The Year-End Letter

Dear Friends & Family,
We end this year with gratitude and send our heartfelt greetings, especially to those who’ve lost jobs, co-workers, friends, or loved ones. Whatever challenges you’re facing, we hope and pray love wins…

During this year of going nowhere, instead of traveling to far off places, we’ve escaped into the local forests around us and sought to bring the outdoors inside… While John was off work for 4 months (Cargo w/ Alaska Air) he learned to epoxy thick slabs of Juniper we brought from Bend to make a desk, coffee table, and bathroom counter (left pic). We also stained, painted, and modernized the staircase with textured carpet & metal accents (on right). And John used his welding skills to build an artistic gate to hide our kayaks on the side of the house. Essentially grounded this year, we completed projects that make home more enticing.

And haven’t we all been in the kitchen more lately? We’ve gotten back to baking with sourdough and sprouting ancient grains. John’s been grinding flour from spelt, einkorn, kamut, and amaranth, filling the house with welcoming aromas of rosemary rolls, flatbreads, tortillas, and scones—which beg for fruit toppings. Mid-summer we searched out the ubiquitous blueberry farms in the area, picking over a hundred pounds of blueberries during the season, eating our fill like we did years ago in Fallbrook on our little farm, and preserving the rest… Between bread and jam, lots of calories to burn— so we mountain bike, skate ski, or run after Arielle as she roller blades, her outdoor replacement for ice skating when the rink shut down.… Like many, she’s doing online school, enjoying 8th grade from home, still the laughing, loving girl we’re blessed by every day.

However, Covid brought us to our knees in this way: we were coerced into adopting three rats. According to Arielle, rats are clever, friendly and clean—perfect pets. She named them Clover, Faerie, and Bumble. In the absence of much social life, Arielle, who still wants to be a vet, begged for pets that actually need her. Our cat, Jaspurr, like any good feline, is quite independent until he wants food. If we ignore him when he’s hungry he treats us like prey, swatting our shins with a paw as we walk by, or chasing us down if we run. Strangely, he leaves the rats alone… They don’t do his bidding, and live safe inside a 3-story rat mansion that Arielle outfits with tunnels, slides, wheels, hammocks, rope courses, and dig boxes—diversion for her and them. Arielle even made a chef’s hat for Bumble, Ratatouille-like (on her head)—I try to keep rats out of the kitchen, but clearly, I’m not all that successful…

Our driftwood nativity (The World Awaits) is inspiring us to collect branches from the forest and try wood carving. Arielle plans to carve cats and rats. I’ll try a giraffe… and frogs. John mentioned a hippo, or maybe it was a hippogriff… Anyway, all creatures great and small… All are welcome… along with some little lime-green dwarfs from Germany you might spy if you look close…

In 2021, we hope to revisit our German friends and French cousins. Meanwhile, we listen to French cooking music in the kitchen, and French worship songs and Christmas carols. We’re planning French Karaoke for Christmas eve. My mother used to say I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket (but I still miss her after two years…) Maybe singing in French will help.

When we visited our cousins in France two years ago they gave Arielle the French version of Hidden Life of Trees—trees are fascinating in any language and this book is full of amazing facts and theories. Walking in forests, or just gazing at trees provides such a lift to our spirits, and lots of oxygenated air—always good… Trees also provide warmth- Best Covid-related purchase: a Solo stove/smokefree fire pit (pic) to sit outside around a campfire without leaving home (bonus calories for chopping firewood). And a warm fire allows us to invite the new neighbors over for outdoor happy hour—a former Cal-Fire chief & family moved in across the street—turns out he and John were on many of the same fires. Now he’s our new Fire Chief in Vancouver, and his wife is my fun new friend. They have a son Arielle’s age. We love our neighborhood- the kids put on dress-up parades and we all gather in the cul-de-sac to socialize safely.

Looking back at Christmas last year (bottom), our unmasked faces seem a bit surreal—there’ve been so many changes… Lily was laid off from her fancy restaurant job, but now works for a chiropractic group with massage and Yoga benefits. Andrew also changed jobs. Scott continues reporting on homelessness for The Seattle Times. This year he produced a podcast called Outsiders. Proud parent alert: Time Magazine named it as one of the Top 10 Best Podcasts of 2020 (#5). “It’s rare to find reporting on the large structural issues behind the surge in homelessness on the West Coast that also humanizes the unsheltered people at the center of the debate. Outsiders’ ability to do both is a uniquely compelling narrative feat.” It’s worth a listen.

A question we’ve pondered this year: Does a smile matter if no one can see it? Yes! Smiling makes us feel happier, even beneath a mask… so smile, just for you… Fun fact: rats smile with their ears; 2020 is the year of the rat, and represents the beginning of a new day…

We hope you’ve found lots to be grateful for this year; you are one of the reasons we feel blessed, which is why we take time to review our year with you and stay in touch. We’d LOVE to hear how you’re doing.

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