Friday, January 29, 2016

Wenatchee River Winterscape

for R.

Where are we going?
                               He and I.
As the snow blankets the earth in silence
and my wool coat mutates into the fur
of a wet dog.

Where are we going?
                               He and I.
As I follow his tracks straining to see
through tunnels of white sheets.

Where are we going?
                               He and I.
As we cross paths with frozen men
and an innocent in an orange parka.

The sky is hidden but I follow
                                                and follow
                                                                  and follow
Knowing he will lead me out of the darkness.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

NeverEnding Nutcrackers

Offbeat Museums

Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy have been playing over and over in my head ever since my visit to the Nutcracker Museum in Leavenworth, Washington.  As a child I danced in this ballet every Christmas season for years and years.  I knew the score by heart.   I was a snowflake, a flower, an Arabian dancer and a Russian one.  The wooden toy soldier turned handsome prince marched into my dreams at night.  And still does.

So when I read that Arlene Wagner, once a director of a small ballet company, became infatuated with nutcrackers and then spent her life in pursuit of them, I knew I had to see her museum.  She and her husband amassed a collection of over 6,000 nutcrackers.  They picked them up at antique shows and shops and read everything they could on this folk art form. As their knowledge grew, their search widened.  It didn't take long for word to get out.  Suddenly, antique dealers were calling them.

The scholarship necessary in feeding such a singular obsession is on par with that of a university professor.  I felt instant envy and awe at what they had accomplished.

There are antique nutcrackers from the 1500's.  Nutcrackers from hundreds of countries, including the iconic ones from Germany.  There are the functional plier-like ones that can be found in every kitchen.  There are cast iron ones.  Brass and ivory.  But it was the carved wooden figures that I had come to see.  The Drosselmeyers, Claras and Mice Kings.  Santa Clauses.  Benjamin Franklins.   Ogres.  Animals.  Cartoon characters.  There are so many that after an hour, one blurs into the next.  My poor travel buddy finally excused himself.  

But I was entranced.

I read somewhere that Arlene thinks they all come alive at night.  I'm certain they do.  The minute you step foot into this museum, you have entered a world of magic.  Or that brightly lit stage where you once twirled on toe shoes like an exquisite falling snowflake.

  Where the future is eternal.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Bavarian Ice Festival AM

We woke up Sunday morning to blizzard conditions.  So what do you do when it's freezing cold outside and snowing?  You shop!
In the shops of Leavenworth, Washington, were nutcrackers, gorgeous clothes and Radko Christmas Ornaments.  All on sale!  So after a brief walk through town to check out the ice sculptures, trampoline jumping and dog sledding, we hit the stores.

Only . . . a funny thing happened.

There were two young men walking in front of me and I overheard one of them say:
"Why spend money when you don't have to spend money."

I stopped dead in my tracks and turned to my travel buddy.  "Did you hear that?"

He nodded.

"I don't really need another nutcracker, do I?"

He shook his head.

"Or another sweater.  Or another Christmas tree ornament."

That simple little truism uttered by that young man hit me hard.  Hammer head hard.  I had found my New Year's Resolution.

And so I took pictures of those nutcrackers I adored and of that sweater I coveted and those oh so beautiful Radko ornaments, but I didn't buy a single one.  I bought absolutely nothing.  Because this time next year my travel buddy will be retired and our income will be cut in half.  I need to learn to stop spending money.  Beginning now.

We want to continue traveling so we will have to spend money on hotel rooms and food.  But not for clothes and gadgets and books and expensive bottles of wine.  Those days are going to be over.

But window shopping is free.  And so is walking and looking and enjoying nature.  There is so much to see and do that doesn't cost a dime.  So thank you, dude, whoever you are, for setting me straight.

Why spend money when you don't have to spend money.

My search for beautiful clothes is officially over.  And you know what?  I'm okay with it.  I really am.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Bavarian Ice Festival PM

I've noticed that the holidays linger into January here in the Pacific Northwest.  Maybe it's the snow, the cold temperatures, the abundance of hot spiced wine and cocoa, but I, too, find myself not wanting to let go of Christmas.  It's a mood of comfort and joy that has wrapped around me like a favorite blanket.

With that in mind, we headed north to Leavenworth, Washington, to enjoy one last hurrah before it's time to pack up the season and store it away.  Every year this small Bavarian themed town explodes with color and it lasts through the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.  A million lights wind around trees and drape from storefront eaves creating a picture postcard Winter Wonderland.  The Ice Festival ends with a massive fireworks display, which we watched from the hotel's deck with brats and beer.

I am home now.
And finally ready to take down my tree.
Christmas has never lasted so long.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Mosier Plateau

Over the holidays I had several friends and family members back in California ask me, "How are you surviving?" (I have a suspicion many of them thought we wouldn't make it through an Oregon winter.)

  The truth is, I honestly didn't know myself.

Cabin fever is very real.  I've had a few depressing days when I thought I would go absolutely crazy if the cold snap didn't break or the rain wouldn't stop.  But then I toughened up.  I can hike in the rain.  I can even hike in the snow.  Twenty degrees outside?  Put on another layer.  It's as simple as that.

I think I'm here to stay.  For one thing, winter is very quiet.  The tourists are gone.  I can find a parking space whenever I go into town!

But it's the winter landscape I have fallen in love with.  The soft powdery snow.  The ice cycles and frozen waterfalls.   Whenever I  walk up to the Mosier Plateau, I feel like I'm inside a Turner landscape.  It is so beautiful it seems surreal.
The trailhead of this 3.5 mile walk isn't far from where I live.  This fact alone makes me realize the decision to move here was the right one.  I can take a walk on a whim.  Even at night with a flashlight!  

Only a short way up is a spectacular waterfall and then the trail continues with a series of switchbacks and stairs that take you to the top where an unsurpassed view of the Columbia River Gorge is your reward.  Sometimes I go back the way I came.  Sometimes I continue the loop which takes me across the plateau and then down onto Highway 30 for a short walk back.

I'm in no rush for winter to end.  So, yes, folks, I guess I'm surviving.