Memorial Day 2020

A little over 10 months since I sat at this dining room table in similar silence.

It’s (still) so quiet here in Port Townsend. Deadly silent is what comes to mind but it is very much not a threatening environment.

Until the fridge’s hum started a few minutes ago, literally the only thing I could hear was the soft rush of rain on the trees outside the dining room window. But it doesn’t match the visual of the pouring rain on the neighbor’s roof.

The only other sounds are from the birds, which I can hear through the open skylight in the bathroom about 15 feet away from me. So. Many. Birds. They’re sheltering from the rain that is pouring harder now than 10 minutes ago, but they are still talking to each other. I haven’t figured out which birds they are by their sounds. But no mourning doves, as we’ve heard regularly the past few weeks, and are starting to be annoyed with at first light every morning.

Or the chirping of the now-teenage European starlings that live inside the telephone pole in front of the house. We’ve been hearing, then seeing, the little bird family grow the past month, and observing Mom and Dad constantly bringing back food to the needy youngsters. We now think the young ones, who we saw learning to fly two weeks ago, are equivalent to 30-year old adults with no jobs and living in their parent’s basement.

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Today has been a harder-than-normal quarantine/work from home/restless day.

Kinda ranks up there with the fits Philip threw recently about doing schoolwork.

What’s wrong? I asked with a gentle but heavy sigh.

“Quarantine! Coronavirus! Not being at school! That’s what wrong!” he snaps at me on the iPad, flicking his head back and forth with a condescending sneer.

Sigh. The entire world feels that way, Kid. The ENTIRE WORLD.

But who can talk sense into a third grader who is in quarantine? Not me. Nor you. Maybe his mom. His world consists of his adults, his stuffed animals, his iPad, and his classmates and teachers on a computer screen. To him, they all seem happier than he is. Which makes him feel more miserable and more annoyed.

So he hides in his couch fort with his light sabers sticking out from between the cushions, and places a sign out front that says “Do Not Disturb” scrawled out in his shaky 8-year-old handwriting.

I totally get it, kid. Totally get it. We all get it.

Today was going to be “easy” for me. The To Do list seemed completely absolutely do-able. Write some things, edit some things. Nothing completely mind blowing. I was going to finish editing OMR notes from last week’s meeting, then move on to editing the two batches of photos from last week’s field work (!!!). Address some emails, edit some docs.

It’s 12:15. I’ve been on the computer since 8:30. Around 9 a.m. things started going downhill.

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Saturday, April 4, 2020

9:22 a.m.

There are so many birds in my neighborhood.

So much chirping and flying and flittering about.

I never really noticed it until this morning. Or rather, I recognized how much I’ve noticed it lately. Especially when I saw that bluejay on my front porch an hour ago. I never see bluejays around here.

While there is still some traffic in Bremerton, given I live on one of the busiest streets, it is significantly quieter in the morning and evening. Hence, I can hear the birds more. It’s odd to hear nothing in Bremerton but birds.

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Day 5. Monday, March 23, 2020

Today starts the first full week of telecommuting, as directed by my office.

Given the nature of my job in real time and my opportunities to work from home when I have field work in the morning or afternoon, I feel I’m fairly equipped mentally to deal with the Work From Home situation. I can make myself pretty comfortable anywhere and be productive. Some days I need complete silence, so the house is great; some days I need some background noise, so the office or a coffeeshop works well.

Jeremy and I are essentially WFH together now – he works from home primarily anyway, so he’s set up. I just take over his dining room table when I’m in Port Townsend. He’ll likely camp out on my couch in Bremerton, or my dining room table.

I had successful “hangouts” with my mountain rescue team and friends over Zoom the past few days, which has made this self-imposed Shelter In Place more bearable. However, I haven’t quite felt the insolation or pent up feelings that it seems others are anticipating. My attitude about this whole thing has been “Well, OK, here we are. One day at a time. It is what it is. I will adapt and move on.”

Granted, I may feel differently in a week.

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Thursday morning. Bremerton. March 19, 2020.

It’s Day 2 of my sorta self-quarantine.

I’m not sick, save for the sniffles I’ve had for two weeks now. But no other symptoms, just sniffles. Maybe allergies? Low grade cold? (been feeling run down too but have been traveling extensively lately and on deadline for work).

The office space I work in has closed for the next two weeks for safety’s sake. I’m glad for it – it was stressful being in the office. Even though I have an office with a door, it was nerve wracking trying to make sure I didn’t touch all the things and then making sure I cleaned them when I did.

I have a CenturyLink chat box open on my laptop to try and upgrade my Internet. The current minimum wait time started at 182 minutes and has been bouncing back and forth between 40-ish minutes and 12-ish minutes. My internet is terribly slow, as I’m a cheapskate but even I’m tired of the spinning rainbow ball on my computer and dragging response times.

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So, I don’t know how to start this trip report.

Do I explain what led to Lana and I trail running 50+ miles in the Olympic Mountains?

Do I exude endless amounts of gratitude for our amazing Sherpas, Chris and Jeremy, who supported this idea?

Do I take my father’s advice and undergo psychological analysis to check my mental state?

Let’s start from the beginning.

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There are a zillion blogs and books and posts on how to prepare for and climb Kilimanjaro. I’ll try not to repeat what a lot of them said but here’s a list of things I DIDN’T read and wish I’d had.

DSCF1184This is an extremely long post so here’s the list of some topics discussed:

Gear to bring and not bring

The Toilet Situation

How to deal with Hygiene

Group Climb vs Private Climb

The Hiking Experience (How to train for the climb)

Food to bring and not bring

How to eat on the mountain

The Underwear Dilemma

Music/Phones/Chargers/Technology

Extra gear to bring

 

GEAR:

The list provided by the tour operator:

Definitely take JUST those items. You really don’t need anything else, except a few extra creature comforts for being in a developed country. I’ll list those at the end.

The Water Bladder/Camelbak:

I’m a pretty experienced hiker here in the Pacific Northwest and NO ONE I know out here hikes with a bladder. (Mountain biking – that’s a different story). We all carry Nalgenes or water bottles and drink when we stop to rest, about every hour or 1,000 feet. Our general thoughts are that the bladders leak, they are hard to refill and they get bacteria easily. I thought I’d just be able to take out my water bottle and drink when we’d stop.

What I DIDN’T account for is the fact that you need to be drinking – nay, SIPPING – throughout the ENTIRE day and at a minimum of 4 liters (4 Naglenes) a day. I realized this literally within the first 10 minutes on our first day of hiking and thought, “Oh crap. I should have brought the bladder. NOW I get it.”

We hiked at such a slow pace, especially in the beginning, that stopping to rest wasn’t really necessary, and dealing with bottles was a pain. I wound up hooking mine to my backpack’s hipbelt with a carabiner for seven days and would walk and sip. It wasn’t ideal but it worked.

SO: BRING THE CAMELBAK. (But bring two water bottles for refills and to drink out of at camp, because who wants to lug around a bladder while at camp?).

 

Poncho:

Again, Pacific Northwest. Rains 9 months out of the year. We are experts in rain gear. Just bring Gortex rain pants and rain jacket, right?

Nope. I used them once in Africa and immediately realized I didn’t need them.

The poncho that the tour operators STRONGLY recommend?

I used it every afternoon. Because rain/fog/mist came through every afternoon.

It was lightweight, easy to throw on, covered me and my pack and kept me warm. Plus the guides and climbers helped us put them on and take them off and just stuffed them in an outside backpack pocket when we were done with them. It never rained hard enough to warrant hassling with pants and the jacket.

BRING THE PONCHO. Actually, RENT THEIR ponchos. They’ll be of better and tougher quality than the $10 plastic wrap you buy at Target.

 

The Ski Jacket and Ski Pants:

Again, something I don’t normally wear in the mountains (unless I’m at a ski resort). But I bought an old one from Goodwill (with the intention of leaving it behind for the porters) and glad I had it. Brought a pair of old snow pants my mom had gotten me years ago, and they were perfect with two pairs of long underwear underneath.

I had brought my mountain summit kit anyway (lots of long underwear, softshells, overstuffed puffy and rain shell) but could have gotten away with just a smaller puffy under the ski jacket and no rain shell.

 

The Private Toilet:

Pay the extra money to rent it.

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Saturday, 6:37 a.m., Aug 31.

Brain is on overdrive these days. It’s been like this since Monday morning, when I dove deep into the photography captions finally, letting my old school journalism procrastination take over. As per protocol, I spent Monday panicking while working through the first set of captions. By Tuesday I felt better and somewhat in a groove, although still intimidated by what I’m writing because I don’t know ANYTHING about sailing and the terminology. At the same time, that’s not completely true. I’m a year and a half into exploring this world and I learn something new with every conversation and outing. I’m currently working my way through the last set of interviews today, this time with sailmakers and there are tabs open to study the definitions and look at images: sailmakers thimbles, storm staysails and jib tack pennant.

Writing overdrive has been nice but a struggle, again, as is per writing protocol but I’m finally mature enough to recognize this. I’m used to having a boss and editor expecting a certain format and style. For this project though, which is a completely volunteer side gig, I can do whatever I damn well please and write however I want. Jeremy wanted my journalism angle, which is easy, but also likes my writing style, so I finally relaxed and let it fly. All that matters is what he thinks and what the tradespeople think. So far, I’ve received feedback just enough to tweak the captions but not enough to derail my style, so that’s good.

As I was sitting in my writing chair last night, I could hear the music blaring from my tenant downstairs, which didn’t bother me. I thought about asking her to turn it down but then I thought, wait, I’m enjoying this.

It was a delightful mix of modern female soul one minute and classic black and white film soundtrack the next. For some reason, I felt like I was in a scene of an old movie (film noir?), in some 2nd floor apartment in France, as the young are blasting away music but it’s slightly muffled, while the landlord/writer is upstairs tucked away in the corner of her tiny messy office that is lined with books, old racing medals, maps, artwork to be hung, stacks of important life papers, the “war corner” for a house remodel, piles of clothing for Goodwill and a drying rack of delicates, but only focused on what is coming out of the fingers and onto the computer screen late into the night.

I was kinda sad when she turned it off and left.

I woke up today at 515 to continue the photography writing. I walked by my backdoor and a swath of white caught my eye, looking like snow had fallen. Nope, just a big white Ithaca RV sneaking an overnight spot on my side street.

2 more minutes.

I realized last night that at 40, I’m much more content pounding out words in a quiet corner of my house on a Friday night, in an IKEA chair that needs upholstering, under an old lamp that was left behind by previous homeowner than being in a loud noisy bar. Last night at least. It feels like a big creative art weekend anyway, with work on next weekend’s photography show and this weekend’s Wayzgoose printmakers festival, which I’m very excited to visit later today.

I wouldn’t have minded a glass of wine to celebrate the end of the week but that would have put me out. Tonight, after I get this last set of captions done, I will be able to dig into that glass of wine. Maybe even that chardonnay from Switzerland with J …

6:52 a.m.

7:28 p.m.

It’s my last night “living” in Port Townsend. I’m out for the 3rd night in a row, by choice, sitting at Chetzemoka Park, which is a five minute walk from the house. It has peek-a-boo views of the water and Whidbey Island. I can see the stage (and hear the actors practicing) where Shakespeare In The Park will be performed in a few weeks and I’m happy to report, I’ll be attending.

I was here last night too, around the same time. My sailing outing was cancelled and I took advantage of the time for more transcribing interviews. Turns out sitting in a park has been the most productive work space in town for me, and so I am here again, transcribing. I am so happy here.

I’m pretty sure I’m used to the quiet at night now, and can sleep pretty soundly, waking up just before my 6 a.m. alarm. (Although a beer or glass of wine has helped. Tonight will be the last one until Saturday night, in prep for a big run that day.).

At Jeremy’s suggestion, I finally sat on the back porch this morning with my breakfast and mug of tea. Of course, I lingered out there way longer than I should have. Wondering where Beth and I will put our tent when we’re here in a month for The Thing Music Festival, during which Jeremy is graciously letting us crash in his backyard. It’ll be like Doe Bay, in a way, but on a smaller scale.

This town is like living in a bubble. Kinda like the suburbs, but definitely not like the suburbs. There’s a different aura here than anywhere else I’ve experienced. It’s like living on a Hollywood set, where everything is just where it should be – every unkept garden, every perfectly laid out stone pathway, each community space with open doors and music floating out, quirky shop, or happy chatter of people gathering. People walk everywhere here. They say hi when passing each other on the sidewalk. You may get a wave when passing in cars.

Even if they don’t say hi, they’ll smile. And not a shy passive aggressive PNW I-kinda-sorta-will-maybe-give-you-eye contact smile. Like a legit, bright smile. It happens while running too.

It’s delightful and refreshing.

There’s a group of middle school kids running around the park this evening. I was annoyed for a second because they’re loud but then they started yelling at each other:

“What’s the border? Is the water the border? Where’s the jail? It’s the picnic table! TO THE JAIL!!!”

This is cracking me up. It must be a camp. And I’d love to completely forget about everything I should be doing right now and join. It reminds me of playing Freeze Tag and Ghosts in the Graveyard on Heatherwood during humid Ohio summers.

To forget about having to go back to the house and gather all my triptrap I’ve strewn about the house. To toss my clothes into my duffle bag except for what I’ll wear tomorrow. To do a quick wipe down and sweep. To stuff four pairs of dress shoes, two pairs of running shoes, and two pairs of sandals into bags. To reorganize all the camping gear. To load it all up in Bertha The VW Battlewagen.

To not think about the weeds in my gardens at home. The mail stacking up on my front porch. The house next door that is in a significant state of demo. The empty dry erase board that will soon be filled up quotes equating to tens of thousand of dollars for a house remodel.

“Can we call a quick truce, I need you to take my shirt to the table.”

“Can we shake on it?”

7:43 p.m.

—–

Post-edit: I just got a glimpse of myself in my computer screen reflection. Total pretentious brat here with the real life running around me. Floppy hat, big hot pink sunglasses and scarf with a damn computer and headphones in the middle of a park.

8:13 p.m., July 23, 2019

Location: Port Townsend Vineyards Tasting Room, Water St., Cloudy. Mist blowing in from the west.

I decided to finally leave the house this evening, or rather, not putz around in a big lonely house after work, or sit and stare at the windows in my writing room. After being here for two weeks, and for once, not being exhausted (despite 3 hours of sleep today) I decided to actually go out and be in the presence of people (and see a friend). Mainly because I knew my extroverted sanity needed it.

So, I’m sitting on the back patio of the PT Vineyards tasting room, at a table for four but with the attendance of one. A healthy serving of Viognier, the pita bread and hummus plate and those New Yorker magazines again. Last night’s article was about a Bjork-like pop musician, which I enjoyed; tonight’s article is a heartbreaking story of a family with twin babies and how they’re using GoFundMe to help support their $2 million medical needs for their childrens’ disease that likely won’t let them live much longer. I couldn’t finish reading it.

Also, sorry, J, if your magazines may be a bit more wrinkled with a minor grease stain, as the wind fluffed Pages 19-21 into my dish that had a significant drizzle of oil. But I learned that I love cold cooked sliced beets topped with roasted cauliflower and garlic hummus. It’s an earthy purple cracker.

I’m under a fancy canopy that automatically rolls back when the wind kicks up. But the sprinkles that were promised at 8 p.m. are splattering my screen.

I also get to walk home in it. The sprinkles that is.

This Viognier is really good. This evening is also a recon mission for possible future visits with company.

The water looks like it’d be a great night for sailing, despite the low clouds, as the water’s surface is wrinkled and a tiny bit wavy.

(wipes off the screen)

Realized (again) on Facebook today that nothing of value is being posted these days. It’s mostly “Feel Good About Yourself” memes, political shit and videos of animals. Super tired of it. Except the cat videos. I’ll pause to watch the cat videos. Dog videos make me cry.

8:22 p.m. I have 6 more minutes.

I had planned on transcribing more of my maritime interviews this evening. My little Olympus recorder is surprisingly pretty awesome at catching the interviewee. I just need to shut the hell up during the interviews because it catches my unnecessary commentary. It’d make editing the transcript A LOT easier. Just think of it as recording audio for a video.

(wipes the screen again)

oh what else, what else… brain is fading because of the wine. It has the same effect as beer. Which is why I don’t drink during the week when I want to get stuff done.

Speaking of, the weeds, OH GOD THE WEEDS in the front of my house in Bremerton are horrendous. I’ve never let my yard go this far. Garden therapy next week.

I wish I’d been able to spend more time at the little places in town during the evening during my time here, but, well, it’s no fun to go out on your own regularly. It’s not a thing I do, anyway. I like it occasionally – but mainly for breakfast and lunch. At night, I prefer a dinner companion. My daily streak of time in PT ends on Friday but I hope to spend more time up here in the company of others in the future.

8:28 p.m.

Post edit:

No wonder I like Viognier. It comes from the Rhone region and my favorite red (Syrah) is from there.