The November Letter…..

Friends,                                                                                  October 21, 2016

To all our print subscribers: Sorry we are late this month.  Our printer shot craps and that’s why your mailing label is so funky.  A new printer comes in a few days and we’ll get December’s issue out to you in better shape and a timely fashion.  This is a good reason to become a member on the site – you can get access to the monthly issues faster not waiting for the mail to bring you Skywatch.  But I do understand if you like to get mail.  I do.

We dodged a bullet with the weatherman predicting we would be blasted by an early Winter storm last week.  It rained and we had 40-50 mph winds which blew the leaves and pine needles out into the street.  But no real damage came from it, and we didn’t lose power – that’s the most important part.  It is so beautiful now with the maples, birch trees and several other trees I can’t name yet all turning brilliant red and yellow as their leaves scatter in the breezes.  Having a wall of pines and evergreens as a backdrop makes it even more dramatic.  We love it here.

An article I read explained something we discovered here in Birch Bay.  The author says that when people have “awe” in their lives they are happier, friendlier, more creative and have better health.  Awe comes in many flavors as some folks find it in music, sports, art, mathematics – and in our case, we find awe in the extraordinary beauty that surrounds us here.

I haven’t even told you about the mountain.  When the clouds part, Mt. Baker commands the view you have looking east.  At nearly 11,000 feet, this snow covered, sleeping for now, active volcano is a majestic presence in the not too distant skyline.  The Nooksack Indians called the mountain Kulshan which translates into: White Sentinel.  Kulshan is the highest point of the Cascade Range that circles Birch Bay and is only about 40 miles from our house.  The clouds also become another mountain range as they tumble and move across the sky.  To us, there is awe is every direction.  The sky here is bigger, wider, longer and always in motion with the San Juan islands parked in a cold, blue sea underneath the clouds out beyond the Birch Bay.  The mountain, the valleys, the farmlands, the islands, the forest and heavens make this place The Great Northwest.  And it is.

I missed the Oktoberfest in Deming earlier this month but will catch the next one.  Just 325 folks live there but they have the Deming Log Show Grounds where they hold events to raise money for “busted up loggers.”  This year was the 34th edition and featured the Swiss Alpine Horns and the Tirolean Dancers.  I’m going next year.

Apples are still being harvested but you don’t really need to buy them.  Just get out on the little two lane farm roads and you’ll pass apple trees here and there on vacant properties with a good crop on the ground and still on the tree.  Johnny Appleseed must have lived here.  It’s mushroom hunting time now.  Several varieties live in the forest including lobster ‘shrooms and chanterelles.  The list I saw had 32 different kinds of ‘shrooms that can be harvested and eaten here.  However, there was a big warning in this article on identifying the mushrooms carefully as at least 8 deadly poisonous types are also on the forest floor.  Yikes!

You don’t have to guess - I’m out on the back roads and it’s so fine.  Two lane heaven.  Speed limit is 50 mph.  In 10 minutes I climb out of a sweet valley and enter a dark stretch of the forest with huge pines blocking the sunlight for a few minutes.  And suddenly I’m climbing, climbing and find myself on a ridge top nearly 1,000 feet above the valley floor – the vista is incredible and I see why some families have carved out a little piece of land that gives them a view that leaves you breathless.  While others have a winding drive way that leads back into the trees and total privacy as their house and yard is somewhere in the forest beyond sight.  Leslie and I are both in awe of all we see here driving down these two lane roads.  I think we’ll live longer hanging out in the Great Northwest.  We never knew awe like this before.  We’re staying.

11 thoughts on “The November Letter…..

  1. Mika

    Thanks so much for sharing your awesome inspirational feelings and vivid descriptions of fall.. Here in the city with all the dense election energies has been challenging… it truly is uplifting to be reminded of the peace here on earth. Thank You and Happy Healing

  2. annabel prindle

    Hi Lance: I love your letters! I also read that article on “awe” – I believe firmly in trying to stay in a state of awe as often as possible! So happy for you and Leslie in your beautiful new surroundings. I now cover the state of Washington for my job and I hope to one day meet you and Leslie in person – when I travel north!

  3. Kathleen

    Thank you for the nature musings like music to the ears and how wonderful to see and experience your awe through your eyes .. keep em
    Coming …

  4. kathleen hallinan

    Hi lance my birthday is November 12 did I miss the ” if your birthday is this week ” also where are your musings on the election ? I saw it then lost it again.
    Thank you …

  5. Lance Ferguson

    birthday reports are in the member’s section for members….

    enough election stuff for me…one piece on Trump is above.

    I”m done with it all.

  6. Beverly Marshall

    Love, love, love your letters Lance!
    I feel like I’m driving in the car with you,
    your words and descriptions are awe inspiring.


  7. Julie

    Hi Lance,
    Please provide the link to the article on “awe”. I’ve found a few with similar sentiments but aren’t sure it’s the one you mean.

      1. Julie

        Hi Leslie,
        It’s in the November Letter that I read, “An article I read explained something we discovered here in Birch Bay. The author says that when people have “awe” in their lives they are happier, friendlier, more creative and have better health.”
        Can you please give the link to the article Lance read about “awe”?


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September Letter from Lance

Friends, September 13, 2016

A change of seasons is in the air here in Birch Bay. A small flock of 10-15 Canadian Geese have been hanging out in a small pond nearby. Their “honks” are strong and we love to see/hear them fly over. Leslie says that what we are hearing is mother talking and showing the kids how to fly and eat. I think she’s right. Yesterday they were flying in formation for the first time. And here we are on the other side of great migrations that are just getting underway. Where we used to be at the end of the journey, now we are at the beginning.

I saw my first flying “V” formation of ducks heading south yesterday. As you know, I can’t tell north from south and never could. But God bless these new cars that have a compass so I knew north from south. (and it still baffles me why cars didn’t have compasses in the ‘60s) The Kodak shot of the week was from the hill overlooking the back bay where a crowd of about 1,000 ducks were massed in the shallow waters. And nearly all of them had their heads in the water and were loading up on groceries preparing for the long trip south.
The leaves are turning in the birch and maple trees already. Pumpkins are nearly ripe in all the local gardens. Folks here have big gardens where they can and most of them plant at least two rows of flowers along side the tomatoes and vegetables. They plant flowers in the flower boxes and hang huge baskets of flowers on their porches. And all kinds – 15 different colorful faces in the front yard in a common occurrence. I’ve never seen such displays. Really beautiful.
And now it’s apple harvest time. I counted 14 different varieties of apples from local orchards in the grocery store last week. Apple cider, apple brandy, apple vodka all are products made from the harvest. And it’s been a very good year for farmers here as the harvests of berries, apples, corn and potatoes have been better than average. The old timers tell me that means we are going to have a hard winter and Mother Nature is preparing for it with the abundance.

We did have some fun at the local Indian casino where Leslie thumped the penny slots and walked away with 60 bucks. We aren’t big gamblers but she has the touch from time to time. And last week I saw where she had Jupiter trine Jupiter = luck trines luck. So we went to the Silver Reef, run by and on the land of the Lummi Indian tribe. Lummi rhymes with yummy. We had a little lunch and Leslie was hot, sure enough, and she won back the twenty bucks I lost and came home with a little cash. Not many people have the good planets and signs that favor gambling. She didn’t know she had it until one day many years ago when I talked her into going to a little bar where they had slot machines. She hit three jackpots in less than an hour – and walked away with about 300 bucks. That day I saw Jupiter meet her Venus, the ruler of money and figured she could win. You don’t get many of these high luck days but she does get another set of them in Nov and we’ll be back to the casino. She is a real hoot when she wins and I love to see her smile. And she gets it: don’t play unless we have lucky Jupiter on our side.

I don’t have her lucky touch and so still haven’t won in a local bar’s Sunday Texas Hold ‘Em poker games. You’d think just because I was born in Dallas I could win the damn game. I’m not giving up. One last note: I’m almost finished with the 2017 Datebook. I’ll probably wait until the end of Mercury Rx to finalize it. So, it should be ready for your perusal in early Oct. Cost is $25 which buys you a lot of information and it comes as a pdf or hard copy – same as last year. I’ll let you know when it’s done. Venus Retrograde is one new element in the Skywatch in 2017. Then Jupiter enters Scorpio. Saturn enters Capricorn. And times change.

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The August Letter

Friends,                                                                                  August 12, 2016

As it turns out Birch Bay is the favorite Summer getaway spot for the locals in western Washington.   Wide, wide beaches appear at low tide that welcome kids, families and folks digging for clams.  The limit is 20 clams per digger; take your wife/buddy and get 40 and that’s enough for a good dinner.  A small “Funland” with go carts is nearby and there is a nice sized water slide park with a swimming pool just down the street from our neighborhood.  Four small restaurants are here and lots of parking spaces.  Our little neighborhood sits on the hill overlooking these beautiful beaches and blue waters.  Leslie pointed it out:  there are no corporate businesses here – it’s all mom and pop and low key.  And no crowds.  It’s Mayberry.

Blaine is our address as that’s the closest town – it’s a short 10 min drive to downtown, pop. 3,700 or so.  The northern city limit sign for Blain is next to the border of Canada.  The city’s motto:  Blaine is where America begins.  There’s a cool bar there with Sunday afternoon Texas Hold ‘Em poker games.  Twenty five bucks to buy in and play – I’m not telling them I’m from Texas until I take their money.  Winner of the game gets 400-500 bucks as they have 20-30 players filling three tables.  Blaine has a nice marina with about 100 boats and a cool park for the kids.

I can really feel being on the West Coast again.  I lived in LA for 7 years.  Lived in SF Bay area 15 years.  And now coming back here I realize the differences in people and tastes more clearly.  There is so much more sophistication here, even in backwoods northern Washington.  Every Mexican restaurant we’ve eaten at here is better than any we ate at in Corpus Christi.  Same thing with other cuisines.

Flowers are everywhere.  Huge, three foot baskets of flowers are on the light poles in all the little cities and fabulous.  Plus, people here are into growing things and the flowers in front yards here will blow you away.  They plant trees here, in the middle of a forested region.  There are very few fences between houses and farmlands.  Instead they plant fifty evergreen trees a foot apart and create walls of green that grow and grow – everything that grows here, GROWS here.  The soil is a sandy loam and looks like cocoa powder.  It drains quickly and the potatoes love the freedom to grow which is why so many are planted here.  Just order hash browns with your breakfast and you get a plateful of local spuds and they are damn good.

The people here are happy.  It’s immediately noticeable on the street and in the grocery store.  They are not friendly like we are in Texas.  I remember when I first got to LA and gave a nod and “howdy” to a stranger they jumped back like I had a knife.  Same thing here.  The Canadians are even worse and lots of them are about.  Noticeable is that the young women here walk with strength and kindness – they are not hooked into the glamour game.  Most of the children are enjoyable to be around as they seem grounded as well.  And there is no real crime. I don’t lock cars or doors or even worry about it.

The peach crop was big and tasty this year which prompted Leslie to buy a half case and do some magic – the jars are on the counter.  She made some pickles, too.  All because of Joe’s Garden.  Bellingham is the big city close to us, about a 20 min drive.  And in city limits is Joe’s Garden, about 20 acres of organic veggies and this is where you buy it from the farm.  Lettuce – 99 cents.  Onions, garlic, blueberries, carrots, celery – there’s a roomful of produce that we stock up on – it’s like having your own vegetable garden and fabulous.

Pete baptized me by buying me a growler.  Nope, it’s not a dog.  It’s a heavy stainless steel container I take to the mini-marts where they fill it with craft beer, the good stuff.  And obviously save using a bottle or cans that need to be recycled.  Sunday is growler day for both of us and we get it filled with local brews.  Yum.

Joining the two crows in the back yard is a black squirrel – nose to toes.  Never seen one like it.  So, Leslie buys five pounds of peanuts to keep Blackie and the crows fed.  It’s her Cancer instinct.  She’s delighted to be here.  So am I.  As times change…

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The July Letter………

Friends,                                                                                               July 17, 2016

Two months of high ANXIETY in our lives finally melted as we opened the door to a lovely little house in Birch Bay, Washington.  Our address says Blaine as that’s the nearest town, about ten miles away.  We totally lucked out and rented a house that is a five minute walk from Peter, Leslie’s son.

The little neighborhood we all live in sits on a hilltop overlooking Birch Bay – we can walk to the beach.  The bay is ringed by forested hills.  The water is blue.  And in the distance we see islands and a piece of Canada.  When the tide goes out a huge stretch of beach, five hundred yards wide, is left high and dry giving the kids a big sandbox to dig in and the clam diggers lots of room to secure the evening’s supper.

Driving to the grocery store takes about 20 minutes and is a total delight to drive. We pass through an arm of the forest first.  Giant pines, cedars, birch and maple trees lock arms into a dense, dark forest here – where the wild things live.  The 100 foot pine trees are magnificent and stand at attention but soon give way to farm land.  Right now it’s “Raspberry Fields Forever”.  Turns out 60% of the raspberries consumed in America come from this county, Whatcom – named after the Whatcom Indians.  The raspberries are grown in rows just like grapes.  Harvesting has just started and the way they pick the berries is amazing.  Some local guy here invented “the Tickler”.  It’s a machine about ten feet long that straddles a raspberry plant and has 25 little bars of metal on each side of the tickler which vibrate and tickle the plant into giving up the berries.  Boxes are waiting underneath the machine to catch the fruit.   The cherry and strawberry harvests are just finishing up now and blueberries and blackberries will be next.

We cross the Nooksack River next– again named for an Indian tribe – and spot a huge herd of dairy cattle luxuriating in the green grass of river bottom land.  A little further down the road and a horse ranch appears.  A field planted with potatoes is next.  And at this moment we look to the left and there stands Mt. Baker, snow covered at nearly 11,000 feet.  This is the most beautiful place I have ever been.  Leslie thinks the same.  The towering pines and lush landscape push the color green to top shelf.  I can’t even play my radio in the car when I drive though the forest; it’s too frivolous somehow.  I’m more interested in listening to the forest.

A sweet little state park is five minutes from our house and that’s my new meditation spot.  Leslie has flowers planted and blooming in the front flower box, her meditation, and she’s got tomato plants growing on the side of the house that gets the most sun.  Her Cancer ability to make a house a home shines out as we settle in.  Notable:  we have a gas stove and this is the first time either one of us has had one.  We’ve always hated electric stoves.  This house also has a neat gas fireplace that gives the room a cherry glow.  We will be ready for Winter when it comes.

A small thing, but important to me, is that I worked with an Indian medicine woman many years ago who gave me my Indian name: Two Crows.  First thing I did as I walked into the new house was check out the little back yard and there were two crows hopping around in the grass but looking right at me and talking – I know they were asking me where I’ve been.  I never saw a crow on the south Texas coast, and didn’t realize that until I moved here.

Bottom line: we are blown out at how beautiful it is here and realize we have made a very good move just in terms of lifestyle.  Having Peter come by and sample my vegetable soup trumps everything.  He and Leslie are off to the Raspberry Festival this afternoon.  I need more forest time – there is a healing there I need.  My office is open now.


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Lance’s May Letter…………

Dear Friends,                                                                             May 13, 2016

A list of things to do sits in plain sight on my desk.  I’ve moved more than 20 times in my life and it used to be possible to do it in my ’68 VW Bus.  This move takes the cake, and because we have a house to sell, there is a list of people to bring in and fix this and that before we put it on the market.

Leslie is in Washington right now checking out houses to rent.  Peter has found 6 possibilities that fit our needs just minutes away from where he lives.  So we are getting really excited and plan to fly out in early June leaving an empty house and a good agent to sell it.  Leslie found a really good home for Muffin and she’s already a part of a new household.  Nigella and BW, the two feral cats we had fixed and who are getting much sweeter, we will probably take to The Cattery, an outfit that takes all kinds and helps them find homes.

I do like the process of clearing out shelves of stuff we haven’t touched in years and giving it away.  No garage sales.  Books to the library.  Anything of value to the needy.  Letting go of the past – those were the days.

And suddenly I am 68 years old.  This is how crazy this number is as when I see a picture of a sexy woman in her 40’s, I think: it’s too bad I am too young for her.  Inside, I am still 23.  But, I have recently realized how wonderful it is to have the power of a grandfather which I now possess.  This power is wonderful and makes me clean up my act around kids and really enjoy buying them a soda and giving them some kind of a compliment, something positive.

I am still learning the trade of grandfather, however.  But I see that is a gift that helps me love on people and often brings me a great smile from the mother with a new baby whom I compliment and coo over at the grocery store.  I still have to ride those electric carts there, but the men who work there see me coming and have one ready for me to use in my shopping.  In general, I get lots of respect from folks here and appreciate the kindness greatly as I’m still gimpy.

But I can drive and I spent some hours out on the back roads the last few days.  Every field is green.  Some with corn up as high as your waist.  Some with long rows of cotton plants just getting the first ten leaves out and very healthy.  Every field is planted with either cotton, corn or sorghum.  We are five inches over normal rainfall right now which is why the fields are so beautiful. But the lakes are only at 44% full, and here we are heading into a long, hot Summer in Texas.

Leslie is ready to get out west where she can pick strawberries, raspberries and blueberries this Summer in the “u pick ‘em farms”.  She is an Earth Muffin at heart. Her favorite spot on Earth is the Farmer’s Market.  We have a small one here in Corpus Christi.  Bellingham has a big one with all the local fruit and produce, food trucks and it’s a party every Saturday afternoon – we will be there.

It’s not easy to leave some good friends we’ve made here.  And it is a really strange feeling, with anxiety attached, to be preparing to move 2,300 miles away to a place I have never been before.  However, I have lived on the west coast for more than 20 years and loved it.  The forests and mountains are fabulous and I’ve seen enough of them to know I will totally enjoy the vistas and scenery in Washington.  It will rain, but the weather is not a concern.    Because the weather inside our house will be so nice as the smell of spices and Texas chili fill the air from a pot cooking on the stove – my specialty.  And we hear Peter’s car parking in our drive way and see him coming in the door to sit down, dig into his first bowl of red, and give us the news of his day.  Yes, yes, yes.  We know where we are going.  And we can’t wait to get there.  As times change.

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