Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top 10 of 2016

It's been quite a year. A lot happened, but it turns out that my 2016 Top 10 is pretty similar to my 2015 countdown. The highlights are still outdoor excursions, weddings, hanging with family, and writing.

10. Texas adventures
In January I decided to visit my friend Lindsey in Austin in March/April to celebrate our birthdays together. Two days after I bought my ticket, her boyfriend proposed to her and they planned a June wedding. So I ended up going to Texas twice!

Our spring birthday road trip to West Texas was amazing. We had a blast and got great weather, mostly in the high 60s and low 70s, with a few sprinklings of rain.
Lindsey and I in Big Bend National Park 
The weather didn't cooperate so well when I went back for the wedding the first week of June. The area around Austin had been experiencing terrible spring flooding and the wedding day was no exception. The pretty venue at an old mill was right on a river that rose swift and brown in the torrential rain, and the ceremony was moved indoors.
But the rain did not dampen anyone's spirits, and it was still a warm day and raucous celebration.

9. Birthday hike
In April I organized a group hike for my birthday with my mom, a few siblings, and some friends. It was my first time hiking with my nieces and nephews--aged 7, 3, 2.5, 1, and in utero. It was slow going, but really fun and short enough to be reasonable. If you're looking for a short but steep walk off Highway 2 suitable for dogs and little ones, check out Heybrook lookout.
The whole posse:10 adults, a 7 year old,
3 kids under 3, and one in utero at 8 months

8. The birth of Faith
One of the absolute highlights of my year was witnessing childbirth for my first time when my younger sister had her third daughter. It was an amazing experience, especially since mama and baby were healthy and it was a short, uncomplicated labor. Little Faith even decided to come out on a weekend, so I didn't have to go to work a zombie the next day after being up all night for the 4 a.m. delivery.

Later in the year I started watching the BBC 1950s period medical drama "Call the Midwife." It's about nurse midwives in London's east end, and in season 2 episode 1, this line stood out to me: Birth was, and will always be, the most commonplace of miracles, an event at once familiar and phenomenal, timeless and immediate, briefly making angels of us all.
Faith, a few hours after being born (May 2016)
The newborn with her oldest sister
and a tired dad in the background
Faith at five months, a super
happy, healthy, chunky baby.
7. Snoqualmie farm wedding
One thing I love about weddings is that they are similar but different in ways that lets the couple's personalities and values shines through. One of the more unique, truly-theirs weddings I've ever been to was in June when my friends Rowan and Nate got hitched. It was at her family's farm property in Snoqualmie, Washington, and so full of intention, from the very first moment we arrived and got to pick our party favor: a ceramic mug handmade by the bride, to use for the night and take home. Next to the cup table was the drink table with ice, gin, seltzer water, and your choice of an array of homemade kombuchas in glass gallon jars to mix with, many of which had been brewed with ingredients grown on the farm.
Mugs for the wedding all handmade by the bride
The groom; four of us who met in college on a semester of 
backpacking in California; and our illustrious instructor
Speeches and toasts, in the greenhouse
The ceremony was in a field, and the reception was in the yard woven between barn, the house, and greenhouses. Dinner was delicious burgers of beef raised on the property (vegan quinoa patty option, too) with a dizzying assortment of home-canned and pickled condiments and accoutrements. The first dance was a square dance with all the guests, complete with a skilled caller and live string music.

6. Taking the month of August off of work
It's hard to even know where to start with this one. First of all, I'm so, so grateful that I have a job that allowed me to take this extended vacation. Second, you can read more about before the month and after the month. I traveled all over the Cascades, drove hundreds of miles of forest service road, and did a ton of hiking and backpacking.
Driving east on Highway 20 toward Okanogan at 6 a.m.
Central Cascades hiking
5. Hiking with Mom
In August during the month off, my mom and I went to Hidden Lake Lookout for our third-annual mother-daughter backpacking trip. She is such a trooper: she's nearly 60, only backpacks once a year, and is up for anything. This year, even though the hike was relatively short, it was a lot of elevation gain and also requires crossing snow and scrambling on rocks.
We hiked in to a mile below the fire lookout to set up camp. It was a stunningly beautiful evening and we had a clear view west and watched the sky change color around Mount Baker.
 In the morning we headed up to the fire lookout, passing Hidden Lake on the way.

4. Hiking with my oldest niece
I taught high school students back in 2006 and I really love that age group. My oldest niece is now 15 and a half, and just a joy to hang out with, hilarious and curious and so engaged with the world around her. She lives in Bellingham and I see her fairly often at family gatherings, but have hardly ever spent a full day hanging out, just her and me. I had a hike I wanted to do down the Mount Baker highway, and invited her along since it's close to where she lives and she was on summer break. We had a blast.
It was a short hike, but certainly not easy. It's steep and shadeless, and the day we went was well into the 80s. We stopped often to catch our breath and drink water, and it was all the more rewarding when we made it to the 1930s fire lookout at the summit, with sweeping views of the North Cascades all around.

3. California Coast Wedding
In September I went to Mendocino county to visit a friend and attend a wedding. I flew into Santa Rosa (just north of the Bay in Sonoma County) and stayed with a dear friend in Ukiah, who moved to down there from Seattle about five years ago. We went to a mutual friend's wedding together on the Menocino Coast.
Wine tasting on the way to the coast
Near the wedding: stunning coastline, even in the fog

2. October Seattle Wedding
In October, I went to a super local wedding of a college friend. It was a lovely ceremony in South Seattle on a sunny fall day, and a fantastic reunion of college friends who came from all over the U.S. to be there.

1. Writing a book and taking writing retreats
I am writing my first book and have devoted almost every weekend since October to writing. I sometimes work from home or coffee shops in Seattle, but I also love getting out of town to have a secluded place to focus, away from the dishes in the sink or other home projects.
Writing retreat: friend's place on a lake outside Olympia.
He graciously let me stay while he was out of town for a month.
Friend's lakeside cabin
View of Rainier from the cabin
Cheers to 2017, to more of what you already know you love, and the joys you have yet to discover. Happy New Year!