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Our family trip to Cancun was, as usual, wonderful. I can never get enough time near the stunning waters of the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean. I have not stood and stared out at every sea, but I would still argue the water near Cancun is among the most beautiful in the world.IMG_8723

Even before I had ever actually seen one, I was compelled, intoxicated by the thought of the ocean. Incomprehensibly large, powerful, beautiful, my first experiences on the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean have stayed with me throughout my adult life. I was 19, living in Maine, serving a mission for the LDS church. I stood on the sand of Old Orchard Beach, near dusk, staring out at the retreating tide, the evening sky darkening the water. I was humbled. Nothing has frightened or thrilled me as much as staring out at that vastness.

Most likely because of my affinity for the ocean, our Cancun trips usually consist of a week of sitting on the beach, gazing out at the water. The hum of it is endless. The ocean looks and sounds different as each day progresses. I tried to capture some of it.

At sunrise the sky dominates, and the ocean is a muted turquoise. IMG_8719

By mid morning, the sky pales and the blue green water is nearly impossible for me to look away from.IMG_8722

In the evening, the colors and textures are stunning.

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Under a bright yellow moon, words fail me.

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Last. A slightly edited image (shadows and light to bring out the textures of the clouds, the water) of an approaching storm. IMG_8718

I am glad to be home, back to the usual routines, but I miss the constant sound of the waves, the insistent wind. I’ll have to go back soon.

 

Wordless Wednesday 


Mostly wordless. 

I’m on vacation with the family in Cancun. Limited internet access calls for limited posting. Also, I’m liking being mostly inaccessible. Let’s chat next week. 

Back From the City

December in NYC is a strange and wonderful experience. An already crowded city becomes more so, as tourists and locals alike wander about, shopping, gazing at the amazing decorations, eating spectacular food, enjoying the festive time of year.

I fully expect everywhere I go in the city to be crowded, all the time, no matter the month, but I did not anticipate the extra crush of insanity December would bring. On Saturday we wandered down the heart of 5th Avenue, along with tens of thousands of other human beings. At times, we could not move for the mass of people, everyone waiting for the light to change, the person in front of them to move. The holiday lights were mesmerizing and the display windows equally stunning.

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It was uncomfortable at times, but most people were happy and friendly.

Rockefeller Center also impressed and the tree was beautiful.

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On this trip we were joined by some great friends from Salt Lake City. We had a great time showing them our favorite places, like the American Museum of Natural History and Central Park. img_8048

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We spent an interesting day out at Liberty and Ellis Islands. The temperature hovered around 30 degrees with winds approaching 35 mph blowing us all about. On the ferry ride over, the gusts took my breath away. Liberty Island is always a bit disappointing. The statue itself is impressive to look at, but the view from the water is equally good and does not require leaving the boat.

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Ellis Island, on the other hand, never disappoints.

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I am always awed by this room and the emotions it brings out. Imagining the thousands of hopeful immigrants who passed through this space inspires me. Members of my own ancestry were among those who entered the United States through this location. I wonder if I would have been as brave as they were. img_8031

We stayed in Midtown again (in the smallest hotel room/broom closet), making getting about very easy. We enjoy taking the subway, but prefer walking as it offers us a chance to see more. Even with the cold and crowds, I loved wandering the streets of Manhattan, especially in the evening, absorbing the lights and sounds.

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Seeing the city near the holidays was an unforgettable experience, but I think next time we go, I’d prefer and October visit. Anyone else want to come along?

Third

As the entire family is home today, I considered taking this week off. It is a holiday weekend, after all. Laziness is the word, the goal. Then I got to thinking, taking a week off three weeks into a writing goal is like taking a cheat day three days into a diet.

I am really good at cheating on a diet, in case you were wondering. If there were an award for it, I’d always be in contention for first place. Everyone needs a skill I guess.

I also wish there were an award for going to New York City.

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The wife and I will be heading back to our favorite place on earth in December. Part of measuring how much I love a particular city is visiting when it is either too hot, too cold, or both. I clearly remember walking down a frozen Boston street in early January, the wind whipping around my face, my friend and I wandering towards a fine watering hole for a drink or seven, and thinking how much I loved Boston.

Honestly, I already love NYC so much that I don’t think any weather or event would alter my opinion.

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We will be taking the Red Eye again (which we did last November), but this time have arranged an extra day at the hotel. Being exhausted with no where to sleep made for a rough morning, though it did give me opportunity to take some lovely morning images.

What about you? Where are your favorite places to vacation? Do you like visiting cities? If so, which ones stand out for you?

Vacation

I mentioned our recent trip to Yellowstone in the last post. It was a grand and exciting time for all involved. As usual, we ran into people we knew from SLC who were also visiting, and had fun interactions with people we will never ever see again. It is the wonder of the place.My favorite thing is introducing people to the majesty of Grand Geyser. This year, I was able convince a couple visiting from Sweden to hang out and watch. Sometimes, the wait is hours, but it is always worth it.

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The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was as fabulous as I remembered.

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and the waterfalls as beautiful.

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For the first time in over 30 years, I ventured to the north part of the park. Mammoth Hot Springs is still a strange place. I was blown away by the steep mountains and amazing meadows. The north part of the park is indeed stunning. Too bad every place was extremely crowded. Lesson learned- do not travel on Labor Day weekend.

I am most grateful for my children and their willingness to accompany Sheryl and me almost anywhere. They both seemed to have a grand time and both took a great many photos. Speaking of which, here are some more of mine.

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Thermal features have always intrigued me.

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Grand Geyser.

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Runoff from Excelsior Geyser/hot spring

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Grand Prismatic. I love the colors.

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The brink of lower falls.

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Big horn in the north part of the park.

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Lads walk.

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Check That One Off the List

IMG_4327Two things happened this past weekend. First, I visited Seattle for the first time. Second, I traveled to a city not my own for the purpose of seeing a rock show.  I did drive all the way to Wisconsin once, and while I was there, attended a show, but my purpose for going to Wisconsin was to see friends. The show was an added bonus.

I am a sucker for big cities and the ocean, which makes it all the more strange that I have never been to Seattle before. I loved the quirky streets, the people all dressed in almost the same color tones, same styles, the crazy traffic, and hot beverages that almost seemed to be a required accessory.

 

 

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I even enjoyed the winter gloom, the constant misting haze (maybe because we had a Monday like the photo, where the sun came out and let me have this view), and the always about to get wet feeling that permeated each walk.

We did some touristy things. Visited the Public Market, bought too many bakery goods, too much really good cheese, and spent a good hour or two perusing used books.

IMG_4316 Because it was Super Bowl weekend, and the Seahawks were playing, hardly anyone was out and about on Sunday. Many of the shops closed early. Some didn’t open at all. With so few people, we were able to sample foods that some of the locals out and about told us usually had lines down the street.

Sheryl was able to try some delicious sea food, and I  sampled some local beer as well as get a pretty decent hamburger.

We walked most places the first two days, having found a hotel within walking distance of not only the downtown area, but the venue for the concert as well. It was good for me, as while I am a capable driver, I don’t enjoy driving in large cities all that much. I worry I’ll be the fool going the wrong way on a one way street, and in Seattle, that was very, very possible.
IMG_4280The Show was held at Neumos, a very eclectic and fun club. Doors were set to open at 8, and not knowing if the crowd would be huge or non existent (the headliner, Hemls Alee, is a local band), We left our hotel at 7:40. This offered enough time to walk the 1/4 mile and be there before the doors opened.

We approached the venue, and I started to feel my usual pre-concert nervousness. I was plowing forward, Sheryl just behind me and to my left. On my right, I vaguely noticed a bouncer looking fellow (6’5, 240 pounds, wearing all black, arms folded) and a woman standing next to him, smoking.  It was dark, I was in a strange town, I really wasn’t paying attention.

IMG_4284I heard the woman say, “hey” and I turned. It was Emma Ruth Rundle. If she had not said something, I would have blown right by, completely missing the chance to talk to one of the musicians I had traveled to see.

I stopped, said hello. We chatted for a minute, talked Seattle, where I was from (as she knew I had flown in for the show) and how the band appreciated the support. Funny enough, that meant the world. I love Marriages, and Emma’s solo record was my favorite album last year. I want everyone to enjoy the music, and I share it every chance I get. I don’t do it for recognition or out of any other motive beyond turning others on to some fantastic musicians, powerful music. Still, when the effort is appreciated, and when it is recognized, you can’t help but feel pretty damn good.

 
IMG_4277Sheryl and I continued on, realizing that no one, and I mean no one was waiting to get inside. We went to get some coffee (you always have to have coffee) and wait. I use a pour-over device at home for making my morning coffee, but these people…wow. Scales and measures, a precision I had never considered. It was some good coffee, though I’d have to compare the same blend done a different way to see the real differences.

We made our way across the street and back to the club just before 9. Maybe 100 people were already in the venue (by the time Marriages took the stage, it was very full), and almost right on time, the show started. The first band, Grenades, were pretty loud, and while I love the metal, the screaming and guttural vocals were a bit unexpected. They put on a good show, played the right amount of songs, and got out of the way.

 

IMG_4293Marriages were next. Really, really, really clean set. The sound was amazingly clear and the musicianship spot on. I could watch them perform every day and not get bored. After their set, Helms Alee took the stage. What an absolutely ferocious band. They played with so much energy. If you want to see a drummer put her entire heart and soul into her instrument, watch Hozoji play! The woman can’t weigh more than 70 pounds, and she plays amazing with power and precision. I couldn’t look away. Sadly, she was so far back on the stage that any photo or video I took failed.

 

I was also able to speak to the Drummer for marriages, Andrew Clinco. He was walking by during the Helms alee set and noticed me. He stopped, thanked me for the support and for flying up to see the band play. I was so blown away that my small efforts to support the band were noticed, that I was left pretty much speechless. I did manage to get out a thank you.

It is one thing to approach a band member and have them thank you, especially when you feel like you are the one grateful for the music, but to be noticed in a crowd of people in a darkly lit venue, or on the street when you pass by is too flattering for words.

And because I think you all need to listen to and adore Marriages, here is link- http://marriagesband.com/music

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On Monday, we met up with some friends who live near Seattle. Heather and Tobin showed us about town, taking us to record stores, book stores, delicious restaurants and to places about town where I got photos like the one on the left.

I am grateful for these friends, who took time out to show Sheryl and me around. They were infinitely patient as I thumbed through stacks of albums and most likely thousands of books.

 

We had such a fantastic time, it only made me want to go back again and IMG_4256again.

Whatever way the wind blows

Last week was strange and wonderful.

on Tuesday evening, I was settling in for some late night television and maybe a too large bowl of ice cream, when my mobile rang. I didn’t recognize the number and was about to ignore the call, when Sheryl informed me it was her mother calling. I answered. I can’t recall the exact words she spoke first, but in my memory, the conversation goes something like this-

“Hello, would you like to go on an adventure?”

To where?

“Mary and Jason are stranded in Roswell and need rescuing. I need a second driver. Would you be willing to come along?” 

Sure. When do you want to leave?

“Oh, either tonight or early tomorrow.”

All the best adventures begin this way.

When I was younger, it wasn’t uncommon to head out someplace with very little planning. Those sorts of adventures were often a great deal shorter in distance than a drive to Roswell, but once, Sheryl and I took a day trip (on an itch I needed to scratch) to Brianhead with only some gas money and a vague idea of when we might be home. We were dating then, and the entire enterprise seemed so grown-up, a bit dangerous, certainly more adventurous than either of us had been before.

On my LDS mission, I would often go whichever way the wind (or other visiting missionaries) would take me. we traveled the spaces between townships, experiencing the entirety of New Hampshire and Maine, even taking excursions to Boston and Vermont. These are some of my happiest memories from that time, and are the main reasons I fell in love with New England. I learned to love the rolling roads, the sudden curves, canopies of trees that covered the roadways. Most of the time, these trips had a destination, but with the exception of Boston, the drives themselves, the conversations and relationships built were the point.

I experienced this type of connection again on my adventure through New Mexico.

I have known my in-laws for over 20 years and feel like they are as much my family as my own parents and siblings. More times than I can count, these wonderful people (and their children and their spouses)  have come to my rescue, helped me move, fixed things around my house, attended events for my children, etc. When I first married Sheryl, we were offered the use of a 3 bedroom house in Provo, nearly free of rent. It was my introduction to the unconditional love that pours out from the Kemptons.  While I knew about the compassion and charity of my mother and father in-law, I knew very little about them beyond some basic where and when sort of things.

This trip changed that.

My mother in-law and I spent two days together, driving, talking, sharing. After all this time, I finally feel like I know her. Maybe it would be better to say I feel like I finally understand her. That seems more accurate. We drove without the presence of any distractions- No music, no one else in the car- for the entire drive down. We drove through beautiful and bland countryside, through towns and cities, and finally, through the flat lands near and around Roswell. We conversed until our throats were sore. We shared stories and feelings, motivations and moments that shaped our lives. There was no judgment, no uncomfortable topics. It was very much like the road trips I remembered from New England. It was equally fulfilling.

We rescued Mary and Jason, filling the van with their things and their children, then driving back to Utah with everyone safe and sound. I am forever grateful for accepting the offer to go on such a fantastic adventure, and I am equally grateful for the chance to give a little bit back to a family that has always done so much for me.

emptyOne place the wind took us was a short stop near an abandoned house/business of some kind. I am intrigued by such places, and though I rarely stop and take a look, I often imagine the sorts of lives that once filled these places. What circumstances brought them to this moment, where they sit empty by the roadside? This was the only picture I took during my two day road trip.

There were towns along this road that looked very much like this place- abandoned, boarded up buildings. Places that have stories. Most of those remain untold and are forever lost.

I don’t want the stories that affect my life to go unmarked, or have them fade into nothingness like the moments that surround this building.

Instead, I share them with you. It feels right.