I prefer to travel solo. I can stay up as late as I want, sleep in, eat or forget to eat, go here or there and take pictures for hours on end without annoying anyone. Friendly strangers or bartenders usually end my daily solitude, and these random interactions save me from ever feeling lonely.

However, I was never more acutely aware of being single than when I visited Bruges, Belgium. I mean, even the swans were paired up for God’s sake! I should have known – the canals, the romantic boat rides under wispy willows, horse and carriage rides through cobblestone streets that lead to a veritable wonderland of chocolatiers and cozy tea shops. Bruges is meant for couples, and for the first time since I started traveling alone internationally I actually felt… lonely.

I may have gotten over it, but my head wasn’t on straight in April. Here’s what I learned and let this be a lesson for all of you – DO NOT under any circumstances go on a solo vacation when you’re trying to get over someone. DO NOT. If you absolutely must run away, go with a friend. Or, go somewhere without internet or cell phone signal. Climb a mountain or traverse a small strip of the Sahara. Do something that requires so much physical exertion that you don’t have time to notice how everyone in the world is paired up except for you. Otherwise, you may end up doing what I did – texting the person you’re trying to forget because you’re lonely and running up a $350 phone bill. Ouch.

My heart has recovered and other solo adventures await, but I’ve been rethinking the ideal travel situation. If I could have it my way, I’d have a travel companion (someone I know, not some yahoo off a website) who is with me for breakfast and dinner. We’d both, happily, do our own thing during the day and then reconnect in the evening to talk about it over drinks. Does the ideal situation exit? I have no idea. Perhaps I am asking for too much.

What works for you?



two swans

London Vintage

Perhaps it was the time of day or the lights surrounding each capsule on the London Eye, but all my photos turned out so BLUE.  My “before” photo is not at all how I remembered that view.

Playing around with my new Nik software today, I tried to salvage it.  I added a vintage filter using Color Efex Pro 4… and I am digging the result. Okay, the “after” photo isn’t how I remember the view either, but it has sort of an old postcard feel to me now.


Woodinville Lavender


When planning your winery tour of Woodinville this summer, add Woodinville Lavender farm to the itinerary. The fields are in full bloom and worth a stroll. My friend Sarah and I stopped by yesterday, and despite the scorching temperatures, we had fun clipping a couple small bundles of lavender.






Blue Lagoon


What would you do during an 18 hour layover at Keflavik airport? Stay there and wait? That sounds dreadful. Leave the airport and sleep? Tempting. Rent a car and drive around the Reykjanes Peninsula? YES, PLEASE!!

Having arrived at 11:00 p.m., I left the airport and slept first, but then I returned and rented a car in the morning, determined to explore the Reykjanes Peninsula in the few, short hours afforded me. It was just enough time to pique my interest in Iceland, and I think that’s what the tourism board was hoping.

I suspect that Icelandair deliberately undercuts their competitors on flights between the United States and Europe. Budget conscious tourists will book with them, despite the long layovers at Keflavik. They know that you’ll leave the airport and do something – whether it’s simply hanging out in Reykjavik or using the time to take a drive.

It is clever, because I loved Iceland so much I want it to be a future travel destination rather than layover. Other travelers have told me the exact same thing.

Here’s one example why:

The Blue Lagoon. Tucked away in a field of volcanic rock, steam rises from a geothermal spa. The temperatures were cold on that early April day, and the winds fierce (note lifeguard with winter coat!), but I envied those people with enough time to cast off their cares and clothes and take a swim.

Next time, Iceland. Next time…



In the Nest

I bought my first lawnmower on Friday.  It was super hard. I logged onto Lowe’s website, browsed through the selection of available lawnmowers at the Bellingham store, and then paid for the one I wanted. My plan was to breeze into the store after work, pick up my order at the Customer Service Desk,  and roll on out without any hassles.

People* would take notice as I strolled to my car, knowing I am successful enough to afford a house that has a lawn that needs mowing.  They would stop me and give unsolicited advice, and I would feign interest in what they had to say. My mental fortitude would be rewarded when these people* offered to assist do all the mowing. I’d then give them bottles of Corona from my optimistically stocked refrigerator as a reward.

*People: Noun, plural. Young attractive men.

Unfortunately, all my dreams came to nothing when the employee at the Customer Service Desk delivered my lawnmower… in a box!

Slap forehead.

I didn’t want to assemble anything. It wasn’t sexy. Plus, I just wanted to get to the mowing. Even the idea of stopping at a gas station to put fuel in my new, shiny red gas container seemed like an insufferable delay.  See, some birds had moved into the wall in my living room, and I’d been listening to them scratching and squeaking for a few weeks. Recently, a trail of poop had appeared across the deck because of their frequent trips beneath the eaves. A friend’s weird little dog ate some of it!  I couldn’t ignore the problem any longer.

So what does this have to do with mowing?

Well…I rent, and I couldn’t let the landlord see the condition of the lawn, tall with grass and burgeoning with ecosystems usually found in the woods and not suburbia. I’m too old to be looked at sideways for not doing things I’m supposed to do. So, in order to tell him about the birds, I first had to mow the lawn.

Arriving home from Lowe’s, I assembled* the lawnmower and managed to mow half of the lawn.

*Assembled:  Verb. Past tense. Service completed by friend Andy while author plays with new weed wacker.  

And then, due to circumstances beyond my control (i.e. busy social schedule, cleaning the condo I’d recently sold), I didn’t finish it. Of course, the birds weren’t aware of their impending doom and had, therefore, neglected to move out of my wall, saving me the inconvenience of calling the landlord.  I heard them there this morning.

Because today was my work from home day, I decided to finish the rest of the work over my lunch break.  Honestly, I was looking forward to it because I discovered that mowing is actually AWESOME. There’s a good chance I may never share the duties with my roommate, Anne, either. I’ll pretend like it bothers me, but secretly I’ll love it and do it every work-from-home-Tuesday.  The neighbors, as it turns out, have a rather nice-looking landscape guy, and it’s fun to catch his eye as I’m slaving away with the weed wacker under a heaving branch of tent caterpillars.

But I digress. Back to the task at hand. The winds were intense this winter, and evergreen branches were strewn all over the place – big ones, little ones covered in pine cones. I walked through the lawn before mowing, picking up all the larger branches.

Finally, I powered up my new toy and mowed on! I hadn’t gone five feet on my first pass when a bird flew out of the grass in front of me. It startled scared the shit out of me and I dropped the throttle, stopping the engine.  As I reached down to start it again, I noticed another branch sticking out of the jungle grasses. I picked it up and flung it onto the patio.

I turned back to the mower and there, where the branch used to lie, was a little grass nest. Inside of it were four peach-colored speckled eggs.


If I had found diamonds there in the grass, I wouldn’t have been more excited.  What treasure! Of course, I dropped everything, sprinted inside, and grabbed my camera. Mamma bird worked herself into quite a frenzy as I danced around the nest, snapping photos.


Finally, when I’d taken enough pictures, I realized I needed to finish the lawn, but I couldn’t move the nest.  The mother would abandon her babies. I couldn’t mow over them either, scrambling them all over the yard. What horror! I felt attached to their little unborn lives now that I’d photographed them.


There was really only one choice. I mowed around them.

Afterwards I carefully placed the branch over the nest again. Hiding inside and peeking out my patio door, I waited with my camera for the mother to return. She circled the area for a minute and then landed on the neighbor’s fence, cautiously hopping sideways until she was directly across from her nest. Finally, she glided down to the branch, inspected the area, and then ducked inside to check on her little eggs.


First, I was glowing with the excitement of getting to witness this whole thing – for finishing the lawn without displacing or murdering any of God’s creatures. And then I had the deeper sense that I had the power of life and death in my hands this morning. Maybe they were only birds, but I heard the desperation, the powerlessness in the mother’s chirping.  Her terror. It was sobering.

How often have I felt like some giant mower hovered over me threatening to chop all of my dreams to pieces? And sometimes it does.  Eviscerated hopes have hung out of me, still pulsating as the life drains out, and amputated bits have been scattered across the lawn of my life.  So great is the emotional carnage, I wonder about the existence of God.

But then, as I put down my camera and walked away from the patio door, I felt something stronger. Peace. In the quiet, most insignificant moments I feel like there’s Someone out there who still sees me. Someone who keeps me safe when I’m at my most vulnerable and can’t save myself any more than those eggs could sprout legs and run away.

Maybe these are extreme thoughts to think just because of something that happened with a lawn mower, but I feel that life’s lessons are hidden in the most ordinary of tasks.  Today I knew that I’m not alone in this world. Something bigger than myself sees me and cares about my dreams. At least, I’d like to think so.

Postcard View of Bruges

Postcard View

Photographers, remember to do the following when in Bruges, Belgium…

  1. Bring your tripod
  2. Say no to the second beer at dinner so you can set up  while the evening sky is still that lovely cobalt color
  3. Ask for directions (or learn to read a map – it is a bit challenging in Bruges)
  4. Bring your tripod

Of course, I didn’t do any of those things. My biggest regret, though, is inadvertently leaving my tripod at home. In my rush to get to the airport, I forgot it next to my bed.

You can up your ISO in the absence of a tripod, and Photoshop has some options to reduce noise… but you know, it’s just not the same as a crisp clear shot done right.

Bring your tripod.

The Heart Recovers


Have you ever noticed how, in our pursuit of the perfect home or job or relationship or image, there’s usually this one problem in life – some offshoot of annoyance that’s so close to being right, but it just isn’t? It steals our focus, and all of our accomplishments and potential blur into the background.


Some problems can be fixed, others can’t.  When they can’t, we need to let them go. Yes, it’s difficult and we will hurt. Maybe a lot. Yes, we’ll feel empty for a while, and there will be this hole in our hearts in the shape of that thing we’ve released.


But not forever.  We will start to enjoy the freedom that comes with unburdening ourselves, and one day something beautiful will blossom and fill out that empty space.

Revisiting Angel Eyes

Angel Eyes

Waking up to another foggy morning, I decided it was time for an updated shot of ol’ Angel Eyes – especially because there seems to be so much interest in her this time of year.

I first posted pictures of Angel Eyes three years ago on my blog:

Her Angel Eyes are Haunted

Happy Halloween

Perhaps a spirit has attached itself to this monument? If so, it’s certainly a friendly one. I’ve never felt anything except peace while walking the grounds of Bayview.