Islands, Adventures, and Other Perfections

I feel kind of silly that after all my talk of finally going on a solo backpacking trip, I never even went camping. Partly, it was too cold and damp for my desert-acclimated bones, but mostly, the whole time I was on my trip, I was fighting chest congestion, and I didn’t want to take a chance on getting pneumonia. It worked out well, though, because I was able to spend that extra time with my middle sister in Port Townsend, visiting her favorite spots. When I returned to Seattle, my brother-in-law took me and my little sister (yep, the “little” sister who towers over me)

to dinner at a fabulous salmon-themed restaurant

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where we had Copper River salmon, truly the most luscious salmon in the world. (And the most expensive!) On Sunday, our last day together, the three of us sisters explored Whidbey Island, a delightful gem of a place in the Puget Sound. (And another ferry ride!) There was much to see, including a lighthouse,

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black-tailed deer,

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small boats

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and big ones (unfortunately, I didn’t actually sail — I just toured the boat),

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sculptures,

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trees (and me!),

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water (of course),

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flowers everywhere,

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and something we called a cheese puff bush, (because if you don’t know the name of this horticultural, what else would you call it?).

Normally I don’t post so many photos, especially not photos that include me, but be grateful I chose only the best. It was one of those perfect days where everything, including the photos, turned out to be absolutely . . . well, absolutely perfect.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Unfinished, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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Once in a Blue Moon

One of the many treats of this sisters’ weekend was a painting class.

We started with acrylic paint, brushes, and a blank canvas

but the teacher soon had us smothering the canvas with a dark blue black paint. Then we painted a moon. Since my background was too wet even after a short break to let the canvases dry, the paint kept smearing so to add highlights and craters, I had to daub the paint, so I ended up with sort of a pointillistic style.

The few paintings I had previously done were postcard sized water colors, so I enjoyed slathering paint on a canvas that was about 12″ by 18″. To my surprise, I actually ended up with a pleasing painting. I had planned to do a series of photos that captured the experience, but got so caught up in the experience, that I forgot about taking photos. At least I have a photo of the final project!

Although I have done none of the things I planned, such as the solo backpacking trip, the days have been spectacular, not just the things I have done, but a renewed connection to my sisters.

I hope this connection continues and didn’t happen just once in a blue moon.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Unfinished, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

 

Ferry Magic

I used to think that if one took a cruise, one could stand at the prow and feel the water a few feet below and the wind in your face, and I was so disappointed to discover that is not the truth of it. I have, however, found the desired sensation standing at the end of a pier or on the deck of a ferry.

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The first time I was on a ferry — the Outer Banks of North Carolina — Pamlico Sound was so big, I felt as if I were in the ocean, traveling to some exotic place. Which I was, of course, because anywhere you have never been has an exoticness all its own. Still, although the ferry trip was much shorter, I still had the feel of a fabled ocean voyage because of the nearness of the water and the wind in my face. The reality, of course, is that the ferry itself is a cross between a floating garage

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and an airport waiting room, but fun all the same.

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The Olympic mountains in the distance welcomed me to Kingsport and expressed sadness that I had to cancel my camping trip to the national park.

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My middle sister and I spent a lovely couple of days wandering around Port Townsend, visiting the little libraries,

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and picnicking on the port.  Looking back, on the ride home, I could see the boat’s wake. Looking forward, I could see Seattle (barely visible in the center of this photo.

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The next day, we three sisters got together for lunch in Edmonds.

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We strolled through downtown admiring the gorgeous blooms

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and stopping to smell the roses.

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At the end of the day, I waved to middle sister on the ferry.

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Ah. Ferry magic.

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***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Unfinished, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

 

 

Forged in Fire

I do so love sampling new things, whether places, food, puzzles, people’s lives or . . . blacksmithing. Yep. You read that right! As fully equipped as you think your workshop is,

my brother-in-law has done you one better. His includes a forge, a leg vise and an anvil.

I spent a totally awesome day yesterday wearing a blacksmith apron and pounding hot metal!

Mostly I tried to make a couple of matching leaf shapes for a pair of earrings, which wasn’t very dramatic,

so to show the full effect of blacksmithing red hot metal, he let me pound on a bigger piece of iron.

Way cool! Well, cool in the sense of awesome. Not cool in the sense of the absence of heat. Working with forges, fire, heated metal, and heavy hammers is hot work.

People often have bucket lists, but how could I ever have such a list? The most wonderful things I have ever done, such as learning to dance or learning to blacksmith, would not have made it onto the list because I could never have imagined such treats.

The best part of the experience, of course, was the experience, but at the end of the day, I had a pair of earrings to show for it. Or rather, my sister has the earrings — I gave them to her for a hostess gift. The background leaf is the iron I pounded out and shaped. The dome top and the pepper dangle (added for color and because they are “red hot” chili peppers) are purchased beads.

Ah, sweet life. I can’t imagine anything better than getting to try new things.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Unfinished, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Blue Skies in Seattle

The bluest skies are not in Seattle — it takes a lack of humidity to create the deep blue skies I often see in the western slope of Colorado and the high desert of California — but after the first rainy day, Seattle showed me its best (and bluest) side.

And my little sister — who towers over me — showed me her best side. (Well, that’s not true. All her sides are her best sides.)

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Not only did I get to see the bright side of Seattle, I got to see the dark side.

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Also the artistic side, both nature made

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and human made.

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It tickled me to see so many California poppies. I didn’t see a single poppy in California as I drove through on my way to the Pacific Northwest. The poppy people say it’s because of the lack of rain, but I bet it’s more the flowers envied the birds their ability to migrate and decided to emulate them.

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The joy of this trip is not just about the outside, but also the inside — staying with my sister is like living in a gourmet restaurant. Since my brother-in-law is a trained chef, every meal is been exquisite. From lamb shanks and watermelon/feta salad to frittatas with a side of lime-splashed mango,

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from linguine with seafood marinara sauce to a fabulous mother’s day brunch buffet, my taste buds have been feted. (That’s a private joke just for me, because I don’t think I’ve ever before feta cheese, or at least not so much.)

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For the first time I can understand why people think there is nothing in the high desert — for them, there is nothing. It’s pretty much a gourmet food wasteland, at least compared to a metropolis like Seattle. Except for some of the fruit, none of the food presented at the Mother’s Day brunch would be available in the high desert. In fact, despite the ever-growing population, Trader Joe’s refuses to put a store in any of the desert towns because there aren’t enough people with masters degrees. It doesn’t matter to me — my tastes are parochial. Grocery store cheddar cheese suits me fine, and I don’t need high-priced out of season fruits.

But today (and yesterday and probably even tomorrow!) I get to live the life of a well-cultured being, as if I were a kissed frog that turned into a princess.

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***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Unfinished, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Honoring Mother With Turtles

The impetus for this Pacific Northwest adventure was an invitation from one of my sisters to make turtles on Mother’s Day weekend in honor of our mother.

Apparently, although the turtles were something I made as a teenager, when I went on to something else, my mother took over the hobby. (I don’t think it will come as any surprise to anyone that I was always looking for a new challenge.) Since my youngest sister often made the candy with my mother, she came to associate the turtles with Mother. Hence this venture (since there were no adverse moments, the day wasn’t much of an adventure but simply a wonderful venture) with my two sisters.

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I canot remember ever spending any time alone with my two sisters. I was too much older than the other two (they are shown above stirring the caramel and melting the chocolate) to be friends when we were young, and our lives always took separate paths. We were all a bit uneasy about the day, but came with the great attitude that no past differences would interfere with the pleasure of each others’ company, and so it was. A totally stress-free day. Well, except for the huge amount of supplies our hostess sister had purchased, so we ended up still working long after we were tired. After we packaged up turtles for our brothers and a few friends, we did have a bit of a disagreement. Since none of us are big candy eaters, none of us wanted the copious leftovers. But I ended up with them. Not a great problem if I can parcel them out and keep from indulging myself, which will be hard. They are really, really good.

One sister made the caramel.

One broke the pecans

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and melted the chocolate.

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I grated the chocolate to temper the melted chocolate and make it the right consistency for coating the candy. We all collaborated on making the naked turtles,

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and coating them with chocolate.

Oddly, none of us sampled a single finished turtle, though a couple of us scraped the caramel bowls and ate that.

This experiment was such a success, that we are now talking about doing a camping trip to The Three Sisters Wilderness Area in Oregon. Maybe next year.

Our mother would be so delighted!

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Unfinished, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

The Wilds of Civilization

After eleven years, Sheila Deeth, a fellow author and one of my very first online friends, has become an offline friend! It was a true delight to see her in person, but the truth is, it has made no change in our relationship. We were friends who knew almost everything about each other, and we are still friends. In fact, as with other online friends who have become all line friends, there wasn’t a second of awkwardness. We simply moved from a written relationship to one with sound.

People always worry about my visiting people I don’t know, but after so many years of sharing blogs and books and publishers and moments of our lives, we do know and trust each other. (Assuming one person can truly know another.) And so it was — a simple segue into a new phase.

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I’d been following online the trauma of Sheila’s flooded basement and its resurrection, and I so wanted to see her library. Instant library envy! After seeing it, I teased her that I might never leave. A roomful of books — wow!

Although she mentioned their disappointment in not having a view, I thought they had a fabulous view. Who needs a distant backdrop when one has such great beauty beside one’s own house? I have lived in desert areas my whole life — and make no mistake, Colorado is a desert with one benefit, its white gold (snow) that makes it possible (assuming that one does not have a brown thumb as I do), with a lot of effort to carve out a colorful space for yourself. Seeing so much almost effortless green seems miraculous to me.

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One thing I love about traveling and visiting people is that for a short time I get to borrow someone else’s life, and that night I got to share in Sheila’s after dinner ritual — a cryptic crossword puzzle. I had often come across the puzzles, but the things were too cryptic for me, with a code language all its own, and they helped me crack the code. If I ever come across another such puzzle, I will attempt to solve it, and think of that lovely evening.

Before I left, Sheila took me to the Pittock Mansion

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to see a panoramic view of Portland.

Although I had planned a trip into the wilds of nature, I ended up a trip into to wilds of civilization, and what an adventure!

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Unfinished, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

 

Friends, Flowers, and Fowl

Ordinarily, I live an uncolorful life. In the desert, I see mostly brown and gray. On the trip up to the northwest, I saw mostly green and gray. The glimpses I had of the ocean were blue and gray. And all of a sudden, as I was driving along, I realized I was starved for color. Well, when a couple of friends took me to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland, I was able to feast my eyes and bathe my soul in riotous color.

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I’ve spent the past couple of hours going through all the photos I took of the garden and discovered an interesting problem. How does a person choose between one perfect photo after another? If you add a good eye for form and content to a place where every single thing you looked at offered a perfect opportunity for artistic expression, you have a hundred fabulous images. Admittedly, many of the images have a sameness to them because, of course, this was a garden with but two theme — flowers and waterfowl — and we were there at the perfect time for both. The flowers were stunning, and the ducks and geese were carefully strutting their stuff while watching over their families. Oh, my. Such a surfeit of beauty!

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From shimmers of flowers in the pond

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to reflections of foliage in the water,

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from waterfalls of petals

to fowl families,

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the three of us had a fabulous time. Although obviously, some of the photos were staged — the flowers preened or the ducks and geese blossomed — a few shots were totally candid, such as this amusing photo of the women I went to the garden with. I saw them standing there, and had to capture that truly awesome sight.

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Although I still crave color, I am no longer starving for rainbow hues. The day was truly a treat.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Unfinished, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

A Wonderful and Colorful Time

People often complain (well, once or twice anyway) that I never post photos of myself when I blog about my trips. I prefer to take more artistic photos — subject matter or groupings or whatever catches my eye, and it’s hard to catch one’s own eye. But my hostess treated me and a friend of hers (now my friend, too) to a visit to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens in Portland, Oregon, and she took some photos of us among the flowers. My favorite, of course, is the one where you can’t see me, just my hat.

In one of the photos, I am standing on a bridge looking pensively down at the water. I don’t know why I like that one, but I do.

Several times when we found a perfect flower lying on the ground, one of the women tucked the flower among those already on my hat.

We went at the perfect time, and the gardens were stunning. Between the three of us, we took hundreds of photos, so I will be posting a more interesting sample of pictures when I have a chance to go through them all.

Meantime, here we are, having a wonderful and very colorful time.

Oregon Coast!

I had a delightful visit with my friend and partner in crime, Wanda aka Maggie. Actually, she’s your friend and partner, too — you met her in my novel Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare. (Because of course you read the book!)

We talked non-stop during the days I spent with her and way too far into the early morning hours for someone who is still coughing so much. (Ironically, one of coughing fits I had on the drive today after I left Wanda came as I passed a warning sign that said “congestion.”)

I had a special thrill when I got gas — most gas stations here are not self-serve, so I sat in the car and let an elderly gentleman fill my tank. Apparently they don’t see many Beetles up here because he didn’t know where the gas tank was located. And he didn’t wash my windows or offer to check my oil, so it wasn’t much of a throwback.

Highway 101 through Oregon is called the Pacific Coastal Highway, so naturally I figured I would have a steady view of the ocean, but mostly I drove through a canyon of trees. Still, the few times I glimpsed the ocean were even more stunning because they came unexpectedly.

It’s a good thing I decided not to camp. Even sleeping in warm beds isn’t helping my cough. I can’t imagine how awful I would sound after sleeping in a cold, dew-drenched tent.

Sometimes I think I am a fraud — I talk of adventure, and yet when one comes around, I wimp out and hole up at friends’s houses or hunker down in motels. But I suppose I could comfort myself with the thought that I am merely on an adventure of a different color.