Some more photos from our Spring Break trip to the Northwest.
It seems like it takes as many days to catch up from a vacation as the number of days you spend away. The importance of getting away from daily routines, no matter how long or far you travel to escape them, seems like a necessity more than ever, but I’ll admit – it’s disruptive in the sense that I always underestimate how easy it’ll be to swing right back into things. A week in and I still feel “off”.
But I suppose that’s the idea of a vacation, right? You don’t come back quite the same. A good vacation is returning to the more mundane and tedious aspects of daily life with a fresh perspective. Or one would hope. But it also takes work because it’s easy to slip back into the nonsense that you needed a break from in the first place.
These days, I feel like I’m walking a bit on egg shells. Emotions are unpredictable. It’ll be the one year anniversary of my brother’s death in 6 weeks, but the months proceeding that day were also difficult times. I’m reminded of this everyday lately. Certain dates are burned into my head and I check them off one by one as we pass them on the calendar, exhaling with relief to have gotten past them. But almost a year later, “moving on” hasn’t been possible for a few specific reasons that I can’t talk about. I just want that part to be over; I never thought I would find myself here. But that’s how life often works, isn’t it? It can veer down a path and fling you so far off from where you thought you’d be. How we deal with the cards we’re dealt with is up to each one of us. But I’ll survive because I’m a survivor.
It’s almost midnight. Another birthday, another milestone to check off the calendar. I’m secretly happy that my birthday doesn’t fall on a day where I’m in the office – not because I wouldn’t like to spend it with the people I work with work – I would. But I want to spend it alone more. Does that make my transformation into an old lady, complete? I’m close! I can feel it! But 6 hours alone before the girls get home sounds like the perfect way to spend a birthday to me. Because then there will be dinner and cards and cake (Miss C made me fill out a cake survey the other day) and let’s face it, celebrating our birthdays is just as much for them as it is for us at this point, am I right? I can already tell…I’ll miss it when the kids are gone.
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Seattle in April, instead of August. When we arrived, it was all budding trees and cherry blossoms, fields of tulips and other Spring flowers. The NW always blooms a bit earlier than NY, but because of an unusually warm Winter, everything came up early this year. Lucky us. We got to see the Tulip Festival an hour North of Seattle in Skagit Valley, something we wouldn’t normally see since our yearly trips to the NW usually come in August. We’ve seen photos of the tulips fields from local Washington friends who visit yearly, but there’s nothing like seeing it for yourself. Driving in the car, approaching the farms, you can see the variegated strips of color from the distance. The yellow tulips almost glow from afar.
The tulip fields are spread out in the valley nestled between farm stands and other agricultural fields. Roozengaarde is the most “commercial” of the fields in that there is a small entry fee to get in, while the others are literally right off the road. The tulip and daffodil fields were a bit past peak when we visited, but the display garden, while landscaped, was worth the price to see all the varieties and colors of tulips.
It was also fun to see different flowers at all the farmer’s markets including Pike Place since we’re usually treated to dahlias in August; this year we saw tulips, daffodils, and lilacs. We haven’t been to the NW in Springtime since we lived there in the 90s, so it was refreshing to come during a different season to remind ourselves what Washington is like at a different time of year other than Summer. Thanks for a Spring preview, Washington. Can’t wait for NYC to catch up with all its flowers and blooms.
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Took a short road trip last weekend and was dazzled by Fall colors on the drive upstate. Just 2 hours north and it was like a different world, particularly since we came home to weirdly muggy weather for this time of year. Driving back home was like turning back the clock as we got closer to the city – greener trees and higher temps, but maybe the perception of time slowed down is ok. You know once Halloween hits it’s an accelerated rush towards the holidays and I’m not in any hurry.
In Ithaca we visited a big farmer’s market which I had never been to before. It was good to go someplace new in a town that has so many past associations. I spent a good deal of time here when we used to have long summer breaks in art school and I’ve camped out in nearby Finger Lakes National Forest. It’s beautiful out here with lakes, forests and waterfalls. Driving through the back country roads towards Ithaca where there’s nothing but farm country reminds me of those years when gas was cheap and we had nothing but time. Driving, for the sake of driving, with music blaring and windows rolled down seem like a luxury now. This part of the state reminds me of my brother too. He spent a decade attending schools and later working at Cornell and I used to love visiting him at the Vet School. He’d show me jarred animal organs floating in formaldehyde in the labs and we’d go visit the cows and horses in the barn. What I remember the most though was the barn cat. He had multiple toes, something like 8-12 toes on each paw, and he was a sight. I always point out the store where Ed adopted my cat for me to the girls whenever we’re up here. It’s a funny story, really, of the night that Tobi spent with him before he was driven down to the East Village where we were living back in ’97. He was tiny, just shy of 3 months old, and wasn’t particularly thrilled to be plucked out of the litter of cats. That night, my brother dropped a heavy typewriter in the living room a few yards away from Tobi and it sent him in a panic under the sofa where he stayed until he had to be pried away for the drive down to my house. Tobi was scarred for life and hated my brother since then. Cats, unlike dogs, can hold long grudges it seems.
For the past couple of years, our short trips upstate involve family and visits to a nursing home. It’s hard not to get sad during these visits no matter how nice the facility is and I find myself choking back tears whenever we leave. It’s a reminder of our own mortality too. We’re getting old alongside our parents and we’re all grappling with physical changes that we can, but also can’t see. Some things are within our control and we can change our lifestyles to shape our future, but it’s also just a roll of the dice with genetics and pure chance at play. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair, but life isn’t always fair, is it?
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The golden hour is usually stunning wherever you are, but we had some really good ones out West. We ended our trip with a spectacular sunset on the pier and watched the sun disappear behind the mountains (we always try to end our trips out west with a water view and a sunset). Our time out here for me was bittersweet. My brother talked of wanting to move to Seattle in the last few months of his life. We talked about how nice it would be if we all eventually ended up in the same area, all of us old and retired sitting on lawn chairs with our garden gnomes, eating blackberry cobbler. I really wish he had made the move and I thought about what could have been as we watched the sunset. A fitting end, really, to summer.
Now back at home with school finally in session and September upon us, summer isn’t letting go quite so easily. It’s been hot – hotter than it’s been all summer – and while I’m not necessarily in a rush to usher in Fall, the weather does seem to contradict everything that Fall represents. I didn’t think I wanted summer to end, but now that September is here, I’m feeling that restlessness and surge of motivation that seem to surface this month every year. Also, boots. I love sandals, but I can’t wait to wear boots. Oh, the frivolous things.
So, along with all this seasonal motivation comes along this feeling that maybe the fog of summer is starting to lift. It’s like this: I woke up one day and realized that I didn’t have that weird and sudden social anxiety around people and friends anymore. I started to think again about project ideas that I abandoned late May when everything came apart. I still think about my brother everyday, but it feels less like a dark cloud even though it’s still an empty hole. I suppose this is progress. The time warp of summer was such a strange experience and I floated like a ghost for 3 months without ever really touching the ground. Now that I’m much more present, the stuff that I put aside still remains. All the big questions about life and work are looming large again. I think I’m finally ready to face them though.
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People sometimes ask me which city I like more, Seattle or NY, and it always strikes me as a funny question since neither city is like the other and they represent different things to me. It’s been interesting to see how Seattle has changed over the years. It’s not like witnessing the changes in New York which I can track over the course of time if my path crosses certain sites often enough (likewise, I get to watch quite a number of buildings go up from the view way up from the office). In Seattle, we often time lapse into those changes on our visits every year. New buildings pop up or we can see how a whole neighborhood like South Lake Union develops from year to year (the amount of construction in this neighborhood right now is crazy). My reference point for some of these changes in urban landscape are almost as old as New York; sometimes Seattle bears little resemblance to the place that I remember from the early 90s. I sometimes struggle to find the spots we used to go to or name the 24 hr joints we used to haunt; there weren’t too many back then and there are even fewer now, but the past is often a blur at this point.
Every year I check the real estate listings to keep tabs on neighborhoods I’m interested in. The loose plan to retire in the NW is still the plan. Besides, who doesn’t like looking at real estate? I’ve been seeing prices in Seattle creep steadily up, but noticed a remarkable jump in prices this year. So many condos and new buildings on the market too. Seattle has never been cheap. New York real estate prices still blow every city out of the water except maybe San Francisco, so “cheap” is relative, but the gap between the 2 cities has gotten smaller this year. I wonder what another 5 years will bring?
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