Sunday, October 8, 2017

Bye Bye Bellingham

8 October 2017

Late summer and early fall seem to be dahlia season in the Pacific Northwest.  Somehow this time of year often is sunnier and drier than spring or even some summers, and the long growing season means abundant flowers.  We’ve been buying flowers at the local supermarkets, and the bouquets brighten up our hotel room.  I really loved this pink and yellow combination, with the pale green leaves.  No idea what the greenery is here, but just a lovely bouquet. 

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks, now that my knee is doing better and I’m able to walk longer distances.

On one of our walks, we met a delightful young bunny who was hopping around among the blackberry bushes.  He actually hopped over toward me, as if he was thinking about becoming good friends.  Or at least asking for a little pat on the head.  Okay, so that’s my interpretation.  I always think animals in the wild want to be friendly with me, because they know how much I like them.  (And no, I don’t go around handling wild animals.  Though I have rescued a number of them.)  He (or she) was a young bunny, and probably just had become used to people walking on this trail.  We watched Young Bunny for a while, until more and more people came through, and then little Young Bunny scampered away.

I met up with my college friends for one last visit; we decided La Conner was a good spot to meet, north of Seattle and south of Bellingham, though a bit closer for me than for them.  La Conner is a lovely old port town on a waterway separating some of the islands from the mainland, right on Puget Sound.  Each little bay or harbor seems to have it’s own name, and I never remember exactly what is what.  But La Conner has a beautiful marina and boardwalk, with squawking great blue herons flying overhead.  (They have a rusty and croaking sort of squawk, like a basso profundo raven.)  I also saw something dive in the water while I was walking around, most likely one of the seals that frequent the area.  It didn’t resurface, so I know it wasn’t a sea bird.

La Conner has a museum of Northwestern art, and a wonderful quilt and textiles museum.  We had a great time exploring the quilt museum, especially since one of my friends had three quilts in the exhibition.  These aren’t traditional patterns and bed quilts – these are art quilt, innovative projects that use fiber arts and some traditional patterns in new and different ways.  So one quilt was a sea anemone, layers of sheer fabric swirling and swaying in the dark underwater currents.  Another was a depiction of nudibranchs, which are sea snails that do not have shells but are very decorative.  And the third was a single oyster shell, giant-sized, complete with three-dimensional barnacles growing off the back.  Who would have thought of creating a fabric oyster shell?  Well obviously a former marine biologist turned fabric artist. 

I don’t have any photos of her work, but here's her portfolio website:  
And check out the La Conner Quilt Museum, it really is a wonderful place to visit in a very charming little town.

Plus the museum is up a long hill, and has three floors.  Quite a test for my new knee, which held up beautifully.

Richard has been wanting to visit Peace Arch Park, twenty-two miles north of Bellingham, so we waited for a beautiful warm day and headed up for a picnic and walk around the park.

Peace Arch Park is located right on the border between the USA and Canada.  There are exits on each side of the border for parking lots, and lovely park areas with picnic tables.  We just brought food from the supermarket, and sat in the sun enjoying the view of the bay.  This is where I-5, the US highway that is part of the Pan-American Highway, becomes Highway 99, the Canadian arm of the Pan-American.  (Readers might remember that we drove Ruta 5, the Chilean branch of the Pan-Americana, which ends on the island of Chiloe.  We thought it was fun that the US and Chilean highways had the same number.)

The USA-Canada border here is on the 49th parallel, and runs right through the center of the park.  In fact, it runs horizontally through the Peace Arch, which was built straddling the border.  The southern edge of the park is adjacent to the US Customs and Immigration booths for people entering the US; the northern edge of the park lines up with the Canadian Customs and Immigration.

I’m not sure when the arch was built, but there was a sign about the friendly border from 1814 to 1914, so I’m guessing 1914 was the official date.  (Now that I'm in Dallas, I looked it up - the park was dedicated in 1921.)  The south opening of the arch is in the US, and you can walk through the arch, maybe ten feet ahead, and walk out into Canada.  Really.  Of course, there are Customs officials keeping an eye on people walking through and trying to enter the two countries, especially given current world politics.  But it’s a very friendly border.

The last time I walked around Peace Arch Park was some time in the early autumn of 1971.  There was an anti-bomb rally at the park, and two friends and I convinced our teachers that it would be educational for us to attend the rally.  What can I say, we were high school seniors, it was the early 70s, we were good students, and protesting bombs and marching for peace was de rigueur.  All I remember is that the rally was protesting the test of anti-ballistic missiles by blowing up a five megaton bomb on an island in the Aleutian chain; I think the island itself was Amchitka.  No one knew if it would cause earthquakes, or tsunamis, or kill a whole lot of sea animals.  Fortunately, there were no earthquakes or tsunamis, but sea otters, sea lions, and seals were definitely killed during the explosion of the bomb.

It was a peaceful protest, despite the subject which was being protested.  And we all learned more about civil disobedience in action than we did in any classroom.  Even in English class, where we read Thoreau.  As I said, it was our own little educational field trip, sanctioned by our school principal and all of our teachers.  (I really do love the fact that we were rebels enough to attend the protest, but nerdy enough to get permission to do so.  Plus that our principal and teachers were open-minded enough to understand the benefits of spending our school day at the protest.  It was a special time, the early 70s.)

So Richard and I sat on the lower ledge forming a bench around the arch, Richard sitting in the US, me in Canada, and we shared stories of our protest days.  We’ve both heard most of each others’ stories by now, but it seemed appropriate to talk about peace while sitting on the arch that commemorates the same.

There are all kinds of sculptures in the park, most based on the theme of peace.  My favorite was the metal origami crane, a Japanese symbol of peace, created by Shirley Erickson of Bellingham.  The crane is caged, or maybe trying to escape, I’m not sure.  Leads one to esoteric and philosophical thoughts:  Is it necessary to keep peace caged, to ensure it does not fly away?  Or does caging peace, keeping it chained to one location, restrict peace from settling over the land and spreading outward?  Can we keep peace at all?  Or is peace too fleeting to restrain it?  Maybe, if we encage peace, the message is that we have to nurture it, care for it, keep it fed and growing, in order to keep peace alive.

I know, esoteric.  Mysterious.  Or in the parlance of 1971, far out.  But Peace Arch Park is that kind of place, peaceful and thoughtful, thought-provoking, causing us to wonder about the more universal aspects of the message here.

There are lovely Japanese gardens as well, with an arched bridge, hanging willows, and a water lily pond.  Dahlia gardens, full of brilliant flowers enjoying the last days of summer.  Specialty hybrid roses in unusual colors and with crazy names:  the deep purple is named Twilight, and the yellow and red rose is labelled Ketchup and Mustard.  Gorgeous rose but quite the silly name.

We spent the afternoon soaking up the sunshine along with the flowers, and enjoying the peaceful setting.  Having come of age in the era of the peace movement and the flower children, it really was a meaningful and moving experience for both of us.

So, onward.  After days of trying to book tickets to our next destination, and encountering problem after problem, I finally called the airline where we have membership accounts.  Oh, you’d like to use your miles for award tickets?  To where?  Oh, only twelve time zones away, halfway around the world.  Well that certainly sounds like fun.  So we cashed in all of our miles and got our tickets.  This was on Monday, 1 October.  Our trip began on 7 October, when we flew out of Bellingham to overnight in Seattle.  Yes, that was included in our award travel.

But that meant six days of laundry, sorting, culling, and repacking.  Packing what we think we need for the next ten or so months.  Packing away for storage all the items that tend to accumulate when one stays in one place for four months – extra sweaters and socks for the cold weather, a large mug for heating soup in the hotel room microwave.  Important stuff.  Plus donating clothing that no longer fits or works for us or whatever.  I tried a different configuration of packing cubes, and thought about whether it was working or not.  And then repacked at midnight.  Yeah, I’m a little compulsive that way.  But once the initial packing is done, and everything fits, then repacking is just SO much easier!  (And we repack quite often.)

Oh, and just because life isn’t exciting enough – the day we left Bellingham, I went to download a book to my kindle.  Took it out of my pack and found that the screen was fried.  Spent time with the tech help people at Amazon, and the most likely reason is that my pack was overstuffed and the pressure somehow killed the screen.  (I have extra stuff – our flight covers three days, so that means minimal toiletries and a change of clothing or two, things I don’t normally have in my carryon.)

My brother met us at the rental car return, and took the items for storage.  He and his new wife (ON HER BIRTHDAY!  Happy birthday, Lisa!) took us to a store so I could buy a new kindle, which of course didn’t fit my cover so I had to buy that as well.  An unexpected expense, but, well, I can’t imagine a 14 hour flight without something to read.  Or even travelling anywhere without my kindle, which holds some 1500 or so books.  What can I say, I’m an avid reader.  Anyway, just a minor crisis that was fixed easily if not a bit expensively.

So we are currently in the air as I type, flying over the Rocky Mountains of Colorado (according to my interactive flight map).  Snow-capped mountains with crop circles in the valleys.  We’re on our way to Dallas, where we have a few hours to stretch and walk around, and where hopefully I find fast enough free wifi to post this blog.

Then this evening, we board Qatar Airline, heading to a short layover in Doha, the capital of Qatar.  The timing is such that we probably won’t leave the airport – we arrive in the evening and then fly onward at something like 2 AM.  Not the best time to go exploring a new place.  But again, time to stretch and walk and most likely play on that wonderful free wifi.

We arrive Tuesday at our final destination.  No names yet, I like the surprise.  But a teaser hint:  our destination city claims to be the world’s smallest capital.  We’re not staying in the city, but I’m sure we’ll visit.

Thus begins our sixth year of Rolling Luggager life!


  1. Wonderful pictures, Phoebe!
    My sister-in-law and her daughter live in Bellingham.
    I’ve only been there once...lovely town.

    1. We enjoy Bellingham, such a pretty part of the continent!!

  2. I would be afraid of flying on Qatar Air, but maybe I am confused. You are a seasoned traveler, I am sure you were fine. Beautiful flowers, bunny. I really like quilts that are not old-fashioned and remind me of modern art works.

    1. Qatar Air is actually quite nice - we were impressed!!!

    2. First impressions? Can't wait for your next entry! Food, art, how is your knee? Your husband? xoxoxoxoxoxoxo