05 November 2007

south africa photos

if any of you are interested in viewing more photos from my trip, you can look at them here: http://picasaweb.google.com/happyfoolnotions. i hope to tell more tales in the future, but for now, the photos will have to suffice.

the writing life

yesterday i was invited to attend a writer's workshop in la conner as part of their art's alive festival weekend. having just returned from my month-long excursion to south africa, and having my journal remain mostly painfully bare with very little documentaion of that month, i decided to accept the invitation.

i'm so grateful i did. luci shaw, a poet, essayist, and all around lover of words was the guest writer and she was a delight. beautiful, distinguished, and so spry you're fooled into thinking she's at least twenty years younger than her almost 80 years, the afternoon spent listening to her stories, her poetry, her encouragement, was a gift.

she reminded me what it means to attend--to be attentive to the ordinary occurences in day to day life, to mine out the beauty and explore the connections and the meanings and the mysteries waiting to be discovered. taking the time to sit with pen to paper, and open yourself up to your thoughts is a way to engage with your own story, your own place in this world. and reflecting on that story is an exercise that is well worth the time and effort that is required of you.

one story that she offered about being encouraged in her own life, really resonated inside me and i feel compelled to share it here, too. she told of her old college professor, her mentor in her writing, who became a life-long friend. long after he retired, she spoke to him on the phone one evening and this is what he said to her: "luci, you are the real deal. you are a poet, and i love you." he passed away the next morning, but he left her with a precious gift. he named her. and in calling her to embody what she was, he challenged her to continue to be just that, to go on living out her identity.

i think that when you have someone in your life who believes in you, you don't want to disappoint them. it makes who you can become so much more possible. i think we all need such voices in our life.

i left that afternoon spent in the sun-sprinkled loft above the next chapter bookstore inspired to not only be more intentional about spending more time writing and reflecting about my life and this world around me, but to look for ways to intentionally see into people and encourage them to be more fully who they already are.

here's to living more deeply...

19 October 2007

glimpses of south africa

i haven't been posting like i hoped i would, but i decided i should at least post a handful of pictures to give you all a glimpse of what i've been experiencing for the past few weeks. i'm having an amazing time, meeting great people and have had the great fortune to cast my eyes on so many beautiful things. i'll let the pictures speak for themselves. enjoy!

Paarl and the Drakenstein Valley

Paarl Rock

kids in Mbekweni township

me and my buddy Thabo

outside Drakenstein Prison, the last place Mandela stayed before he was released after 27 years as a political prisoner

beautiful farm country along the N2, one of the most stunning roadways i've ever had the pleasure to cast eyes upon

Botlierskop Game Reserve

a white rhino

a hungry lion

giraffes gracefully running away from the sound of the helicopter hovering overhead

the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and clouds obscuring Table Mountain in the top right

a different view and Table Mountain on a clearer day

Wine Country and Wine Tasting
tokara vineyards, stellenbosch

hazendal winery, est. 1699

tasting at boschendal winery

jackass penguins at simon's town, named for the donkey sound they make

Tidepool Exploring and Whale Watching, Hermanus

exploring with water

the star shell was crawling...

a southern right whale breaching...amazing!

24 September 2007

time flies

it's amazing how quickly the time seems to disappear. i know i'm not a faithful blogger, but it's crazy for me to look at my last post (from june!!) and see that i was announcing my trip to south africa. now, in two days from now, i will board a plane at sea-tac airport and make my way to cape town, south africa, via london, england. it is really hard to believe it's so near. in so many ways it seems so far off...so abstract. yet my reality will change in 48 short hours from now, in a land some 10,000 miles and a whole hemisphere away.

like i've said, i've needed a break, and to know that i will have the chance to get my hands dirty and serve, makes me light with anticipation. it will be a long journey, but i know it will be worth the distance.

thanks to all of you who are excited with me for this adventure. i hope that through this experience, i will be a person who is faithful to learn about what this coming month has to teach me, that i will be softened and molded into something that is reflective of who i long to become, and that i will grow in courage and boldness as i encounter and dive into things i've never done before.

i will try to update this lonely little blog while i'm away, but i am making no promises as i do not as yet know what my access to the internet will be.

as they say in south africa, stay well, my friends.

13 June 2007

it's official!

for so long i've been craving some kind of movement in my life. i've felt resigned to a sort of complacent stagnancy over the past couple years and for one reason or another i've been unable to cultivate the kind of adventure and purpose i want my life to sing of. well, with a bit of trepidation here and there, small and tenative steps have been made over the past several months and i have exciting news to share.

i will be going to the beautiful land of south africa for a month in october to spend some time volunteering with a wonderful couple who have recently made this grand place their home. and now it's truly official as i purchased my ticket yesterday!

i suppose now that the news has been shared, i should give a bit of background to how i find myself excitedly anticipating this upcoming journey. first of all, i've been in seattle for a long time...longer than i've lived anywhere in my life since moving here to attend college in 1993. i can hardly believe i've lived here that long! seattle has been the home i've loved and felt a part of for so many great years. i've built beautiful friendships, belonged to a rich community, and discovered more about becoming myself than i ever have before.

somehow in recent years though i've felt a loosening of those things in my life, and now more than ever before, i find myself untethered, often floating adrift in some kind of sea of loneliness and longing desperately for some kind of way out of it all. most of you who know me well, know my introverted tendencies. and what this leads to of course, is that i often turn inwards, spending way too much time inside my head instead of reaching out to those who might help bring some sort of respite to this current state of mind.

in trying to dream up some sort of way out of this place, i realized that the best way to take the focus off oneself is to have a shift of perspective, and i can think of no better way to do that than through the act of service.

this brings me to going to south africa. i've long been drawn to this country, and it's a stirring that i'm not quite sure i fully understand. i only know that my soul was first gripped when i read cry the beloved country by alan paton back in high school and the hold has never since been loosed. this book painted a picture of a beautiful country ravaged by injustice and cruelty, but that was still so full of hope and the possibility for redemption and reconciliation. it's these themes that keep bringing me back, that inspire me to try to weave my own story into one that hopes to foster these qualities as i live in the everyday.

a couple years ago i met the parents of an acquaintance who had been making several trips to south africa every year and were planning on moving there full time to work and serve in the community. i recently contacted them, sharing a bit about my story and my current place in life and asked them if they'd be willing to have me come out and do some volunteer work alongside them. we met and shared a wonderful dinner during their recent visit to the states, and we spent time chatting and getting to know one another. the next day they graciously extended an invitation for me to visit them in south africa this fall.

my heart is full of possibility. like i said, i need movement in my life and the anticipation of casting my eyes on the african soil in a few short months is causing hope to rise up from deep inside of me. this is exactly the change i've been needing, something to pull me out of my malaise and actually do something with my life. wish me luck as i step into this new adventure!

15 March 2007

the present

there are too many things going on inside me that i feel unable to give proper updates on the happenings of my life these days. so i turn again to annie dillard as she has been my primary companion as of late. i hope my few readers don't get sick of my talking about her. the chapter i'm most currently wading my way through is called "the present".

"catch it if you can," she implores in the opening lines. she goes on to describe, in a way that only she can, certain poignant moments in her life when she's been witness to "eternity opening onto time". another way of saying it is our glimpse of the present in the present. the earlier referenced tree with the lights in it is one such moment for her.

"experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow; you catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall." there's this great tension inside me when i read these words. because i want to be fully present in the moment. i want to learn how to empty myself of all of the struggles and stressors, the busyness and the constant noise of life. but rarely do i find that a simple task. there is often so much that drowns out the possibity of truly emptying oneself.

i've had a few such moments of beauty in my life time. and they are indeed treasures i hold lovingly in my memory. do you know those times when you almost feel as though you are outside of time, you revel in the perfectness of being captured aloft by what is taking place both around you and inside you? it's as though those worlds intersect and you are completely unaware of yourself. those are the moments i think we all long for...to be fully outside of ourselves.

annie goes on to speak about self-consciousness being the destroyer of such moments. the instant you become aware of yourself in those moments of beauty, you lose the gift of being. self-consciousness takes us out of the present and it is a fierce battle to wage against. for isn't it so difficult to fully "be" when we're so preoccupied with who we think we're supposed to be or who we think others want us to be? i know i struggle desperately with my identity--with what expectations i imagine are placed on me.

lately, i've been so caught up in myself, so thoroughly self-concious, if you will, that i've been very guilty of squandering the present. my evenings, i'm ashamed to admit, have most recently been taken up with me burning my eyes out in front of the television set. any thing to distract myself from my present--because at the moment, my present is filled with deep loneliness and profound discontent.

it seems as though there's a great challenge presented to us in these places, and that is to learn how to navigate this tension between being "alive" in the present and not shying away from a less than happy existence. right now the sadness i am enveloped in is the most tangible part of my current existence. how do i find a way through the disparity that exists between my longing for wholeness and possibility with my current place of dissatisfaction and sadness?

i'm reminded of a quote from one of my favorite authors, frederick buechner:
"even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead."

i'm looking ahead to a time when i will be able to make peace with what is holding me in a tightly clenched fist and experience the freedom and joy that comes with that kind of victory.

11 February 2007


i'm still making my way through pilgrim at tinker creek. it's a book that must be read slowly and deliberately as annie dillard sees with the detailed eye of a scientist and writes with the refined language of a poet. the chapter i was reading today is titled "winter". as i was making my way through the chapter, this being the middle of february, i found it easy to pay attention to the things she was describing.

she talked of the creek frozen over by the winter cold. what i was most transfixed by was her description of the life that pulses beneath the layers of ice--frogs buried deep in the mud at the bottom of the creek, absorbing bits of oxygen through their porous skin, turtles breathing posteriorly where sensitive tissues filter oxygen straight to the blood and act as gills.(how bizarre and amazing!)

these creatures who would otherwise be unable to survive the harsh winter weather, are able to tuck themselves safely under water, away from the deadly path of the frostbitten landscape. but because they go dormant, they are survivors. they lie in wait through the winter months, knowing that with the advent of spring comes the thaw, when they will once again be able to return to the surface, to land, and breathe in the life-giving air through more familiar means.

this passage struck me because this season is my winter too--due to more than just the cold weather and leafless trees. this is a season of barrenness and my heart feels chilled and frostbitten. but reading these words--words of life teeming beneath a frozen exterior--i wonder at the possibility of life beating inside me right now. how long will this winter last? what will the promise of spring awaken in my heart? do i have what it takes to be a survivor too?

while these questions don't have ready answers, i will use this time to try and find beauty in the barren landscape. and i will wait for the snow to melt...

07 February 2007

the tree with the lights in it

"when the doctor took her bandages off and led her into the garden, the girl who was no longer blind saw 'the tree with the lights in it'. it was for this tree i searched through the peach orchards of summer, in the forests of fall and down winter and spring for years. then one day i was walking along tinker creek thinking of nothing at all and i saw the tree with the lights in it. i saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. i stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. it was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. the flood of fire abated, but i'm still spending the power. gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. i was still ringing. i had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment i was lifted and struck. i have since only very rarely seen the tree with the lights in it. the vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but i live for it, for the moment when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam."

i've been rereading annie dillard's pilgrim at tinker creek and this passage always stops me in my tracks, makes me yearn for some such gift of sight--a way of seeing that confirms one of my deepest longings--to be myself seen, which is to say, to be wholly known. my heart is still so full of longing...

24 January 2007


a regal madrona tree in discovery park

there's something about a sunny day in the middle of winter that makes me feel hopeful. i can't quite explain it, but it stirs something inside me and i feel like i can do anything i set my mind to--that nothing is out of reach. i feel like i have all the energy in the world. i want to be productive--clean the house, exercise, go for a long walk and let the crisp, cool air fill my lungs.

i was fortunate enough to spend a few hours in one of my favorite coffee shops this morning as i had some work that was better done away from the distractions of office phones and emails. so i sat at a table by the window and was blessed to see the sun overhead, casting beautiful wintery shadows as i looked out across the street.
the sun seems to move so quickly on winter days that you have to take every advantage to bask in its rare appearances. and being out of the office for a few short hours today gave me just such an opportunity. if it hadn't been quite so chilly, i think i would have tried to sit outside on one of the adirondack chairs to complete my work, but as it was, i got to be warmed by the sun from my window perch just the same.
on my way back to the office i caught a glimpse of the always amazing olympic mountains, glorious in all their snow-capped majesty. i don't think i will ever grow tired of gazing at these mountains. there is something so powerfully alluring about them for me...they make me full of wonder, awe-struck by their immensity, and again, full of hope and so much possibility.

22 January 2007

weekend reprieve

it's monday. which means i'm back in the office after a weekend respite from cubicles and computer screens. just that break alone is always a treat. i went into this weekend with no real plans on the horizon, but things shaped up quite nicely.

leaving work on friday night, i decided on a whim to text my friend conners to see if he'd like to join me for a beer at my neighborhood pub. thankfully, his evening was open as well and we met up at hilltop for some fun conversation. we ran into a couple guys we know and ended up sharing a table and some laughs with them. a pleasant way to spend a friday evening for sure.

saturday morning i met up with an acquaintance for breakfast to talk about some future possibilities that involve volunteering and travelling--two things in which i place great value. i'll talk more about that some other time, but for now i'll just say it was a morning well spent and one that makes my heart feel full with possibility. we enjoyed lovely conversation and a yummy breakfast courtesy of the dish. if you've never visited this place, i highly recommend it. they make some of the best eggs in seattle!

after breakfast i took a little road trip down to the booming metropolis of chehalis to visit toby for the remainder of weekend. he's been working for the state down in lewis county for the last month and a half as part of a disaster recovery team aiding people who were affected by the floods from earlier this winter. it was fun to get out of the city for a spell and get a taste of the slower pace of small town life. we really had a relaxing time complete with a nice dinner at mcmenniman's pub in centralia, a drive out to the coast at ocean shores, coffee and crossword puzzling at caffe vita in olympia and an evening movie in lacey.

my favorite part was probably the drive out to the washington coast. it's so completely different from the southern california coast i grew up with, it's sometimes hard to believe it's the same body of water. the ocean is always so vast, and it's beauty and power so mesmerizing. the washington coast is very rugged, particularly so in the middle of winter. the skies were grey, the tide was rising, and the wind was there to take our breath away.

the rain stopped long enough for us to take a walk along the beach, which was a veritable wasteland of broken clam shells and abandoned crab carapaces. it was haunting in a way that made me long for the life-renewing springtime--the season where instead of seeing carcasses, you see little creatures scurrying about, where evidence of life, not death is all around. but it's also a reminder that this life is full of seasons, that the cycle continues, and were it not for the cold and dark of winter, we might forget to value the gift of new life we're given each spring.

shore birds running to and fro as the tide ebbs and flows

a crazy tangle of kelp

the beautiful stump of a once grand tree

waves crashing on the jetty

10 January 2007

first post of the new year

i've been ignoring this blog for what feels like a lack of something to write about. after a week in san diego over christmas and a few days back in seattle before heading back to work, it now seems as though my life has settled into a very quiet, uneventful routine. i know i need to find something in which to invest my self and my time, but it often seems like the dolldrums of a seattle winter make finding motivation to do so a bit ellusive. living in a basement apartment doesn't really help either.

the day after christmas, my siblings and i went on a hike with my dad to the torrey pines state reserve. traipsing along the sand-encrusted trails overlooking the beautiful pacific in 65 degree weather, i suddenly realized the appeal of southern california winters. i thought about my home in seattle, knowing it was probably in the 40s and raining and was grateful for the chance to be outside and active.

but then i came back to seattle and what weather we've had! rain yes, but then snow! more snow than i think i've seen in all my many winters here. and then unseasonably cold weather that actually made the snow stick around for more than a few hours. it has been charming indeed, late openings for the office, and even an unexpected but very welcome snow day earlier this week.

i spent the morning taking a long walk outside in the wintery world. snow everywhere, everything dusted and silenced by the beautiful white. the crunch of wet snow beneath my feet made me smile with each step i took. i spent the early afternoon in one of my favorite neighborhood coffee shops crossword puzzling and knitting. it was a perfect day indeed.

my most recent obsession has been knitting. i'm not typically the type of person to get wrapped up in something for extended periods of time nor am i a very crafty or creative person, but for some reason, i've become a frighteningly obsessive knitter! i recently started (and quickly finished) a new project, a felted tote bag, and i couldn't get enough of it. i was so curious to see how it was going to turn out, i worked on it every spare moment i had. i think i spent a good five or six hours a night knitting. i pushed past the hand cramps and stiff neck and shoulders and got into a frenzied rhythm. the clicking of the bamboo needles became the metronome of my evenings. and now i have a very fun bag to share with you all. i still need to figure out what to do for handles so if any of you crafty folks have suggestions, i would be very grateful.

here are pictures of the finished product, the first one is after i finished knitting, the second one is after the felting.

I've now started a new bag and am trying to be a little more deliberate with a pattern, though the haphazzard color changes of the first bag was definitely fun to play around with. are any of you working on any fun things these days?