Northwest Fairytale

Once upon a time in August I spent the month in a beautiful cedar cottage on a small island in the Puget Sound.  It was quiet, peaceful, and magical.  With one small exception…

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The house was a bit like a gingerbread house.  Brown and warm and sweet.

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The land was like a fairytale, too.  There were big fir and cedar trees.  Lots of flowers.  There truly was an air of magic.  Like real fairies lived there.  (I think they do!)

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The island where the house is located is called Bainbridge.  It’s about a 30 minute ferry ride from Seattle.  I went to Seattle one day.  It was surprisingly quite a bit more trouble than expected.  A 30 minute ferry ride actually took about 2 hours because there is a long queue and boarding/unloading process.  It was a beautiful ride, but I only did it the one time due to the laboriousness and expense (about $38 round trip with a vehicle).  I cannot really believe that many people go through that process every single day (to commute to work in Seattle).  But, they do.

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(The ferry queue.  Bring a book…)

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(Up in front with the kiddies!  It’s the best spot.  But windy.)

I had a fun day in Seattle–visited many of my old favorite spots.  I did my internship (first year of post-graduate medical training) in Seattle in 2005-6.  I loved Seattle, but it was a busy year.  I did not really get to know the city as well as I’d hoped.  I lived in the neighborhood called Wallingford, and I spent most of my time there (when not at work).  It’s a wonderful spot, particularly because of its proximity to Gas Works Park–a beautiful, lively place to spend an afternoon, especially on a sunny summer day.

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While visiting Seattle, I ate at one of my favorite restaurants there, which may also be my favorite Thai restaurant anywhere:  Kwanjai Thai.  It’s a tiny little spot, in a pale-colored, wooden house–just off the main square in the Fremont neighborhood.  It is pretty unassuming in appearance, and the prices are very reasonable.  But do not walk by this gem!  They have the best Panang Curry I have ever tasted (and I have tried a lot).  Add tofu.  They also have delicious spicy eggplant and mixed vegetables.

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I love to shop at the PCC market in Fremont and walk along the canal.  The Sunday Market is fun, too.

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When I lived in Seattle this market was much smaller.  It was mostly produce, flowers, handmade soaps, a few local crafts vendors, etc.  Now there are antiques and all kinds of miscellany.  It’s almost like a swap meet.  Not as casual and charming as it used to be, but still a pretty cool thing to check out…

Riding the ferry back at sunset was peaceful…

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Life on Bainbridge is pretty slow.  It is very green, like a green dream.  And kind of damp, relatively speaking, even in the summer.  There is moss on the trees and rocks and a coolness in the air.  There is a really great coffeeshop called Hitchcock Cafe where I got an incredible cappuccino one afternoon and literally the best fudge I’ve ever tasted in my life.  The barista was a beautiful young woman, beaming with life.  She made me ponder how lovely it is when someone is truly happy and willing to share their happiness with strangers.  It really does affect your day–if someone sincerely happy (in love, perhaps) enters your world…I try to do this for people, but on the day I met her, she was the one who made me feel happier.  I enjoyed the moment and was grateful.  And when I tasted the fudge, I was very, very grateful.

The fudge was ancho chili, sea salt, and chocolate.  It was not too sweet and very spicy.  I ate a piece for about 3 or 4 days in a row and felt totally amazing about it, until I realized I might want to not have that much sugar on an ongoing basis.  At that point I paused my little fudge parade, and strangely I never managed to get another piece.  The shop was always just closing when I happened to be in town or mysteriously out of fudge.

My favorite thing to do on Bainbridge was jog through the moderately old growth (second or third growth, I would guess) forested trails (about 2 miles worth) literally just behind the property of the house I’d rented.

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The trails wound through the woods, across part of the island, and down to the water.  I loved running through the woods to the ocean’s edge, at Blakely Harbor, where I would sit on a log and contemplate the incredible beauty–the smells, the quality of the air, the trees, and on one special evening, a beautiful sunset full moon rise.  It totally surprised me!  I did not know where the moon was going to rise or in which direction I was facing, but suddenly the moon popped above the tree line, over the water and part of the island directly in front of me.  It was incredible.  Pinks, oranges, blues, purples.  The moment was very ethereal–light breeze, sea gulls, boats tinking (tink, tink, tink–clips hitting masts) and bobbing.  And I was just taking it in…all by myself…on a peaceful, deserted shore.

Thank you life.

I wish I could have talked myself into taking my camera along for one of my runs, but I just really don’t like to run with electronics.  It takes away from my experience.  Plus, I can actually feel the subtle EMFs they give off, even on Airplane mode.  Thus, I’d really rather only use the  phone or ipod when I really need to be entertained.   And in those cases I definitely prefer to not hold it in my hand.  So, all that is just to say that I don’t have a photo of my favorite spot, and if you weren’t thinking about radiation or EMFs from your cell phone, it’s maybe worth a sliver of awareness.  But, use your own judgement, of course.  I’m sensitive, and I can feel it.  Less sensitive people might actually not be as susceptible to the effects of these sorts of things… It’s an interesting question, and I do not know the official answer.

Back to the photos.  I do have a picture of a nearby park I also liked to visit, in addition to the harbor.  The park is higher up–with a view of the water and a community prayer wheel made by a local artist.  I used to go by the park on the way to the water’s edge.  On one of my first days on the island, I walked just to the park and had my camera with me.

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Can you see why I said Bainbridge is kind of like a “green dream”?  There is this quiet, other-worldly quality to the land and the vistas.  It is a very restful, peaceful place.

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Another wonder of my time in the Pacific Northwest was the situation of “wild blackberries”.  On the way down to Blakely Harbor, where I would sit by the shore, was a small stretch of path that was literally a tunnel of blackberries.  Both sides.  Up high and down low.  For the first few weeks of my stay, they were not ripe, but the last week they were in varying stages of exquisite.  Every few nights I’d jog down to the harbor and pick several handfuls of blackberries to eat while I watched the “sky show” (sky changing colors at sunset).  It was heavenly.  I truly have never tasted more delicious blackberries.  I became quite skilled at picking them at the perfect stage of ripeness, too.  That was fun!  To be in tune with blackberries.  I felt in tune with the deer, too.  I knew they were eating them when no one was looking because their tracks were everywhere…

One of the highlights of my trip to Bainbridge was a tour of Islandwood, an amazing eco-education center that occupies a large piece of land that was very near my little cabin-home-for-a-month.   Islandwood is a special place, and it is one of the reasons I even knew about Bainbridge Island.  A few years ago I read an article about Islandwood in a Harper’s Bazaar magazine that arrived mysteriously at my door (in Tucson, AZ)(I did not have a subscription), and since then I’ve wanted to come see it.  Treehouse classrooms, permaculture gardens, plant-based on-site waste-water treatment, and many acres of protected wildlife habitats where city children can come to learn and discover…  It is truly a wonderland!

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One of the other people on the tour (an island local) took me to a well-known Bainbridge landmark called the Harbor Pubic House (at the “main” Bainbridge harbor–not the little one I visited on my runs) after our Islandwood adventure.  I’m not much of a beer drinker (or drinker of any alcohol, really), but I did try one.  I liked it so-so, but the view I liked a lot.  I actually went to this restaurant twice because the ambiance was so pleasant!  Patio seating, peaceful vibes, incredible views.  I am generally quite health conscious, but I also endeavor to be flexible.  I believe in listening to the body, really.  Mine will usually inform me (within minutes to hours of eating) if my choices were/are aligned with health or not… There’s always the standard way of learning, too.  Books, reading, etc. That works.  I have done a lot of that.  But the body is really the best teacher.  It knows the subtleties of what we need.  The trick is really learning how to listen…

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One other thing I really loved about Bainbridge was the Farmer’s Market.  They have one of the best Farmer’s Markets I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to a lot (I go to them everywhere…)!  What I loved so much about this market was the setting, which was in a park with trees and grassy sitting areas.  What I loved second about this market was the live music.  Third, the delicious food vendors.  Fourth, the amazing flower arrangements.

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Have you ever seen a more charming flower display?

I’m not sure I have!

Imagine a peaceful community scene of shoppers, families, flowers, veggies, bluegrass music, a barista in a mini-Airstream trailer, and several local hot food vendors.  The music is free.  You can shop, get a coffee and a snack, sit on the grass, listen to music, and if you are lucky, which in summer you usually are, enjoy the perfect temperature and sunny weather.  And, you probably have in your hand one of the most beautiful bouquets of flowers you’ve ever seen.  Except the week before.  And the week before that…

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Other than going to the market and running through the forest, I used my time in Washington to start my first blog Diary of a Mystic Gypsy”, which is mostly poetry, and work on a bead art mosaic I’m calling “Dolphin Love”.  I have this fascination with mosaic artwork, especially mosaics made from tiny seed beads.  Think Huichol indians–they are definitely one of my inspirations.  I like the beadwork projects because they require a lot of focus, so I am able to really enter into a blissful mindstate that most artists and athletes call “The Zone”.  In The Zone there is no time, no worry, no to do list.  There is only complete presence.  And to me, perfect presence is bliss.

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I definitely love an outdoor art studio…And portable art…

To make bead mosaics I use wooden tea tree oil soaked toothpics (available at any natural market) and ordinary Elmer’s School Glue.  I prefer Toho beads, but I did not have access to them for this project.  So, I used Mill Hill brand.  They were quite nice as well.  More variety of colors and textures but smaller quantities.

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This project probably took about 35 hours.  It definitely was a process of “stages”.  Stage 1 was the ocean, then the dolphin, then the cloud, then spiral of the sun.  Next came the yellow of the sun and the clear accents.  Finally, the colors of the sunset sky and the white accents.  Every step was fun for me, and the time passed quickly.  Now, I have a bright, colorful, whimsical dolphriend.  He makes me smile every day.

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I really adore dolphins and already have dedicated a post to them on my Diary of a Mystic Gypsy blog.  I will also talk more about them when I cover the Big Island, Hawaii portion of my adventure.  For now, I just want to say DOLPHINS–I ♡ you–joyful, magical, healing, FUN!

Okay.  That just about covers the “what was magical” section of my post.  What about the exception to magicalness that I mentioned in the first paragraph?

Well, I may be a psychiatrist and a healer, but I am definitely not 100% evolved or enlightened.  I am consciously and lovingly on a path of growth…and service.  But, I am also still learning–working to become the very best ME I can be…every single day.  On Bainbridge what was seemingly “unmagical” was a surprising interpersonal challenge I had with someone I met there.  Although in the end, that, too, was pretty magical.  It just took a bit of work for me to arrive at that perspective.

Now, I tend to believe that everyone who comes into our lives, especially in a greater than fleeting way, does so for a reason.  So, that I met this person and connected enough to even have an interpersonal challenge is significant.  I generally don’t have a whole lot of interpersonal challenges.  But, being that I’m not completely through my life-lessons (and I am a Scorpio…with Cancer rising (ie, super sensitive)), when the time is right, they appear!

What happened with this person seemed to be a bilateral “pushing of buttons”.  (I cannot say for sure what she experienced, as it’s certainly something at least somewhat different from what I experienced…But, there did seem to be a duet happening…)  “Pushing buttons” is one of my favorite psychiatric terms.  I use it often in my work with patients, and to me it means “to irritate”.  People can irritate us for various reasons, and ALL of them are important.  I view irritation as a sign, a sign which suggests: “LOOK DEEPER”.  It is not a cue to run.  Not if you want to grow, anyway.  So, when I got irritated, I had to take notice.  Why am I getting irritated?  What is happening to bother me?  What I believed was happening was that this person was doing something that I didn’t like–that I possibly perceived to be affecting me negatively.  But when I looked deeper, I saw that actually she is subtly like me in some ways, with habits that I believed I’d eradicated or “healed”.  She was doing something that I knew I did sometimes or had done in the past.  And, the behaviors in common were things I had tried to “heal” because I didn’t like them.

I realized I was judging this person and thus, myself for having this or these so-called undesirable behaviors or tendencies.  What needed to happen next was an extension of compassion to myself–for all the times I’d acted this way or at least thought to…

Could I forgive myself, in other words?

The answer was a little slow in coming, but it was a yes.  I could forgive myself.  That is one way (I believe) we come to truly love.  We accept and forgive, even those things we do not find 100% optimal (in ourselves and others).  So, I faced these parts of myself, acknowledged them, and forgave them, which is maybe something I was unable to do many years ago, when the behaviors were more common in my life.  No one had reminded me of these parts of myself in some time, so I’d practically forgotten they were there.

So, this wonderful AND challenging person was a teacher for me.  (She truly was quite wonderful and delightful–just complex, as many people are.)  Through our dynamic, she showed me an area within my heart where I seemed to be holding love and compassion away from myself.

Life is rich, and every day we are given opportunities to see where we need to grow.  Most of us just push these opportunities aside, possibly believing that another person in the dynamic is the one with a problem.  But if we reframe it to see that they may be showing us something about ourselves, then we have an enormous opportunity.  I have discovered through years of living this way (and working with this idea professionally) that interactions with people SHIFT dramatically when this perspective is applied.  I cannot say for certain this perspective is 100% accurate in every situation, but it often seems to be.  If nothing else, thinking this way usually brings about transformation and insight.  When applied regularly, things that used to “trigger us” very obviously lessen.  The “buttons”  shrink and eventually disappear.  One day we encounter the kind of person who might have pushed our buttons in the past, and at that point we barely have a bLeeP in their presence.  With compassion, we can love our would-be button pushers, and thank them sincerely for their role in our evolution…

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So, the moral of the story is:  the challenging character is me.  With enough love, there’s no challenge…and really no characters…probably no story either…

Thank you Washington…Thank you Fairytale,

…for truly being one of the most transformational stops on my journey.

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And they all lived happily ever after.  

THE END

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