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July 2019

Taking Intention . . . On Vacation

Before Tom and I left for Alaska, I told him my one intention for the trip:  
Less screen.  More experiences.

First night on the ship, somewhere outside Vancouver.

I know that sounds kind of weird. . . less screen.  What I meant, really, was I wanted to take fewer photos.  I wanted to free myself from feeling like I needed to document every moment of our trip.  There is nothing wrong with vacation pics -- and I certainly did want to take photos.  I just . . . didn't want to experience Alaska behind the screen of my iPhone.  I wanted to experience everything around me directly.  I wanted to live in the moment of the trip.  I wanted to create my own mental memories.

And, of course, I would take photos!  Here I was . . . in one of the most incredibly beautiful places I've ever visited . . .  and I wanted to capture it.  (For later.  To inspire my art.  To document our trip.)   On the other hand, I really didn't want to miss anything . . . by trying to get the perfect photograph.

So that was my intention.  Less screen.  More experiences.

And I'm happy to say . . . it worked for me.  I took far fewer photos than I normally do on a trip.  I kept my phone in my pocket much of the time.  I looked and experienced first -- then took my camera out after that.

And you know what?  Doing that . . . experiencing first . . . actually made the photos I did take BETTER.  And I know my memories about the experience are richer -- because I didn't live them from behind a screen.  

A perfect example.

In Juneau (on the evening after our Mendenhall Glacier trek), we went on an evening whale watching cruise (which also featured an amazing "Alaskan culinary experience") (so awesome) (my first taste of reindeer!).  The setting was gorgeous -- water, mountains rising straight up, sunset, eagles soaring.  Really . . . just amazing.  The small boat had comfortable seats, HUGE windows for viewing, an on-board naturalist to explain everything we would see, and binoculars.  (Also wine.)  

It didn't take long . . . and we saw whales!  Humpback whales -- spouting in the distance.  The ship's captain steered us toward the whales, while the naturalist told us all about the humpbacks and explained what we were seeing.

I kept my phone in my pocket . . . and grabbed the binoculars instead.

We followed the whales (always at a distance of at least 100 yards for the respect and safety of the whales) for about an hour and a half.  It was amazing!  We ended up seeing something that is rather exceptional on whale-watching excursions -- something called "bubble netting", which is a cooperative feeding practice of the humpback whales.  We ended up watching a group of 8 humpbacks working together the entire time!

Now here's where I'm going to be a bit judge-y.  There were about 25 people on the boat with us.  Most of them . . . watched this entire spectacle behind the screens of their phones or cameras.  Trying to get a good shot . . . of unpredictable wildlife . . . in the water . . . from a moving boat . . . at a distance of at least 100 yards.  

As Tom and I watched, we learned to (kind of) anticipate where they might surface next.  We learned to watch for the signals -- first the spout, then the surface rise, then the ALL of them coming up to the surface at the same time, then the fluke (the tail).  The folks with their screens?  They were always behind the movement because they were limited to what they could see on their phone screen.  

Eventually, the boat made this spectacular turn . . . and the lighting was amazing and the backdrop was perfect.  Whales or not, it was time for me to get my phone out and take a few photos of an incredibly beautiful landscape.  

And then I noticed it . . . 



Surfacing.  (With bonus soaring eagle!)





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Yep.  I ended up getting some pretty great whale photos that evening.  But I'd like to think that I was able to capture these moments . . . because I had experienced them first.  I knew what I was looking for.  And . . . even if I hadn't gotten ANY decent photos of the whales, I'd still have the glorious memory of our magical whale watching evening.  

(We also saw harbor porpoises on that excursion.)  (I didn't get any photos.)  (Didn't even try, actually.)

I'm really glad I decided to take intention with me . . . on vacation!



Start Your Engines

It's an exciting week around here, folks.  I'm headed up north for a couple of days (and I'm bringing my Dad along this time).  My daughter-in-law heads to Lansing to sit for the Michigan bar.  And on Thursday . . . I have jury duty.  

Looks like a great time to . . . 



A Quote

"The oldest, shortest words - yes and no - are those that require the most thought."
--- Pythagoras

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From a walk around Icy Strait Point at Hoonah, Alaska.

Now I have no idea if the words yes and no are actually the "oldest words" - although they certainly would number among the shortest - but this quote resonated for me.  How about you?


A Word

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When I was a little girl, my mom used to use the word "addlepated" (usually directed at something silly either my sister or I had done or said), and I always loved saying it out loud.  I'd never seen it in print, though.  Or heard it used elsewhere.  But when it popped up as a word-of-the-day from Merriam Webster, it caught my eye!

I especially liked the background information about this word (provided by Merriam Webster):



To Read


Looking for that next summer read?  The New York times put out an interesting list last week:  50 States of True Crime.  Because apparently every state has an infamous crime . . . and a book about it!  Check out the list and find your state's "crime," and maybe add the book to your summer reading list.

I'm not really a fan of true crime myself, but I read somewhere this weekend that women (in general) tend to be fans.  (Of course I cannot find the source of that anywhere this morning as I put togther this post, so cannot share.  Sorry.)  How about you?  Do you like to read true crime novels?


A Challenge

We've reached the point in the summer where . . . it starts to go really fast!  I know some of you are happy about this, while others of you are more melancholy.  My challenge to you?  Make a list of the things you want to do before the end of August -- and figure out how to make them happen.

What's on your list?


Here's to a great week for all of us.


And So It Begins

This afternoon marked the official "opening" of our annual . . . 


Although the Oscar winners won't be announced until February, Tom and I have already started following "the buzz."  We have our list.  And we're heading for the movie theater.  (Yes, beginning to follow the contenders this early in the process means . . . we see a lot of movies that never make it to the nominations.  But that just means . . . we see a lot of really decent movies!)  (It also means we don't miss the early-release movies and have to scramble to find them later.)

So. . .  today, we saw a matinee of Quentin Tarantino's latest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.  This was a great movie to kick off the season for us.*  First, we're Tarantino fans.  Second, it lives up to the hype.  It was very good and great fun -- and I'm not going to say another thing about it.  (If you're interested in seeing it, my advice is to avoid the spoilers.)

Enjoy your weekend!
(Go see a movie.)


* Technically, we kicked off the season with Us several months ago.  But that was really too early to be considered our official kick-off.



Glaciers Really are Blue

. . . and other things I've learned about glaciers.  
(Three things, in fact.) (Because Thursday.)

Just a tiny section of the face of the Hubbard Glacier.

When Tom and I were trying to decide just where we might want to go to commemorate our 60th birthdays, we had a lot of ideas.  Italy?  Iceland?  London?  Alaska?  So many places we want to go!  But we ended up choosing Alaska.  It seemed appropriate:  We were turning 60; Alaska was celebrating 60 years of statehood.  Although Tom has been to Alaska several times before for fishing trips, he'd always wanted to see the Inside Passage, and I've always wanted to see the glaciers (before they melt) (sad, but totally true).

So.  North to Alaska!

And we certainly did see glaciers!  Today I'll share some of our adventures -- along with three things we learned about glaciers along the way.

Thing One:   Glaciers are constantly changing.  They truly are "rivers of ice," and although they move quite slowly, they are constantly melting, advancing, receding.  (Although I learned this long ago in geology classes, SEEING it makes it so much more . . .  comprehensible.)


My view . . . from the cockpit of a helicopter.


Best view of glaciers ever!  (Highly, highly recommend a helicopter trek.)


Our helicopter landed on the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, and we were met by a scene that looked like an Arctic expedition or something.  (Freaked out much, Kym?)


No worries, though.  By that time, I was fully outfitted for my expedition. . . including hiking gear, special boots, a helmet, extra-tough gloves, and crampons (talk about footwear I never thought I'd wear!) -- and I was on my way to pick up my ice axe when Tom took this photo.


Yes, my friends!  Tom and I were about to set off for a 2-hour (guided) hike on the Mendenhall Glacier!

Thing Two:  The surface of a glacier is much like broken glass -- sharp pieces of ice of varying sizes and consistency.  The terrain varies constantly -- steep uphills, sharp drop-offs, cliffs, holes, little streams of water, canyons, caves, moulins.  The ice is actually blue, too -- because it is super dense from years of compression (like . . . we're talking hundreds, thousands of years).  The air pockets between crystals has been forced out, making the ice appear blue.  (And that's as scientific an explanation you'll get from me, folks!)

Thus . . . the crampons, helmet, and extra-tough gloves!


Our guide (who looked amazingly like a young and fit Yukon Cornelius) quickly taught our group of 6 how to walk, climb up, and (most freaky of all) climb down.  (If you're a skier, you have to forget EVERYTHING you ever learned about leaning into the slope and digging in your edges, because if you do that in crampons?  Not. Good.)  (And I was reminded - over and over again - of the power of muscle memory!)

And because we were a well-guided, adventurous group . . . we had a long way to come down!

(See the helicopter and tent . . . way down there?)

But the amazing things we saw!


This was just an AWESOME experience.  I'm so happy to have seen a mountain glacier . . . up close and personal!

We also saw a tidewater glacier, which leads me to . . . 

Thing Three:  Icebergs are pieces of glacier that have broken off into the water. Icebergs are actually called different things, depending on their size and how much they rise out of the water.   "Icebergs" rise out of the water over 14 ft.  "Bergy bits" are smaller (or melting) icebergs that rise out of the water between 3-14 ft.  And "growlers" are the smallest yet -- any glacial ice chunks under 3 ft.

It's slightly unnerving to wake up to see mini-icebergs floating past your cruise ship!  But that's exactly what happened the morning we arrived in Disenchantment Bay to see the Hubbard Glacier.  (We actually got on an even smaller boat that morning, so we'd be able to get even closer to the glacier.)

That's our cruise ship, as seen from our glacier sightseeing vessel.

It's hard to imagine how BIG this advancing, tidewater glacier really IS until you see it (or try to fit it into a photograph).


The face of the glacier is 400 feet tall (most of that is under water), and it's over 75 miles long!


There was lots of ice in the bay -- mostly "growlers" and a few "bergy bits."  We were 1/2 mile away from the face of the glacier that day, and there was a lot of "calving" activity (when the ice breaks off from the face and crashes into the water) going on.  It was . . . Very Cool.  You can hear the loud cracking and booming thunder when the ice calves.  It's amazing!  (I'm sure there were big icebergs nearer the face).

If you look at the bottom of this photo, you can see some calving going on.  (An accidental, lucky shot -- because I didn't take many photos while we were at the glacier. )

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One more thing I learned?  Glaciers.  Are.  Awesome.



Along For the Ride

You might say . . . I brought a friend along with me on my trip to Alaska.


Just before we left on our trip, I cast on for this shawl . . . using Vicki's lovely Make.Do. yarn (the colorway is Not So Deep).  So it's kind of like Vicki came along for the ride!

I didn't knit much during our cruise -- just every once in a while when we were between ports -- but this is a quick, easy, FUN knit.  And perfect for variegated yarns that you want to show off (like this one!).

Here's where I am with it now . . . 


Nearly finished.  (I'm on the final section of "triangles.") (Not really diggin' the garter stitch border in the design, so still need to figure something out there.)


It really is a perfect design for showing off a lovely skein of yarn!  And I imagine it might appeal to those knitters who've been captivated by the Hitchhiker.  Because same kind of soothing-but-with-interest knitting.  (And, like the Hitchhiker, when you run out of yarn, well . . . you're done!)

It was really nice to have Vicki's yarn . . . along for the ride!


How about YOU?  What are you making today?


Back At It

Usually, I am a workout-aholic.  I go to the gym pretty much every day (I'll share my own fitness story someday), and I work out hard while I'm there.  I take my fitness pretty seriously.

I really, really need those endorphins to flow or I don't feel quite . . . complete.

While I was on my trip to Alaska . . . which happened to be on a small luxury cruise ship . . . I tried to keep as active as I possibly could.  Tom and I walked a lot each day.  We worked out on the ship whenever possible.  We went on a couple of higher-intensity treks (hiking on a glacier, for example, or kayaking around islands).  


I did more of this . . . 


than usual.  (Let's just say . . . we used our premium drinks package more than we used the gym . . . )

I arrived back home craving a diet cleanse, a massage, and a good, hard workout!

So.  I'm back at it.  And feeling better already.

But it got me thinking -- how do YOU get yourself back on track after a break?  As in . . . after a vacation or an injury or being sick or, well, maybe a heat wave?  

What works for you?
(Share your stories in the comments, and I'll follow up with a summary next week.)


Start Your Engines

We're just back home from our trip -- slightly jet lagged and certainly sluggish.  That makes today a Super Monday.  Today it is really time to . . . 


On Mondays, I share things I've collected over the weekend . . . to get the week off to a good start.


A Quote

"And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it's a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end."  
--- Pico Iyer



A Word


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To Read


I like to think of myself as an open-minded person.  But after reading this essay in the Washington Post over the weekend, I can see that, well . . . it's a bit more complicated than that.  I think the essay is fascinating -- and especially given that I've been thinking about polymaths already, since it seems that polymaths may tend toward more open-minded thinking.

What do you think?


A Challenge

Be curious.
Challenge your own thinking. 
Use "however" more than "moreover."


I hope your week is off to a good start.  I'm looking forward to catching up with all of you again!

Vacation Time

"Because in the end, you won't remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn.  Climb that goddamn mountain."  --- Jack Kerouac


And with that, we're off . . . on a grand adventure (and what looks like a lot of rain).  I won't be blogging until we return from our trip, but I will be "sending postcards" via Instagram (follow along if you're interested).

See you later, alligators!



Over the Top on the Fun-O-Meter and a Garden Surprise



The days are long and the pace is slow.


Except . . . when it's not!

For me, this has been a non-stop kind of summer.  High on the Good-Things-and-Fun-O-Meter, for sure!  But the pace has been relentless.  (Someday, maybe I'll have a chance to actually sit and rest in this lovely corner of my garden.)

I have nothing to complain about here, truly.  I've enjoyed a long visit with my sister, visited Mackinac Island and Chicago, co-hosted a super successful fundraising wine tasting event . . . and a summer solstice party (in the same week), (finally) spent a week up north, helped Brian and Lauren move into their new digs in Grand Rapids (on the hottest and muggiest day of the summer).  And now?  Well . . . I'm headed to Alaska with Tom later this week.  So.  Really . . . nothing but fun.

Still.  Constant activity - even when it is the fun kind - is always tiring, y'know?  

Okay.  Enough whining.  
Let's have a cool garden story instead, shall we?  

I have this WILD butterfly garden. 


I do my best to keep the path clear, and I try to keep the weeds down.  But, mostly . . . I let it do it's own thing.  It's an . . . organic, flowing, constantly-changing kind of garden.  Easy care.  Friendly to pollinators.  Always packed with bees and butterflies.  (It looks pretty good, too.)

There is lots of milkweed in my butterfly garden -- common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and butterfly weed.  (Plants in the milkweed family are the ONLY plants Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on -- and the only plants Monarch caterpillars will eat.)

butterfly weed

Over the weekend, I happened to be checking out one of the milkweed plants to see if I could find any Monarch eggs -- and was thrilled to find this instead. . . 

common milkweed

See him down there?  Near the bottom of the photo?

Here's a close up . . . 


A Monarch caterpillar . . . just munching away on my milkweed.

I love a good garden surprise!


How about you?  How's your summer coming along?