Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Weekend Away for My 35th Birthday in January

Life moves forward year after year and here we are somehow keeping pace with the inevitable changing of the hours and rotations of the sun. The days when we feel stuck or sad join with the days of feeling immense power and happiness to create a life that is punctuated with celebration, gloom, or flat out apathy once a year during the day of our birth.

Birthdays and other days that are supposed to be special and "amazing" hold a lot of weight that can crush us and keep us down. For some, this concept might seem entirely foreign, and to those of you who cannot relate, I am genuinely glad for you. For the rest of us, we can start to feel like we're not living up to this imaginary picture that the world has given us--or that we have given ourselves--of how life should be.

For this reason, I was a little apprehensive about trying to plan a special milestone celebration for my 35th birthday. I didn't want to build it up to unreachable heights only to be disappointed at the reality. Sometimes this just happens and is a part of life, but it got me thinking about what I really want to do on my birthday in January. Do I want to plan a big party or stay in a nice hotel? Do I want to go to a fancy dinner or spend a weekend in Vancouver B.C.?

While all of those things sound nice, I realized that what I really want is to be cozy and happy for my birthday. I want to go somewhere that has meaning for me and spend time simply existing in a beautiful place. Tonight I booked two nights on San Juan Island in a cozy cottage on a 15 acre farm. I am looking forward to spending more time with Brian and Kiki in the place we loved visiting so much in November. I don't think that I was exaggerating when I said that it was my new favorite place on Earth.

The house I found to rent has a sun room that looks out onto a serene and peaceful farm. It's perfect for a winter stay where I don't mind spending a good amount of time indoors, but I will still feel that I am in that specific place with nature all around me. I look forward to bundling up to take walks around the island and going home to enjoy a good hot ginger drink or turmeric milk with a book in my hand, my dog at my side, and my sweetheart in the chair across from me.

I used to feel a little left out when people had summer birthday picnics or camping trips. I even thought about celebrating my birthday on my half birthday every year so that I could join in on the summer birthday fun. But somehow this year, I find myself embracing the winter. I might do a big trip or an exciting party someday in the future, but for now I am happy with my winter island retreat and embracing the depth and reflection that comes hand in hand with cold winter nights.

How do you like to celebrate? Are you more of a big party person or would you rather have a cozy gathering? Regardless of how you get festive, I hope you all have had lovely birthdays in 2018 and will have many more next year and in all of the years to come.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Welcome to My New Favorite Place on Earth: San Juan Island

For months we dreamed of water, the ocean, and temperate rainforests. I hunted for jobs, rewrote my resume and cover letter repeatedly, prayed to the gods of good fortune and good timing, and flew to Washington twice for interviews. And then we moved to the Pacific Northwest.

I'm from Carson, Washington on the Columbia River along the border between Washington and Oregon. Moving back to Washington was going home for me, but it was also the start of a new adventure. When I was a child, we went to the mountains in our backyard and to Longbeach for the 4th of July. We went to Portland, OR for big city life and to Murdock to visit our grandparents. There were one or two trips to Seattle and I moved to Seattle for university. We didn't venture further north very often. It was only when my younger sister moved to Bellingham that we started heading in that direction. Little did I know that I would soon (fifteen years soon) join her in this magical coastal city.

My partner, Brian, is from Chicago and has been longing to move to the Pacific Northwest for some time now. We enjoyed our time in the high plains desert of Colorado. The rock formations and bright blue skies were incredible and awe-inspiring. We drove up one of the highest paved roads in America and discovered the tundra of Colorado for ourselves. We saw mountain goats gnawing on truck tires and drove down the mountain in a hailstorm. The city itself always had tons to do. Denver was a very good place to live. But the climate didn't quite agree with us and we craved the water. We wanted creeks, rivers, bays, and oceans. The sun was so very hot and I was bad at remembering my sunscreen. I prefer the grey skies and mists of autumn that you'll find on any given day in Bellingham.

I moved across the world to a different country where I knew absolutely nobody when I was 23 years old. A little over a decade later, moving to a city in my home state where my sister lives was much, much more difficult. It's easy to be portable when the entirety of your earthly possessions fit into two suitcases and a backpack. This time we had to pack up what we have acquired so far. We didn't really think it would be that much, but even with my dad taking two loads in the cab of his semi-truck, we had to leave some things behind. If we ever move again, we'll have to be a little more careful about how we do it.

But we moved and we live here now. We are happy and proud Washingtonians. When Brian arrived, a month behind me, we took the ferry to Lummi Island and had a picnic on a beach that was covered with pebbles. The move, the money, and everything else it took to get here was worth it. We sat on that beach and stared out into the water. We walked in awe through the forest. Kiki run up to the water, ran away again, and ran back. The island was quiet and we were the only ones on the beach. We were home and we knew it.

A month and a half after Brian arrived, we went to San Juan Island with my sister and her fiance. She has some friends from college who own and operate a small farm on the island. She has other friends who run an art center.

We hopped on the ferry in Anacortes and got ready for a beautiful ride through the islands. Ashlee, my sister, pointed out an island they sailed to and a hike they took. We had an amazing view of the mountains. Everyone was very chill about us having a small dog. It seems as though they are unofficially allowed everywhere as long as they're not creating a ruckus.

The small town of Friday Harbor (Don't you just love that name?) lived up to seaside dreams and expectations. We left Kiki in the car with the lasagna and went to brunch with the friends we were meeting at Cynthia's Bistro. It turns out that the greens we were having with our meal were supplied from their farm. More on those later.

We went all around the island visiting different places of interest. We stopped by the art collective in the forest, a beach with lots of bull kelp, Grandma's Cove, the American Camp, and the farm at night to start a bonfire and have dinner with friends of the farmers. That night Brian, Kiki, and I slept in the van. It was so much fun to be "camping" in November. Kiki did seem a little skeptical, though. What are we doing here and why am I cold?

The next morning we took a walk down to the farm. The horses were getting in their morning jaunt in the mist-covered fields. Everything was magical--especially the moment when our host was greeted noisily by her pet donkey. He was so excited to see her that the moment he spotted her he started in on the exuberant braying. After a delicious breakfast of tomatoes (from the farm) and eggs in the yurt, we went on a tour of the land. We stopped by our host's parents' place next door and took a look at her father's amazing sculpture work. It seemed that many people on the island who we met were creatively inclined (or thoroughly established) in some way.

We also drove up to a viewpoint with a very good view of Mount Baker and the rest of the island. Kiki seemed at home there and we thought we heard raccoons in the trees. Did you know they sound like pigs? After taking in the view for a bit, we went down to Lime Kiln State Park. We took a short and easy trail to the lighthouse and had a small picnic.

By that time, my camera had died. I have a feeling that we'll be back again soon, though. And we will be back again as many times as we can.

The ferry ride back to Anacortes was just as magical as the ride out to the islands. We had great views and stood in awe of everything once again, but spent a little more time indoors since we had just seen it all the day before. I love the idea of going to the island and from the island in the daylight to get as much visibility as possible from the ferry.

Spending a night on San Juan Island was the perfect day trip from Bellingham. After months of dreaming of water, what better way to start our lives in Washington than to be surrounded by it?

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