Our Annual Blog (aka Christmas Epistle) for 2017


After years of traveling internationally almost every year (twenty-two countries in all, counting both East and West Germany – it was separate when we visited East -- and both England and Scotland – the Scots think it’s a different country), and having now visited all fifty states (the last was Hawaii in 2016), we seem to have settled in to less travel.  We didn’t even make it to Canada again and its only 90 minutes away.  We did make it to Santa Fe for a long weekend, and visited the O’Keefe studio/house and museum and are going back to Santa Fe for Christmas (Kat, Bill and Lise, Bill parents, and his brother and his wife are all gathering there).  And I continue business trips to Maryland every couple of months.  Jan has often gone to her sister’s house in Tennessee when I gravel east.

Her sister is beginning the sorting process of downsizing in anticipation of retiring and a move close to her children.  In the process, Jan has been helping her sort through boxes labeled “family history” left behind by their parents.  It has turned out to be a huge effort but very interesting and revealing; reading through documents and letters from grandparents written in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Jan and her sister also sorted through 100 boxes of slide carousels left by their father who was an accomplished and avid photographer.  Not to mention the many photo albums that seemed to pop up in every nook and cranny as they emptied closets (Jan’s parents lived with her sister in their final years).  Even after sorting, Jan shipped home boxes of pictures and documents that we plan to digitize as a means of preservation and sharing with the family.

But even though we travelled less in the last couple of years, we refuse to blame it on aging and we haven’t lost the interest.  We had planned for a trip to Vienna and Budapest this fall which never happened and we are seriously planning a trip to Sicily for late winter or early spring.   Our passports do not expire for several years.

Even though I am supposed to be working only half time, it seems I’ve been very busy this year and feeling tied down a little.  I’ve got to get out in my kayak or on my bike more this next year.  We spent our usual week in June at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and I got out for a couple of short hikes between the seven plays we saw.  I’ve also done a few short hikes here on Whidbey and continue to get out with my camera a lot for shots of birds, sunrises, and other scenery.  We watched “our” two Osprey families (on two navigation towers in the bay in front of our house and easily seen through our spotting scope) raise their young (only three this year between the two families) and watched a Great Egret that spent a few days in the new estuary (part of a wildlife conservation effort to re-establish shore habitat for you salmon and other wildlife) a half mile from the house as well as a flock(?, more like a flotilla) of about 20 American White Pelicans that frequented our bay for a couple of months.  Neither are commonly seen this far north in Washington.  It was great watching them feed in the shallow water when the tide was out and competing with the Caspian Terns that were diving on the same shoal of smelt.

Of course, our trips to Seattle have taken on more urgency since we miss our granddaughter, Lise, if we don’t see her nearly every weekend.  We go to the Symphony or Seattle Rep Theater or other Seattle attractions but stop by for a few hours with our favorite two-year old nearly every time and it seems that she has changed so much in just a week.  Jan seems to enjoy trying to fill up Kat and Bill’s house with new books and learning toys. Jan especially loves interacting with Lise and finds so much satisfaction bonding with an eager-to-learn, developing mind.  We have remarked that Lise is in her “terrific twos.” And Terry loves disequilibrating her and making her laugh. She has such a great sense of humor (which I claim partial credit for) and her joy is so infectious.

Of course, just trying to keep halfway up with the crazy news this year fills half the day.

Jan has nearly gotten our yard full of plants, but she seems to keep finding a space for more and it is hard for her to resist a beautiful blossom.  But, I have her to thank for the beautiful winter blooming camellias just outside my study on our lower deck.  It adds color to our color-starved landscape during the winter.  And speaking of adding color – she is constantly pursuing ways to “upgrade” our living space, the latest being painting two of our living room walls in an accent color.  I’m still deciding if it is in fact an “upgrade” from the white walls I love (walls themselves are boring and I don’t like them to compete with things I want to hang on them or the view out the windows).  She tells me it is definitely an improvement.

She also spends time devouring books on her Kindle (our electronic collection is getting nearly as large as our paper collection.  I have a hard time sorting through them all to find they ones I want to read).

Those of you living in the west are aware of how bad the fires have been this year.  Whidbey Island suffered less than most of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Montana, but we still had a few days of poor air quality and smoke from a small fire only 20 mi up the coast and smoke coming over the mountains from very large fires on the eastern side of the Cascades.  Of course, having gone to college in the Napa Valley and my folks living there for nearly 40 years I followed the North Bay fires closely.  I was reminded of a fire that came within four or five miles of campus the year I stated college at Pacific Union College (in the Napa Valley). We know dozens of people in both Napa and Sonoma Valleys but fortunately no one we knew lost homes.  A friend in Oregon that owns some rental cabins in the mountains between Corvallis and Bend had a fire come within about 5 miles. 

We hope that each of you has had a wonderful year, is having a great holiday season and will have an even better coming year.

Jan and Terry