As summer winds down, at least on our calendars, I love to reflect on the best parts. I think about what I will remember and would most like to carry with me into the future from these recent, seemingly fleeting, weeks and months.
Following are a few highlights and observations…
In late July, my community again had more interesting visitors on our local waters. Hundreds of Native American families in tribal canoes stopped on the shores of West Seattle on their annual ‘Paddle to Nisqually.’ I was among the crowd that gathered to see and greet them as canoes arrived by the dozens on Alki Beach on a beautiful sunny week-day afternoon.
What made their visit especially memorable was the grace and precision of these boats on the water as they arrived and landed, accompanied by the sounds of drumming. The colors and designs on these beautiful hand-crafted vessels were eye-catching with striking carvings, banners and flags unique to each tribe or family. I noted a wide range of participants – younger, older, men, women – all working together in well-practiced teams.
Some of the boaters had nice high-tech gear (Neoprene wetsuits and mobile devices). In contrast, others wore very traditional woven Cedar (?) hats. I did remember to take a few photos! Our local news media provided even better photos and videos of their arrival that afternoon and their departure the next morning, as well as many additional details.
As I read more about ‘Paddle to Nisqually,’ I learned that it is an historic voyage and reunion. The ancestors of these boaters made this trip in earlier times. As a spectator for the first time this year, I am curious about the contrasts and the differences from the past to the present. Do mobile devices, weather apps, GPS, and other technologies make this voyage easier? I assume so. I wonder about the lives of the participants on this year’s trek, especially the younger members, and to what extent other changes, environmental impacts and regulations have changed their family and tribal traditions and livelihoods.
I’ve written before about how I love impromptu community. The arrival and departure of these canoes had that effect on those of us gathered to watch on the beach. We came together to see something special. A beautiful day, an ordinary day, turned into something greater. Though the beach sand was warm between my toes, the smiles and sense of community was even warmer.
On another note, my friend, Linda’s annual Lake Party took place this past weekend. It is also one of my personal, perennial summer highlights! Thankfully, this 19th gathering was a spider-free event. We were also lucky to have cooperative weather: a perfect sunny September day. With school back in session and temperatures a little cooler (mid 70’s), we found the popular lakefront park and swimming beach uncrowded and few boats out on the water.
I found the water a bit crisp for swimming though, even before the sun went down. Surprisingly, I found it almost impossible to get warm afterwards, trembling, my teeth chattering. That unshakeable chill was very unexpected, and a reminder that cold water temps are no joke. Thank goodness for warm borrowed shirts and friendly hugs (and, heated car seats on my drive home)!
It also became apparent that Polar Bear Plunges are probably not going to become my new favorite thing, despite urging from my friends to give it a try next January 1st. Seriously, I’ll certainly remember to bring warmer gear in the future if I’m going to be in the water or out on the water in a boat.
Despite the chilly ending, this year’s Lake Party was wonderful! Photos we took will no doubt prompt great memories for a long time to come, yet they only captured a fraction of the activity, conversation, laughter, joy, closeness and warmth.
Looking back at photos from earlier years, it strikes me how change is so subtle, and relentless. Sadly, two of my favorite people were unable to be there this year; one is now gone, the other grieving his loss. Happily, there were a few new faces there. As well, there were many familiar ones, some sporting more gray hair, others now almost taller than their parents. I am happy that we come together each year, relax, adapt and accept any changes, and enjoy the time with each other.
Sense of community is important to me. I tend to drop anchor, (or put down deep taproots, as my alter-ego Gardening-Self would say), where conditions seem warm and favorable. I feel lucky in that I often seem to find that.
I plan to savor this last week of summer, and will do my best to carry the warmth forward.
I hope you had a wonderful summer, as well!