A Quiet Year

It’s been a quiet year in Lake …, oops, on the Isle of Whidbey.  After spending last Christmas in Rome with our daughter, Katherine, and her husband, Bill, we’ve been settling in to the Island Life spiced with periodic trips to Langley, the culture capitol of Whidbey at the south end of the island and to Seattle to refresh our spirits with jazz, folk and classical concerts, dramas, and great restaurants, or relax at one of the many music or art festivals in the area.

We’ve nearly finished morphing our house into a home in our image, remodeling two upstairs bathrooms with granite counter tops and new sinks, and in the master bath a complete overhaul with new soaking tub, heated tile floor and tiled walls.  We’ve also added new carpeting and a couch to be delivered soon.

Our daughter has also been making things in her image by giving us our first grandchild, a granddaughter named Lise (pronounced like ‘lease’), in August.  Since then we have been keeping the highway to Seattle warm (and worn) with frequent trips to see the progress and share the joy.

I am continuing to add to the world’s software load, working part-time on government contracts with a few week-long trips to my customer in Maryland.  Jan sometimes travels there and visits friends in NJ or goes elsewhere to avoid the empty house.  My work is going well and I am still enjoying my 30 sec commute in the morning, getting a little exercise on stairs. Jan thinks it excessive when she sees me in my office surrounded by five computers and four monitors, but there is still a gap through which I can see the bay, Seal Rocks, Mount Baker and the occasional eagle flyby (a lot better than the E/A-18 Growlers that are much noisier when they fly by).

I have also been developing my hunting skills with my weapon of choice, Nikon + telephoto, bagging eagles, osprey, hawks, snow geese, oystercatchers, hummingbirds at our feeder and the occasional dove and crow (many shot from my deck).  I was even able to shoot a couple of auroras last spring – we get them occasionally here although not as vivid as further north, a tulip or two at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in April nearby and a couple of rainbows.  Although I missed getting good pictures of Comet Lovejoy in January or the Solar Eclipse in April (saw part of it through gaps in the clouds, but missed totality).  And I got a shot through my spotting scope of the boat that thought it could make it over the breakwater and into the channel to La Conner when the tide was high, only to run aground, being held completely out of the water at low tide, enjoying a nice, relaxing afternoon and evening waiting for the next high tide.

We enjoyed another summer of watching osprey feed their chicks.  This year there were two families on the navigation towers in our bay and visible from our living room.  One raised three chicks this year and the other, just one, but it was a joy to watch them through our spotting scope, grow (they get to be as large as the adults in only about 5 weeks), be fed and learn to fly.

And, of course, I celebrated Pi day, 3/14/15 9:26:53.59 AM.

Jan has been single-handedly (or maybe dual-handedly) keeping Amazon in business by reading several books a week, mostly on her kindle.  And lately has added the job of shopping assistant for Lise, her granddaughter.  She keeps looking ahead and it wouldn’t surprise me if she has already been looking for wedding dresses.  20 years or so is not so far away that one shouldn’t get started.

Spring, this year, was a busy time, at least by island norms.  In addition to auroras, eclipses, tulips, rhododendrons, and boats running aground, Welcome the Whales Back Festival (both Orcas and Greys visit the island), Pi Day and osprey chicks, we were awakened late one night by sirens and flashing lights.  A house a couple of blocks away burned nearly to the ground, caused apparently by hordes of trash and newspaper stacks placed on top of electrical cords for space heaters.  And we learned that we have the hydrant with the best flow right in front of our house, since the tanker trucks were there refilling most of the night.

In June we enjoyed a trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – six plays in four days.  We took Kat and Bill last year, but otherwise had not been back since 1983.  We already have tickets for next summer and plan to make it an annual trek to supplement the rich theater scene in Seattle.   We saw five plays at the Seattle Rep.  The best was a couple of weeks ago, Come from Away.  It is a musical telling stories of Gander, Newfoundland (population about 9000) and how they dealt with 38 planes and over 6500 people who suddenly dropped in on 9/11/2001 and stayed a few days when their planes were diverted from US airports.  It is an amazing play. It's both serious and humorous. It's about people going way out of their way to help others in need. It's about resolving racial and cultural differences. It's about chance meetings building into long term relationships and love. And it's all true! Stories gathered from the real participants during a 10th anniversary gathering back in Gander. A truly wonderful play. It should go to Broadway.

We have been enjoying the Seattle Symphony and I have been trying to stretch my comfort level by picking a few concerts with pieces by composers after Mozart.  We’ve also heard wonderful organ and choral music at the Catholic and Episcopal cathedrals in Seattle.  Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers was particularly good as was Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater at the Island Consort (on Whidbey).

Some of you may have heard of the fires in western Washington this last summer and early fall.  This was our worst fire season in over 50 years, losing over one million acres.  Three fighters died fighting them. Some burning over areas destroyed in 2013, another bad year.  But the national news mostly talked of those in California which burned far less.  Only Alaska with over five million acres was greater.  With predominately western winds and the Cascade range between us and the fire, we did not suffer, but we did take one drive over the North Cascade Highway, along the Columbia River and back over Stephens Pass (with a great stopover in Leavenworth) when the fires were just getting started and the air quality was already very bad.  Eventually over half the state had severe air quality warnings and many towns evacuated due to air quality as well as being threatened by the fire.  At one point a storm system reversed the high altitude wind direction and smoke poured over the Cascades, down the passes and we had fairly dense smoke for two days.

In September, we attended my 50th Anniversary Alumni gathering at Campion Academy in Colorado.  Curiously all my old friends had aged a bit, so I checked in the mirror and was surprised to discover that I had too, but it was great to see folks, many of which I had not seen since graduation (since I did not go to the college where most of them went).  It was especially good to see the group from Boulder since I went to school with them for four years before we all went to Campion, including a few previous girlfriends (Jan stuck close to me all day) and, Gary, my best friend and roommate.  We also got in a short drive through the mountains I grew up with just as the Aspen were turning their brightest yellows and reds.

In August, my closest friend and professional mentor, Claude Barnett passed away.  He hired me for my first professional job, teaching Physics at Walla Walla College, and we’ve stayed close even after we moved to the East coast.  He lived only a mile or two away from our house on Whidbey and watched over it during the years we used it only for vacations.  We miss him.

We spent Thanksgiving this year with Kat and Bill and nine of their friends at a rented house on the shore of Lummi Island, a little further north.  In the years we had the house on Whidbey but only came for vacations, and spending Thanksgiving in Tennessee, Kat and Bill used our house for their Thanksgiving gatherings, often having 6 or 7 cooks in our kitchen. But now that we live here permanently it would be a little too crowded so they have had to look for other locations.  We were glad to be able to join them this year.

I love Miatas.  I had a first generation Miata after years of driving a small pickup (I am not really the pickup type) in New Jersey.  I drove it for four years, just sending in the last payment when it was stolen from the Bell Labs parking lot.  I immediately replaced it with a new second generation Miata and enjoyed it on the back roads I then drove to work.  I drove it about nine years but then my job changed and I was commuting on freeways and it was totaled in an accident.  I decided that I needed a bigger car to protect myself from all the SUVs but missed driving a fun sports car.  So I promised to treat myself to another when we got to Whidbey (yes, we get enough rain free days to make a convertible enjoyable).  I never liked the third generation Miatas but love the fourth but they just came out this fall and there are long waiting lists.  Mine is supposed to be delivered in early January.

We hope that all of you have had a great year in 2015 and wish you another great year in 2016.  We miss our friends in the East but are thankful for all our great one out West.  Come and visit us in our island paradise.

Jan’s note:

I don’t have much to add to Terry’s detailed description of our life this past year.  I spend more time than Terry doing yard work.  I am still waging war against the daisies that proliferated during the 10 years we neglected to restrain them.  Either our backyard is their perfect habitat, or they are very invasive plants!  I’ve almost finished…just about 20 square feet left to dig.  They have not gone quietly…the base of my left thumb still aches as a reminder of the effort it takes to get them out of the ground.  I’ve also taken advantage of being so close to the tulip growers in the Skagit Valley, and ordered a little too enthusiastically some of our favorites.  Consequently, planting 90 bulbs this fall turned out to be so much more work than it took to order them last spring!  But, now that they are in the ground I do look forward to their arrival in spring.

Terry and I also took a 3-week class at the Anacortes Senior College which introduced us to religious archeology in the Iron Age Levant called “Religion in Ancient Israel and Jordan.”  It was taught by Doug Clark, an archeologist, who before retirement taught at La Sierra College.  He is still involved in their archeological digs program.  We found it very interesting, and on the recommendation of Dr. Clark, we expanded our library by 7 or 8 fascinating volumes that explain what life was like during those ancient times.  Squeezing in any more books to our bulging library shelves is becoming quite a challenge.  Thankfully, I do most of my reading on Kindle, or we would be in serious need of building a library annex!

Life on Whidbey has been good, and our joy has increased immeasurably by the birth of Lise.  We are still basking in the wonderful memories from last Sunday when we spent the afternoon and evening with Katherine, Bill and Lise for an early Christmas celebration as they will be spending Christmas in Maine with Bill’s parents this year.  (Only fair since we took them to Rome with us last year.)  We spent precious hours with Lise, exchanged presents, ate a delicious pasta supper made by Bill, and attended a Lessons and Carols program at St. James Cathedral.  All of life’s best:  family, delicious food, beauty in the form of music and candlelight.  Merry Christmas indeed!

Terry and Jan, Dec 2015