Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Distilled to Beauty

Posted by julie on Thursday, 12 January 2017, 5:43

Yesterday, I found out that an author whose work inspires mine is dying of an inoperable brain tumor. While I’ve wondered if my headaches were due to something serious, his migraines have actually been caused by a brain tumor. For the past year, before I write, I’ve been reading a poem or essay of his—any poem or essay—as inspiration. His way of crafting words into moving pictures, of taking an apparently mundane moment and reminding me of its singular value, reminds me how much beauty is possible.

I wish I didn’t feel like cancer had just run ramshackle through last year. Three friends under 50 died of cancer in 2016. The 37-year-old runner. The 43-year-old artist. The 49-year-old dancer. One left a 2-year-old, one two teenagers. I suppose if I had to find the significance in all this—not really the point, but something positive—it would be that I know all three of them distilled their lives to places of beauty and love in their last months. Surrounded by friends, doing only what inspired them, they had figured out the essence of how they wanted to live.

Their lives and deaths are not lessons. As a human, though, struggling to find some meaning, I can find much. I can choose to live differently. I can spread as much love as I can—inviting others over, helping friends and family who are struggling. I can decide to just create—spending time making beautiful things. I can forgive—moving on from perceived past injustices. I can live as much as my friends did—finding and moving with their passions. Eventually, I hope to leave those I love with memories—sharing laughter, kindnesses, moments, saying “yes” to my children.

I can also leave the world more beautiful than I found it. In this time of political furor, it’s going to take a whole hell of a lot of beauty to overcome the ugliness that’s on the horizon. So, every day, I really have no choice but to do the small things. I must do the work. For my friends, for family, for myself, I must help to create something beautiful.

First and Last Backpack of the Season: Divide Lake

Posted by julie on Monday, 10 October 2016, 12:08




Is it October? Are the windows of sunshine short and powerful and even more precious after days of rain? Then it’s time to go backpacking before that window closes for good! For our first and last backpack of the season, we hiked to Divide Lake, nestled under Mt. Yoran (yes, there were lots of urine jokes) and just northwest of Diamond Peak in Oregon’s Diamond Peak Wilderness.


My all-time favorite mountain, Diamond Peak, displaying it’s early-season mantle of snow.
The contrails were quite persistent this weekend, which happens, I’ve read, when the stratosphere is humid.

Our trip was sandwiched between a dance class and a soccer game, so, door-to-door, we were gone 24 hours. Even more notably, I don’t think we heard a single complaint, even though Elena’s grown-up-sized backpack was digging into her shoulders.


Elena pointing out the beautiful fall color of the huckleberries

The hike to Divide Lake is 3.7-4 miles with 1000-1200 feet of elevation gain, depending on your source. We forgot any real trail motivators–jelly beans or sour gummy candy–but the kids stayed motivated by coming up with silly book titles and authors. This started with Urine Lake, by I.P. Freely; my favorite, however, was Coyotes, by J.K. Howling.

Most of the uphill to Divide Lake is in the middle mile and a half, so the last ridge walk is a welcome and beautiful cruise into the lake. New snow near the lake meant damp socks, snowballs, and cold fingers! We ran into more people on this beautiful October day (five day-hikers and two backpackers) than we usually see on a summer weekend in Oregon. The backpackers, camped at Divide Lake, had shortened their trip after realizing that there’s already real snow in the mountains.

Once we found a campsite, layered up, and set up our tents, we grabbed our headlamps and headed to an outcrop overlooking the lake, where we ate our take-out burritos as the sky darkened.


Why don’t we have campfires more often?

At 5 a.m., Sylvan coaxed me out of my tent to come sleep under the stars with him. He saw an impressive 11 meteorites before falling back to sleep (We realized before we left town that the Draconids meteor shower would be in full swing, so we knew to be on the lookout.).


Managed to get the bathing suit on, even though the temperature was in the 30s


But this kid is tougher than Mom. He actually swam in the lake, despite the sun still being behind the ridge!

A superb trip. This spot’s a keeper, and so is my beautiful family, with a husband who said, “Yes, let’s go backpacking” (even though we had just 24 hours), and held me to it and kids who are just plain fun and awesome. Oh, and we even heard pikas, the cutest of all the lagomorphs!

Look, we can even be nearly normal. At Notch Lake, because the sun was never shining while we were at Divide Lake.

Look, we can even be nearly normal.
At Notch Lake, because the sun was never up while we were at Divide Lake.







Up for Adventure: In Search of the Leonids

Posted by julie on Monday, 17 November 2014, 12:52

Still dark. While I didn’t see this meteor, I think there’s one in the upper right-hand portion of this photo (you may have to click on the photo to get a large enough version to see the meteor).

Very rarely is the sky completely clear for a meteor shower in western Oregon. We’ve been skunked even during the relentlessly clear summers we brag about—sometimes by smoke, sometimes by fog, always by light pollution if we don’t have the energy to go farther afield. But, when the forecast is for 22°F at 4 a.m., you can bet it’s going to be clear.

One cold, November night in New Mexico, 13 years ago, I woke up in my sleeping bag and happened to look at the sky as I was falling back to sleep. One of the benefits of eschewing a tent is that you may just wake up on the night of the Leonids meteor shower, which you didn’t even know existed, and have difficulty returning to sleep because you wouldn’t want to miss a meteor.


Looking west. I think the bright star near the center of the photo is Capella in the constellation Auriga, and I’m pretty sure some of the constellation Gemini is in the upper left corner of the photo.

We couldn’t see the Perseids last summer due to the weather; might we be able to catch the Leonids? First, I convinced my kids that waking up at 4 a.m. would be an adventure. If they gathered warm clothes before bedtime, maybe we would wake them up and try to see some meteors in the “morning” (term used loosely). My darling husband was only a slightly harder sell. I was surprised, because he likes his sleep. After a little dark sky and clear sky research, we decided to head east toward Oakridge, stopping at the east end of Lookout Point Reservoir, just across the railroad tracks in a grassy parking area. While we could hear traffic (and even see it if we weren’t looking at the sky), our location-picking was right on! It was dark, clear, and close to Eugene.

While I recommend the location, I also recommend arriving longer than 60 minutes before civil twilight. It just wasn’t dark enough for long. The real problem, though, was that this just isn’t a big “storm” year for the Leonids. Apparently, every 33 years or so, the Leonids can produce hundreds of meteors each minute. In 1833 and 1966, the Leonids produced spectacular storms. From my sleeping bag in the Gila National Forest, 2001 was impressive, too. Chris and I saw one meteor this morning; the kids missed it. But, snuggling in sleeping bags and drinking hot cocoa, they didn’t care a bit.


Tomorrow morning’s show might be even better, since the moon rises nearly an hour later. Go ahead; go on an adventure! A word to the adventurous, though: if you head out on a 22°F night, sleeping bags and hot chocolate aren’t merely nice to have; they’re a necessity.

(Please don’t tell my kids’ teachers that I woke them up at 4:25 a.m….They were just so game for an adventure, as my patient husband pointed up when he roused the kids at oh-dark-thirty.)



Tamolitch Pool Hike

Posted by julie on Monday, 23 June 2014, 10:39

To celebrate summer, yesterday we hiked up to Tamolitch Pool, also called Blue Pool, where the McKenzie River comes back above ground after disappearing as groundwater for a bit. The two-mile hike to the pool—mostly in shade except for the last half-mile or so, which is over lava flows just beginning to grow shrubs and trees big enough to offer shade—was the perfect length for our family on a day with temperatures in the low 80s. The kids parkoured all the rocks and down trees for the first mile, then they settled into a hike. Everyone was ready for a break when we reached the clear, cold water of the pool (of which I have no photos; a Google search will probably give you some good ones). The pool is difficult to reach, so we opted out this time. We’ll climb down next time. At least one of us was brave enough to enter the 36°F river on the hike out. I know that my feet were numb in about 11 seconds.




Mid-hike meditation


Ooh, that’s colder than I expected


The bravest one of all of us (always)


My family’s personalities

Posted by sylvan on Wednesday, 4 December 2013, 9:16

Today I took pictures of my family. First I wrote ”Hello my name is blank<name>. I am blank<adjective> and my favorite animal is a blank<color> blank<animal>.” It was fun although it was kind of hard to get Elena to cooperate.

I used my little film camera. It was fun, annoying, and hard at the same time! It was a good experience.

Note from Mom: It turns out that Elena doesn’t really enjoy being called “sassy.” (she thinks it might mean “sexy,” and she KNOWS she doesn’t want to be called that)

“This … is it.” or: A post-mid-life birthday present for Dad

Posted by jonesey on Wednesday, 24 April 2013, 17:31

This is how I remember it, anyway.

Once upon a time, when my father was chronologically younger than I am now (but more mature than I am now, since he inflicted offspring, a mortgage, and a lawnmower on himself at a much younger age), he decided to check the mid-life crisis box.

Sports car? No, he had already owned a 1972 BMW 2002 (named Fritz, of course), picked up from the factory in Germany. No mere sports car was going to top that.

Trophy wife? He already had one of those, and still does.

No, my dad has always been a rational, reasonable, sensible person, even in a crisis. He went out and got one of these:

Dad has always liked a little go in his cars, so when it was station wagon time (gotta have something that can hold two kids and a bunch of trash and recycling on the way to the town dump, after all), he bought a brand new 1986 Volvo 740 Turbo wagon. That thing could GO, and it didn’t complain at all when you really pushed it. I once took it up to 90 (sorry, Dad) just for kicks while merging onto the empty D.C. Beltway late one night. I think the RPMs cracked 3500 when I did that, but they might not have. The car sure didn’t mind one bit.

I looked for the ad above for years. I finally found it a few months ago. In the meantime, I found it that Ferrari really did make a station wagon. And it was ugly. Take a look:

The last link above has the best explanation of the hideously not-as-atractive-as-it-should-be Ferrari station wagons that were built for a couple of Really Rich People. They look like a toned-down Ferrari front end mixed with a Subaru back end, resulting in an early-1990s Saturn or Honda wagon ambiance. Definitely not a Ferrari look. I’m sure they drive nicely, but blech.

And here’s a reward for those of you who read all the way to the end. Well done.

Celebrating 30 Years of the Volvo Turbo 1981 – 2011

Happy birthday, DYD.

Merry Christmas! Joyful Solstice! Happy Hannukah! (insert favorite winter holiday here)

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 25 December 2012, 0:19

We’ve been busy this month. Here’s a sampling:

Hmmm, I can’t put captions on the photos anymore. But please do notice:

  • that Elena wore cowgirl boots and Sylvan wore shorts to see Santa (who’s growing up in Oregon?).
  • that Sylvan was very excited to get a tree, and they were both very excited to read next to it the day we put it up. You should note that we cut this gorgeous Grand fir for a grand total of $14 (including two hot chocolates). Again, that’s Oregon.
  • that Elena is going to be so happy when she can read so she can sing Christmas songs by reading the lyrics. She is trying very hard in this photo.
  • that we just spend the last two days in the Winter Wonderland of the Oregon Cascades. Unbelievably powdery piles of snow! (For birders, we saw many mountain chickadees, some flittery wrens, a northern flicker, mergansers, a hairy woodpecker, an osprey, and we heard a bald eagle.)

A jug of wine, a pizza, and … a book

Posted by jonesey on Wednesday, 25 July 2012, 17:12

Behold, Sylvan and his friend Olivia, hanging out after devouring the best pizza in Eugene at Hideaway Bakery’s weekly pizza night. Olivia just happened to have brought two books. Usually at this time of the evening, Sylvan is running around whacking things with sticks and mixing up dirt/mud/ice/flower/snake/snail/puppy-dog-tail concoctions in the alley behind the bakery. Olivia proved to be a civilizing influence, at least for fifteen or twenty minutes.

That's Sylvan's music teacher from kindergarten in the background. She plays the accordion, changes flat tires on cars by herself, runs trail ultramarathons, and knows Finnish folk songs. And teaches music to elementary school students.

Families on bikes!

Posted by jonesey on Friday, 13 July 2012, 6:37

The Sightline Institute’s Daily Score blog posts thoughtful research about transportation, land use, economics, climate change and other environmental topics, with a focus on the Pacific Northwest.

Today’s post is about transportation. And cute kids. You may recognize a couple of them.

I blame six years of accumulated sleep deprivation

Posted by jonesey on Tuesday, 31 January 2012, 18:05

After a frustrating hour on the phone with US Airways….

Her: And what is your wife’s middle name?
Me: Anne.
Her: With an “e” at the end?
Me: Oh god… Yes, I think so. No wait, no, no “e”.  Hold on, let me try to look it up….
Her: [Laughter] Is this your wife?
Me: [Sighing] Yes.

This is what a failure looks like.