Old Friends, New Friends

Whelan on Walkabout in Washington - Olympic National Forest

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When I worked with the cabin owners at Huntington Lake, Sierra National Forest, I would hear their stories about their cabin being passed down for generations. They would talk about how they met there, who was who at the lake, who had which cabin and what they did to it over the years. The would tell nostalgic stories about "Thirty years ago, when I came up here for the summer, I would hike, or swim, or boat or meet people at the cabin for a holiday party. Their cabin was their old friend. 

They were very nice stories and I would listen to them thinking about my parents. My family could never dream of buying a little cabin in the woods. But what they did own then, and what we own now is public land. We all have our old friends the National Forests and National Parks.

After the stress and anxiety of moving to Washington, it came as no surprise that my first day-trip was to the Olympic National Forest and the Olympic National Park.  A visit to a new old friend. 

 
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Rain Forest Nature Trail - Old Forest
The simplicity of taking a short walk through a tunnel of life - tall, dense, growing, green, natural, perfect in its own way, connected in time, space and experience. This nature trail is short, flat and perfect for close up interaction with the temperate rain forest. Everywhere you look, everything you see is covered with green life. The old dead support new life. Green on green is the color scheme with no place to rest your eye. It is a friendly visual assault. Like a giant vegetative hug, it walks up to you and you can't help to hug it back, and love it back. We are visiting on a clear sunny day and everything seems to be shouting "The sun is shining! Quick soak it up while you can. Soon we will be bathing in rain."

 Douglas Fir grow big on the Olympic National Forest. 

Douglas Fir grow big on the Olympic National Forest. 

 Handsome cozy chairs in the lodge's public space - lodge style done well. 

Handsome cozy chairs in the lodge's public space - lodge style done well. 

World's Record Sitka Spruce - Old Tree  How can you not love a very large and very old tree? I would just go crazy when people jumped the fence to take a selfie on the roots of giant sequoia trees. While in Cambodia I was disappointed to learn that platforms were needed to keep selfie seekers from stomping the roots of the strangler fig tree featured in the Laura Croft Tomb Raider movie. Unfortunately, fame comes at a cost. 

I found the very same people taking selfies on the roots of this amazing sitka spruce.  I did speak to the tree and told it "hang in there big boy. We love you. " Then I took my selfie by the sign in the parking lot, away from my new old friend's trampled roots. 

 Ferns cover the forest floor like bear clover in the Sierra, only ferns are prettier. 

Ferns cover the forest floor like bear clover in the Sierra, only ferns are prettier. 

Lake Quinault Lodge - Old Lodge
A historic gathering place that is still loved and cared about. Unlike my previous experience with resorts under special use permit from the US Forest Service, Lake Quinault Lodge is well managed, well maintained and continues to create memorable experiences. It was stylish with the look and feel of old historic Park lodges.  

"Built in 1926 and styled after Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone and Sun Valley Lodge in Idaho, the Lake Quinault Lodge reflects the spirit of a bygone era. This cozy getaway offers a serene retreat from the pressures of the outside world." 

We casually enjoyed our beers with lunch on the outdoor patio overlooking the lake. While visitors sat on the lawn, we speculated about staying at the lodge when the weather is more representative of the temperate rain forest. "If the room had a fireplace and a good book, this could be a fun place even in the dead of a rainy winter." 

 Selfie by the sign, not on the roots of the World's Largest Sitka Spruce. 

Selfie by the sign, not on the roots of the World's Largest Sitka Spruce. 

 The view upstream with a peek of the peaks of the Olympic National Park backcountry. 

The view upstream with a peek of the peaks of the Olympic National Park backcountry. 

South Shore Drive/North Shore Drive - Old Drive
Still one of my favorite activities - taking a drive exploring new roads in the forest. Up stream along the river, there are few cars on the drive as we weave back and forth from gravel to pavement, from one lane to two lanes, from open views through caves of moss covered maples. The forest reaches above and beyond. The trees are so tight, maybe they are blocking out the cell phone service protecting us from thoughts of the outside world? 

 A tunnel of green on North Shore Road, Quinault Valley, Olympic National Forest. 

A tunnel of green on North Shore Road, Quinault Valley, Olympic National Forest. 

 A forever landscape in the Olympic National Park. 

A forever landscape in the Olympic National Park. 

Olympic National Park Beaches - Old Friend

I can't resist a visit to the beach. Olympic National Park has beautiful long, wild, and cool beaches that stretch as far as I can see. There are footsteps in the sand, but no one is around. Even the names "Beach One" and "Beach Two" are simple and unassuming as if to not clutter the space with expectations. "This is all there is" says the waves as they roll without regard to me or anyone else in the world. How may years have they been doing this without notice? Beaches are prehistoric relics alive today and hopefully forever. 

 Perfect beach stones. 

Perfect beach stones. 

I'm still trying to get back to my old self in my new environment. I'm having a bit of writer's block and I want to thank you for reading my blog. 

Running on Empty

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields…

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind
— Jackson Brown

Here is a link so you too can sing along. https://youtu.be/Vq25ZJwZJzU

On my fourteen-hour drive to college, I would sing along with Jackson Brown. I was 21 on "Highway 101" from Southern California to Humboldt State University.

I was living it.

I don’t know where I’m running now.
I’m just running on.
 Sold! I love my house, but I love my new life more. 

Sold! I love my house, but I love my new life more. 

"Many summer fields" have been good to me, and now that I am retired, I feel that "running behind" part.

A lot has changed since my long drives in the eighties. 

This month I am asking myself "How did I pick up all this stuff along the way?" 

I like my house, my couch, and my bathroom, and my books, and my pool, and my clothes, and my rice cooker, and my flip flops, and my artwork, and my music, and my clocks, and my bath towels, and my houseplants. I love all my stuff. 

But, they can't go with me on The Big Walkabout. Less is more. I want to get rid of more and keep less. I don't want my life limited by my possessions. 

The less I own, the more I can travel.

 My collection of Star Trek action figures was the first to go. 

My collection of Star Trek action figures was the first to go. 

What do you do with the High School Yearbook? Mom's glass figurines? Dad's old belt buckle? The necklace you got from your first love? The gifts your children gave you when they were in kindergarten? The craft project you started two years ago and haven't found time to finish? The old skis. The extra canning jars. Clothes that don't fit. Books you won't re-read. 

 "Cuppie" may be listed on eBay for $50, but no one wanted the one I inherited. It went to Goodwill. 

"Cuppie" may be listed on eBay for $50, but no one wanted the one I inherited. It went to Goodwill. 

Sooner or later, you must face it.

"You can't take it with you." 

Have you had the chance to clean up after the death of a loved one? A mother, a father, a family member passes away and their things need to be evaluated, shifted, and placed in another spot. 

It isn't pretty. It is hard. Emotionally, mentally, physically, time-consuming, life energy sucking hard. 

List it on eBay.  You get no bids. 
Post it on Craigslist.  You get spam. 
Put in on Facebook.  You get reminders to "please mark items as sold," when it hasn't sold. 
Push it onto your children. You get a twisty face look. "Mom… Really?" 
Sell it at a yard sale. You get two bucks. 
Leave it on the curb for "FREE." You get the neighbors worried that you are leaving trash on the street. 
Give it to Goodwill. You get a useless receipt and no tax benefit. 
Pack it in a box. You get to pay for a storage unit, and you still need to deal with it later. 
Or you keep things until you die and someone else must decide what to do with it. 

That is the downside of downsizing. 

 I haven't been able to sell my clarinet. 

I haven't been able to sell my clarinet. 

I cried as I cleaned out my photographs and gave away art supplies and frames. My dream for an art studio will have to wait. 

 Cleaning out my photography stuff was hard. I threw away most of my paper prints. Photographs and frames don't store well. 

Cleaning out my photography stuff was hard. I threw away most of my paper prints. Photographs and frames don't store well. 

 Boxes of empty frames. Such potential! Dumped in a bin at Good Will. 

Boxes of empty frames. Such potential! Dumped in a bin at Good Will. 

But there is an upshot that makes it all worthwile.  

 All four bicycles went to nice people who wanted them very much. 

All four bicycles went to nice people who wanted them very much. 

Sold my grandmother's sewing machine to Ruth who wanted to make rag quilts for grandbabies. 
Sold the chainsaw to someone trying to keep their tree trimming business viable. 
Sold four bicycles, all to wonderful people. 
Sold the guitar to parents who wanted is as a gift to their daughter.
Sold a clarinet to a beaming high school student. 
Sold upholstered chairs to a colorful gay couple. 
Sold my mother's rocking chair to a grandmother. 
Sold cabinet work to an interesting woman who lives in the Fresno's Tower District. 
Sold our house to a family with an infant girl and a pre-school boy. She sells textbooks from her home office, and they wanted desperately to send their children to Buchannan School Complex. 

Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive,
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive.

Buying and having nice things was fun. There is nostalgia in all that stuff.  But the object isn't the memory. Life isn't about accumilating artifacts. Life is about living and collecting experiences.  

 I loved stringing beads with my daughter, but we have both moved past our Hello Kitty box of beads. 

I loved stringing beads with my daughter, but we have both moved past our Hello Kitty box of beads. 

Giving away things doesn't diminish the value it had when I needed it. It was valuable, and I am grateful for having owned my things. Selling something doesn't cancel its value. Giving something away doesn't detract from what it did for my life. Donating an object doesn't reverse its effect on my life. My memories are not dependent on objects. 

I want to live a life that looks forward, not back. I'm keeping my memories, my experience, my loves, and my life. But, I'm not holding onto stuff. I'm getting ready for the future. I'm looking forward to travels, new stories, and more good memories. 

I know in my heart that less is more, and I'm still on that road trip. 

Thank you, Jackson Brown. I'm still singing along.

"I'd love to stick around, but I'm running behind." 
 Sold the guitar. For years it sat in our garage. Now it is making music. 

Sold the guitar. For years it sat in our garage. Now it is making music. 

In the Shadow of the Moon

Science is Real

A total eclipse of the sun caused distress to ancient people. Now it is an event that brings security and delight.

Most people are familiar with the earliest recorded accounts of total eclipses.

 Eclipse Day April, 648 Before Common Era - Archilochus' Eclipse:

"Zeus, the father of the Olympic Gods, turned mid-day into night, hiding the light of the dazzling Sun; and sore fear came upon men." 
"Nothing can be surprising any more or impossible or miraculous, now that Zeus, father of the Olympians has made night out of noonday, hiding the bright sunlight, and . . . fear has come upon mankind. After this, men can believe anything, expect anything." 

- Archilochus, Greek poet

For me, the eclipse brings nostalgia and comfort. 

 Susan Meyers-Holms and me, Cindy Weigel, 1979

Susan Meyers-Holms and me, Cindy Weigel, 1979

Eclipse Day, February 1979 was the last total solar eclipse in the continental United States. I was in my third year of community college and I drove a red-orange Ford mustang with a white racing stripe. I lived in my parents cinderblock track home with a ship’s bell clock that struck chimes every four hours. Sharing a room with my sister, we grew up walking to school traversing the University of Redlands. Nightly, we would hear the roar of jet engines being tested at Norton Air Force Base, and in the winter the air was filled with the smell of near-by orange groves.

Eager to travel, but too afraid to set out on my own, I signed up for classes that would allow me the chance to leave town and see the world. Crafton Hills College offered a course that promised to take me to Kit Peak National Observatory in Arizona, the Very Large Array in New Mexico, and see the total solar eclipse in rural Montana. “Sign me up!”

It was a trip before travel blogs, Google, Facebook, Instagram, digital photos, and iPhones. I have only a few paper photos of the trip, and I can find no written record of who was on the trip, what did I bring, where did we stay, or how long we were gone. What I can recall, is standing in complete amazement in the middle of a snowy cold John Deer tractor dealership parking lot.

What I remember most is how I felt about the eclipse.   

 Keith is a Happy Camper with his morning coffee and breakfast burrito. 

Keith is a Happy Camper with his morning coffee and breakfast burrito. 

Eclipse Day 2017. We set the alarm for 5:00 AM, jumped out of the cozy comfort of our teardrop trailer, and drove through sleepy Idaho farmlands. Millions were on the move on the roads of Idaho. The small town of Driggs wasn’t as crowded as I had feared and we were even able to grab a café latte and breakfast burrito before heading out the dirt road to the Sheep Bridge Trailhead. A few days earlier, we had scoped out the location on the Targhee National Forest, just west of Grand Teton National Park. Arriving before sunrise, I was relieved that there was still plenty of parking. Pink Floyd was ringing in our heads: “All is in tune…” we just needed the sun to be eclipsed by the moon.

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We set up our chairs and pulled out our optics.  After months of planning, Keith positioned his spotting scope outfitted with a color-corrected solar protective filter. I had my Olympus camera with my home-made solar-mylar film holder. We wore our solar glasses for safety.  Knowing that I wanted to share the event on my blog, I secured my iPhone for a selfie. We were ready, and we looked good.

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As the moon cut across the sun, and the shadow moved from the top right to the lower left. Not fast enough to see the movement, but you could feel the change. The moon was a consuming darkness against the sun. The contrast of the sunlight and moon-shadow was sharp and clear.  Through the spotting scope we could see sunspots and solar flares. The partial phases moved very slowly. Colors changed and it did not feel like cloud cover. It was eerie.  I felt the transformation, and I knew it was rare and exclusive to this moment. The air grew colder and colors changed.

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Moments before totality, I dropped my protective glasses and was shocked at the darkness. Taking care, I waited until it was safe. Totality arrived. I pulled the solar filter off of my camera, and Keith did the same. I bobbed between looking through the spotting scope and pushing my camera shutter.  I completely forgot about taking a selfie.

"Stop." I stepped away from the optics and just looked directly at dark hole in the sun. The ghostly sky was all around. I didn’t want to take my eyes away. The sun was black surrounded by the brilliant corolla. Bits of pink light could be seen on the shadow's edge. An old friend, Venus, glimmered mid-day. You could see light on the horizon. 

It all happened so fast. 

Everyone shared a common moment. We howled like wolves and cheered. Even if you were alone in a meadow, you knew there were millions of Americans sharing the same shadow moving across the country. How many people took time out of their busy lives to be here for the mutual experience? We shared our spot with three young men: a breakfast line cook, a house cleaner, and a line cook from Old Faithful. They all jumped into their cars to race to see what we came to see. We had nothing in common with them other than this once in a lifetime event.

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Science provided a collective communal experience. All Americans could know what was going to happen. No matter who you were, you could participate in a joyful historic event.

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There are not many common occasions where we could all share the thrill of an event together. Keith and I took five days to incrementally make our way to our spot in Idaho. Others also traveled long distances. We all researched the path of totality, planned the route, packed the car, payed for gas, found a site, and waited under the path of totality.  It didn’t just happen, you had to know where to go and when to be there. Seeing it was not a random act. You needed science and a plan.

It was about understanding the astronomical changes and feeling it for yourself. It was a very emotional sensory experience described in advance by science.

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After all our equipment was packed, we confronted the traffic to enjoy a pint of beer at the local brew pub. Everyone was there to tell and listen to the stories. “Where did you watch the eclipse?” “Where are you from?” “How long have you been here?” “Wasn’t that absolutely amazing!” could be heard around crowded tables. It was a celebration, like a grand sporting event, a shared big win by all who were there.

I thought I knew what to expect, and it exceeded my expectations. Sheer, complete, child-like amazement at the beauty of the universe. There was no arguing and there were no disagreements. There  were no lies or alternative facts. There was only one explanation and we all agreed -  the sun was eclipsed by the moon – and it was emotional and amazing.

The Greek poet Archilochus was right. “After this, men can believe anything, expect anything." For two minutes, we all expected and believed in a shared reality facilitated by past knowledge, experience, and truth.

Science is real, and we all saw it in the shadow of the moon.

If you want to sing along, here is my personal video of “Eclipse” by Pink Floyd. 

Eclipse, by Pink Floyd
All that you touch
All that you see
All that you taste
All you feel
All that you love
All that you hate
All you distrust
All you save
All that you give
All that you deal
All that you buy,
beg, borrow or steal
All you create
All you destroy
All that you do
All that you say
All that you eat
And everyone you meet
All that you slight
And everyone you fight
All that is now
All that is gone
All that's to come
and everything under the sun is in tune
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon. 


"There is no dark side of the moon really.
Matter of fact it's all dark."