Washington, 2016

This past summer we took off for the PNW taking a week to road trip west, a month to stay in one place, and a week to road trip back east to the midwest. So far, here’s what I’ve documented: Day 1, South Dakota, Custer State Park, etc, Mt Rushmore and the Black Hills, Montana, Day 6, 7 and 8, as well as a few posts about our time in Washington: Home and Like you, Like me.

I haven’t been able to write about our time away yet, I thought it was because there was so much to tell you, to unpack, but I think it’s because I wasn’t ready to share it. It took an entire year of planning to even get there and the year it took was a hard one. There was so much good but so much hard good and getting to the end of the plan and experiencing it first hand was spiritual for me. I needed this summer, those people, my people. I needed that place and the space to unwind, to spread out without anyone watching me. I needed to be a in place where I could blend in and not stand out, where I didn’t recognize faces and wasn’t recognizable. Even though I looked like everyone else, even though I was among people who would know me, who could really see me.

First morning in Washington, Home.

First morning in Washington, Home.

I ran away, to some extent. Far away. The farthest I could go for as long as I could go. I was trying to leave a few things behind and pick up a few more along the way. I had ideas and all kinds of expectations that quickly went to the wayside.

We got to our rental house and unpacked and then I made dinner.

Cooking

Cooking

Cooking

Furiously chopping and pouring, simmering and steaming. The little kitchen didn’t have a chance. I’d like to think of it as a yoga for the mind. I worked so much out in that little kitchen. Without modern tools to help along the way, every batch of cookies or bread I made, I did by hand. No power tools. Just me and a whisk, a wooden spoon. And I counted the minutes it took to knead a loaf of bread and I let the sweat drip down my face as I knit my entire back in knots over countless batches of cookie dough. I let the kids think it was the onions that made me cry, even though the tears didn’t stop well past the chopping.

Home

I accomplished the things I thought I wanted to. I saw and introduced and explored the landscape of my heart and I walked those roads, up and down, back and forth. Disappearing into the pines, letting the rains baptize me in the moment. I was there for guts and glory and I wasn’t going anywhere until I undid myself.

2016-06-23 07.28.48

2016-06-23 07.33.57

Just as soon as we arrived, we quickly began a routine of picking berries with my Aunt. Not just any berries. PNW berries from the very capital of the entire world of berry producing soil. Whatcom County. And it was berry season. And I had arrived.

Picking blueberries

Picking blueberries

A month in Washington

Picking blueberries

Picking blueberries

There was a romance in those fields. Heavy, ripe fruit bending it’s branches. You would touch them and they’d fall into your hands. It never took more than half an hour to fill alllllll our bowls and buckets and we’d laugh and eat so many that our tummies would hurt and we’d guess how long it would take for us to run out and return to the rows.

We’d go in the middle of the day, at the end of the day, just before sunset, at dusk. We’d go mid morning and quick before dinner, right after dessert, and before the movie started. We went and went and went. Back to the field, back to the rows, back to the fertile soil.

Picking blueberries

Picking blueberries

And it became a rhythm for me, a meditation of our time spent there. A place to go, a reason to return. To the fields. To the dirt by the mountains kissed by the misty rain under the sun and the wide open sky and where I found myself. Where I found myself dancing and laughing and eating and being merry and in love and in communion and in relationship and together, with my family.

Picking blueberries

Like I had never not been there in the first place. Like I was always where I belonged. Like I had never left.

Like I never would.

Cooking Club Up North 2016

This past weekend I was in Nothern Michigan with my Cooking Club. We get together once a month for dinner at someones house (we rotate hosting). The rules are: you make food you wouldn’t normally make for your family or your family wouldn’t really appreciate (most of us have young families, so throwing carrots is the main event at dinner. Not always eating, or even enjoying dinner together). Also read Shauna Neiquests book “Bread and Wine” for more inspiration to start your own.

The host comes up with a theme for dinner ei: “green,” “mexican,” “PB&J,” or “soup” and the like, then each member claims a course. Appetizers, drinks, the host does the main dish, a starch, salad, dessert. You all bring tupperware for the leftovers and share the recipes once dinner is over via a private pinterest page. We keep a record of the themes, who brought what, and who hosted last; as well as a list of ideas/dreams to one day do together. We just crossed off “Wine tasting/Cook together weekend.” Every month we merrily abandon our duties of the table to our spouses and children while we shop, prepare, and make one exquisite course to share among ourselves. For just one night a month – we share a table with enthusiasm, toast to good fortune, and get to know each other a little bit more without distraction.

We very much want you to have a cooking club so if you need permission for one more thing to fit into your month: this one is worth it. Gather a few friends or folks you’d love to get to know and invite them to the table. It’s been a beautiful rhythm in my life, and I owe it all to my friend Jeannette for getting it off the ground.

We spent the weekend wine tasting, cooking together, laughing and singing, watching the Olympics, driving all over Northern Michigan, eating, paddle boarding and kayaking, sleeping, and hiking/walking/yoga-ing. There were a few squats in there, some leg lifts. A posture demonstration. And lots of discussion about our kids, oily skin, and hair care (ps, don’t wash your hair every day). I may have fallen down some slippery steps in the rain as we were packing up to go home. It’s possible I have a blue leg to prove it.

Worth it.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

Our first menu of the weekend included: A cheese plate with homemade hummus, (Tahini from Jerusalem? Yes.) all the cheeses, fruits, veggies, crackers and breads. Moscow Mules for appetizers, white wine with dinner which was Lobster Alfredo, caprese salad, roasted asparagus, crusty/rustic bread, and homemade strawberry sour cream ice cream with biscuits and whipped cream.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

It took us a good 6 hours to prep, make, and actually eat this feast.

The next day we woke up and did not wash our hair. Drank coffee while we got ready and packed up snacks for the day on the road. We had a plan and we were off to conquer it. First stop? The cheese shanty in Leland – their pretzel bread sells out fast and we needed that bread. Then a hike to the Empire Bluff to eat those coveted sandwiches and sweat, on to our wine tasting tour beginning with Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor (please go to Glen Arbor, every body. Just go. It’s my favorite.) and then meandering around the peninsula stopping at various wineries ending up at Tandem Ciders before toasting the day complete at the original Moomers for an ice cream dinner.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
From the left: Kara, Beth, me, Laura, Jeannette, Stacey
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

We worked out when we got back to the cottage for the night. And then we ate some more cheese.

Sunday morning we woke up and took our time drinking coffee, and then more coffee. We all made our way on to the dock to paddle board and kayak before getting back in the kitchen together to prep brunch, toast bloody mary’s, and eventually eat our last meal of the weekend together. We planned on walking after brunch (before heading home) when it started raining. So we cleaned up and closed up the cottage to the cadence of the water falling outside and then piled back in to the van to head home. Slowly. With deliberate stops to drive down main-streets with our windows open and the music blasting. We were those people. I love those people.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

Our brunch menu on Sunday was frittata, parfaits, french toast, dry rubbed bacon, the green well salad from Shauna’s book, and Mimosa’s.

And I returned home full in a way I hadn’t expected.

I can’t come back

We’ve been home, as in back in Michigan, now for a little over a week. I know the previous posts would have you thinking we are only almost to our destination of OTHER but that’s because I’ve been storing up all these stories and feelings while still trying to keep a log of this trip so we’ll never forget. I brought with me 5 blank journals because I was going to write everything down. I was going to decompress and be ridiculous and think up and think through and journal my dreams and have amazing alone time and guess what? I journaled one time. I took some notes and I journaled one time and those five blank journals took this trip with me just in case I couldn’t hold it in.

But instead of writing it all down to keep, I felt it instead. I didn’t save my thoughts, I spoke them. I didn’t wish my dreams into reality, I was living them.

Before we even left last June (and maybe even May) I kept worrying that by leaving for such a long period of time I would also be leaving my place in line. Like, the relationships I cherished, people I loved and did life with, that somehow by me leaving there would be this vacancy in my spot to fill and I would come back to an empty life.

Fort Worden, Day 8

None of that is or was true, obviously, nothing changed in the best way. Except for me. And us.

And I can’t come back. I haven’t figured out how to come home again.

Day six, seven, and eight.

We left Montana and knew that by the time we stopped for the evening on day 6 we would be in Washington. As we were driving through mountains and crossing boarders and stopping for gas or bathroom breaks – the closer we got the more I started to recognize where we were. The smells were familiar, the backdrops were from my memories.

I was getting excited and ready to be there but I was also apprehensive and nervous. Gut checking my expectations, leaving them behind to just experience whatever was in my today. Right now. There was a song (even before we left) that I had started listening to that made me cry every time. A line in the song has to do with finally having a family, I don’t know, I’m sentimental I’ll give you that, but this was more. I was belonging to something, somewhere. And we were almost there.

The first place we stopped we decided to pass on (a first for the trip) and we kept heading west until we found a campground in the middle of nowhere. It was someone’s yard. The town looked like it was out of a movie set from the 30’s and even the bank was closing. There was one restaurant, the grocery store had closed. One gas station with $3 kleenex that we bought them out of. We ate dinner at the only restaurant and went back to our camper for the night. Trains were frequent and loud but the sunset was the most beautiful thing I had seen.

Drove a long way to see this today.

I think I was wary on day six. My nerves were a little shot, we had the first experience of a disappointing stop, the build up of arriving was starting to cap … it was time to land.

The next morning we got up and on our way, hitting up a breakfast spot along the way and making it to Fort Worden for our last night on the road.

Fort Worden, WA Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7

If you don’t mind some home-video and can stomach a walking camera and a newbie figuring out how to focus and manage changing light … well then give it a go:
Fort Worden

We made our first fire of the road trip, ate our first s’mores. Met our neighbors, thought we lost the kids and as we watched a creepy yellow van with his windows card-boarded up drive slowly out of the park I saw myself on the local news begging for my children’s safety and return … in reality, while we were running around and looking for them, they were collecting shells and having hot chocolate with our neighbors. So, I pooped my pants, metaphorically. But also, what the four letter words. We slept soundly that night, feet away from the beach and all in one place.

Day 8 was here! By my calculations we had a small drive to our final destination so we could spend some time at Fort Worden, but also in Port Townsend doing some sight seeing and shopping and lunching and generally things not having to do with sitting in a car. And we did. Slowly ambling around Port Townsend, getting lunch and coffee, and our first souvenirs.

Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Port Townsend, WA Day 8
Port Townsend, WA Day 8

We even packed up and spent more time at Fort Worden at their Whale exhibit and their Marine learning center with the kids before we got back in the car and started driving … then suddenly stopping in a long line of cars headed for a ferry that you would need a reservation to board. Which we did not have.

Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, WA (day 8)
Fort Worden, WA (day 8)

I loved this place.

So our last day of travel was supposed to be a teeny little trip. But it turned out longer and bigger than we thought – and included a ferry for the kids and an eventual arrival at our house with actual beds that night.

We were almost home.

Montana: Lewis and Clark State Park

We landed in Montana on the 5th day – I’m pretty sure Aaron did some driving because he kept taking videos of the mountains while driving. He was seeing this landscape for the first time, winding hills dotted with cattle. An endless horizon and blue sky. He wasn’t just a passenger, finally 🙂 I remember being pretty excited about this development.

Montana is windy. Just, you know, like 25 mile an hour winds on a vista. That same vista our little pop-up camper was parked for the night in the open air between mountain peaks. We had conquered rain and thunder, clapping skies and sheets of rain. We had been through heat and fevers and the flu. Wind though? We didn’t really know what to do with wind. (Video of wind)

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

So we played games.

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

We walked around the camp ground for a bit and read some signs: we were in bear territory and on the menu for dinner? Sausage. Eggs. Breakfast for dinner … inside the camper.

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

The crackling of the stove and the smell of cooking breakfast with wind whipping through our camper, the kids sitting at the table playing games with snacks, and Aaron finally functioning as a human. This was a new normal by day 5. Rugged, dirty, take it as it comes living.

With Aaron’s new found sea legs for traveling he was also all of a sudden aware of time passing. And how much more opportunity there was to FILL THAT TIME WITH SEEING EVERYTHING. We laugh about it now, but his being sick for the first 5 days was really a blessing. We actually traveled. He can take about 2 hours in the car before he needs to stop and look around. About 30 minutes before he starts complaining about being in a car. And yet, we love to travel this way.

Which meant that after dinner we started asking around wondering if there was anything “to do around here.” We hopped back into the car for a little field trip.

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

And this was the new soundtrack to my days:

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

Water and birds, all kinds of hidden bugs singing, little feet stepping, constantly parenting, and always wide-eyed wondering.

We were almost there. I started seeing sunsets behind mountains and recognizing the smells in the air. I also stopped showering thinking the next place wouldn’t charge $3 for five minutes of water … Note to self: keep quarters.