I have only known this land “after the fire.” I never experienced the fear and devastation over the loss of what was once a flourishing forest. Nearly four years have passed since those fires ravaged this area, and while no one resided here permanently at the time, nearly everyone lost whatever structures they had. Only remnants from the oak cabin that once stood on our land, a burned and rusted metal chair and an old terra-cotta pot are all that are left. Charred and blackened trees still dominate the landscape interspersed among the living in a mosaic pattern only fire knows.
The largest of the Ponderosa Pines resides just on the shore of the lake, standing stoically even in death. I am struck by how beautiful this tree is, quite possibly more striking in black with her bare and twisted branches held frozen in time. There will undoubtedly come a time when she can no longer bear the weight of her own crown, and will crack or collapse entirely into the lake. Oh how even the mighty can fall.
Despite all that was lost, signs of recovery are everywhere here. And while I will likely not witness the return to its full glory during my lifetime, I am so grateful for the opportunity to steward this land and watch nature find its way forward. There is joy and wonder to see the pine and larch saplings coming up under the seemingly watchful eyes of their dead sentinel mothers, the spindly young aspen trees cropping up everywhere readying the soil for future generations of larger trees, the deer trails crisscrossing through the fire weed between the lakes, and the osprey screeching high in the hills. The plants and animals have come home and have so much to teach us about hope, resilience, and the healing that comes with time.
After the hustle and bustle of India, Cambodia has overall been a welcome change of pace. We started out navigating through the hoards of tourists visiting Angkor Wat, which despite the crowds was absolutely amazing. We opted for the 3 day pass so we could take our time visiting the many temples. Even then we couldn’t possible take it all in. We did get to the main temples, including my favorite Ta Prohm, and discovered that there really is something to the “temple fatigue,” everyone talks about. I’d like to believe the kids appreciated some of the sights, but admittedly, they preferred the pool at our hotel in Siem Reap. What can you do? On the upside they are much more confident in their swimming abilities.
After Siem Reap, we chose to slow it down a bit in the, oh-so-chill seaside town of Kep. More pool time for the kids = more relaxing time for the parents. We missed Kep Beach altogether but did visit the bustling crab market and spent a morning bushwhacking through Kep National Forest with some lovely Aussies we met along the trail. We even stumbled across a wonderful cafe, Kep Coffee, owned by former Seattleites. Neat!
We are currently back in Phnom Pehn enjoying the hospitality and company of Kishore’s cousin and her husband for a few days while we figure out the next chapter of our journey. Before we leave, we will be visiting the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the latter likely without kids.
Below are some images from our time in Cambodia thus far.
-Happy New Year from all of us!
Scenes from Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples
Kep’s Vibrant Crab Market
I originally started this blog as a platform to highlight my photography. While it will primarily remain a visual blog, I am dedicating the next 9 months to chronicling our family’s travels abroad, our “year off.” The decision to upend our lives came through unequal parts luck, strategy and good timing.
My husband lost his job in back in June, and while shocking at the time, it was ultimately the catalyst that set us in motion. No longer trapped in a unfulfilling 9-5 job and having recently sold our house in Seattle it was our golden ticket to travel.
After receiving the news, we initially considered taking our van on the road across the US. In July, we embarked on a 3 week van trip to Haida Gwaii, BC and then spent the remainder of the summer backpacking through our beautiful home state of Washington. After a taste of this new found freedom, it became increasing clear that we needed to think bigger. With encouragement from friends on a similar journey, we decided to take the plunge. We pulled our kids (age 9 and 6) out of school, packed up our home, found a temporary foster care for our dog, and bought our tickets to Kathmandu. None of this was easy but we were determined to see it through.
We have a skeleton of a travel plan for the next 9 months that will surely evolve over time. Our choice of destinations include places where we have friends and family as well as places we’ve always wanted to see. There will certainly be bumps and scrapes along the way but I’ll do my best to keep it interesting and keep it real. I hope you will follow us and perhaps be inspired to take your own “year off.”
The above images were taken from our first outing to Swayambhu, better known as The Monkey Temple. It is a short walk from my Father-in-law’s house and is always a visual delight of color and life.
Last weekend was our 3rd year in a row attending the Vashon Island Sheepdog Classic held at the exquisite Misty Isle Farm. It is hands down one of my favorite events on the island. It came as no surprise that this year’s trials held a record setting attendance. Between the trials and visiting our friends on Ridge, we are crazy about the sheep (and the dogs too of course).
We have experienced some frigid temperatures here in the Pacific Northwest over the last week. By Montana standards this is nothing, but dips into the low 20’s are enough to set your teeth a chattering and your car door and gas cap to freeze shut simultaneously. It is also a rare occurrence for the temperatures to be just right for just long enough to allow Fisher Pond here on Vashon Island to completely freeze over.
The last time Fisher froze was 4 years ago, so it was a real treat to experience it for our first time last week. It is a magical event and many of the island’s residents come out to share in the joy that it brings. A long time island family, the Petersons have amassed probably close to 80 pairs of ice skates in various sizes that they bring to the pond and lend out for free to anyone interested in getting out on the ice. Others bring hot cocoa and cider for the kids and there was even a bonfire at the edge of the pond one evening at sunset. It is just another of the numerous amazing things that make this island so special.
Spending time with the Andersons is always a blast. Over the holidays, I got to tag along while they chose their Christmas tree and when we arrived home they threw down an impressive dance party in the kitchen. That is about as fun as it can get. Go Team We, 2017 is your year!
I headed over to Seattle and my old neighborhood in late December to photograph the Agrawal-Najafi family on what was one of the coldest days of the year. Cozy sweaters, wool wraps and many warm embraces kept the cold at bay.