Serenity at Bloedel Reserve

A few weeks ago, we made it out to Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. Bloedel is one of those in-your-backyard sort of places that we always seem to put off. It’s going to be too crowded, it’s too expensive, it’s just a garden, we’ll do it another time, it’s not adventurous enough, it will always be there. I have talked about going for years but always came up with an excuse. I am so glad we finally went.

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Bloedel is not just a garden. It’s 150 acres of spectacular scenery, both wild and groomed, and full of life, even in the middle of February. We saw ducks, geese, a Pileated Woodpecker, and a number of smaller birds. Heard a raven and frogs. Saw a deer and a coyote. Flowers were already blooming–hellebores, camellias, primroses, and others. As beautiful as it was on the overcast, chilly day that we went, I can only imagine what it will be like in April or May.

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We enjoyed it so much that we went back to the admissions desk and bought a year-long pass for the two of us, plus two guests. Well worth the $100 (plus you get a 10 percent discount at the gift shop, which has a lovely selection of local art and things–and where else can you find squirrel earrings!). I plan on going back once a month to chronicle the changes throughout the seasons.

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There is lots of information on their website and at the Reserve so I won’t tell you all about it here. Part of the fun is reading about the history in the lovely home on the grounds. There are a number of special events throughout the year, or you can just go for a walk on your own. It took the three of us almost three hours (although some of that was in the gift shop!). We were constantly stopping to marvel at some beautiful plant or scene, but there were also people who live a little closer who use the Reserve for a brisk walk for exercise. I think I would do that if I lived on Bainbridge as well!

PS: Do be aware that pets are not allowed, and they will not let you keep one in your car while you visit (good for them!).

http://bloedelreserve.org/

 

Moving On

This is a difficult blog post to write, as a part of me feels like I am giving up. But actually, this is about moving on, and there is a big difference. We are often told that if we can find a job doing what we love, we will never have to “work.” The idea being of course, that your work will be fun and won’t seem like work. This is a wonderful concept that works very well for some people, but not for all of us. Sometimes, the thing that we love needs to be our escape, sometimes it truly needs to remain the thing we do for fun–only for fun. Even if you are successful, as many are, in making a living at the thing you love, there is a change the minute you begin to monetize that thing–maybe it’s cooking, writing, music. For me, it’s photography.

I have been involved with photography since I was a child who took horrible photos with my little Brownie camera (yes, I’m that old). I took photography classes in high school and majored in photojournalism. For years, I wanted to be a horse show photographer. I finally made the plunge about ten years ago. For a few years it worked. I enjoyed it and made a little money, though never a profit. I had to stop for some health reasons, among other things, and spent the next several years trying different aspects of the photo business. Nothing really worked, as far as making it a go as a business. There are many reasons (most of them my own fault), and I won’t go into that (I have friends who know exactly what I am feeling) because that’s not the point of this post.

When I was younger, I always felt that I had to finish a book, even if it wasn’t good. As I got older, I realized that it wasn’t worth the time. I have reached that point with my photography. It is no longer worth the time, and more importantly, the money needed to make a business work. Regardless of any other aspects (such as marketing, which I am remarkably awful at managing), photography is a spendy business, with technology constantly changing. It’s not just the cameras, but the software, the computer needed to run everything, the website, taxes, etc. I simply can’t afford it anymore–as a business.

For all my friends who are saying “no, don’t do it!”, I am not giving up photography, just the business. It’s been an albatross around my neck and it’s time to let go. I will be selling my Canon DSLR equipment (anyone interested??), and going mirrorless, which means lighter, which means I will take my camera out more, which means more fun. Life is too short to keep at something that isn’t working. Let go and move on.

Lower Big Quilcene Trail

We hit the Lower Big Quilcene River Trail a little over a week ago, on one of our rare non-rainy days this year in the NW. We got lost on the way but saw a bear crossing the Penny Creek Road, which made the extra time worth it (I would rather see a bear from the car than on the trail right in front of us!). The directions we followed weren’t great–actually the signage in the area isn’t great. Stay left when Penny Creek Road splits. Follow the signs for the trails, even though Lower Big Quilcene isn’t on the sign. It is marked once you get on the right road, and it’s the first trail you come across.

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This is one of those trails we put off, as it wasn’t rated highly in our Day Hikes book, but it has the advantage of being open most of the year! We have found that these easier trails are quite lovely in the spring. Not crowded at all and lots of little waterfalls everywhere, which will probably dry up later in the year. They also have a bit of sun, as the deciduous trees haven’t fully leafed out yet. And quite honestly, sometimes you just need to get out and commune with Mother Nature. It’s amazing what it can do for high blood pressure and depression. Try it!! This trail was pretty easy, with no major elevation gains. It is long if you do the round trip (almost ten miles for us) to and from Camp Jolley. You don’t always get that close to the river but you can always hear it it–sometimes a distant melody, sometimes a raging torrent. Always beautiful!!

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We saw quite a few Trillium that have survived our recent downpours. Also lots of yellow violets and even a few bleeding hearts in the sunnier areas. Salmonberries are flowering as well. Rhodies should be blooming soon, but maybe a bit later than usual with our weather this year.

We usually try to be well prepared for our hikes, and generally they are not that difficult. So far, we are definitely day hikers. But sometimes we over look little things. I wore the same hiking boots I have had for the last several years, with no problems at all, but I recently purchased a new pair of fairly spendy lightweight hiking socks. They did not work!!! Try new things on short trails! I ended up with four blisters and a bloody toe, simply because of my socks, which didn’t breathe as advertised and moved around too much because they weren’t as thick as my normal socks. Won’t be wearing them hiking again!

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http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/lower-big-quilcene-river

Twanoh State Park

One of the wonderful things about living on Hood Canal, or anywhere on the Olympic Peninsula, is the ability to start your hike in the forest and end the day at the beach. Our beaches are more likely to be covered in rocks than sand, and they might be windy and cold, but they can still be pretty fascinating, especially when the tide is out.

April hasn’t been the best month for us, but we did manage to get out to Twanoh State Park for a great day with a dear friend who came to visit earlier this month. Twanoh is small and close by, which makes it an easy trip when everyone forgets to set alarms for an early morning! The weather was perfect for hiking and we enjoyed the walk. Things have been blooming a bit late this year, due to our record amounts of rain and cool weather, but we did see some Trillium and Salmonberry beginning to come out. We even saw the sun make a rare appearance for part of the day!

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After our hike up the service road and back down the trail above the creek, we headed across the street to the water’s edge. We caught a very low tide and had a great time exploring. Lots of people were out gathering oysters (FYI, you have to shuck them at the beach). We saw oysters, clams, mussels, barnacles, snails, tiny crabs, and even what appeared to be small eels under some rocks.

Twanoh offers camping on the forest side and day use on both sides of 106, with a swimming area, picnic tables, hiking trails, and a boat launch. Bring your Discover Pass! Be sure to check it out in the late fall when the salmon return to spawn. It is an amazing sight (and it’s a little smelly!).

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http://www.stateparks.com/twanoh_state_park_in_washington.html

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/twanoh-state-park

http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/beaches/270460/

 

Jim Finds His Artistic Side

I’ve always been the artistic one in our relationship. But with all the extra time on our hands from our unplanned retirement, Jim is exploring his creative side as well. He’s always been good with woodworking and made quite a few shelving units for our last house. He recently made a spice rack for me, and that has launched what may become a new little business. At the very least, it keeps him busy in a productive way.

His latest projects are making use of what’s growing on our own property, mainly in the form of small Douglas Firs that were never thinned properly when the property was owned by one of the local timber companies. Thinning out the smaller trees helps our forest environment and provides lots of wood that is just right for wooden coasters, spice racks, a shot glass display, and shelves for the liquor bottles. His next project is a display railing for my decorative plates that have been in their boxes for years. We’ll also be using some of the timber for our garden planter boxes (and some more hugelkultur piles). The rustic look of the fir looks just right in our little country home.

In addition to being a practical and thrifty way to added needed things to the house, the focus that comes with creative projects can really help in dealing with stress and depression. Regardless of what you plan to do with the final project, there is a sense of accomplishment. Even if it doesn’t come out quite the way you planned, there is always something learned in the process. If others compliment you on the work, there is that little boost to your ego. That might sound conceited, but there is a feeling of loss and damage to self-esteem when you find yourself retired without planning to be, and when you are at an age when it can be difficult to find a decent job to replace the one you lost.     

We are looking into the possibility of attending some local craft fairs to sell my photos and Jim’s woodwork. We’ll let you know when our first fair comes along! In the meantime, drop us a line if you are interested in the coasters or racks.

Why We Hike

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This blog is about the ways my husband and I are coping with a very different situation from the one we were in a few years ago. One of the realities we have learned to face is that our future travel plans have changed dramatically. That trip to Bora Bora is not likely to ever happen. Nor will we be able to even keep up with our yearly trips somewhat closer to home. It can be hard to let those dreams go, but we are finding new adventures in our own backyard. That is where our hiking comes in. It’s not something we did all that much of before, unless we were on a vacation somewhere. Jim likes speed, in the form of water and snow skiing and riding dirt bikes. But these things are expensive. We have had to cut back, and hiking locally is a great solution for a number of reasons.

First, it’s cheap and we need cheap activities to keep us from going crazy. We are not backpackers, just day hikers. For that, one needs good boots, a decent day pack, and mostly, common sense (like pay attention to the weather and to maps, dress in layers for our NW climate, carry the essentials like WATER, and my personal favorite, maybe if you are almost out of gas, you should be going down the mountain, not up! I always wonder if the two in that car are still up there). Our daughter bought us a book of hikes around the Olympic Peninsula, since we live in Belfair (entitled Day Hike! Olympic Peninsula by Seabury Blair Jr). It’s a great resource and we started last year with the easier hikes. There are many books like this for various areas around the country, so pick one up for your area!

Hiking is great exercise, which helps us stay healthy. That’s important for anyone, but we need to be really careful with our health, because without insurance through Jim’s work, our healthcare is up in the air. Exercise also gets those endorphins going, which makes you happier. Best of all, it provides peace and solitude, especially during the week or in the off-season. This is a vital part of my well-being. I, like many of us, suffer from monkey brain. Too much going on in there, and with all our recent troubles, those darn monkeys are starting to fling shit at each other. A trip to the woods always works to calm the little beasts down.

I hope you can find peace and joy in the wilderness around your home. Slow down, listen, watch, and be happy. Here’s some natural “music” to get you started.

Explore Your Creative Side

I am a photographer. I enjoy most types of photography but am especially drawn to abstracts. I love the idea of capturing moods and the fluidity of time rather than freezing moments. If you are a creative type, you know how much your work can nurture your soul. But creativity can ebb and flow, and nothing puts a screeching halt to it quite like an unexpected disaster and the depression that can come with it.

My husband lost his job over a year ago. It wasn’t the only major setback we had at the time and all things together took quite a toll. I didn’t pick up my camera for months. I finally went to a counselor and I can tell you, it made all the difference in the world. She encouraged me to start shooting again–slowly, just for myself. I think that’s the key. Do it just for you. We tend to be our own worst critics, so don’t try too hard. Just do it. You can delete, rip it up, throw it away, but don’t give up.

Keep a journal of your feelings. You don’t have to show it to anyone, but if you are going through problems with someone else, it might be a good way to show how you feel when spoken words don’t always come out the way you want. A friend of mine is also having a very difficult time. She gave me some great advice. She draws in her journal, as she is an artist, but she was getting caught up with the whole perfection thing. The solution–use crayons!! You can’t be perfect with crayons, plus they are fun and might just put a smile on your face (get the big box!). If you are a photographer like me, you can sketch out ideas for shoots. A writer can use them too. Filling a whole page with pen or pencil can be daunting, but write big with those crayons and that page will fill up quickly. Let your inner child out and begin to feel joy in your art again.

Get Fit, Get Healthy, Get Happy

Some of you may have been following my health page on Facebook. If so, you will know that I left Facebook a few months ago. I promised to carry on somewhere else, so here it is! For the rest of you, I hope you can find some good information in this page.

When life dumps on you, sometimes the only thing left that you can control is what you do with your body. Stress and depression go hand-in-hand with the sorts of awful events that can lead to unplanned retirement. They are real and have terrible physical effects on the body. Staying fit and eating right can help keep you healthy and sane. Finding the right program can bring much needed stress relief, happiness, and a sense of routine. (Routine can be boring in some circumstances, but when you are under a great deal of stress or living with depression, a good routine can be a lifesaver.)

I know people who have enough drive and self motivation to be able to put together a healthy fitness and eating plan on their own. I, however, am not one of those, and this page is here to help those of you who are like me. For the record, I am a Team Beachbody Coach. It doesn’t mean I am a fitness instructor or a nutritionist (nor does it mean that I will try to sell you something). What I am is somebody who has been down a difficult road of depression, stress, low self esteem and the health problems that can come with that. I finally found a solution that works for me through Team Beachbody. It is one of the best decisions I have made for myself in the last decade. I would love to share my experience with you in hopes that I can help someone else. You do not have to join Beachbody to be here on this page (although it’s a great place to get answers to any questions about the program). There are other programs that work well too. You just have to find the one that fits your style. I hate the gym so this works well for me. I love being able to work out in my own home. If you are more social, a gym membership might be better. The key is to stick with it, and realize that if it’s not making you feel better, it’s time to try something new.  I will be sharing tips that anyone can use. See you soon!