene 1: lunch was a repeat performance. By now the eggs had absorbed all the sauce and some of the tomato juice as well, giving them a peculiar color and an even nastier taste. My mother was looking at it with the same disgust but for some reason she was in cahoots with the jailer and was following his orders.

Act II, scene 2: Being in my room all day wasn't healthy, either, so I was let out mid-afternoon and I knew right where to go to find nourishment... the raspberries were in season and off I went to the patch.

Act II, scene 3: Everyone else at dinner was served from the variety of fresh things on the table, but I was subjected to a cold plate of withered up Toh-mah-toes and soggy hard-boiled eggs and an equally withering look from my father, ordering me to eat what was on my plate or go to my room.

It wasn't hard for me to decide what to do and I left the table. As I was going up the stairs, I could hear my mother arguing with my father that his intractable daughter was not going to bend to his pride and it should end now.

It did... but in a secret way: when the dishes were cleared from the table, those wicked no-longer red things went into the trash. I expect even Super-Pig (a creature we had out in the back) might have turned up his nose to them, but I don't know that for a fact.

Years, really almost 20 of them, went by and one evening when my father had invited me out to dinner, I told him this story. He was astounded that he could have behaved in such a way, and worse yet, his common phrase at dinner "Have some lovely toh-mah-toes," had become a trigger point for me to NEVER want to eat those garden vegetables in their fresh form again.

Curiously, talking about it with him, receiving his apology as well, was the curative, the forgiveness, that made it possible for me to eat them, but only if I put them on my plate myself. From then on, whenever we were at a table together, he would lightly say, "Won't you have some lovely toh-mah-toes, dear?" and we would smile at what was now part of our bond instead of our fence.

Silly that decades later I am still dealing with food issues and the consequent weight that accompanies them. But I am working on a variety of solutions and one of them is to cancel my membership in the Clean Plate Club. Now I can leave something behind without guilt. Or better yet, by making donations to food programs that allow that guilt to be assuaged, knowing that someone somewhere locally or far away is getting something to eat and I don't have to eat it for them.

And, although I re-created this dish for this blog, I don't much care for the combination today. But I do have my mother to thank for giving me the incentive to be creative about food and its presentation. Whatever complications my parents had between them, there is much good that each of them passed on to me and with some distance from the immediacy of their energies I can see that now.

What contracts have been made in your life, with or without your assent, that are playing out in the background of your life? Do you want to share?

And, to my children, who might be reading this... my profuse apologies for anything I may have said or done that created any contract that is negative in your life. Consider this the dissolution of it for my part in it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Moon over the Mountains

Long ago, when television was in its infancy in the 50's, there was a woman who used to close out her program "The Kate Smith Hour" on NBC with this song, "When the moon comes over the mountain..."

Some of you who were in the U.S. in those days and watched that hour of entertainment (before Ed Sullivan, folks), may also remember a backdrop of a moon rising over mountains that looked quite like these...

From Hurricane Ridge near Port Angeles, WA

The moon looks very close, but it's still miles away.
The drive up to Hurricane Ridge is long (about half an hour) and on windy roads that were reminiscent to me of the roads in Colombia, including the lack of guard rails and sharp drop offs along the 17-mile route. 

After my trip up there and telling my boss about seeing the moon from that elevation, he advised me to not go up there again after dark because of the panhandlers who are stalking individuals for funds.

How frustrating to have such a place of beauty become so undesirable. It is surprising to me, as a solo traveler in a country (Colombia) which was still overcoming a reputation for being dangerous while I was there, and where I was never accosted or threatened, to return home to a place that I perceived as 'safe,' only to discover it's darker side.

This young deer was totally unafraid of me, standing about
six feet away. I wasn't afraid of her, either.
I have an objective to travel back to France next summer, and if the world keeps becoming so scary, I may have to hire a bodyguard to go with me.

The last rays of the sun convey the sense of heat that we're
experiencing here in the NW... hot, hot, hot.