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First, many thanks to those who showed interest in my new book, From the Edge (now available via Amazon). If you liked it, please  consider writing a review, as that helps drive its visibility.

Autumn figures strongly in From the Edge, as it is without doubt my favorite season (how’s that for a smooth segue?), so it should be no surprise that I’ve scheduled some time off for mid-October. We’re not going anywhere special—trips during the pandemic still carry too much anxiety—so we’re planning local activities and, as is our habit, we’re over-planning.

The kitchen white board now lists a few museums to visit and a couple of the bookstores we like to hit on stay-cations, but one category has grown out of all proportion to its fellows: Day Trips for Fall Color.

Seattle and the Puget Sound region are blessed in that we actually have four seasons. Much as we joke about us having only three—Summer (three weeks), Smoke (three weeks), and Rain (all the rest)—we really do have a distinct Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. And though we’re known as the Evergreen State, we have many areas of deciduous flora that make for stunning fall color vistas.

In combination, the region and the season have another advantage: variable elevation. Fall colors peak at different times at different elevations, so if (as has happened) our fall vacation arrives and the colors aren’t ready down hear near the Sound, we can drive up into the Cascades or the Olympics, where the colors get a two-week head start. Of course, if it is peak color time here at sea level, we have a great collection of parks and gardens from which to view them.

So, the Day Trips for Fall Color list on the white board includes the near (Kubota Garden, Washington Park Arboretum, Japanese Garden), the close and basically sea-level (the Mountain Loop Scenic Byway, the Whidbey Scenic Isle Way, the Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway), and the not-so-close and higher elevation (Stevens Pass Greenway, Leavenworth, and if we’re feeling adventurous, the Chinook Pass). It’s an embarrassment of fall-color riches.

More than just driving around to view the colors, though, we like to stop and enter the autumnal world, for there are scents and sounds that only come at this time of year, in leafy places when the colors rage.

There’s the crispness, a bit of sass, that thrives in the morning and evening air. There’s the urgency of chipmunks, seeking oil-laden seeds on which to grow fat for the coming winter. Birds, their feathers adapted for camouflage amid deep summer shadows or against dark wintry limbs, dart about in deep contrast to the bright riot of translucent hues. And the scents! The smell of moisture has returned after summer’s sere mien has passed. The earth-wood aroma of fallen leaves and rising mushrooms are the umami of forest glades. Rivulets and streams chuckle, happy in rebirth, and all around are the tiny paper-rustles of birds searching beneath leaves, the pit-pat of squirrels covering their caches, and the tentative steps of blacktail deer mincing along narrow, leaf-strewn tracks.

Autumn, to me, is a reward. It’s a reward for surviving the busyness of spring and the chores of summer. It’s the year’s twilight before winter’s somnolence. Autumn is the cognac by the fire before I turn in for the day.

And I intend to enjoy it.

k

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I can handle triple-digit heat. I lived in Jerusalem for a couple of years. I’ve camped in the deserts of California, Nevada, and Arizona. In summers of my youth, my folks dragged us all to northern Minnesota to visit relatives where the humidity was 99% and the temperature was higher.

Here in Seattle, we can all handle high-heat days. We regularly get temps in the 90s and often have a few days in the mid-100s.

In August.

But June? Jeez, give us a chance to acclimate, why don’t ya?

The month of June in Seattle is often referred to as “Juneuary” due to its tendency to flip-flop between typically rainy days in the low 60s and gloriously clear days in the mid-70s. The average temperature for June is 69°F (21°C).

Yesterday, 28 June 2021, it was 107°F (42°C), the peak of the most intense, most protracted heat wave in our history, and the city stopped.

We saw it coming. We had a week in the 80s, then a week of high 90s, and all the forecasts were warning us: Sunday and Monday, the streets would be lava.

And they were right. Concrete sidewalks buckled. Asphalt pavements melted. Insulation on wires began to sag and slough off. Expansion joints on bridges shut as the steel girders expanded.

Seattle was not built for this. Our infrastructure was not built for this. Our homes were not built for this.

In Seattle, our homes are built to retain heat, not dissipate it. The vast majority of homes have no central cooling, and more than half don’t have any A/C at all. Businesses, especially in older buildings, are often in a similar fix, relying on fans to keep the air circulating for some evaporative cooling.

I’m lucky. Fifteen years ago, when our furnace died, we replaced it and also put in central A/C. But even with the A/C blasting, it had to fight our insulated roof and insulated windows that kept the heat in, and the best it could do was keep the house ten degrees cooler than the outside. For many of our neighbors, it was hotter in their homes than outside, and it was an oven outside.

It’s been this hot before. I went to a Moody Blues concert at an outdoor venue on the hottest day of that year: 109°F. We sat in the steamy heat with our frozen bottles of water and our wine spritzers, but we survived. It was August. We’d had a two-month run-up of increasingly hot temps, and we were ready for it.

But this. This is a classic case of too much, too soon, and for too long.

We had some respite overnight. The winds picked up and some of that blessed marine layer came onshore. The overnight lows dropped into the mid-60s. I’ve had all the windows open since the cat woke me at 5AM, but the mercury is starting to climb, so I need to go around and button it up, to trap as much of that coolth and I can.

It’s 7:30AM.

Gonna be another scorcher.

k

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Regular readers (and I have a few) may have noticed I did not post last week. Also (possibly) that I’m late with this week’s post.

There is a reason for that: oral surgery.

TL;DR: I had a wisdom tooth that had to come out. It did, but it did not go quietly. I’m healing and I’m getting better.

Long version: (more…)

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AH, AS, AF

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we know from smoke.

And I’m not talking the cannabis type.

Recent years have educated us about the quality and character of smoke from wildfires, but these past two weeks have been like a full-on mandatory in-your-face master-class from an extremely pissed-off Samuel L. Jackson. (more…)

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This is a time for heroes, a time for us all to be heroes. And we can be. We can be heroes.

How?

Work from home (if you can).
Postpone gatherings.
Keep social distance.
Don’t travel.
Wash your hands.

For some, these recommendations seem ineffective, and government actions like closing borders, shutting schools, and banning events seem like panic or media hype or massive overreaction. Others complain that these restrictions are completely impotent in the face of COVID-19’s spread, and if they’re not going to stop it, why bother?

No one says that these recommendations will stop the spread of COVID-19, and we’re well past the point where containment strategies are effective. What these guidelines are trying to do, though, is mitigate the spread, slow it down, and give us time to prepare.

COVID-19 is spreading, and it’s doing so exponentially. Millions of Americans will get this virus, possibly over 100 million. Of those millions, while most cases will be mild, about 15–20% will require care, and if all of those come in a clump, they will exceed our capacity to assist them.

Check out the graph above or the article from which it was taken. The tall red blob and the flatter blue blob represent the same number of cases, but over different timespans. The red blob caseload rises fast and quickly overwhelms the capacity of our healthcare system. The blue blob is what the same number of cases looks like if we all work together and adopt these mitigation strategies: we slow the advance and keep the caseload to a level that we can handle, which means fewer people die.

And that’s the bottom line: when the disease caseload overtops our capacity to care for the sick, people die who don’t have to.

By adopting these mitigation strategies, we save lives. It could be a friend or a co-worker, the elderly neighbor, your nana, your spouse, or you.

We need time, time to make masks, find supportive strategies, understand the virus better, and develop a vaccine, but most of all, we need time so the tsunami that’s heading towards us can flatten out and not inundate us all.

So put on your cape.

It’s time to be a hero.

k

 

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When learning that some Seattle schools have closed down in response to COVID-19, and some companies (like mine) have asked that all employees who can work from home do so, an online contact wondered if this was overreaction caused by “blind panic.”

It isn’t.

Seattle is in the crosshairs. (more…)

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Winter.

A lot of complaining gets done in winter.

lot of complaining.

People around here are summer junkies. They spend months of the year pining for the sunlight, the warmth, the outdoors-y camaraderie of our twelve weeks of summer. They look back on July and August with a nostalgia bordering on delusion, as if it was a different era, a time out of legend when life was simpler and everyone smiled. Lost from their memory are the sleepless nights spent buffeted by the manufactured wind of oscillating fans, and of dodging from air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned offices in order to avoid the “unbearable” temperatures of 90+ degrees. They remember only the hikes, the cookouts, and those pleasant short-sleeved days when birds sang the sun from its bed, when the breeze brought a hint of salt from the Sound, and when wine-infused evenings lasted until tomorrow. (more…)

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