Thursday, December 29, 2005

Steelhead – the Ultimate Sportfishing Encounter?

My son Doug and I should have gone steelhead fishing today. But we got washed out – just like last year near this time. Although this time we didn’t suffer the indignity of driving several hours and spending a night in a motel only to wake up in the pre-dawn darkness to a downpour and an unfishable, swollen river.

This time, we were fortunate to receive an advance warning.

Living here in northwest Washington State is a wonderful privilege, amidst what many consider to be the finest steelhead rivers in the continental U.S. But due to complicated schedules, we only have a few shots a season to try to engage this wily prey. Today was to be one of them.

Unfortunately, our guide called yesterday and indicated that the Bogachiel River was unfishable. The “Bogey”, as it’s called, is usually one of the first to clear after a rain storm and often needs less than a day of no rain to do so. However, a deluge late the night before last muddied things up – in more ways than one.

In order to be successful in catching steelhead, a variety of conditions have to be just right. Outdoor temperature, river depth, water clarity, water temperature and water flow all have to be within specified ranges, or you’re just wasting your time.

We were scheduled to fish with Bob Ball, one of the area’s finest steelhead guides and host of the outstanding outdoor web site, Piscatorial Pursuits Our plans were to drift down the Bogachiel River either floating jigs under a bobber or drifting eggs on a corky or backtrolling with a flatfish or hotshot, depending on what the river conditions dictated.

Bob had determined, pending good weather, that the “Bogey” was our best bet to try to hook one or more of these powerful, feisty, anadromous trout species. Hatchery fish are running now, and they are generally between five and 10+ pounds.

If lucky, we might have bumped into an early native steelhead which can range up to 20 pounds or more in size but must be returned to the river. The thrill of the native catch is the challenge of a larger, more difficult-to-land fish – especially on lighter gear. Some say there is no equal in all of sportfishing.

In addition to the Bogey, there are several other nearby (to Forks, WA) rivers that also offer incredible steelhead fishing. The Calawah, the Sol Duc and the world famous Hoh all are rivers that are clustered with the Bogey in this section of the Olympic National Forest. Each has its own quirky manner of dispersing large dumps of water to eventually become fishable once again.

We missed our shot this time, but maybe we can get a chance next week if the rains abate and avoid the Forks area for a few days. Hopefully the next post on this subject will include a photo of a successful piscatorial conquest.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Can You Help Us Choose A Dog?

Kay Lynne and I have not yet made a final decision as to whether or not we're going to get a dog. We're strongly leaning that way (me mostly) but "the jury is still out".

We've had several dogs before, but the reasons for getting one now are quite different from before. As retired people, the primary reason now, of course, is companionship and fun. Additionally, I'd like a "tag-along buddy" to go with me in the car on errands, in the boat when fishing, and on walks, etc. as I'm able. We've had a sheltie and a lab but never a King Charles Spanel.

The priorities for me (KL will go along with "any of them", she says), in order of importance, are: a) a "buddy" and "tag-along", b) a "laid back" dog rather than a "hyper" dog, c) bonding and sociability with the entire family including granddaughters and theirs and other dogs, d) "controllable" friendliness with visitors, and e) that it be a medium sized dog (to the smaller rather than larger). These are not "in concrete" but are preferences.

If we decide to go ahead, the three dogs we've identified as all being acceptable for us are (top to bottom) Buster, the Sheltie, JoBob the Golden Retriever, and Rudy, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The Sheltie is two years old, the Golden is a year, and the Cav is almost a year, so they're all beyond the impetuous puppy stage. The problem is, WE (I) CAN'T MAKE A SELECTION! They're all wonderful in their own way.

Given our priorities, if I had to choose today, it would be Rudy the Cav. My only hesitation is that we've never had this breed, and I'm not sure I'm a "cute dog" person (in contrast to a "sporting buddy" person). I'm beginning to conclude from online info and breeders, however, that the Cav can also be a "sporting buddy".

If any of you have breed experience with any of these dogs, or just general dog knowledge, I'd appreciate your comments AND your vote in the comments link. I/we need something outside of ourselves to help us make a good choice. Thanks much.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

God's Strange Ideas

We went to church last Sunday at Poulsbo First Lutheran Church. For several Sundays, now, my wife and I have attended there. As mentioned in previous posts, since moving to this area a little more than a year and a half ago, we have had, for some reason, a difficult time finding a church a) where we felt that we fit in and b) where the teaching and form of worship accommodated where we are in our faith journeys. More on that in a forthcoming blog….

Preaching last Sunday morning was the Co-Associate Pastor, Alison Shane. She and her husband, Kent, share the Associate Pastor position. What a unique blessing – a wife and husband, both gifted in ministry, both fully prepared and ordained, and both sharing a common responsibility in a vocational position to which God has called them. This is truly a rare phenomenon.

Be that as it may, her sermon was what got me thinking. She gave me permission to quote part of it. The quote is in italics; read it carefully:

“We are confronted with another of God’s strange ideas in today’s gospel text. From Luke we heard the story of Gabriel coming to Mary and telling her what was to occur. This is what I find strange: Gabriel says to Mary, ‘You have found favor with God. And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’

“Now, that sounds pretty great, right? What’s strange about that, you ask? Mary has found favor with God, and so God has chosen her to bear his son, and this son is going to be great.

“We tend to think this way, too. We think that when we are successful in our jobs or in life, somehow we have found favor with God. We think that if we have wealth or other prized things, we have found favor with God. We think that as long as death has not touched us closely, we have found favor with God.

“But Mary had found favor with God, God chose her, a virgin, to bear his child. God chose her to endure ostracism, disgrace, humiliation, and distress. God chose her to bear a son who would pointedly assert that his followers were his family. God chose her to bear a son who would so rile the status quo that those in power would have him killed brutally and publicly.

“I guess you have to be careful when you find favor with God. Because finding favor with God is not about God rewarding good behavior. Finding favor with God is not even about God rewarding faith. Finding favor with God is about God working out his will, his love for his people, even his justice through you.”

WOW, wow, wow. These are “strange ideas”! It’s NOT ABOUT US at all. It’s about what GOD WANTS TO ACCOMPLISH in and through us. Actually, I got several points from this small portion of her poignant sermon—

The first is that the lesson of Mary’s being chosen by God for this all-important mission, and her availability and willingness to carry it out, had everything to do with what God was going to accomplish and much less to do with Mary herself, though she was blessed above any other woman. This is a lesson we all need to recognize as it applies to us.

The second thing that hit me is the refutation of the idea that if we are doing well, or at least without significant travail, (especially here in affluent America) then God might be favoring us. Or, conversely, if we're not doing well, then we may not be in God's favor. Neither of these is likely the case, if we reflect carefully on what Pastor Shane said.

What I concluded from her comments in this regard is that God doesn’t necessarily favor us with “good” things or dis-favor us with "bad" things. In other words, if things are going well or badly, it doesn’t necessarily follow that one is in or out of God’s favor. Just think about Job, for instance.

In the “evangelical world” where I have spent many, many years, I have often observed the widely accepted belief that if we are materially well off, we must therefore be blessed by God. After all, isn’t there a very popular television preacher now peddling a book that tells me I can have “(My) Best Life Now”? (And by implication have that "good life" because I am in God's favor?)

Could this be a case of grossly misplaced focus? Unfortunately, hordes of evangelicals buy into this kind of thinking.

Isn’t it interesting that when we look at the scriptures and receive proper exegesis, it might be that quite the opposite is true! I am concluding that God is far less concerned with our "good life" than he is with working his will through us according to HIS good pleasure, no matter what that entails.

The third thing I realized is that if we want God to favor us, then we need to be readily available and totally willing to let him work his will through us. And of course I must admit that this is where I am an abject failure – along with most of you, probably.

Our challenge as Christ's followers is not to focus on ourselves by seeking the "good life" but to focus on God in seeking to live out his will. Lord knows there’re a lot of neighbors to love and much justice to be pursued in our chaotic world.

What a formidable task we, as followers of Christ, have before us, not only at this Christmas season, but also in our daily living. Thank you, Pastor Alison, for your insight.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas is almost here

Can you think of another word besides “Christmas” that contains so much meaning and encapsulates so many memories? What is it about this magical time of year that actually affects our emotional outlook on life itself?

Virtually every one of us can look back on our Christmas memories and bring to mind a wealth of wonderful, warm and fuzzy recollections. I’m aware, of course, that this is not always the case with some, and our hearts, increasingly, go out to those who are not able to enjoy this miraculous season.

During the past ten days we three times drove the short distance to Oregon in order to take in our granddaughters’ Christmas programs. One of the main reasons we moved to the Northwest last year was to be able to easily do things like this.

Of course they performed wonderfully, Talli having a leading part and Hayley a double role in the drama, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”, performed at their church. Talli also played her trumpet in her school’s Christmas band concert. And little Aubrey knew every word and motion for her pre-school Christmas carol performance.

The beaming, graying, photo flash-snappers were their grandparents (on both sides). My wife and I probably broke all the “no flash” rules - if there were any - during every event. However, the distance from our camera to the subject was much too far to get good pictures (note photos which I attempted – unsuccessfully – to “doctor”). That's Aubrey on the left, Talli in the center and Hayley on the right.

Now we can look forward to celebrating Christmas together as a family. Looks like it’ll be at Gregg & Elaine’s place this year, as it would be hard for them to travel with him having to preach, etc., on Christmas day. Doug and Jamie are currently in Paris enjoying their holiday break visiting historical sites such as the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees or the Arc de Triomphe. Thankfully, they’ll be home and at Gregg & Elaine’s by Christmas.

And then we’ll add some more warm and fuzzy recollections for the future.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Our family tradition for many years was to trek through a nearby forest and cut down, with a hand saw, our personally selected Christmas tree. In those days it was pure "fun". For one thing, we lived in California then, and the weather was usually warm and sunny – even in December – with few exceptions.

The drive home with a gorgeous trophy tree on the car’s roof was almost as good as being in the Thanksgiving Day parade.

Gregg and Doug, our then young sons, loved to scamper from tree to tree hollering, “I like THIS one”. Followed by, “No, I like THIS ONE!” After a long search, which usually included a good degree of debate, we’d find a semblance of consensus. I think our boys began to learn the meaning of “compromise” with this exercise.

Kay Lynne likes very full (think squatty and wide) trees. I also like full trees but not as “wide” at the bottom. I like the “classic” shape – whatever that is. The boys each also had their own ideas about what a perfect tree should look like. Whether or not the considered tree had a single, straight enough, top branch on which to place the star, always produced considerable additional deliberation.

We moved to Oregon in 1981 when Gregg was in junior high school and Doug was in elementary school. In Oregon, the tree cutting tradition took on two added dimensions – a colder climate and seasonal weather. During one of the early Decembers in Oregon I remember the four of us driving out past Carver in eastern Clackamas county to a beautiful hillside tree farm.

Only it wasn’t beautiful that day. It was raining steadily as is customary in Oregon. And it was cold. And muddy. And slippery. By the time we had tromped around every corner of the farm and agreed on a tree, we were all soaked, freezing and pasted with mud – though I’m sure the boys felt nothing but elation.

Then, of course, DAD had to lay down in said mud and try to saw the tree down. I think it was one of those “thick-bottomed” trees my wife likes – which correspondingly had a very thick trunk and wouldn’t fit the tree stand when we got it home.

I believe it was this particular experience, now etched indelibly in my memory, that caused me to begin glancing at – gasp! – artificial trees. Manufactured trees are made out of who knows what, but they can look pretty good – especially when decorated.

For years I only looked at artificial trees, occasionally dropping positive comments which landed on deaf ears. As I checked into them, I found out that they only take about an hour or less to assemble.

There are a half dozen or more layers of branches, each of whose length varies, from the longest at the bottom to the shortest at the top. You just stick each branch into the “trunk”, level by level, and – presto – you have a tree. And NO accompanying flu.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if our tree is hand cut – or assembled from a box. Take a look at the photo and come to your own conclusion. The only thing you can’t enjoy via this method is the fragrance.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thanksgiving Afterglow

As an aside, it’s snowing today at our house (top pic), and we’re savoring its beauty. Notice the large flakes near the lens.

For retired folks like us who are grandmas and grandpas, and moms and dads, holiday get-togethers are a wonderful catharsis. The only problem is, they never last long enough.

All my wife and I have remaining from a very enjoyable Thanksgiving Day are memories – and they are wonderful. It’s therapeutic for me to reminisce about a few of them.

We had a wonderful last minute surprise this year when our son Gregg called the weekend before Thanksgiving and said they could come our way after all. Elaine’s brother and family would not be able to come north to Newberg, so now Gregg’s family could come to our place.

Our other son Doug and his wife Jamie had planned to come all along, and so we were thrilled to learn both families would be here. As an added bonus, Elaine’s mom and dad were able to join us (from Newberg, Oregon), and thanks to her dad, Kennard, an avid photography enthusiast, we have a beautiful photo remembrance of the event.

We had one entire remarkable day to all be together and try to catch up on what’s going on in everyone’s life. The sweet chatter of our three granddaughters provided a welcome involvement in all our proceedings.

Of course there was the wonderful meal, served in a beautifully decorated setting, in which Kay Lynne outdid herself yet again (how is this possible?). Those who came brought incredible “goodies” to enhance the feast – pies, beverages, candied nuts and treats galore.

Gregg and Elaine brought along their little dog, Jack, a delightful Jack Russell Terrier mix who quickly took over the household and warmed his way into everyone’s hearts. Jack hit it off especially well with Doug who has a special affinity for dogs. Our granddaughters really enjoyed the chance to play and clown around with “Uncle Doug” and “Aunt Jamie”.

Yes, the memories are now etched on our hard drives. Hopefully we’ll be able to do a search on demand when we’d like, but I admit to my hardrive being overloaded and somewhat fragmented at my age. Thankfully, we have the photos. Gregg, Elaine and the girls were able to stay a couple of extra days until Saturday, so we had some quality time together.

Pics are of Doug, Aubrey and Jack (above right), and (below) Hayley having some pie with her whipped cream and Talli playing her trumpet for us.

Monday, November 21, 2005

“Pura Vida" in Costa Rica – Chapter 6: Leaving It All For “Pura Vida”

One of the most interesting people we met in Costa Rica was a waitress. In reality, she was much more, but we got to know her as a food server in one of Playa Tamarindo’s best restaurants.

Her name is Olivia. She is mid to late 30’s, slim, attractive, very professional in her work and obviously quite intelligent. The evening of our offshore fishing excursion, when we brought our freshly caught Tuna to Gecko’s at Iguana Surf for our dinner preparation, she was the one who waited on us.

(In checking through my trip photos we must not have taken one of Olivia; hopefully my cousin Jim will have one among their pictures. If so, I’ll add it to this blog post at a later date.)

Olivia grew up in upstate New York and, in contrast to everyone in her family, was always on the go. She loved new places and new experiences and in fact was turned on by the freshness of change. New venues became commonplace.

Late In her twenties, she ended up in the Big Apple as a successfully rising young business professional. Her days consisted of awaking early, spending long days at the office and then coming home late in the evening to a TV dinner before crashing and doing it all over again the next day.

We had asked her what had brought her to Costa Rica. She related the tale of grooving into her fast-paced career in New York City, but she pointed out that she found her life style to be less than enjoyable. One morning while getting ready for another day in the grind, she looked in the mirror and said out loud, “WHAT are you doing?”

Soon thereafter Olivia quit her job and decided to set out for parts unknown, much to the chagrin of her family. She pulled out a world map, closed her eyes and pointed. Her finger landed on Costa Rica. A month later she was living the good life in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

She found the Tico life style much to her liking. A hard worker, she soon was gainfully employed, saving money, and making friends. She loved the laid back life style and the incredible surfing environment of Playa Tamarindo. That must be why she was tanned so darkly.

Does she have any regrets? None, whatsoever, she says. And now her business training and entrepreneurship tendencies are beginning to flower in the tropics. With money she had saved, she and two partners had just opened a little breakfast café right on the beach. I believe it was called “Morning Grinds” (as in coffee and surfing?) or something closely catchy. The picture above was taken in their new venture at which we stopped for our last meal in Tamarindo before driving back to Liberia.

Olivia left it all for “pura vida” in Guanacaste Province. She's been there about three years now. And I’ve got a feeling it’ll be a long time, if ever, before she goes back to New York City.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Break Time

Believe it or not, we retired folks actually work once in a while. This is one of those (rare :-) times, and so I'm taking a break from blogging for a few days. I don't want to "overstress".

In truth, I wonder what in the world I did when I worked full time. How did I get anything done? So, until I finish my work assignments from a couple of old clients I'll likely refrain from posting. When I do post again, it'll be a good time to see if I'm all spent on Costa Rica. I think there might be a post or two left inside me, mostly having to do with people we met and with the (laid back) life style in "paradise" where they live the "pura vida".

I'm also soaking in Randy Maddox' "Responsible Grace" on the theology of John Wesley. I would love to have been a contemporary of Wesley and to have lived close enough to be able to have listened to his sermons (from which much of his theology expressed itself). Not sure I could handle traveling by horseback or horse-drawn vehicles, though. I like the airplane too much.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

“Pura Vida” in Costa Rica – Chapter 5: Gold Coast B&B Is An Epicurean Delight

Gourmet dining seems to be the rule rather than the exception on Guanacaste’s Gold Coast. Whether your choice is a nice bed and breakfast, a fine hotel or a favorite restaurant, you are rarely disappointed. Our experiences certainly bore that out.

The first place we visited was Sueno Del Mar, a nearby Playa Langosta Bed & Breakfast that would serve you their scrumptious breakfast even though you weren’t staying there, if you made advance reservations. On the recommendations of many we did. And we were not sorry. Sueno Del Mar, translated, means "Ocean Dream", so it is aptly named. (Pic above is Kay, Jim, myself and Kay Lynne arriving at the B&B.)

We were ushered in to an open but covered patio adjacent to the aromatic kitchen where tables were meticulously set for guests. From there you overlooked the placid swimming pool with a view of the crashing ocean waves just beyond and through the trees.

The owners and hosts, Paul Thabault and Nancy Money, Vermont transplants enjoying “pura vida”, greeted us warmly. We were exchanging pleasantries, mostly sharing our home towns and backgrounds, when a lovely Tico server brought us each an incredible plate of fresh-cut, local fruit – papaya, pineapple, banana and a tropical, mandarin-like citrus, accompanied by a natural, refreshing cocoanut-milk drink served in a cocoanut shell with a straw. What a welcome!

The main dish was “juevos con queso”, a delicious locally-seasoned scramble with ample cheeses melted in. They had several local Tabasco-like accent sauces (one or two home-made, I think) which we had not ever tasted before but which worked marvelously with the entrée. For the better part of an hour we reveled in Paul and Nancy’s version of “pura vida”.

With the beach a few steps away, we took a walk out onto the sand following our meal (middle pic was taken from beach side of eating area & bottom pic is Kay Lynne, Jim and Kay with Nancy). I later emailed both of my sons and told them if they ever wanted to take a second honeymoon, this would be the perfect place – total seclusion, indescribable beauty, incredible food and an ocean beach. What else could one want?

I had thought about continuing on in this post about the many other wonderful dining experiences we had in the Playa Langosta and Playa Tamarindo areas at places such as Gil’s Place at Iguana Surf, Carolina’s, Pachango’s (our favorite) and the new Dragonfly. But I think I’ll leave their stories for other posts.

Every one of these restaurants can rival, or even exceed, typical fine dining eateries in the U.S. – and for half the price in American dollars. That made it even more enjoyable.

Friday, November 11, 2005

“Pura Vida” in Costa Rica – Chapter 4: Playing Tarzan and Jane Under a Jungle Canopy

One of the first things people said to us after our arrival in Costa Rica was, “You’ve GOTTA go on a Canopy Tour!” Canopy tour? My mind suddenly envisioned checking out hundreds of large, canvas tents lined up for blocks on end. But that wasn’t it.

What they meant was a JUNGLE canopy tour. Costa Rica is a very ecology-conscious country. They have preserved a very large percentage of the environment in its natural state, and, included in that, are the many jungles. The “canopy” they refer to is the natural cover furnished by the jungle tree tops that are so close together they interlace.

The best “Canopy Tour” in the area, we were told, was about 18 bumpy miles away, in Cartajena. We signed up for a guided tour which included being picked up by van in front of our condo. With the roads the way they were, we thought we’d leave the driving to them, and it turned out to be a wise choice.

As we bounced our way to the tour, the very accommodating driver tried his best to explain a few things along the way, but he did not speak much English. Using my inadequate Spanish I was able to learn that the wetlands through which we passed were used primarily to grow rice and equally to provided excellent grazing for the thousands of dairy cows in the area. We crossed dozens of bridges allowing us passage over swollen rivers still exploring new territory as a result of the peripheral rains of the hurricanes.

Once at the Tour site, we sat for a few minutes and listened to instructions as to how the rigging works and how to keep ourselves hooked properly to static lines and pulley lines. Top pic is of Hector who gave the tutoring (to which we listened very carefully by the way).

To initiate our Canopy experience we walked some 50 yards to a tree with a huge girth and diameter of several feet and which seemed to rise into the clouds. I was reminded of the story of Jack and the Beanstock. A metal ladder had been fabricated around the tree in an upward spiral that also seemed to disappear into the treetops.

We started climbing… and climbing… and climbing. About 150 feet above the ground we came to a large platform which was attached to the treetrunk and supported by cables and struts. It was a bit unnerving to step out onto the platform with absolutely nothing but branches and air below.

The attendant snapped my harness and pulley to the one-inch cable which ran from our tree to another, almost the length of a football field away. The cable ran slightly downhill so that as we pushed off from the platform, gravity pulled us at an ever-increasing speed to the next tree and platform. It was a most exhilarating experience. Middle pic is of Kay Lynne and bottom pic is of yours truly playing Tarzan and Jane – at our age!

Well, those who told us this was a “must do” event were RIGHT. We rode the long spans of slowly bouncing cable for at least a dozen lengths, each providing a different thrill by its angle and placement. I must admit to being tired at the end, but it was well worth the effort. We managed to somehow miss the monkeys and exotic birds which squawked at us throughout.

A nice refreshing shower following the ride home provided a perfect springboard to another gourmet evening meal at one of Tamarindo’s fabulous restaurants. Just another reason why life in Costa Rica is called “Pura Vida”.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Holiday Break

In deference to the widely recognized holiday today, MAPUTO CITY DAY IN MOZAMBIQUE, I have decided to take a break from Blogging. A new post should appear tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

“Pura Vida” in Costa Rica – Chapter 3: Searching for Billfish

A week ago today my cousin Jim and I headed out on the big water of the Guanacaste Gold Coast in search of the holy grail for fishermen – billfish. Locally catchable billfish include two strains of marlin and sailfish. If unsuccessful seeking billfish, they told us, you always have a chance at tuna, dorado, mahi mahi and even wahoo. That’s enough to make my mouth water.

We checked out several of many available charter captains by asking people we met. There were a number of larger vessels (over 35-feet long) one could charter for a day, but the tab exceeded $1,000 US. Surely, we wanted to fish, but with only two of us to share the entire charter cost, it gave us pause.

We opted, finally, for Captain Frank of Coyote Sport Fishing, a highly recommended skipper from nearby Playa Tamarindo, who owned a beautiful, whaler-type open 26-foot beauty with twin, four-stroke Johnson 115’s. With a safe hull and two engines for added protection, we felt this option to be the best for our long ride out to the deep blue water where billfish lurk. Besides, Captain Frank charged a more affordable $500 a day for the boat, bait, gear and guiding.

The water was quite calm as we headed out to sea. Captain Frank had sent his deck hand in a dingy to pick us up from shore near where we had parked our car. His boat was anchor-buoyed about 150 yards out from water’s edge. After we climbed aboard, he explained all the boat and safety issues, and we were off. We planed quickly as the powerful engines reached their cruising whine. Then we settled back and watched as the shoreline slowly receded.

About five miles offshore we crossed a large reef, and then suddenly the water color changed from a sky-bluish green to a rich, dark blue. Captain Frank said we were now in deep water and we could soon begin to drag some lines. Out of nowhere, a school of gorgeous, lithe porpoises, all about eight feet long, came alongside and performed their water acrobatics for us. In perfect unison they leapt from the water like agile torpedoes while keeping up with and exceeding the speed of our boat.

Captain Frank said the porpoises can often lead you to billfish, and that’s what we were looking for. Soon he baited three lines and dropped them in the water. Jim and I flipped a coin for first first hook-up, and the wait was on.

“Fish-on” yelled Frank, and Jim jumped into the fish chair. Frank hooked up the harness to hold the pole and strapped it on to Jim so he could fight the fish (top pic). Ten minutes later the fish was near the boat but we hadn’t seen it. It had stayed down – a good sign. With the line going straight down right next to the stern, Frank grabbed it to pull the fish the rest of the way by hand. Two hand pulls, and the fish was gone.

“I think it was a Mahi Mahi,” Frank said. “It would’ve made a great meal tonight”. Some consoloation. But, that’s how fishing goes. As Frank said, “they don’t call it ‘catching’, they call it fishing”. That's captain Frank holding up a sample bait in the middle pic.

Soon Frank’s GPS told him we were about 45 miles from shore, which was no longer in view. Then he screamed, “Sailfish!” “Sailfish!” It was hard for Jim & I to pick up but Frank pointed to a spot in the water where he saw a sailfish. The billed marvel was following the hoochy/sardine bait combo, and then he deftly nibbled the small baitfish off of the hook on one of the lines. As if to further taunt us, the fish then went to the second line and repeated the crafty maneuver.

“#%$!!%@” screamed Frank; “he got BOTH baits!” And that was the last we saw of billfish. Well, heck, at least we SAW one. Most don’t even experience that. But we kept on fishing. On Jim’s next turn he hooked and landed a nice yellowfin tuna. Ha! We’d have a nice fish dinner after all. The rest of the day was pure pleasure on the deep blue brine. We’d gotten a tuna (that's Jim with the trophy in the bottom pic).

All told, we probably caught a dozen fish. Most were skipjack, a type of tuna that fights like mad but is not good for eating. However, they are great sport. Truth is, Captain Frank is a great skipper. He put us where the fish were, and that’s all you can ask for. Other than both of us getting sunburned badly on our legs (I blistered in two spots) the day was virtually perfect. We went out in what might be the best fishing waters in the world, and we caught fish.

As a final “capper”, that night we took the fresh-from-the-water filets to one of Tamarindo’s better restaurants, Gecho’s, where chef John prepared the tuna three different ways – brazed in natural oils, pan seared in garlic and butter, and blackened with a spicy crumb coating. Our taste buds had never experienced anything like this. I loved all three versions.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

“Pura Vida” in Costa Rica – Chapter 2: The Appealing Intrigue of Guanacaste

We went to the Province of Guanacaste in Costa Rica not because we planned well but because that’s where the condo owned by Kay’s (wife of my cousin Jim) friend was located. And what a fortuitous occurrence that turned out to be. Pic above is a Playa Tamarindo sunset from aboard a sailing vessel on which we cruised.

If life in Costa Rica is “pura vida”, then it should follow that life in Guanacaste is “purisimo vida”. There is very little NOT to like in this province. The coastline (referred to as Costa Rica’s “Gold Coast”) consists of miles and miles of gorgeous, clean, sandy beaches, world class surfing, world class bill fishing, world class golf courses, preserved breeding grounds for the endangered leatherback turtle, fabulous restaurants, outstanding accommodations and eco-sensitive real estate developments – all co-existing and even amalgamating with local “Tico” (what Costa Ricans call themselves) life.

Can all this be real? If you’ve been there, you’d know it is. As stated previously, we came to the Gold Coast by accident, two days before Halloween, because it happened to be the place in which we rented a condo ahead of time from a friend of a relative. As it turns out, we couldn’t have picked a better spot if we had researched for months ahead of time.

The American bearing on the Gold Coast has brought ecologically sound (virtually required there) real estate developments that are attracting hordes of norte Americanos and Europeans con dinero to buy a home, vacation home or rental property in these desirable areas. At the same time, some 13% of all land in Costa Rica is either national parks or protected environment.

Combined with ever increasing foreign demand for recreation property near the beach, prices are skyrocketing and available land is rapidly disappearing on the Gold Coast. For the savvy real estate investor, this adds up to “opportunity”.

We met and talked with several Americans who had become fed up with pressure-packed living here in the U.S., sold everything, and transplanted themselves to Costa Rica. Why? They had heard of “pura vida”.

Primarily these were the B&B owners, restaurant owners and small business owners who had reinvented themselves in the land of the good life – minus the stresses and pressures of living they endured back in the U.S. One gal had been a successful business executive in New York City but one day just packed it up and headed for Costa Rica – alone. But that’s an upcoming blog story in itself.

To a person, we found everyone to whom we talked happy they had made the move. Not one second-guessed their decision, and all said they were far happier in Guanacaste than before. We were there only eight days, but I can assure you that “pura vida” grows on you – real fast.

Dress is always casual - usually a tee shirt or tank top, shorts and sandals. Dressing up means wearing a shirt or blouse with a collar, but the shorts and sandals remain. The temperature hardly ever goes below 70 degrees or above 90 degrees year around. I’m not sure there’s a coat in the entire Province.

If you’ve never been near the equator, it’s hard to conceive of a climate this temperate. It's probably like the Garden of Eden was. Once used to it, the change of seasons becomes an annoying inconvenience.

I have to admit to being one of those allured by “pura vida”. My interest in real estate investing has now zoned in on the myriad of opportunities on the Gold Coast, but that, too, is another blog post. For now, I’ll have to be satisfied with “normal vida”.

Monday, November 07, 2005

"Pura Vida" in Costa Rica – Chapter 1: Arriving in Guanacaste

The northwest coastal area of Costa Rica is best described as a paradise. In fact, living anywhere in Costa Rica is called “Pura Vida” by the native people. The phrase literally means “the pure life”, but it has implications that go far beyond “pure” and that include a richness of culture, a slow, easy pace of life, an incredible eco-centric environment, and a satisfaction (from living there) available nowhere else on earth.

They just might be correct.

After two flights totaling eight hours from the Seattle, Washington area where we live, we arrived in Liberia, the largest city in northern Costa Rica, in the Province of Guanacaste. Liberia is a large enough city to have traffic lights, four lanes on the main thoroughfares, and even left turn lanes at major intersections. Other than in Liberia, however, we did not see a traffic light, and we encountered few stop signs as we motored through the Province.

You are almost overwhelmed by the humidity and the heat as you step off the airplane. Most public buildings are open in this tropical climate, including the airport structures, so air conditioning is not even a thought. In spite of the overhead fans which are everywhere, I was soaking wet in minutes. Of course I can look at a flight of stairs and begin to perspire.

Immigration and customs officials were most gracious and welcoming, making very pleasant our initial contact with the people of Costa Rica. And that remained constant throughout our trip. After renting a car at twice the U.S. rate due to CR taxes, plus the fact that our Hertz #1 status was of no value there, we headed in a generally westward and slightly southward direction from the Liberia airport toward Playa Tamarindo on the Pacific coast where our rented condo awaited just steps from the beach. (In the top pic that's my wife Kay Lynne on the left, Jim's wife Kay in the middle, and Jim.)

Other than on the main roads between major cities (like Liberia and San Jose), driving in Costa Rica can be a harrowing experience, especially in Guanacaste where they had just experienced one of the wettest rainy seasons in their history. The paved road ended suddenly only a few miles out of the Liberia area. My cousin Jim Narva (from Sunnyvale, CA) was driving. My wife and I had met Jim and his wife Kay in Atlanta and had flown together from there to Liberia.

The monster pothole Jim hit as the paved road suddenly vanished jarred us all to the bone. Jim hit the brakes as we found ourselves on a dirt gravel road that was ominously displaying the effects of the recent downpours. Washboard-like bumps filled the areas in the road not occupied by enormous potholes as we made our way, from that point on, very slowly.

Fortunately we had rented a four-wheel drive SUV because we had heard the roads could get bad during the rainy season. It was the peripheral effects of the three recent major damaging hurricanes which hit New Orleans, Houston and Cancun that caused torrential rains here. We felt their effects as we jostled our way toward Tamarindo at an average speed of about 15 mph. It took us almost three hours to go less than 40 bouncy miles.

But things were not all bad. About two thirds of the way we stopped to eat at an open, plantation-like restaurant (second pic) where they grew a lot of the food they served on the acreage nearby. A local family owns the establishment, kind of out in the middle of nowhere, and it was the friendly family members of the second generation who were on duty. They cordially showed us the papaya trees and variety of crops that grew out in the back and all around.

I got a chance to try my “pocho” Spanish for the first time on these unlucky people, but we soon learned we could communicate quite well, thanks to the fact that they understood English far better than I could speak Spanish. We sampled various versions of delicious rice, chicken and beans combos (pollo con arroz y frijoles). It was either incredibly delicious food or we were extremely hungry. I’d bet on the former.

Forty five minutes later, following two wrong turns after darkness had set in, we arrived at our vacation condo in the Villas Cerca Del Mar complex (third pic) in Playa Langosta. There Jim and Kay’s son Andrew met us, accompanied by three of his friends. Andrew is a graduating senior at the University of Redlands in southern California and is taking some international studies courses at the University of Costa Rica in Heredia (a suburb of San Jose) as were the others but they were from different U.S. universities. (Fourth pic is from left, Dana, Andrew, John and Ashley)

Together with his friends, he had come up to the Playa Tamarindo area (a world-class surfing location) to ride the waves for the weekend and enjoy a short visit with his folks – a welcome break from their nearing finals. Our three-bedroom condo housed all of us comfortably and was called “Villa Jazmin”, owned by Cathy Gardner, a friend of Kay’s who teaches with her in California. It certainly lived up to all expectations.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Leavenworth in the Fall

My wife and I spent the better part of two days earlier in the week in Leavenworth, a quaint Bavarian town on the inland side of the Cascades about 110 miles east of Seattle along highway 2. The reasons? a) Fish Lake is nearby, and b) Fall foliage is ablaze in color.

My cousin Joel and his wife Sandra spend a timeshare week in Leavenworth sometime during each October. This year they invited Kay Lynne and I to spend a couple of days with them. I'm glad they did.

Joel and I fished both mornings until noon or later while the ladies shopped in the Village following a leisuely breakfast. Usually at this time of the year nearby Fish Lake is hot, hot, hot. For some reason this year (which we were never able to pinpoint other than the unseasonably warm weather) we had to work hard to get our fish. Joel is a purist fly fisherman, and I'm a bait dragger, so we rented a pontoon boat from which we could each fish in the manner we prefer (bottom pic is of Joel bringing in a trout on his fly gear). I guess we did finally limit both days, but for some reason we had to scour the entire lake to find where they were having their fall conference -- and then they were more interested in socializing than eating.

Each afternoon we took driving excursions in and around Leavenworth. One of the days we drove some 15 miles north of Leavenworth to a quaint little town called Plain. It's nestled in a gorgeous valley and is lubricated by the Wenatchee River which runs right through the area on its way to the Columbia.

We spent some time in a touristy "Hardware" store which was chock full of historical artifacts and souvenirs from the area and actually did have some paint and hardware goods in the back. It even had an Espresso bar and deli up front. I think the women could have stayed there a full day.

Later we drove out to Mountain Springs Lodge, within a mile of Plain, which is owned by a family who has been a significant part of the town's history for a hundred years or so. Our daughter-in-law Jamie went to Seattle Pacific University with the daughter of the Lodge family, so we felt we had a "connection". Plus Joel and Sandra had visited there before and indicated it was a "must stop" on the drive.

The top picture shows a bit of the Fall colors near a pond on the grounds at the Lodge which, by the way, can accommodate large family gatherings and conferences. Its facilities contain a marvelous, beautiful grouping of "log cabin"-type buildings with the main lodge a grandiose A-frame structure of heavy laminated beams and ornate woodwork set off by an immense rock fireplace. What a great setting this would be for a family reunion.

Unfortunately, we had to come home too soon. However, we feel fortunate to have enjoyed the beauty and sights of Leavenworth in the Fall while accompanied by family, even though the time was too short.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

It's the Lifestyle, Stupid

Back in Bill Clinton’s first successful run to the presidency, the insider theme of his campaign skewed off course a time or two. But “it’s the economy, stupid” somehow came back into focus in time for James Carville & Co. to craft a victory at the polls.

For most of my overweight life, I’ve been on and off course, too. I’ve always viewed my weight situation something like this: “Well, yes, I may be a bit heavy right now, but in a few weeks I’ll go on a diet and lose the weight.” The Atkins diet was always my salvation before I became middle aged (and older).

I could drop 10 to 15 pounds easily in a month by eating salad, bunless cheeseburgers and scrambled eggs. Who knows what my cholesterol became, but the diet worked - time after time after time. I must have been on and off the Atkins recipe a dozen times over the past 30 years. I did so because it worked for me much better than "calorie counting" (I quickly ran out of fingers). In a relatively short time, I could take off significant weight on the low carb method – in fact, I think I’ve gained and lost over 150 “yo-yo” pounds in my lifetime.

Now that I’m an “honored” citizen (as they now call us at many restaurants) things don’t work like they used to. It takes much longer to lose pounds, even on a low carb diet. Plus the medical profession says the Atkins approach is not “healthy” though they have little scientific proof to corroborate their views (that’s a whole ‘nother blog).

Not only is an older, deteriorating body the problem, but I’m also now told I must control both my blood sugar and cholesterol – period. Otherwise there could be serious health consequences in the years not too far ahead. Yikes. Suddenly the question has become, how to best accomplish this?

In seeking the answer, I’ve become a “fan” of the James Carville approach. From what I’ve read (and it’s quite a bit) just about everyone agrees that if you cut back on simple carbohydrates, your blood sugar does not tend to spike as is normal after every meal. For adult-onset diabetics like me (who fortunately can still control blood sugar with diet) it’s obvious I’ve got to limit carbs for the rest of my life to control those spikes.

It’s not a matter of “going on a diet”. That’s history. It doesn’t work. I’ve got to eat more healthily and live differently (get exercise), again, for the rest of my life. I’m finally coming to grips with it and am willing to deal with it.

This past week I’ve cut out all unnecessary carbs (not the healthy ones), and I’ve been to the gym three times. Admittedly, I feel better already. Funny how slightly abnormal but trending (in the wrong direction) blood tests can be a more powerful motivation than almost anything else. Diabetes doesn’t get better on its own with time. Quite the contrary. At best, you can only keep it at bay with healthy eating, weight control and exercise. It’s the lifestyle, stupid. And that's reality.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Winds of change

Some changes are in the wind. I’ve never been that excited about health clubs although in my younger days I sure did love to play racquetball. But today, out of necessity, I checked out a nearby health club and found it to be very amenable.

Earlier in the week my doc made some medication suggestions about which I was a little dubious. Seems in my recent blood tests the ol’ cholesterol crept up just a hair as did my fasting blood sugar. It was nothing to be alarmed about, but it reflected a trend. So, rather than beginning to ingest a medication which could possibly whack my liver, I bargained with my doc for exercise instead. As it turns out, daily exercise and the loss of a few pounds could solve the slightly elevated blood test readings. He gave me three months to demonstrate it.

Fortunately, the health plan I have will pay for a FULL health club membership for me as part of their “prevention” approach to health care. Yes! It was the affiliated health club to which I paid a visit.

After a tour of the facilities I spent about an hour on several different machines and got reacquainted with some weights I hadn’t encountered in nearly 50 years. A very pleasant surprise was learning that there were two racquetball courts in the club. Fantastic. However, I have to admit that I’m really not that good with doing exercise just for the sake of exercise.

The reason I enjoyed racquetball so much was that it was a really nice way to get exercise by simply playing a sport you enjoy anyway. Now, I’ve got to try to find a racquetball partner – hopefully one who has bad knees like I do so I don’t get killed all the time. Actually, the club jacuzzi should help in this regard also.

The changes will now be to schedule workout time into my routine. Initially, I think four days a week will do the job, but results will ultimately be the determinate. I have to admit that exercise really does make one feel better. Now let’s hope it’ll change blood test results.

Monday, October 10, 2005

October Baseball

Tonight the resurgent Angels eliminated the Yankees from the post-season. Who would have thought that the Red Sox, Braves and Bronx Bombers would be gone after the first round of playoffs? Certainly not me.

Wasn’t this the time for the Yankees to rise up and revive their perennial superiority? Wasn’t this the year Atlanta finally had a more balanced team (except for their bullpen) that was capable, at last, of getting past a short series? And wasn’t this the year we’d be privileged to watch another marathon rock-em, sock-em ALCS between Boston and New York?

Nope, nope and nope.

I guess now it’s time to turn our attention to the ALCS and the NLCS. Four very good teams are left. A tired (for a day, at least) group of Angels are flying overnight to the windy city to meet the rested and waiting White Sox tomorrow night. And a spent troupe of Astros are on intravenous feedings trying to find strength to take on the rested Cards on Wednesday. Looks to me like a wonderful two+ weeks of high caliber baseball is just ahead.

If the Sox and Cards are able to subdue their next opponents, then the World Series would have, I believe, the best two teams based on their season performances. However, in playoff baseball anything can happen.

Often, the team that gets “hot” in the playoffs is the one that goes all the way – like last years’ Red Sox who entered the post season via the wild card and kept on winning just enough. This year one of the post season wild card teams is the Houston Astros who Sunday simultaneously shocked and entertained the sports world with an 18-inning marathon win that sent the Braves home for the winter.

Of course the question now is, can the Astros remain hot and go on to defeat a more talented and “complete” Cardinal team? Who knows? If great pitching beats great hitting, then maybe so. But the St Louis pitching core is very solid also. And the Cards have strength in the bullpen and also off the bench.

In the American League, I hope the White Sox clean house on the Angels. I’ll never forget what the Angels did to the Giants in the 02 Series. So, my preference for the World Series is the Sox and the Cards. Two great teams and nine days of anticipation (if it goes seven). Only thing better in October would be to get the salmon skunk off my boat.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Trying to get in gear

Well, here it is Friday already, and I have not blogged at all this week. Been one of "those" weeks -- lots of "busy stuff" to do and seemingly not enough time to do it.

It's a busy time right now for several reasons. There're plans to be finalized for our Costa Rica trip just three short weeks away. Then there were a few "issues" with the boat that had to be dealt with, all of them requiring cash. Also, the fall and early winter holiday season approaches and we need to schedule concerts, events, etc.

At least my son & I are going to one Seahawks game together (he gave up his season tix this year) -- the one against the Niners on Dec 11 here in Seattle. I'll be yelling the whole game, as I'm an old-time diehard 49er fan, plus I really like the Seahawks and Mike Holmgren. Whoever wins is ok by me.

Studying John Wesley's theological perspectives has fortunately been an uplift for me in my daily "reading for meaning" sessions. Sure wish I'd gotten to know this man earlier in my life. He's providing some cohesiveness for many of my fragmented thoughts I've had through the years. I'm trying to get in gear to write about some of it. Hopefully it'll be soon.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Looking for a Church

This morning my wife and I attended an Episcopal Church – I think a first for both of us in that tradition. The step was another in our continuing effort to find a church in which we can both serve and at the same time have a worship experience that is appropriate for our ages and (continually developing) Christian formation. This particular Episcopal Church is an affiliate of the Anglican American Council, a group of Episcopal parishes who wanted to maintain their focus on celebrating the authenticity of the Holy Eucharist sacrament but who also have pulled out of mainline American Episcopalianism because of its ”move further and further away from the historic biblical Christian faith, as if … in a dance of death with the postmodern Western culture”. That part sounded just fine.

After the service, we talked about it. Kay Lynne did not relate well to the worship experience at all, mostly due to her feeling that the priest (and parishioners) “ran through the liturgies so fast that they couldn’t possibly have contemplated its meaning”. On the other hand, I was somewhat prepared for it and tried to grasp meaning from its order and execution. However, I have to admit that my wife had a point. We both respect the merits of proper liturgy, but if it is glossed over, the meaning, for us, has little chance to take effect.

Our move to the pacific northwest in 2004 has given us perfect pause to reflect on our changing reasons for becoming active in any church. Neither of us relate well to the incessantly repetitive “praise choruses” in most evangelical churches, which are tediously prolonged each week in our estimation. (What happened to the great old hymns of the church which sustained the generations before us? Why are post moderns so different?) We also look for solid orthodox Biblical exegesis from the pulpit, which seemingly is rapidly being replaced by pop-culture expositions that sound good and make you feel good – for a few minutes – but that have little life-affecting impetus.

I’ve also been reading Randy Maddox’ wonderful book on the “practical theology” of John Wesley called, Responsible Grace. In it, Maddox talks of the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral”, a synthesis of four elements of good faith practice – 1) Scripture, 2) Reason, 3) Tradition, and 4) Experience. To me, the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” could certainly be the balance-guide for any church I’d want to attend. But try to find one with a balance even resembling that.

A significant issue, currently, for me and – I think – for my wife, is this balance. I’m interested to know, for instance, why so many evangelical traditions today have virtually thrown away the liturgy, many of the sacraments, and the traditions of the historical church. For some 16 centuries the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches appear to me to have been more homogeneous than different – though they, of course, might disagree. Then the reformers reacted to many and significant “abuses” of this tradition and doctrine and “protested”. Now in our post-modern world the “protest”-ants have further divided and we have in many an amalgamation of doctrine and practices that seem to me to be in perpetual imbalance.

Even mainline Methodists are today some distance away from balance in their own Wesleyan Quadrilateral. My theology prof son pointed out to me that "for many present-day UM’s, experience and reason 'trump' traditional readings of Scripture". So where does one find balance? My wife and I really enjoy the Free Methodist worship (at least at Seattle First Free) – which to us does seek that balance – but alas, there is no such church near enough for us to participate in.

And so, it was in seeking a balance of faith and doctrine (hopefully somewhat akin to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral) that we ventured into the Anglican Episcopal world this morning (in fact, wasn’t John Wesley once a part of this body?). However, the effect of today’s tentative dance with our Anglican brethren likely will be that we will continue to search for a compatible partner.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Northwest "Power" Living

Living in the Pacific Northwest certainly has its benefits. However, there are also idiosyncracies. When the first good autumn storm hits, many of the gorgeous trees that have been damaged over the summer are tested. And so it was today. The high winds and rain arrived after midnight last night, and nearby tree #1 fell on a power line about 3am. The power finally struggled on at 8am. I was hesitant to plug my computer in, because when a storm hits, it often expresses multiple personalities.

When the power is out, our cable is down. Because I have a cable high speed internet connection, when the cable is out, there is no internet access. I'm glad I waited. An hour or two later we heard a big crash which we assumed to be a tranformer blowing, but, after a surge or two, this time the power remained on. But I was still spooked. Good thing. An hour later the power disappeared again, this time for several hours. Another tree had taken out more nearby power lines. So, finally, at days end, I was able to get everything going again.

One last thing, however. There is a certain offbeat beauty about a dark, foreboding, wind-swept storm. Sitting at home by the wood stove as the storm rages brings an odd sort of comfort. But now that the storm has passed, it looks like it's time to pick up the beat again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Brain Cramp

Writer's cramp in the old days occurred in the hand and wrist. In today's hi-tech world it happens in the brain. Try as I might today, nothing materialized in the word world.

I did have a lot to do, but writing is such a formidable (and enjoyable) part of me I usually can come up with something. Not today, for some reason. The only thing I could muster up today was a reactionary comment on my son's blog
-- certainly nothing noteworthy. Some days are like that. The picture depicts my brain's activity today.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Acknowledging an Apparent Inconsistency

If you've read the last several of my blog posts, you may have picked up on an apparent inconsistency. I wanted to acknowledge that it's there. Late last week I had a post about the used boat that I/we recently purchased, and then in the immediately following post ragged on about how the influence of John Wesley was affecting my life with regard to sharing what we have with those less fortunate.

Well, let me try to explain (rationalize?:-). Boating has been a part of my/our lives for many years because I love to fish and a boat provides excellent access to same, especially where we live. I consider neither fishing nor boating an OVERindulgence, but rather a normal recreational outlet of which I have few. At the same time I'm trying to learn and be sensitive to possible overindulgent living. Balance is what I believe we should strive for in all areas of living.

So, in that regard, my wife and I are going through the process of evaluating all of what we possess and we are prayerfully considering how we should use what we have to live consistently as followers of Christ and his teachings, which call upon us to help others who need it. In time, we may even discover that the boat will have to go.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A "Lighter" Note - Meet the Teletubbies

After two days of "heavier" posts, it's time to take a break from serious stuff. For some reason I was reminded today of the motorbike excursion three of us took this past June on Quadra Island in British Columbia just off Vancouver Island. I assure you we had had nothing to drink; we were just happy to be together. That's Ed Wall on the left, Ted Petersen in the center and silly Grandpa on the right (actually we're all grandpas - just one is silly). For some reason which I can't remember, the fourth guy, Mike Silkwood, in our group of couples who took the trip, didn't go with us on this high speed zoom around the island. We earned the nickname, The Teletubbies (I wonder why). These four couples have been friends since the dark ages when we all lived near each other in the San Jose area and attended the same church, except for the Petersens.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Overcoming Dualistic Thinking

For many in my generation it’s been very easy throughout our lives to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil and fidelity from fault. I considered myself as good at it as anyone. But I’m being a bit facetious here. We (my generation) may have thought we could make these distinctions quite instinctively, but how are our views holding up in the post-modern world in which we live?

We were, after all, raised by a generation who clung to high standards of character, behavior, and deportment. And we hoped we pretty much stayed the course with regard to rearing our kids. Now, kids of my generation have grown into adults, some even approaching middle age. My case may be quite different from yours, but I’m finding that my sons have quite contrasting ways in which they discern truth than those of my era. And as difficult as it is to face, I’m finding that their processes of seeking truth, justice and the moral way seem to hold up quite a bit better than mine – or at least they stand up better to intense scrutiny.

For us. right was right and wrong was wrong, and we knew (were told) the difference. And if we strayed, look out ‘cause G-O-O-O-O-D (God) was watching. In my case, those childhood learned “rights and wrongs”, “goods and bads” pretty much carried forward into adulthood without much critical thought about them (an example of “skewed Christian formation” as pointed out to me by my more learned sons).

As an example, I was always taught the typical mid-America mores: go to school, study hard, get good grades, work hard, apply yourself. If you do all those things, you can’t help but be successful. And success in a capitalistic society brings a degree of wealth. Here’s the problem: To my best recollection, never once in my upbringing was I ever challenged with the immorality of wealth and consumption in our culture when compared with most of the world. Not from parents. Not from church. And not from school until college – and even then, if you took a course which dealt with western overindulgences, you thought the instructor was a commie.

We took great pride in thinking that we were better than the rest of the world because we had engineered an economic system which brought us so much more, but we totally ignored the immorality of the disparity. At the same time, interestingly, we sure were aware of and understood all the pitfalls of promiscuity, lieing, cheating, stealing, gossiping and hating. We figured out how to profitably navigate morality in our little micro world, but we had no clue that the pursuits of our then fairly isolated sector of the globe would eventually have an effect on the rest of the planet.

The stark reality is that because I was born here in America I was given all this opportunity. This country is a wonderful place, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. But in my dualistic world "our way" was equated with being good, right and just. I never considered all these benefits as a chance of birth. I never even thought about the poor hombre just south of our border who works six and seven days a week from sun-up to sunset to earn in a month what we can earn in a week or even a day. And if I did ever consider it, I was thankful I wasn't him. (Why did my mind stop there?)

Don’t misunderstand me. Our capitalistic system has brought just about the greatest everything to our lives. But it is not ALL good (as in a black and white world). The immorality begins to creep in when we discover the unbelievable imbalance both in our riches and in our consumption of resources relative to the rest of the world. And we are moral failures in my view – especially as Christians – when we blindly continue in our ways.

It’s been easy for me all these years to justify my way to a fat and full life. Now I need to confront the very harsh truth that for me to live as I do is an injustice to those who cannot. At the same time I’m a realist. I could give everything away that I have, and it wouldn’t make a dent in poverty. I don’t think that’s the point. In a nuanced world – in contrast to a “black and white” world – we who have the ability to think, read the scriptures, follow the teachings of Christ, and apply them to our lives so it will affect those around us, have an obligation to start somewhere.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

John Wesley may be my spiritual emancipator

Ok, it’s time to tackle some issues that have some meat. In the half-dozen or so previous blog posts, I’ve just been practicing on training wheels for the real stuff. So far, most everything has been rambling fluff – and that’s fine. But the real reason I’m blogging is, yes, to have fun, but also to chew on issues of life and living that have a degree of meaning and purpose.

As my sons are well aware (who both have been of immense help in the late years of my journey – one’s a senior pastor with an MDiv in theology and the other is an assistant university professor with a PhD in theology), my struggle for spiritual authenticity has taken several turns. Raised in a fundamentalist Christian environment in the midwest, I necessarily have come away with a lot of restrictive (and probably unnecessary) baggage. My sons have (correctly) implied that due a lot to this baggage, my Christian formation has developed somewhat askew. This is a knotty problem for one who is supposed to be a “mature” person.

I’ve always maintained that all of life (daily grind, the past, the future, the universe, God & science, for starters) needed to come to some sensible co-existence – at least in my thinking. I now realize that the complexities and intricacies of an infinite God cannot begin to be fathomed by us finites. Of course we have some clues. Even evidences. But can it (or should it even?) come together just so I or any human can feel “comfortable” in our belief system?

From this restraining fundamentalist youth (we knew explicitly what NOT to do, but we had little clue as to how we WERE to act as a Christian) I continued to struggle inwardly with what I was being taught (it didn’t make good sense to me even then). During and after college I “evolved” to become a practicing Baptist. A few things improved, but the total focus was still in “getting people saved”, nothing of which is wrong with that in and of itself. However, little was in place to teach us HOW to live fully and fulfillingly as a follower of Christ - to say nothing of our inability to receive authentic theological teaching.

I wallowed in this quagmire for close to 30 years, experimenting with the tenets of various “spiritual gurus” and theories of faith. I even became a Presbyterian, thinking that to be an improvement of sorts. But the dilemma continued, and the quagmire almost swallowed me. I now wonder how my growing sons found any meaningful faith at all in the midst of all this. But the grace of God is truly boundless.

For my 60th birthday, my son Doug (the prof) gave me a book called Rethinking Wesley’s Theology by Randy Maddox, then a Wesleyan Theology professor at Seattle Pacific University – in Seattle, Washington, of course. Maddox combined over a dozen essays about the life and theology of John Wesley, all written by scholars who had extensively studied his works. Inside the cover my son scribed, “To Dad – Happy Birthday and Best Wishes on your theological journeys. Love Doug.” This book was the springboard to my finally experiencing freedom and fullness in my faith journey.

For me, the book was an introduction to John Wesley, not a rethinking. Of all the reformers, Wesley, to me, got it most right. He carried forth just enough of the “traditions” of faith (he came out of the Anglican Church of England) and founded a wonderful “synthesis of faith” (my words) in the sprouting Methodist conference. I had been struggling mightily with Calvin’s concepts of “election” and “predestination” though taught them all my life from fundamentalism through the Baptists and of course later on as a Presbyterian. Wesley, on the other hand, was Arminian in his posture which allows for true “free choice” with regard to accepting or rejecting any or all of God’s revelation and, consequently, in my view, maintains the integrity of God's salvific provision.

I could go on and on. Wesley’s sermons and writings have truly brought back an exuberance and strong desire for me to experience Christian living in a fresh new way. One of the factors in Wesley’s theology is his passion that we as Christians must put shoe leather on our faith by living responsibly in all areas of our life – and at the same time literally share our abundant (western world) means with those who have so much less. I have an immense amount to learn in this arena, but at least now I’ve opened the door to explore it. John Wesley just may be my spiritual emancipator.

By the way, Rethinking Wesley’s Theology by Randy Maddox is available on . And if you'd like to check out another Blog which is full of exciting things on the Christian life, check out my son Gregg's blog:

Friday, September 23, 2005

Boat Fever

In the year+ we have lived at water's edge, the passing boats (adjacent pic) have slowly eroded my ability to withstand buying one. It's been as if each passing boat was another drop in the chinese water torture. Well -- no more.

I/(reluctant) "we" finally succombed and took the plunge into boat ownership (once again). We now have a "pre-owned" Canadian-made Campion boat parked on a trailer down in front of the house. Middle pic (taken at another location) is the front starboard view and bottom pic is the interior view. Though it's technically a 19-foot "runabout", it's just large enough to have a nice little cuddy cabin up front and enough area on the main (and only) deck to adequately move around to fish properly.

Since I took these pics, I have added down-riggers (to be able to hit the salmon on the head and knock them silly so they'll be easy to catch no matter how deep they are :-), a full GPS mapping electronic system (so we "can't" get lost and end up in Japan), a kicker (trolling) motor and a bunch of safety equipment. Even got a "porta-potty" so the women can discreetly relieve any discomfort behind closed cabin doors.

I think, in time, we'll christen the boat "Finn Fantasy" (catch the double entendre? :-). We've already had it in the water but not enough to fish yet. Hopefully that can be accomplished in the next few days. Fishing, of course, is the real reason I/we got the boat. So many salmon and so little time....

Autumnal Equinox

The furnace came on before dawn this morning for the first time this Fall. Of course Fall has only been here a scant 19 hours, but it was interesting to me that on the first full day of Autumn it got cold enough the night before to kick the heat on.

Here in the Northwest, the advent of Fall is of some note. Not in and of itself, but for its many ramifications. Most of us here have a furnace/heat pump combo which allows you to set your thermostat at high and low end limits. If it's too cold, the furnace comes on; if it's too hot the heat pump and related airconditioning kick in. Since late March or April the heat pump has had its share of use, as we've had perfect summer weather -- which still requires air conditioning with all our sun-exposed windows (ponder this: why does a HEAT pump provide air conditioning? Why do you slow down for a speed bump? Etc., etc. ad nauseum). Never once to my recollection has the furnace come on since late Spring. But now this rather innocuous event heralds many anticipatory occurrences.

The days will become increasingly more cloudy (hopefully not for some time yet so we can get some salmon fishing in), and there will be less and less sun breaks among the stretches of cloudy days. Rainy days will increase and will last several days in a row -- hopefully not as much as the 100+ straight days of rain back in 2003. We'll also have to pull out the long pants, sweaters and sweat shirts to help combat the season's chill. Though I was a Californian for more than 35 years and learned to enjoy the sunshine as a steady friend, I am now reprogramming the psyche to learn to accept -- and even enjoy -- the variety of seasonal changes. However, it can be hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Closing Out Port Ludlow

Just as we were about to leave the Inn, a float plane landed and docked near our window. A group of six guys jumped out, golf bags in hand, and headed for the championship course nearby. They must have won a sales contest or something; what a fabulous way to spend an afternoon!
We took a slight detour on the way home to have a late lunch in historic Port Townsend. Middle photo is one of the restored 19th century downtown buildings. We found a quaint eatery, the Belmont Hotel & Saloon, housed in a building which was built in 1885 -- all brick with rustic wood beams now supporting the structure. From its deck we watched the Port Townsend - Keystone (Whidbey Island) ferry chug by and enjoyed an incredible lunch. Then we headed home -- for a nap!

Morning at Port Ludlow Inn

This is the early morning view from our room at Port Ludlow Inn. We've now enjoyed our fresh-brewed Pegasus coffee -- from Bainbridge Island ironically -- and our "free" continental breakfast (quite good, actually -- not just carb city) and are debating whether to kayak, bikeride or relax in our luxurious suite. Take a guess what we did...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Port Ludlow Inn

Well, we're here. And is it beautiful! Top pic is the main building of the Inn (there are other condos, rentals, etc.). Bottom photo is of the adjacent Marina which has guest moorage if one desires. We should have come by boat! Now we're off to enjoy the place...

On the Way to Port Ludlow

The trees are already starting to change in northwest Washington as witnessed by these in Port Gamble. We stopped there on our way toward Port Ludlow. We grabbed a bite to eat at the Port Gamble General Store, which had a sandwich shop and sidewalk cafe (the top pic). Homemade pea soup really hit the spot as the Fall nip is already in the air.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Port Ludlow Here We Come

This past March we celebrated our 40th anniversary. We wanted it low-key, and fortunately our kids honored our request. Their gift to us was a gift certificate to the fabulous Port Ludlow Inn only about an hour's drive away. We put off going to the resort during the busy summer, but now it's time to enjoy their wonderful gesture. If you check their website you'll catch a glimpse of the wonderful amenities which will be at our whim. So, THANKS, Gregg, Elaine, Doug & Jamie, for a PERFECT anniversary present. We'll be back in a couple of days

What will help in the Katrina/Rita aftermath?

The visual images from Katrina's aftermath are sobering. Recovery -- from our perspective -- is overwhelming. What can the average person do, other than contribute some cash, to be of help?
When you're retired, like I recently have become, the obligation to do more than just "relate" and "well-wish" or send a few bucks is looming larger each day. My wife agrees. We took the first steps to do something more this past week by contacting both the Red Cross and World Vision web sites to begin the process of making ourselves available for something tangible which we could contribute to this worthy effort. I noticed online that there are a myriad of volunteer needs in both organizations which are doing a mighty work so far. I have no idea where this will lead, but we'll trust that God will direct us in this regard.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

First Post

This is the start of an exciting new phase of life for me -- managing a Blog. Let's see what happens along the way...