On December 18th Peter arrived in Seattle to spend my birthday and christmas with me. Yay!!!! After a morning with Penny we headed to San Juan Island to spend the week at Ryan’s. Ryan is one of Peter’s best friends from LEAPNOW, an experiential education program with a strong focus on travel and personal development and evolution, and for all of us to be in one place at the same time was definitely a dream come true for Peter and something I have also looked forward to.
When we arrived at Friday Harbor I got to meet Kaia, Ryan’s girlfriend, who is also a total sweetheart and would be spending the week with us as well. From the first night I could tell that this was going to be a good week.
Our first full day here we went on a hike which turned into an epic adventure of building a drift wood bridge over a lagoon. It took us about three hours but we succeeded! In the evening we went to cribbage night, where we played a close game of the girls vs. the guys. Girls won of course 🙂
On the 21st Ryan and I took a sunset solstice dip in the ocean; my first swim since arriving in the northwest! The water was cold, but honestly with Kaia’s wetsuit I felt surprisingly comfortable, and being someone who loves water I had been itching to get into the water. With the wetsuits we were able to put on snorkels and flippers and swim out into the bull kelp forest that grows just off the shore of Ryan’s parents beach house. The water was so clear! Very different from the Atlantic in the Northeast, at least where I have been. And of course Ryan knows tons about the critter of the ocean. We saw a crab, many star fish, a sun star, sea urchins, and of course, lots of bull kelp. Did you know that bull kelp are hollow and store CO2 within them? They also can be cut into rings, pickled and eaten. It was pretty cool to be out there in the ocean. I was also amazed at how buoyant I felt in my wetsuit; it was hard to dive down! but Ryan gave me a few pointers and I was able to get a a few feet under the surface.
My 23rd birthday was pretty much a perfect day in every way. It was understated, which is how I like things, no big parties, but three awesome people, and full of the outdoors and precious moments and experiences. We woke up early and caught the ferry to Orcas Island, known to some as the gem of the San Juan Islands, and the home of the highest peak on the islands; Mt. Constitution. After a stop in town where we bought some food and drank some delicious chocolate from around the world we headed to Moran State park, where Mt. Constitution is located. Before driving to the peak we took a few hours to hike around the lower parts of the park, which was filled with huge old growth Cedars, Doug Firs, and many other plants. With Ryan’s wealth of knowledge and Peter and my curiosity this hike quickly turned into a plant walk with us quizzing each other and asking about every plant we saw. I am getting better at telling the difference between a Grand Fir, Doug Fir, Lodgepole Pine, and Spruce. I also can now tell the difference between a Cedar and a Juniper, and am learning some of the native underbrush such as the salal, the oregon grape, nootka rose, trailing blackberry, and bracken ferns, to name just a few. And then there is the weird, slimy orange fungi called Witch’s Butter! And these are only the plants that are still identifiable in the middle of winter! I love understanding the place I am in, and it is awesome to have someone like Ryan around who is probably one of the most knowledgeable people on the islands when it comes to natural history. Having a strong sense of place is something that he feels is really important and so he has made it a priority to understand his surroundings.
After our hike in the lower parts of the park, which included some beautiful waterfalls as well, we drove to the peak of Mt. Constitution. After we parked the car I ran to the top to discover one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. Imagine sparkling ocean dotted with islands all around you. And then, in the same view you have snow covered peaks on the horizon. AMAZING! I couldn’t help gasp at the beauty. And the sun was out, with just a few clouds for effect. I could not have asked for a more perfect day. And yet it got even better!
Ryan, Peter and I climbed to the top of the lookout tower they have on Mt. Constitution while Kaia went “to the bathroom.” But really she was going to get absolutely delicious carrot ginger vegan cupcakes that she and Peter and baked while Ryan and I had been swimming in the ocean. When Kaia walked in to the lookout tower and Ryan and Peter started singing I was totally surprised! What better way to spend my 23rd birthday then on the peak of the highest mountain in the San Juan Islands with an absolutely gorgeous view and three of my favorite people in the world.
I also learned that Kaia has a gift for giving presents. Although she and had only met me a few days before she and Ryan got me a watercolor postcard set. How perfect!
This blissful day continued as our next stop was Doe Bay, a little spa right by the ocean with soaking tubs and a sauna. Here we relaxed and soaked, two happy couples at the end of a wonderful day. There was even an ice cold natural spring to dunk into when you got too hot, and of course Kaia and I took advantage of this after getting nice and hot in the tubs.
Then it was finally time to head home, tired and happy. Once we reached home we opened a bottle of Peter and my homemade anniversary dandelion mead- quite yummy if I do say so myself, and I got two more wonderful presents from Peter. First was a delicious chocolate bar for us all to share and second was a beautiful, turquoise-green-blue shawl that will be perfect for meditation, the fancy occasion, and perhaps to even curl up on the couch and read a book with. It truly was a perfect birthday.
The next few days were low key and gave Peter and I some good time to catch up and reconnect. Long distance relationships aren’t always easy but we both seem to be committed enough to make it work thus far.
Then came the Browne’s Christmas Eve party. Yummy food, some hilarious rounds of Telestrations, Christmas caroling (a tradition I have never experiences having grown up in a Jewish family) and more presents. Kaia continued to amaze me with her gift giving talents and gave me beautiful earings she had made herself; of course she remembered that I was worried my ears might close up as I hadn’t brought any earrings with me! And the earrings went perfectly with the shawl Peter had given me, which I was wearing for the night. And Ryan also gave me a perfect gift; Northwest Foraging by Doug Benoliel. I can’t wait till spring when I can try some of the recipes using foraged plants!
Christmas day was also wonderful and relaxed with a delicious christmas dinner that rivaled thanksgiving, provided by Ryan’s parents. Given that this was Peter’s last night it was only fitting that we ended with Ryan, Peter and I curled up on the couch in front of a fire having a juicy conversation about Nature and the Human Soul (a book by Bill Plotkin).
The 26th meant it was time for Peter to fly back to the Boston. This good bye was no easier than any other, but I know that we will see each other again and that both him and I are doing good work where we are that is necessary for our personal growth. And so with a few tears we gave each other hugs and I wished him safe travels and Ryan and I headed home alone.