Dia De Los Muertos in Tacoma

Dia De Los Muertos, translates to Day of the Dead.

Once a little known (to us) observance celebrated in Mexico and Latin America, it has become more prevalent in our society, the predominant culture of which is taught to fear death and the dead.

The closest festival that those of us with Northern European/Gaelic/Celtic ancestry once had is Samhain, which was eventually assimilated by our culture and turned into the modern Halloween which has nothing to do with honoring our ancestors and departed loved ones and everything to do with commercial profit.

Sadly, this is beginning to happen to Dia De Los Muertos as is evidenced by incredibly tacky Halloween costumes on sale, and other misappropriations.

Make no mistake, Dia De Los Muertos is not “Mexican Halloween” just like Cinco De Mayo is not “Mexican Independence Day” (it commemorates the battle of Pueblo and achieving victory over French forces against all odds, but that’s a conversation for another day) nor is it about drinking tequila until you puke.

This Huffington Post article speaks to appropriation and misrepresentation of the observance, so rather than wax poetic from upon my soapbox, I shall link it here.


While appropriation and colonization are very real and serious issues based in devaluing and disrespecting other cultures, the United States has always been known as the “Great American Melting Pot” in which many generations of immigrants from different cultures brought some of their own traditions.

We can learn a lot from other cultures and regain some of the connections to the earth and our ancestors we lost when we all melded into a homogenous culture if we approach it with respect and a desire to learn.

This short video explains the basics of the observance…

The Day of the Dead – A Lot More Than Skulls and Candy

It's definitely not the “Mexican Halloween.”

Posted by AJ+ on Saturday, October 31, 2015

Today, an example of respectful learning and celebration occurred at the Tacoma Art Museum for Dia De Los Muertos.

A colorful event that included education, entertainment, music, activities for children and sacred spaces created for departed loves ones drew people from all over Tacoma and beyond in the spirit of community.


Offerendas (altars built to honor departed loves ones and ancestors) lined hallways on multiple levels of the museum. Filled with photographs, decorations, memorabilia and often, written explanations about the symbolism and people involved were lovingly built by individuals, families and community groups who took workshops to understand their significance so that they could be created out of love and respect.


I spoke with a Latina woman who was laying out a lovely offerenda she was decorating with feather headdresses, photographs and items of significance or that were favorite things of her departed loved ones. She told me about her father who had passed only one year ago, and her grandmother and aunt. She sadly told of how quickly “the cancer” took one of her relatives and smiled sharing fond memories others.

I then spoke with a Chinese American woman who wanted to take my photograph since I was in costume and we shared stories of observances in our own pre-United States cultures (in my case, Irish) that were similar to Dia De Los Muertos,

I saw people of all ages, classes, cultures and ethnicities come together to learn, share and remember their departed loves one who live in our hearts and stories. I watched people of diverse political leanings learn about another culture at a deeper and more personal level than before. I witnessed healing.

If you didn’t make it this year, you need to put it on your calendar for next year. I certainly hope that the museum will continue to provide this amazing, free event to the community.


There is still time to “get your dead on”. Tonight, on 6th Avenue there is a Dia De Los Muertos

Doors will open at the Studio 6 Ballroom Event space, 2610 6th Avenue, at 4:00 PM for face painting, creating and local vendor setup.

At 6:00 PM a procession will move down 6th Ave, many participants carrying paper mache figures they created in workshops.

At 7:00 PM, there will be live music, celebration and activities back at the event space lasting until 9:00 PM.

Come join your community and departed loves ones, for death is not to be feared, it is part of life and the end, is just the beginning.

I leave you with a charming short film showing a little girl discovering Dia De Los Muertos

It’s Almost Time…

It is almost time for the technical run through of tonight’s midnight fire spectacle.

I know I’ll see many (oooh, about 20,000 or so) of you at First Night Tacoma Pierce County tonight to help ring in the new year with music, art, fun and community.

For those I don’t see, I wish you a happy, healthy, safe and totally fabulous New Years Eve!

My plans for 2015 include a lot more quality time with friends, loved ones and chosen family.

More music (making it)

More dance (performance, class and recreational)

More writing

More time spent on positive endeavors and with positive people.

More gratitude.

More game nights (Cards Against Humanity and Cowgirls Ride the Trail of Truth anyone?)

More hiking, backpacking, cycling, kayaking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and other outdoorsey stuff.

Getting back to healthy eating and more exercise.

Being kinder to myself.


Bring it!

2014 fire

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A note to the first responders at the Boston Marathon (and everywhere else)

Some first responders at the scene were trained police officers, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs.

Some were race staff and volunteers.

Many more were spectators just waiting for their friends, family and loved ones to cross the finish line in a life affirming event.

Some runners, perhaps having dreamed of this day, this chance to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon their entire adult lives stopped their forward progress abandoning their dream, the goal they had worked so hard to achieve, in order to help others.

Regardless of title, training or lack thereof, they were all “first responders”.

They will never be able to unsee what they have seen. No matter how tough or experienced some of them may be, they will be haunted to varying degrees by some of the images for the rest of their lives.

To those who were there, who responded, who selflessly gave of yourselves,

Please avail yourselves (if you have not already) of any critical incident stress debriefing offered. If you were a spectator, a participant or anyone else who does not regularly have that offered to you, seek it out through your local EMS agencies.

While some of you who do this professionally already understand the impact and how long it is going to take to process the events of March 15th, 2013, it’s going to be even more challenging than you know to get past what you saw, heard and felt.

As a paramedic for 13 years, I can’t count the number of mass casualty incidents I responded to; to say they are shocking and overwhelming is a gross understatement.

Many years ago at a base station meeting, an emergency room doctor who sees the worst of the worst (in a controlled environment and only one or two at a time) when telling the story of one such event when he was a ride along couldn’t describe the feeling of helplessness he felt when confronted with so much critical trauma, death, dying and chaos. “I don’t know how you people do this day in and day out; I had no idea where to start.” he said.

The helplessness… knowing you can’t help everyone, knowing you can only do so much for so few and that it’s never enough, is a truly devastating feeling.

What makes this even worse for everyone involved in an event such as this, is that these were “your people” your peers, perhaps even someone you knew personally.

That is the worst of the worst, parents responding to calls where children the same age as their own were critically injured; I lost it after a call where a “man” (if you could call him that) beat his 60-something year old mother viciously when she would not give him drug money (I had him bodily removed from the room so that I could work on his mother because I was honestly afraid of what I might do to him); she was the same age and looked like my mother, I had to call her immediately after I got back to the station.

Even worse when it’s someone you know… I responded to a dangerous and accidental drug overdose of one of my friend’s young children. On an even more personal note, my paramedic instructor had a serious heart attack (that required a quadruple bypass) and I was on the unit that responded.

There is more, so much more… I can’t count the number of times (after, always after a call) where I (the allegedly tough as nails medic and incident commander who’d been through it and toughed it out so many times before and always held it together on the call) sat sobbing uncontrollably on the floor of the emergency room bathroom.

I am very damaged from all of this. I have seen things, things that people do to others, to innocents, to children… that are so horrible I can not tell another person because it would quite literally scar them for life. So those things must live inside me, and I must manage them on my own as best I can. (it is never good enough)

How damaged you might ask? Most of my close friends have never seen me hold a baby other than in the process of delivering one in an emergency situation. Most people see a baby and want to hold/cuddle it. I, instinctively check it’s color, make certain that it has a pulse and is breathing and that it has not been abused or injured. I’ll spare you the stories of why I’m that way… you don’t want to know and I would never inflict that on you.

My hope is that all who were there that terrible day are able to seek out whatever help is available to them so that they can process what they experienced and not let it permanently damage their heart and soul.

No matter how old, experienced or tough you are, we all need help processing such things. It is OK to cry, it is OK to lean on others, it is OK, no, it is vital to seek help.

You can only be available to help others, if you are taking good care of yourself.


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Iron Girl (and the Green Lake Takeover of the Men’s Bathroom)

This morning Carmel and I headed up to Green Lake bright and early to do the Seattle Iron Girl Race.

We got up there early enough to get parking within two blocks of the event, picked up our goodie bags and went back to the car to stay warm (it was butt cold out there which was a very rapid weather change from yesterday’s summer heat)

We found Linda easily (she was only a block from the car when she called) but we never managed to find Caroline.

Here we are getting ready to head back over to the race start.

ready to run Iron Girl

When we got back, we discovered that the port-a-potty situation was beyond dire. The website claimed to have “plenty of port-a-potties… Uh, No you didn’t.

Seriously people… Women, many of us over 40, many more nervous and all of us swilling coffee like Pacific Northwesterners NEED adequate bathroom facilities at these race starts.

I can guarantee you that hundreds of women were still in line needing to use the bathroom long after the race started.


We headed over to the park bathrooms and found an almost equally scary line.

One gal wondered out loud what the line looked like over on the men’s side.

“Let’s go find out!” I said and lead the charge over to the other side. (this wasn’t my “first rodeo” in that regard); it was that or risk a ticket for public urination.

Some poor kid was cleaning the bathrooms and couldn’t let us in while he still had a bunch of water on the floor needing to be squeegeed.. I explained to him that we were desperate and then pointed out the growing line of highly agitated women with angry bladders. Not wanting to see a riot, nor be crushed by a stampeding herd, He hustled.

We let the two men who needed to use it go in first, explaining the need for them to hurry (I can neither confirm nor deny that I stood IN the doorway and muttered loud enough to be heard, “What is he doing in there? taking an epic dump?”) Once the now frightened men exited the bathroom the hordes of women descended.

My apologies if you area male who needed to use the bathroom a bit before 8:00 AM.

And that ladies and gentlemen is the story of the Green Lake Men’s Bathroom Takeover of 2012.

We got to the start line with about five minutes to spare and started out in the 11:00 min mile pace area which was silly because people in Seattle don’t read the pace signs or self sort and we still got stuck behind a bunch of walkers. I have GOT to start farther forward in these events.

There were over 2,200 of us and it took us over eight minutes to get to the start line after the gun went off (thank goodness for chip timing) There was quite the bottleneck getting out onto Greenlake Boulevard so it took a while to get to where we could actually run.


I get twitchy having to run packed tight like sardines so I do a lot of zigging, zagging and jumping around to get some clear space in which to run. I pulled out an average 10 minute mile pace for the first 1.3 miles (which means a lot of it was way faster than that to make up for the walk/shuffle start, and was way too fast for me to sustain over 6.2 miles right now, so I backed off to an 11 min mile pace.

We ran around the lake (with varying exits off and entrances back on the trail) twice for those of us who were doing the 10K.

Just before the three mile mark, Linda flew past me. She was on fire and set for an excellent 5K finish time (it was her first race in 20 years and she ROCKED it)

I was trying to keep my pace reasonable as I am under trained, had another loop to make, needed to finish uninjured as I have to pull out a ten mile long run tomorrow and then taper for the You Girl half Marathon.

I did kick it up to a ten minute mile place for the last mile and kicked it up even faster for the last .2 miles into the finish. My Garmin said that at some point I was running at a 5:15 mile pace.

I averaged 74% of my max heart rate (144 beats per minute) throughout the race, with a short peak at 104% (193 beats per minute) when I was kicking into overdrive at the end)

Carmel, who ran the entire 5K this time was there to cheer me on at the finish line.

I crossed the finish line at 1:06 which really isn’t terrible considering I’ve had so little time to train due to recovering from surgeries.

I came in at 340 overall, out of 546 women running the 10K so I was solidly in the middle of the pack. I was 40th in my age group of 62 (not as impressive but a big pack of us ran in to the finish all at the same time so I was still in with a good grouping)

The medals were big and shiny.

1:06 - not horrible

Here we are at the finish showing off our shiny things.


I was a super naughty monkey at the expo.

Normally I don’t buy expo stuff, but there was this awesome tech fabric Athleta dress that I fell in love with, which I can actually run or bike in if I want to. I like having dresses to put on after triathlons and this one will fill the bill, although honestly, I think I’ll also wear it for evenings out. It’s super comfortable and I love the color.

I’ve been working my butt off (literally) and decided that I had earned a treat.


I came home and took a 2+ hour nap. I’ll also be going to bed early and NOT setting an alarm.

I need to get a very slow and easy ten miles in tomorrow so that I can call that a long run and taper for the half marathon next weekend.


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Tri Again

OK, here’s the long awaited race report.

Oh, and this was my first time in the 50-54 age group. USA Triathlon regulations specify that you race in the age group you will be on Dec 31st of that year. Since I turn 50 in a few weeks, it was my first race as a fifty year old. Woo Hoo! New age group for me!

For a comprehensive list of every thing that went wrong, you can check out my blog about how not to do a triathlon.

I did do several things right, one was using natural “real” food for electrolytes/hydration. I used blackstrap molasses instead of energy gels and coconut water in place of sports drinks. I’m very pleased with both choices.

I overslept just a bit, but arrived at Meridian Lake in plenty of time to pick up my packet, get everything set up in my transition area and get through the port a potty lines. Come on race directors (all of you) you’ve got a bunch of athletes who’ve been hydrating like crazy, drinking coffee like mad (this is after all the Pacific Northwest) and really need to take care of other [ahem] bodily functions before squeezing into their wetsuits.

It was a lovely clear morning with steam rising up over the water.

I did the Friday Night Swim Race here the previous week so I knew the course which made me more relaxed and confident. I did one open water swim at Steele Lake the previous week and wasn’t feeling too good about my swim performance, my technique was terrible so I was working way harder than I needed to and was pretty darn slow.

This is something about having buoys to site on and other swimmers in the water that put me right back into the “tri zone”. I was not fast at the swim race, but I came in at just over 20 minutes (and that included getting out of the water and running up the ramp)

On race morning even though I was not at my best physically (see aforementioned blog post) once we were off and running (errr… swimming) I was really “in the zone”. I started and stayed in the back. It wasn’t too long before I started to pass people (those who started out too fast) I wasn’t swimming fast because all I wanted was to get through the swim with enough energy left to complete the bike and run. But I really felt good, relaxed, in control of my breathing, and with pretty decent rotation.

After the third buoy I found myself in a “swimmer sandwich” getting kicked in the head by the gal in front of me, and kicking whoever was behind me in their head. Such is the way of things. I wasn’t giving up my line.

I exited the water at 21:17 almost a minute slower than my race time the previous week. It wasn’t a great time but I sure wasn’t last, so I’ll take it especially since I was trying to conserve energy and had to stop and fuss with my goggles.

Next was the bike.

My transition time wasn’t great, 3:11:09 but it certainly wasn’t terrible and I made sure to get some more blackstrap and coconut water down. I do need to work on getting out of the wetsuit more quickly and would be better off getting my bike shoes on if I dried my feet off a bit before putting my socks on.

The course was mostly rolling hills; I was able to get some extra speed and stretch out a bit on the aero bars. My friend Russ recognized me from behind (I was pretty easy to spot with the word “Hammer” emblazoned on my ass in bright pink lettering) so we chatted a bit on the course.

There was one super nasty hill (worse than the hill in downtown Portland on the old STP route) which had volunteers stationed at the bottom to warn us to gear down.

as you can see, four out of five cyclist in this photo could not get up on their bike…

You KNOW it’s ugly when I come up off the saddle (I’m normally a sit and spin girl)

I took 1:03 to get through the bike course, which while not my best time, was not terrible according to my time, I averaged 15.5 mph which included the mount and dismount areas and getting in and out of transition. My bike computer says that I averaged 17 miles per hour which isn’t bad.

My T-2 transition time was pretty decent at 1:46:6 and I was off and running… Literally. I of course had a wicked case of “rubber legs” after getting off the bike and was just determined to finish this thing upright. I did have to make a short visit to the bushes which didn’t help my time any, but 35:14:06 was not horrible for a 5 K, especially after swimming and bike racing first.

I raised my arms in the air in triumph as I crossed the finish line right after this pic was taken.

Total time… 2:04:35:09 Not stellar, but not really that bad.

I almost cried. I had done it. I had overcome all of it, the hemorrhaging, the weight gain caused by not being able to work out for almost two years, the arthritis and scar tissue in my spine and pelvis which also got worse during that time, the stress, the dangerously high blood pressure and two surgeries.

I may not be fast, but I’m back and this triathlon medal means more to me than all of the others combined.

despite everything my body has been through-I am still a triathlete

Oh, after a quick nap, I rode out on the RAPSody bike course to meet up with my long time ride partner Leo and ride a few miles in with him since I wasn’t able to do the ride this year and missed the rest of our usual rides reffing together for CBC.


I slept well that night!

Next up…

the Iron Girl 10K
the You Go Girl Half Marathon
and if I get through that uninjured
the Seattle Marathon.

Seattle was my first full marathon which I did when I turned 40 to celebrate that and learning how to walk again after the accident that fractured my spine and pelvis.

It seems fitting that I should do it again when I turn 50 and to celebrate overcoming my recent obstacles.


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Fire Dancing

I finished up the summer season by preforming at one of my favorite events/venues, a large annual luau held in Puyallup.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that performance season is over (Halloween, Equinox, Solstice, First Night all fabulous fire opportunities), this was just the last hurrah of summer (and so much fun).


Photo below is courtesy of Sharon Uhlig of Third Eye Imaging… (I love how she captured the ring of fire)

photo by Sharon Uhlig Third Eye Imaging

I’ve added a couple of new toys tools to the mix, one of my favorites being the windfire rings (I just love something that I can toss into the air on fire 😉

Mickie Smith got some good video, so I was able to update my promo video. I still need to get someone to shoot video of the palm torch and levi wand and would like some video with the staff and hoop taken when it’s darker out (big thanks to Zach Ouellette for the video of those that I do have)

If anyone wants to give my YouTube video some love by watching it on the site and/or providing a link so that it moves up in the search engine rankings, that would be awesome.

And of course, if someone wants to hire me, all the info you need is available by clicking here – Fire Dancing by Wild Celtic Rose

~ L

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How NOT to do a Triathlon


#1 Sign up for a race that you don’t have time to train up for because it is the only one scheduled on your only day off during the week.

#2 Don’t rest the day before your race. Make sure to spend at least ten hours on your feet (bonus if in the sun on a hot day), lift heavy stuff, and walk no less than eight miles. Also make sure to rack up at least two nights of sleep deprivation.

#3 Make sure to wear brand new flipflops with stiff straps that dig into the skin on your feet and give blisters the day before. Bonus if the straps are thinner than the ones you usually wear and you get sunburned on the white stripes on your feet adjacent to the blisters.

#4 Be too busy to eat or hydrate properly the day before, then drink so much water and electrolytes that you’re up peeing all night long.

#5 If you are a female of child bearing age, not on hormonal birth control, by all means ovulate a day or two before the race; the resulting hormone surges, bloating and constipation will make everything: eating, sleeping, fitting into your trisuit/wetsuit, not feeling like a moose so much more challenging. Bonus if said condition makes you too nauseated to eat on race day.

You may experience the benefit of running/pedaling faster to catch up with that super hot guy in the trisuit ahead of you. After all, our lizard brains are looking for good strong breeding stock and these guys are it!

#6 Load up on fluids and fiber to offset the post ovulatory constipation and drink plenty of coffee; the resulting “flush” will keep you occupied all morning long both before and after you get to the race (and perhaps on your way there and after you put your wetsuit on) Bonus points if said race has insufficient port-a-potties on site.

#7 Don’t bother going through the process of filling your wetsuit with water, then climbing up on the beach to let it drain out, leaving only a thin layer of water for your body to heat up like the suit is designed to do. Just jump in and freeze your butt off. The chattering of your teeth will greatly amuse everyone in your swim start wave.

#8 Don’t adjust your swim goggles properly before starting out; it’s super fun when they fill with water. Bonus if you wear contact lenses.

#9 Don’t do a complete mechanical check on your bike; it’s super fun when one of the armrests on your areo bars comes loose and you almost fly off your bike as your forearm swings around wildly while your going 30 miles per hour.

#10 Be sure to make certain your feet are good and soaking wet from the swim while you attempt to put on your socks and bike shoes. The bunching that follows will provide entertainment throughout your bike and run.

#11 Make sure to over hydrate so that even after peeing in your wetsuit on the swim course (oh don’t look at me like that, everyone does it), you still have to make a choice as to if you want to pee while sitting on the grass in transition or duck into the bushes on your run. Bonus if you’re wearing a bright pink trisuit and everyone running past you on the trail knows what you’re doing.

#12 Don’t practice transitions and getting out of your wetsuit quickly. It will be a great source of amusement to your fellow competitors when you trip over your own feet, land on your butt and roll around on the ground in the transition area yelling, “GET IT OFF ME!!!” *note, this will not be amusing if you are in the aisle blocking someone from getting their bike in and out and could result in tire tracks across your face.

#13 Forget how the mutli sport function on your Garmin works and hit the wrong button immediately after exiting the swim.

#14 Hammer out a super hard pace on the bike for the entire course as if you don’t have to run afterwards, so that your legs are jello and you are disoriented when transitioning to the run. Bonus points if you run into a tree.

#15 DO… have a sense of humor about it all, because if you finished the race upright and walked away with a medal, it really is pretty damn funny.


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Wine Hog!

We came, we wined (& cheesed) and we oinked…

It was the annual Wine Hog celebration which is always held the Saturday closest to Ground Hog Day (I’m just late getting the photos up)

Everyone brought a wine or a cheese for non-snooty non-blind judging.

We had an even 12 cheeses and 12 wines.

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One of the important parts of Wine Hog is the table cloth which is brought out every year so that guests can sign and date it, draw on it, and write the odd dirty limerick.

The best poetry this year was Rick’s

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Allen made his usual appearance carrying a big summer sausage. I think this has been a joke for over twelve years now…

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He also brought the large white dog, Cody who along with my Corgi pup, Carmel’s fluffy Corgi (you can see her butt in the picture) made for an extra exciting evening.

Here’s Jim attempting to bribe the judges just before the final “wine off”vote…

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Not conindicdentally, the winning wine was Jim’s California Cupcake Red Velvet, with Charle’s Sky River Raspberry Honey Wine as the runner up

Here his is getting his [cue announcer voice] Faaaabulous WineHog Prize…

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the winning cheese was Knut and Alice’s Rondele with Rick and Tony’s Barber’s 1833 Cheddar as runner up.

And here they are getting their [cue announcer voice] Faaaabulous WineHog Prizes…

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Special mention was the Trader Joe’s chocolate cheddar which could not be entered into the competition but scored very high.

The rest of the photos are here in a slide show.

If the slideshow doesn’t embed properly in your broswer, you can view them here in Flickr…


If you are friends with either me, Jim, Charles or Carmel on Facebook, there is a hilarious after hours “oink off” video there.


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Here Comes the Sun! Winter Solstice 2011

Happy Winter Solstice (to those in the Northern Hemisphere; happy Summer Solstice to our friends South of the equator)

It’s only Solstice today for those of us in the US Central Time Zone and West. It will be at 9:30 PM tonight West Coast Time and it is 5:30 AM GMT/UTC).

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The days will slowly get longer again. For those of us in the far dark, frozen North, this is a big BIG deal!

Winter Solstice is the promise of new life; we really won’t notice the days getting longer until closer to Candlemas/Brigid/Ground Hog’s Day.

Tonight I will gather with a group of friends to celebrate the solstice. There will be food, drink and friendship as part of our annual observance. (the cool thing is, the event will occur while we are gathered 🙂

We will burn the Yule log (log from my friend Patricia’s yard, a bit of last year’s tree, boughs from this year’s tree and herbs from my garden) in the fire pit outside and pass the light from that fire to a circle of friends, we will put our wishes for the new season into a wish lantern and then we’ll return inside for more food, fun and drink.

It doesn’t matter what religion you are or aren’t. It doesn’t matter what you believe. The Solstice is an astronomical event that draws everyone together at this time of year to celebrate light, love and hope.

Each year, I love to post the Northern Exposure video to the story Raven Steals the Light being told (I’ve used it for the children’s story at Solstice rituals in years past)

It is a traditional story from the Northwest Coast and Alaska.

I like this Northern Exposure version.

Not everyone knows this, but the town of ‘Cicily Alaska” is about an hour and a half from where I live, and is in fact Roslyn Washington (yes, I’ve been to The Brick)

and here’s another wonderful story of light in a magical part of the world (the Great Pacific Northwest)…

And of course, my traditional Solstice post/greeting…

On this night, around 3,000 years BC, a very special event unfolds at a place we now call Newgrange. A group gathers around a large circular stone structure. A drumbeat resounds across the mist-shrouded hills of ancient Ireland, bump bump… bump bump… bump bump…; The heartbeat of mother earth. The scent of incense mingles with moss, moist earth and the burning torches. All gaze hopefully towards the eastern horizon. After what seems like an eternity, it happens, the rising sun begins its ascent. Once again all attention is turned to the structure with great anticipation. Suddenly an intense shaft of light pierces the innermost chamber of the structure, illuminating a stone basin adorned with carvings of spirals, eyes, solar disks, and other sacred symbols. A joyful sound rises from the crowd, who then begin to dance ecstatically. For the darkest darkness of winter has passed, and the light has returned. Soon: the hills will be covered in fresh green grasses and wildflowers, trees will bloom and set fruit, animals will give birth, the songs of birds will fill the skies. The cycle of life will continue. The world, once again, has been reborn.

Tonight we celebrate an event, which predates our modern religious celebrations, an event as old as time its self. Just as events like this were observed at Newgrange Ireland, we find similar ancient architectural wonders based on solstices and equinoxes all across Europe, Asia, The Americas, Indonesia and the Middle East. Thousands of years ago, these monolithic structures were built and elaborate ceremonies held, out of reverence for the cycle of life, and perhaps the fear that without human intervention, the sun would not return.

At the winter solstice, the tilt of the earth on its axis, is such that our hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun, our days are shortest and the sun is at the lowest arc in the sky. For thousands of years, our ancestors honored the cycles of life: solstices, equinoxes, harvests and plantings. The winter solstice is perhaps the most sacred of these celebrations. So sacred in fact, that modern religious observations all over the world take place on or near the time of the solstice. Solstice observance is not a celebration that excludes or dismisses any other religious celebration; rather it is the common bond of many modern and not so modern religions.

The time of the winter solstice represents death and rebirth, just as corn stalks wither and die in the fields in the fall, so does the symbolic god give his body to nourish the earth, only to be reborn of the goddess again on this darkest night. The original divine birth. Is it any wonder then: that the Christian church chose this sacred time of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Hebrew people to celebrate the Festival of Lights, or Native Americans and other aboriginal peoples to celebrate their sacred events?

Solstice is not only a time to celebrate the retreat of darkness and the return of the light, but it is a time to look inward, at the darkness within ourselves and to embrace it. For without darkness, there would be no light. Without challenge, there would be no triumph. It is a time to celebrate the death of old habits, thought patterns, and difficulties, a time to celebrate a spiritual renewal. The darkness gives us all a chance to embrace and work through our own darkness, so that like the earth, we may also be renewed.

L. Lisa Lawrence
Copyright 1998

Here’s our observance from 2007 (the video is just too much fun!)

Here are the songs from the video, my favorite Winter Solstice songs…

“The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said, “We’re up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay.”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, “It’s Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style,”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been a while.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a witch?”
His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning,” and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, you’re cousin’s not a Christian,
But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from , I think magic’s in the learning,
‘Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, “Really, no, don’t bother.”
Amber’s uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year,
He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas and your daughter’s here.”
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve,
Saying, “Can I be a Pagan?” Dad said, “We’ll discuss it when they leave.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old,
And making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold…

And of course, the required Solstice tune…

“Here comes the sun” by the Beatles

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right
It’s all right…

In a little under thirteen hours, the world is reborn again and will be filled with exciting possibilities!


Mood: Here Comes the Sun!!!


not so Chilly but still Hilly

Chilly Hilly was a BLAST this year.

Michale F and I arrived early because he needed to register; because of this, we got “Doris Day” parking on the Waterfront a bit South of the ferry dock.

There were a lot of people registered already and since the weather was sunny and spectacular (very unFebruary like) we knew that thousands of people who were waiting to see what the weather was going to do would be registering at the last minute. The final rider count was 6,028. Yikes!

The person on the loudspeaker kept saying, “plenty of time to catch the ferry”. I looked across the street and saw the loading area nearly full and barely got in the queue. This was when I realized that no matter how much I fantasize about a lovely island home on Vashon or another one of our beautiful islands, I’d want to shoot myself if I had to use a ferry to commute every day (maybe after I retire and just want to write and do photography)


I had a brief visit with fellow ride ref Michael Snyder at the registration area before I headed over.

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I discovered that I was only one row over from Allyson and Marizel, so I managed to squeeze over their direction and hang out with them while waiting to load.

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I was one of the last people to make it in the queue and as the boat pulled away from the dock, we saw that the queue was full again. A quick phone check of my facebook status replies showed that Michael didn’t quite make it and there is a cutoff on the number of cyclists, not due to space limitations (it was weird not to see the deck covered in bikes) but to the number of life jackets available on the ship (that’s the law)

I ran into lots of friends on the boat (hey, with well over 6,000 people on the ride, it’s impossible not to find people you know) and spent a lot of time answering text and voice mail messages of friends I was trying to connect up with.

There were more than a few jokes about being glad that our tsunami was the day before (our tsunami was inches rather than feet)

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I met Leo and my friend Bill on the Island side and waited until after the screaming hordes attacked the first hill to start our ride and ride ref duties. We figured that it would be helpful to sweep for those having mechanical problems or other issues (it was mentioned to me by a club member that they never see ride refs in the back of the pack) and that the slower riders might be more in need of support and learning about safe and courteous riding. The added bonus was that it was much less stressful than riding up the first hill in the middle of all the wobbles, stops and crashes (which there were plenty of refs already doing).

We honked our ride ref horns a LOT, made lots of bad jokes, sang silly songs, and made a huge deal out of thanking people engaging in safe and courteous riding behavior.

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We got a lot of thank yous for being out there and only a few dirty looks from people we asked nicely to “please remember to call “on your left” when passing”. (thinking to myself here… Uh, excuse me? You are the one breaking the rules of the ride you signed up for and agreed to abide by are breaking laws, endangering others and when I ask you nicely to remember to follow the rules/laws I’m the jerk? Whatever…)

I’d say my biggest frustration was riders for whom “CAR BACK” seemed to mean “ride three abreast, pass people and take up the entire lane so that cars need to cross the double yellow line (bonus for doing so on blind corners) to get around slower riders.” (there are always a few buttheads in every crowd)

I was riding up one of the big steep hills at the end (the first of the series just before the church with the water stop and blessings) and thanked a gentleman for saying “on your left” as he passed me (we believe in loudly thanking people for doing the right thing in order to encourage such behavior from all parties in the future). The woman I had passed a hundred yards or so back who was walking her bike up the hill (and yes, I said on your left when I passed her) starting yelling at me… “WHAT DID YOU MEAN BY THAT?” I don’t know how she could have thought I was talking to her, I was nowhere near her. (and how is “thank you” offensive?) At this point I was sucking wind and couldn’t have yelled back if I wanted to. Luckily, Leo was behind me and explained to her that I was thanking the gentleman who had just passed me courteously.

The positive interactions far outweighed the negative. Overall, I’d say that the riders this year were more courteous than last year which is surprising given the huge volume of riders.

Leo and I pulled into the finish line, chatted with friends, turned in our ride ref bibs and met Bill in the beer garden.

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I ran into Crystal, Michael F joined us and then we headed over to Docs Marina Grill (with a few detours around the ferry dock and other areas looking for the place because we just hadn’t ridden enough hills already) to meet Marizel, Allyson and others for beer, chowder and a bit of the USA/Canada hockey game. We were in there when team USA tied up the game in overtime. The place went NUTS!

Michael and I headed out to catch the 2:55 ferry. OMG, the lines (of cars and bikes) were the longest I’ve ever seen them. We weren’t convinced that we were going to make it on that boat, but we managed to get on just before the cutoff. It wouldn’t have been a crisis as the weather was lovely, but we were tired and didn’t feel like hanging out on line to wait for the next boat.

It was a lovely ride back.

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I ran into my friend Lynne in line so we got to hang out a bit.

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of course, we had to do the obligatory “Look at us on the boat with Seattle in the background picture”

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On a physical note, I felt MUCH better than last year (pretty easy to do)

I was in better shape, as I’ve been exercising more consistently. Last year I hadn’t eaten or slept for 3-days and had been very sick from the stress of my mother’s impending death, layoffs at work and some other things (not the least of which was the selfish jerk I was dating at the time who made everything more stressful).

I ended being SAGed off the course just after the rest stop because I was bonking (as it turned out, after I uploaded my Garmin data, I discovered that my heart rate had peaked at 215 and stayed there for over an hour)

That nasty hill just before the rest stop got me again this year; which was mostly due to lack of legs, my cardio-vascular system is in great shape. Perhaps I just psyched myself out.

When I saw Baker Hill, I almost died (I had been SAGed off the course before this point last year so it was the first time I’d seen it) and said to the guy next to me, “I see a walk in my immediate future” but I cruised up that sucker as well as those bad nasties at the end with no problem at all. (not saying I was fast, just saying I made it without stopping or walking)

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The weather was great, seeing so many friends was great; and the fact that we got beer at the beer garden before they ran out was great.

The rest of the pictures are available here:

Today, I’m resting in the morning, cleaning my filthy apartment, going grocery shopping, and running errands. Tonight, I’m doing masters swim and TWBC ride leader training.

Tomorrow I go back to work to rest.


Mood: Tired