False Friends and Other Delights of Attempted Bilinguality

In one week, The Mate and I are off to Costa Rica, unselfishly pitching in to help Son One kick off his new ecotour company, Liana Travels. 🙂 I’m excited for SO many aspects of this trip, but one of them is the chance to practice my Spanish, which I’ve been honing with a tutor for a couple of years now.

the budding tour guide, a few years ago

My tutor, Claudio, introduced me to a wonderful language term: “falsos amigos,” or “false friends.” It’s a delightful way to describe those words that SOUND like they mean the same in English, while in fact meaning something different. Sometimes embarrassingly different. Like, for example, the word “embarazada,” which does NOT mean “embarrassed.” It means “pregnant.”

There are so many such words! (Question for others wiser than I: do “falsos amigos” exist in other languages, or is it just Spanish that’s so tricksy?

Por ejemplo/For example:

  1. Discutir does NOT mean to discuss. It means to argue.
  2. Asistir does NOT mean to assist. It means to attend, as in a class or a meeting.
  3. Compromiso DOES mean compromise. But it also means commitment. Confusing much?
  4. Ropa does NOT mean rope. It means clothing.
  5. Equivocarse does NOT mean to equivocate. It means to be wrong.

Those are just a few that popped into my head. For other fun ones, I consulted Spanishobsessed.com, which gave me:

  1. Sopa is soup, not soap
  2. JabĂłn is soap, JamĂłn is ham
  3. Excitante DOES mean “excited”…but in a sexual way, like “aroused.” Whoopsie.
  4. Emocionante–that’s the “excited” you want to use. It doesn’t mean emotional.
  5. Educado means polite, not educated. (Though I’m sure there’s some connection there.)

You get the idea. Which one of these will Gretchen walk into? ….(pausa embarazada)…Vamos a ver/We’ll see!

“I want Gretchen to get here soon and make me laugh.”

Please hit me up with some of your own “false friends,” in any language! Love this stuff.

“Plan” is a Four-Letter Word. “Hope” is a Monkey.

It‘s become such a standard answer for The Mate and me, we’ve created our own cliche.

Friend: So, got any travel plans for 2022?

Us: We don’t use that word anymore. We hope to travel to Costa Rica soon…

i.e., this place

Or:

Friend: You guys planning on doing your famous Road Trip again this year?

Us: We don’t use that word. We hope we get to do our road trip, starting in February…

I think you get the point. Since 2020, those of us who still lived under the illusion that we had some control over our destiny discovered just how illusory that idea was. Now it’s hard to believe I ever believed it.

Take Costa Rica. Since Son One kicked off his ecotour company, Liana Travels, The Mate & I, plus a friend, have been signed up to **ahem** help our son “beta test” his touring guide chops.

I mean…somebody’s gotta do it. Those Scarlet Macaws can’t watch themselves, right?

But here we are, two weeks before departure, and it still feels about 50/50 that the trip will be postponed. COVID’s messing with the world in so many ways: threatening illness, threatening flights, threatening quarantine, threatening threatening threatening. For the next 2 weeks, The Mate and I will pack, yes–but we’re going about it like little leaf-cutter ants, nose to the ground, not with our usual pre-trip excitement.

Zoom in on the trail. You’ll see ’em.

I like to think I’m doing a pretty good job of staying even-keel right now. I tell myself, Hey, even if you do get to go to Costa Rica, there’s no guarantee you’ll see a tapir, right? So think of the trip itself as that tapir. Maybe it’s there, maybe it’s not.

Weird example, I know–but I wanted to use my tapir picture.

Plans are tapirs–rare & elusive, bound to break your heart if you expect them. But hope? Hope’s a monkey. As in: if you go to Costa Rica, you will see one…or two…or three…possibly more. So go ahead and hope for monkeys!

Just, no matter what, don’t PLAN for monkeys. If you do, given the way the world’s been working, they’re likely to show up like this:

You called?

So, will the Wings go to Costa Rica? Hope so; still not planning on it. Yes, I’ll pack. But it’s good to know the place will be there, somewhere in this crazy world, even if I’m not there to see it…this time.

Hope so.

New Year’s Intentions for 2022: K.I.F.F. (Keep It Fairly Flexible)

I’ve been doing New Year’s Intentions, a.k.a. Low-Resolution Resolutions, for some time now. Rudder-like, they help center and steer me.

More recently, I’ve broken that habit into several steps.

1. Read back over last year’s Intentions (I write mine in my journal notebook, easy to find)

2. Give myself appropriate head-pats for success, or encouragement for less-than-success

I said I’d incorporate a yoga/stretching session into my daily life, and I have! Thank you, back surgery.

3. Write new ones. This year I have seven, several of which are riffs on last year’s. Example: When your coauthor needs to pull out of your book project…turn the book into an article and get that published. Some are brand-new: Find myself a new “mentee” to mentor in our community mentorship program, since COVID effectively ended my previous mentorship.

‘Cuz I need a kid in my life to do this with!

And a couple of my Intentions are secrets. Not telling anyone till I understand them better myself.

But in this time of worldwide COVID uncertainty, when the word “plan” seems downright outrageous, I’m finding my Intentions less “what” and more “how.” Sure, I want like crazy to go to Costa Rica next month, as my Mate and a friend help Son One inaugurate his new ecotour company. But do I have my heart set on it? No–I’d be a fool. Instead, if our trip gets cancelled, I will pivot to the next thing.

Ditto with Road Trip XI, which the Mate and I have been SO looking forward to, after staying home in 2021.

I promise: whether Road Trip XI brings this…(Palo Duro Canyon, TX)
…or this (southern AZ sandstorm on I-10)

…or doesn’t happen at all, I will be grateful just to be safe and healthy as possible.

And I’ll focus on what I CAN control, like Intention #3: I will play and sing three times/week for 30 minutes, EVEN IF I have no group gigs to prepare for. (I can hear my guitar gently weeping from here, and not in a good way.)

With Beth Geever, Ann Palmer and Lance Brittain last June. Oh, for more o’ that! But that’s not up to me.

So that’s me. How about y’all out there? Any Intentions for 2022? I might even borrow one of yours.

From Mystery Trip to Flexericity Trip: The Best-Laid Plans…

[Disclaimer: I fully understand that the storm of November 15, 2021 took an enormous toll on the lives, environment and property of thousands of folks in the Pacific Northwest, on either side of the border. Please know that this tale of plans gone sideways is not meant to lighten that truth.]

That said…here’s my response to “So that Birthday Mystery Trip you planned for your Mate–how’d it go?”

Chapter One: NO Canada!

Our top-secret Mystery Destination was the lovely Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, a place I’d been introduced to by a friend’s travel blog. Having studied the regulations, I knew we’d need a COVID test–the PCR type that requires labwork, not the instant antigen test. That test needed to be taken 72 hours in advance, no more. Since we were leaving on a Monday, I did the math: take test Friday morning, immediately send it off via UPS. The nice person at the company whose test kits I ordered assured me our results should be available online by mid-morning Monday, just in time for us to present at the border.

The Mate met me at the bakery Friday morning, just after our local UPS-ing shop opened. I went on break and we gingerly took our tests on the back deck. We sealed them up and walked over to the shop…where we were informed the UPS driver had already left. “With so few ferries, they just zip in first thing and go,” the woman in the shop told us sympathetically.

Horrified, we raced over the post office, ready to pay whatever it took to get that precious, swab-filled package to the lab next day. No luck: living on an island, “next day” has a whole new meaning. But, the clerk helpfully informed us, “The UPS driver’s probably waiting in the ferry line right now. Maybe you could drive down there and catch him?”

The Mate did just that, while I went back to work. Twenty minutes later he returned, reporting success! Hugs all ’round. Canada, here we come!

Or not. Next day, tracking our package, I found its arrival listed as Monday. I called the test-kit company…and once more a nice person informed me that, even with my package expedited, the best we could hope for would be results…”Maybe Monday evening. Maybe.”

Somehow, hanging around the border until evening, waiting on a “maybe” just didn’t appeal. And that was before I started paying attention to the weather.

Chapter Two: Plan B

So I said goodbye to my Canada plans. I called BC ferries and that cute little motel to cancel reservations. Then I got busy making more.

Some place special! Some place further away than the usual 1-or-2-night trip (we had 3 to play with). Some place with some options for not-too-steep hiking and biking. And some place not too high up; I didn’t want us getting snowed in anywhere.

Got it! The Hoh Rainforest.

I found us a cute cabin near the town of Forks (famous for glittery vampires), on the Soleduc River. Beautiful, remote venue near gorgeous hiking? Check. Beds for us plus surprise guest, Son Two? Check. (Son One couldn’t get away from work.) Small kitchen for me to prepare delicious birthday dinners? Check. Weather report? Uh, yeah…I mean, it’s supposed to be rainy. And pretty windy, come to think.

But hey–rainforest! Where else would we want to be?

Chapter Three: Nope.

So early that dark, wet and windy Monday morning, the Mate & I boarded the earliest ferry, the 6:40. It was already running 30 minutes late. How, we wondered, was that possible? Crew problems? Fog?

Turns out, that wind I’d been ignoring? It was now blowing so hard through Rosario Strait that the boat had to slow to what I texted Son Two (waiting on the mainland) as “a wallowing crawl.” But slowly, rolling and juddering, we made it to Anacortes, by now a full hour late.

This next part? It went exactly according to plan. (I had no idea how special that was.) As agreed with Son Two, I pulled into a convenience store and went in to get a growler filled–and he slipped into the driver’s seat. Surprise!

Happiness all ’round. We let the Mate drive, and I directed him toward the Coupeville ferry, the jumping-off point to the Olympic Peninsula. “Don’t worry,” I told Mate & Son, “that ferry’s running. I just checked.”

Well, it was running, when I checked. But 20 minutes later, when we got there, it wasn’t. “Might the winds die down later?” we asked the guy at the booth. His response: “Actually, they’re going to get worse. I’m sorry.”

Chapter Four: My Family’s Smart

Smarter than me. I was at a complete loss. Backtrack north, then head for the Cascades? Into what was probably a blizzard by now?

“Look, Mom,” Son Two said, consulting his phone. “We can keep going south and get on the other ferry, to the mainland. Then drive just a little and get on the one that goes to the Peninsula.”

“Are they actually running? In this weather?”

They were. I guess those crossings were short and sheltered enough. So here’s the route we took:

Totally, totally worth it. Huge shoutout to Washington State Ferries!

Chapter Five: Not So Fast

Along our happy way, as I congratulated myself on saving Plan B, my phone rang. The connection was spotty, but I managed to discern that it was the owner of the cabins near Forks. Saying something about “It’s pretty much Armageddon here.” I promised we’d bed down in Sequim that night–just fine, after such a long detour–and we’d see her in the morning. (Got a motel with a kitchen–yes!)

Next morning, she texted me this photo of her property.

Oh shit

With sincere wishes for a quick relief from the flooding and a mutually agreed-upon cancellation, I scrambled to find a motel in Forks NOT too close to a river. With a kitchen. Gotta have that kitchen! And I found one. Hooray. Off we go to hike in the rainforest!

“How far a drive is it?” the Mate asked.

“Lemme check the Google.” …. “Oh. Google says we can’t get there.”

Google was right. Highway 101 was closed just outside of Pt. Angeles. (Photo by WSDOT)

Thanks to WSDOT, whose photos I’m using here, I learned that the flooded Elwha River had strained the bridge so hard they couldn’t re-open until after major structural assessments.

Oh shit again (photo by WSDOT)

Chapter Six: Happy Endings

OK. No Forks. No Rainforest. Not even any of the beautiful points west of where we are. What’s left?

Why, everything! We found a trail leading up up up into the heart of Olympic National Park…

OMG, look at that flow!

It was steep enough, the water came pouring directly out of the mountainside…but that steepness kept it from pooling. Safe hiking!

Of course, as we gained elevation, we met up with frost…

…then snow…

…then…y’know what? I’m good with turning around here. You? Alrighty then. Let’s go find a motel, then check out the coastline.

Vancouver Island, from Port Angeles: the closest we got!

A visit to Dungeness Spit reminded us just how hard that wind was still blowing, even after the sun came out.

Returning from this walk, we had to take an alternate route–a tree had fallen over the road.

Thanks to my fixation with cooking dinner (no kitchen luck in Pt. A), I changed our final night’s reservations to the only affordable place I could find in Port Townsend with a kitchen: Fort Worden State Park.

What a joyous find! It had the coolest housing, converted officers’ quarters:

Our house wasn’t QUITE this grand–but close!

…amazing views…

Mt. Baker, looking back toward Whidbey Is. (photo by Son Two)

…bike trails…

Happy Birthday, Mate!

…and even, up among the batteries–huge structures to house huge guns (which I did not photograph)–poetry!

And yes–it had a wonderful kitchen for a wonderful birthday meal for my wonderful family.

“Can we eat now?”

Chapter Seven: Moral of the Story, or, Can We Wrap This Thing Up?

We came home to discover the storm had been much, MUCH worse than we’d imagined.

That road in the video? That’s the road to our house–our only exit. Here’s what the storm did:

Oh shit again, again.

But any “oh shits” for my island PALE in comparison with what the storm did to Vancouver Island and others north of here. They got SLAMMED, not only by rain and wind, but by snow, which then melted. As of this writing, much of the island is still under a state of emergency due to flooding. Ferries have been cancelled. Misery abounds.

O Canada, you’re in my thoughts. But I’m so relieved those COVID tests didn’t allow us to visit you in your time of trial.

There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no…

I didn’t manage to put this post out there in time for official Thanksgiving. But my unofficial thanksgiving is this: thanks for the bravery of those who stride straight into the teeth of a storm. Thanks for the cozy love of my family, who made wherever we were be where I wanted to be. And thanks to who or whatever was responsible for getting us all home safely.

“Mystery Managed.”

Are You a Mystery Tripper? Or Could You Be?

Next week is NOT The Mate’s birthday. It’s the following week, on November 25th. Which, this year, falls on Thanksgiving. Which is why I’m taking The Mate on a Birthday Mystery Trip one week early.

What, you ask, is a Birthday Mystery Trip?

Well, for me & The Mate, and our kids till they grew up, it’s a family tradition. And for you–perhaps a transformative new idea for the coming year! (Or perhaps a big fat “No thank you.”)

Our Mystery Trip tradition began back in 1994, I think, or ’95. (Since I didn’t own a digital camera then–did anyone?–all of those photos are in albums, and I’m too lazy to go check right now.) My birthday’s in October, conveniently close to a Friday “Teacher Workday” which was, back then–believe it or not–optional. The Wings opted to use that time as a 3-day weekend, and The Mate asked if I were interested in a surprise trip.

Yes, I was.

I was instructed to pack gear for walking in the rain because, duh–Washington State! On the morning of the trip, with gleeful help from our little boys, he blindfolded me in the passenger seat. After a couple of circles around the neighborhood to get me thoroughly disoriented, we were off, for a drive of a couple of hours.

We ended up staying at a little motel near the Makah Reservation, and hiking to Cape Flattery. (Once again: yes, I could pull photos out of albums, scan them & upload them. But that sounds like too much work. So you just have to imagine small Wing boys and their extremely anxious parents here, because, back then–there was no railing!)

Also imagine stormy October weather (photo by Flickr.com)

The pattern was set. Turns out I absolutely adored being abducted by my family, and they absolutely adored hearing me declare, as we drove, the landmarks I was sure we were passing. I was ALWAYS wrong, ALWAYS completely turned around. But that weird mental re-orientation as my brain came to grips with where it actually was? It’s the best! Maybe the closest I’ll ever come to feeling like I’m on catnip.

For the next 13 years, every October, our family Mystery Tripped for my birthday. With one exception, trips stayed within the 2-3 hour driving limit, and in those pre-Air B & B days, we always stayed at modest motels or “resorts” with off-season pricing. We visited the coast…

…paddling a wee kayak up the tea-colored Moclips River (photo Tripadvisor.com)

…the foot of the Cascades, where we stayed in what is now owned by the Glacier Peak Winery, but STILL features bunnies all over the place that you can feed!

I actually took this photo myself last month, when my sons treated me to a revisit of the place for my 60th!

We attended a bluegrass festival near the birding sanctuary in Ridgefield…

More kayaking here! (courtesy FriendsOfRidgefieldNWR.org)

…and another part of the coast, the Long Beach Peninsula, featuring oysters and cranberry bogs…

(Very artsy photo by OrdinaryAdventures.com)

Oh, and that one further-than-three-hours-away exception? The Mate took us all the way to Chelan, where we boarded a float plane (!!!!) and zipped up the lake to the hideaway community of Stehekin. There on the east side of the mountains, we found red leaves, just like the autumns of my east coast childhood! That’s still our BEST TRIP EVER.

(Photo by Angie Q, Stehekin Conservation Fund)

Once our boys turned into young men and moved away, and we followed by giving up our teaching careers and moving to a beautiful island, we gave up the Mystery Trip tradition. I guess our lives were full enough of beauty and empty enough of stress not to require any additional thrills.

Until now.

I’m not going to blindfold The Mate next week. In these iffy times, tooling down the highway with a blindfolded passenger just seems like a bad idea. And I’ve even had to divulge roughly where we’re headed because, ahem, it involves a COVID test. What should The Mate pack? Whatever he always packs: gear to get damp in. Because–duh, Pacific Northwest (no matter which side of the border)!

Somewhere we might go. Or not. I’m not saying.

So. Now that you know what Mystery Trips are, it’s time to take a little quiz to determine if you might be a Mystery Tripper yourself.

Do you live in a place which is an hour or two away from somewhere interesting, peaceful, beautiful, action-filled, or quiet? Trick question–of course you do!

Do you sometimes enjoy ceding control to a loved one whom you trust? (If not–stop there. Mystery Trips are not for you.)

Do you like a little surprise in your life, as long as you’ve been prepared for it?

Are you OK with packing generic clothing–nothing highly specialized, i.e. cocktail attire?

Are you cheap? (Actually, I guess Mystery Trips could be high-end as well. I’m just not as attracted to those, myself.)

So, what do you say? Are you a Mystery Tripper? Or might you have some of your own Best Mystery Trips Ever to share about?

Now it Can Be Told: The Case of the Missing Blogger (Me)

“The drought is over, precious rain’s returned at last…” is how a song of mine begins. That lyric’s been in my head these days, because even though our particular Pacific Northwest drought ended a month ago, in my personal climate, it’s just beginning to sprinkle. This post promises to be the first downpour in months.

Got your umbrella handy?

drought-stressed cedar

Although I’m a writer, I don’t tend to use this blog to talk about writing—with exceptions, of course, when I have actual Author Events to report, like a new book.

Has it really been four years?!

If you scroll through the last couple of years, you won’t find more than passing references to the writing project I’ve been working on since traveling to New Zealand  for research in early 2019 (and before that, in 2017). Casual readers of Wing’s World as well as casual friends could easily assume, if Gretchen’s not blogging about writing, it’s because she’s busy actually, you know…writing.

So what to assume when she stops blogging at all? Shrug emoji.

To make a short answer long: I stopped blogging this summer because my writing project stalled so thoroughly that I temporarily lost my identity as a writer. Yeah, I dabbled in poetry, wrote a few articles for local publications. But having lost control of my larger writing goal, I didn’t feel Wing’s World had anything to contribute.

I’ve been waiting. Thinking. Journaling. Keeping silent, then talking. Mourning a little. And finally, just now—planning. And Step One of this plan involves telling y’all about it.

The best way to tell this story is to share the pitch I had been working on, with my then co-author, who will remain nameless here. Take it away, GW & __.

Book Proposal (V.8) for The Limits of Empathy: Why a White Author Ran in Black Shoes—and Took Them Off

These phrases—white fragility, white defensiveness, white appropriation—have a habit of standing in for the complicated mess of a true conversation. –Claudia Rankine, Just Us

Just how messy, how complicated, is “true conversation”? Is that why so few people are actually having them?

Systemic white supremacy—intentional and enabled—has become a red-hot literary topic: in the summer of 2020, fifteen of Amazon’s top twenty books dealt with race and racism. 

Right on. I read Kendi and DiAngelo. Now what?

What indeed?

Entitlement. Exceptionalism. Deniability. That’s what white author Gretchen Wing discovered after writing a novel with a protagonist of Color. The Limits of Empathy: Why a White Author Ran in Black Shoes—and Took Them Off will be the first book to expose how white supremacy culture unspools silently onto the fictional page despite the best of intentions. Through the medium of conversation—complicated and messy—between its Black and white co-authors, The Limits of Empathy probes the implications of writing across the racial divide.

In a mix of literary case study and cautionary tale, Wing splays Kiwi Crossover—the fast-paced tale of an elite biracial American collegiate runner who flees to New Zealand to escape her trauma—on the examining table for her Black co-author, ____, and readers, to dissect. In the process, ____ and Wing demonstrate the next level of the ongoing dialog on race which Claudia Rankine alludes to in Just Us, but which no current anti-racism book offers.

Like Americans everywhere on the streets in the summer of 2020, the authors came together on the question of what matters. Meeting online with one purpose—to edit Kiwi Crossover—they discovered another: to expose and discuss, with care and personal vulnerability, the limits of authorial empathy. Who gets to tell whose stories, and when, and why?

In his critique of Kiwi Crossover, ____ illuminates how our lived experiences of race can erect a barrier too solid for good intentions to pass…and why those good intentions may cause more harm than understanding. The authors’ mutual pathfinding through this thorny thicket gives hope not only to writers and readers of fiction, but for anyone who yearns to bridge divides of understanding.

If published as originally planned, Kiwi Crossover could have joined the controversial ranks of The Help and American Dirt: another white narrative written from the perspective of a Person of Color. But Fate had other ideas.

First, in early 2020, seeking race-focused critique more stringent than that of her Black friends, Wing hired a recommended editor: ____, a Black man (married to a white woman, father of biracial children). That same week, Breonna Taylor was murdered by police, though national media took a full forty-four days to notice. Three days after Taylor’s murder was exposed, Ahmaud Arbery’s execution finally made national news, along with the horror of its having been ignored a full two months. And twenty-six days later, on May 25, George Floyd was tortured to death…and the Movement for Black Lives swelled around the world. By the time ____ submitted his notes, Wing no longer trusted her ability nor right to portray biracial protagonist, Delaney Grace. Kiwi Crossover appeared stillborn.

Facing the death of her novel, Wing felt the insistence of a transformational choice: the novel’s autopsy suddenly outweighed the story itself. So she asked ____ to join as co-author to examine how white supremacy culture had invaded her own work of fiction. He agreed.

Contents

The book’s structure immerses the reader in conversation. First, a brief, wry dialog between Wing and ____ invites the reader into their mindset as they face their daunting work. A preface entwines their personal stories: who they are, how they came to this moment together. Next, the main body of the book: the page-turning beat of Kiwi Crossover front and center (200 pages), with red flags on the margins. Those red flags signal “let’s talk,” and at the end of each flagged chapter, ____ and Wing do just that. Starting with ____’s comments, questions and discussion about the novel’s assumptions and blind spots, the conversation delves and winds through layers and mazes of understanding between two people of different race and gender. In what Claudia Rankine calls “the complicated mess of a true conversation,” ____ and Wing raise more questions than answers, but attest to the value of the questions themselves. The book concludes with Authors’ Q & A, and Discussion Questions for individuals and study groups to examine their own assumptions, or have their own conversations.

Still with me? Good.

The book proposal continues, as good nonfiction pitches should, with suggested readership, and ends with a roundup of seven comparable books, ranging from Ibrahim X. Kendi to Ijeoma Oluo. I wrote draft #8 in May, then sat back to wait for ___’s edits and suggestions. Since ___ is both a teacher and a parent of young children, I knew I shouldn’t expect anything from him until June. The poor guy was exhausted from a year+ of teaching and parenting under COVID, not to mention all the stress of Black people being constantly manhandled and murdered. He deserved a rest. We had all summer to get back to work together.

Then, on Memorial Day weekend, ___’s sister was found dead in her house. No explanations.

I gave him lots of space, checking in occasionally just to see how he and the family were doing. No doubt in my mind that our project was on hold. I just didn’t realize for how long.

Time to make this long story short. In September, ___ and I finally checked in with each other through more than just texting. In a long phone conversation, he acknowledged that his suppressed grieving had plunged him into a summer-long depression from which he was only now beginning to emerge. I said what I knew I had to say: “___, you’re too kind to do it yourself, so I’m going to pull the plug on our project. Your heart’s in the right place, but you just don’t have the capacity right now.” His response: “My therapist will thank you.”

Since that conversation, the rains have finally returned.

Drink up, thirsty Earth!

My own extended family’s tribulations also suddenly increased, causing the death of my/our book project to seem like that Casablanca-esque “hill o’ beans in this crazy world.” Only now, having given myself several hours of journaling-for-clarity as a 60th birthday present, has my personal drought loosened its grip.

I have worked up to a new idea: to turn this entire saga into a magazine article and pitch that. ___ has given his blessing. He even gave his blessing to this post. Thanks, ___.

What do you think? Have I piqued your interest? Does this sound like an article you’d read? Be kind but honest, please. I’m ready for the rain.

Post-Vax Travel: Keeping it S.I.M.P.L.E.

[With shouts-out to Chef Yokam Ottolenghi’s acronym, this is NOT a cooking post.]

“How was your trip?”

This basic question comes weighted with all kinds of new meanings now. Unspoken components may include:

“Did you feel safe?”

“Should you really have been traveling?”

“Can I think about traveling?”

“Really?!”

“Nice to be you.”

Acknowledging that weight, here’s all I want to say about my recent flight across the country to see my octo- and nonagenarian parents, whom I hadn’t seen in 14 months: I kept that trip as SIMPLE as I could.

S is for Spring–meaning fully-leafed, eye-poppingly green spring, a season I’ve not been able to enjoy in my home state for decades, due to work. (The Mate’s and my annual Road Trip pilgrimages bring us to NC in March, when leaves are still in their cute baby phases.) I soaked up May like a thirsty sponge.

And I live in the Evergreen State! Still miss those eastern Beech trees…
fallen bloom of a tulip poplar tree
Mountain laurels at New Hope Creek, not far from my family’s farm
Laurels up close–aren’t they amazing? (You can tell they’re in the blueberry/heather/madrona family)
Resting in my laurels!

I is for In-depth. As in, this trip was for FAMILY ONLY, but really in-depth. Days were for walking in Duke Forest, playing with doggies, feeding the various critters (horses, goat, donkey, chickens, guinea hens, barn cat…), cooking, eating, and sharing family stories.

Many of which involve my family’s running passion. (That’s me up top, my mom & sister with teammates below.)

M is for Martha, or Mom. She’s about to turn 86, and is very excited to try and set a new age-group record for the 1,500m at this summer’s Masters Nationals.

Go Mom!

P is for Peter, or Pa–nah, let’s just say Peter. (He might accept “Pater”–the guy does like his Latin.) In his 91st year, he’s facing the first seriously debilitating physical challenges of his life, forcing him to give up running. But he still gets out every day to run his beloved dogs.

Who’s a good girl? You’re a good girl!

L is for ___ and ___, my sister and brother-in-law (whom I won’t name here), who made the drive down from Michigan to coincide with my visit. I hadn’t seen them for 2 years (sister) and 4 years (bro-in-law).

Mom and Seester showing off their loooooong hair
The amazing feast of Indian food my Seester cooked (she & her husband used to live in India)

E is for…let’s just say EVERYTHING. Every aspect of travel that I no longer take for granted. Like: thoughtful flight attendants. Empty middle seats. Regional food you can only get by being there. Hugging on arrival and departure and any other time we felt like it. And E is also for EVERYTHING I love about where I live now, and the fact that–despite Delta’s excellent performance on this trip–I still have no desire to fly anywhere else now for a long, long time.

Home with The Mate and The Beast is where I am happiest now.

Miss me? Thought so. Isn’t it time for dinner?

That said–would love to hear of others’ experiences as they venture “back out there.” Trip story, anyone?

Delights and Downsides of Dabbling Dilettantism

You’ve heard of a square peg in a round hole? That’s not me. I’m more like the most boring bit of a Tinker Toy set, the little stick that connects to ANYTHING. Or–going literary–I’m Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, trying to play all the roles: “Let me be the lion too!”

Which is why Wing’s World is sometimes a travel blog, sometimes a food blog; sometimes focused on poetry, other times social justice. Or music. Or sports. Or dogs (when Maya takes over). Or something completely random, like the way everybody starts sentences with “So” now.

You might have noticed.

(for example)

My guess is, I pay in readership for this inconstancy. I can tell by comparing Wing’s World’s comments to those in the blogs I follow. For example, this recent one by Rachel Mankowitz, about life challenges, poetry and dogs: 107 comments!

Or Raven & Chickadee, a dedicated travel blog by two folks on a years-long, slo-mo road trip, which regularly gathers dozens of comments.

Etc. I’m sure y’all know many more blogs on many of my favorite topic where the comment section is hopping.

But you know what? I am OK with my own lack of internet sizzle. Two of my favorite blogs, written by fellow Lopez Islanders, fill me up with ideas and inspiration every time I read them, and sometimes their comment section is as modest as my own. (But just in case you want to be filled with ideas & inspiration yourself and you don’t already follow these, check out:

Fact and Fable for ALL things book-and-story-related

Like this book nook! (image courtesy Reddit.com, via Fact and Fable)

and

the blog of Iris Graville for questions of spirituality and environmentalism.)

Photo of Tahlequah and Phoenix by Katie Jones, Center for Whale Research, via Iris Graville

To summarize:

Downsides: my ego needs to look elsewhere than my blog for any extra inflation.

Delights: I get to write about whatever the heck I please–like this!

So…any requests?

Road Trip Retro, 2018: Giving Those Noticing Muscles a Good Workout

As March draws to a close, this will be my last Road Trip Retro post for now–and hopefully, ever! This is the time of year when, in “normal” years, we’d have just gotten settled back into the home routine: me working at the bakery, The Mate clearing fallen branches around the property and getting the lawn mower in shape.

It’s not a “normal” year. But things are turning that way, even though I’ll never think of “normal” again. (The other day I went into a friend’s house for the first time in 14 months and felt like crying with joy.)

So let’s finish up with Road Trip VIII, shall we? That year, three years ago, I became aware that we had fallen into a pattern with our first couple of road weeks. So I determined to NOTICE stuff that I might have bypassed before. Starting with this amazing “We Can Do It!”” cloud in Tacoma.

Seemed like a good omen.

Passing out of Oregon into California on Rt. 199 (a fave), I captured this sign which we’ve always enjoyed:

Who doesn’t love some good sweet cron on a summer day?

Visiting our favorite Prairie Creek redwoods, I decided to highlight the less obvious parts of the forest.

“Don’t take my picture! I’m shy.”
Redwoods, shmedwoods. Look at me!

Visiting our wee cuzzies in Oakland, I tried to capture the sense of their neighborhood…

…and just up the road in Berkeley, this wonderful memorial to the Free Speech movement:

Dora, my bike, enjoying a lil’ break

Next up, SoCal. With our sons long graduated from college and my grandmother long since passed away, we visited a more obscure bit of coast, just the two of us…

Monaña de Oro State Park

…before heading into LA for the usual family & friends visits. Then, the Big Left Turn, and off into Arizona, where, for once, we rented a cabin near our favorite park-nobody-seems-to-have-heard-of, the Chiricahua National Monument.

2 years later, we came right back here and were treated to javelinas in our front yard!
I adore this place. Sunrise on sycamores is just frosting on the cake.
OK, I know- -I’m getting away from my “noticing the little things” theme…

In Albuquerque, I captured a piece of a “ho-hum hike” at the base of the Sandia range, right there in town…

New Mexicans are a little spoiled. But as a Washingtonian, I can relate.

…and finally remembered to give their spectacular cuisine its photographic due:

Green chile, blue corn…need I say more?

Speaking of noticing: we also finally decided to let Oklahoma show us its best stuff. Frequently terrible weather (blizzards, tornadoes) keeps us from crossing OK, but in 2018 we stayed in TWO different state park cabins, at either end of the state.

Boiling Springs State Park

Nothing breathtaking, but very pleasant (too cold for us to camp). And I got to see this porcupine asleep high in a cottonwood!

Yay for noticing muscles.

The eastern park, Lake o’ the Cherokees, featured 1930s-era cabins made by the WPA.

The lake itself…bleah. But awesome cabins!

Passing through Missouri (another rarity on our eastbound journeys), we stopped to recreate in some federal scenic river land. The name escapes me–but this beaver didn’t!

Well, HEY, cutie!

Cutting down through Tennessee, we treated ourselves to a date in Nashville.

Pause for a moment here to send lots of love to poor ol’ Nashville.

With our friends in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina, I tried to focus more on the background of the place–its rhododendron thickets…

(with Mate in foreground)

…though who can resist a mountain sunrise?

No muscles required here.

At the apex of our journey–my home stompin’ grounds of Durham and Chapel Hill, NC–I focused my camera on some of my personal NC icons:

Mom in her pickup (hauling horse trailer)
…my parents’ shoe collection (part of it)…
…Mom’s loom (the smaller one)–here w/ Son Two, aka Grandson Two…
Chapel Hill’s Tarheel fire truck (Go Heeeeeeeeeeeeels!)

…and, of course, the culmination of every annual NC pilgrimage, the ACC Men’s Basketball feast:

Allen & Sons BBQ, slaw, hushpuppies & fried okra. Again–no noticing muscles needed here. Dare you NOT to notice.

Heading north this time, we made a straight shot to our other cousins, in southern Vermont, where all the little things I might have noticed were immediately blanketed by snow.

Sorry, Red Rover! Be right there.
I felt OK sharing this photo because everyone’s so hidden under their hats. Whee!

Heading home through Kentucky: isn’t this the best bike path bridge ever?

Louisville Loop

Stopping for a bike ride in Topeka, KS, we pretty much stumbled onto this historic site: the school where Brown v. Board of Education began.

At least it’s a protected site, if not exactly promoted. Then again, we were there on a Sunday.

Heading for the Rockies, we took advantage of some friends’ spending a sabbatical in Colorado Springs.

Pike’s Peak sunrise from the kitchen window–are you kidding me? Gotta love the juxtaposition with the light pole.

A hike at Mesa Verde, where we had the trail to ourselves…

…the Mate couldn’t help but notice how much Gretchen likes standing at the edge of things.

Our annual get-together with Adventure Buddies (you know ’em well by now) Tom & Kate was near Page, AZ. Just noticing this piece of the map (so near to the Grand Canyon) was new to us.

The Mate auditioning to be a mushroom rock
Jabba the Rocks–off the beaten path, just hangin’ out…

One thing we did that I’m not real proud of: took a boat tour on Lake Powell to see Glen Canyon, or what’s left of it. What I mostly noticed? My conflicted feelings.

Uff. Something so wrong here.

Finally back in Washington, going for a walk as we waited in the ferry line, I kept the theme going, capturing the beauty of our Salish Sea environment…

No place like home.

…every tiny bit of it.

Ditto.

Thanks for riding with me through most of the past ten years! Tune in next time for something a little more current, ok? And be well.

Road Trip Retro, 2017: Now With Extra Family!

I know I make it seem like interrupting our Road Trips with airplane flights is an anomaly, but 2017 actually managed to involve a plane ride too. Just a short one, right at the start.

See, I’d pitched this new idea to my two older sisters: “Hey, as each of us turns 60, let’s have a Sisters Weekend Getaway, in a town that’s new to all of us!” Since that’s something we’ve never done in our lives–all 60 years of them, for some of us–they thought that was a pretty good idea. That early spring, the eldest of us was up, and she picked…

San Diego. So Road Trip VII began with me flying there to meet my Seesters. We rented a house, went for lots of walks, and ate a LOT. We weren’t full-on tourists, but we spent one full day at the famous zoo…

Getting ready to ride the tram–whee!

and another out on Point Loma.

Ocean 1, Land 0.

The tide pools got an A+ in my book.

Right?!
Anemones rock.

First Seesters Getaway under our belts, we went our separate ways–one to Michigan, one to Texas, and me back to LA where I met The Mate and Red Rover. We visited with all our LA dear ones, and then headed out across the desert, like most other years.

The weather did NOT encourage recreation. This is a dust storm swallowing the scenery on I-10 in Arizona.

In Albuquerque, our friend Beth helped us indulge our craving for green chile at a very cool restaurant, The Range.

SUCH cool decor! Food was great too.

Armed with leftovers, plus the Sisterhood of the Traveling Avocado (from my cousins’ tree in LA), we beelined for our favorite part of North Texas, Palo Duro Canyon, where it was just barely warm enough to camp.

Yes, that’s the avocado. Can we see the canyon now?
Still…not…warm yet…

Next up, Dallas, where our friends treated us to a bike tour around the less-well-known parts of the city…

…including places once famous…
…and places that might be famous someday, like this free-range grafitti lot.

As often happens on our late-winter road trips, the route from TX to NC was a blur, which means the weather was probably lousy. We did manage one hike at the TN-NC border.

Oh yeah. This’ll do.

During these days, a new tradition was born: “Noodlebag.” How’s that work? 1. Cook noodles at friends’ house; add salt & olive oil. 2. Steal some of their leftovers. 3. Over the next three days, add whatever’s in your ice chest, and heat in the microwave of whatever cheap motel you’re staying in.

Deluxe Noodlebag!

In North Carolina at last, along with my Amazing Parents, Son Two met us for basketball, BBQ, and Being a Good Son.

Emphasis on the BBQ.

Basketball. Family. Critters. Family. Basketball. Mama Dip’s Fried Chicken. Basketball. Wild trout lilies. If you’ve been following this blog for even a couple of posts, you probably know the drill by now.

Except for this part. Not planned.

Snow in NC, in March? OK. So of course when we left, we drove North.

If happens sometimes. This was one of those times. We had a brand-new little baby cousin to visit!

Not pictured: baby cousin. Pictured: the very deep snow that greeted us. In Vermont. In March. Duh.

But hey–at least New Englanders know how to deal with snow!

Snowshoeing on a perfect day up Mt. Bromley

Also, I grooved on being able to help our cousins bottle-feed some of their new lambs, overseen by Ben the Shepherd Donkey.

Not QUITE as cute as my parents’ donkey Stevie, but pretty close.

Heading home through upper-middle of the continent, we had a couple of notable recreation stops. First, a bike trail that was once the tow path for the Illinois River barges, just like the song I learned from my friend Lance: “Every day I work on the Illinois River/Get a half a day off with pay/On the tow path hauling barges/On a long hot summer day...”

Not pictured: a long, hot summer day

Second, we diverged into Colorado at the end of the Plains to meet our Intrepid Adventure Buddies (say it with me) Tom & Kate in Estes Park…

Aspens & Ponderosas! Ah, the Mountain West.

…on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. I got sick while in Colorado, and spent most of my time walking slowly and enjoying the scenery from the back of the car. Still worth it.

Zoomed-in view of Long’s Peak, before the clouds came in
Feeling much better now, thanks.

Finally, back in Montana, we stopped at this special spot where the mighty Missouri River is born from the confluence of three smaller rivers. Lewis & Clark camped here.

No camping for us, but I did go for a run up the bluff.

Onward! Homeward! Apparently quite a bit of snow had fallen while we were dallying in the Rockies, but we’d given Idaho time to clear its highways.

And rest areas.

So, a road trip with extra sisters, a son & a new, wee cousin? All gravy. Yes please!

Tune in next time for RT2018. Gonna ride this retrospective right up till the last one. Maybe then I won’t notice the lack of RT2021.