Seattle: The Emerald City

People say it rains all the time in Seattle. People say that the citizens of Seattle have web feet. People say that the only time the sun shines in Seattle is the last week of July or the first week of August, but, you can’t really count on it.

I’ve heard people say these things. I grew up in Seattle. The question is, are they true?

Maybe. Mostly.

I can say that I don’t have web feet. However, I don’t live in Seattle anymore. And, I can’t verify that those who do don’t have web feet. I visited Seattle this summer and it didn’t rain everyday. It wasn’t July or August so I really didn’t expect to see the sun. I was just hoping.

Research shows that it does rain a lot in Seattle, but, not as much as most people think. Seattle receives about 38 inches of rain each year and is 44th on the most rainiest cities chart, coming in behind Houston, New Orleans, New York, Boston, and many other more rainy cities in the United States.

Research also finds that it is cloudy a lot in Seattle; cloudier than other cities that get more rain. But, when the sun does shine in Seattle, it is the most beautiful sunshine, the most beautiful scenery, and the most brilliant color of any city in the world. That is one, but only one, of the reasons I come back to Seattle, and bring my family with me. Somewhere over the rainbow may actually be in Oz, but, people say that Seattle is the Emerald City. I can say I believe that is mostly true.

Here are some shots of the city, in HDR, to make up for the lack of contrast and color that happens when the sun never shines and it rains all the time 🙂

University of Washington Graduation

In the late summer of 1976 my senior year of high school was approaching. I was competing for the starting quarterback spot on the  football team. We had a brand new coach who didn’t know any of us, what we’d done or what we could do. Two-a-days hadn’t started yet.  I was out mowing the lawn when he called. My Mom waved me in the house.

“Hey,” he said. “Want to go watch the Husky scrimmage?”

I’d grown up listening to Husky games on the radio. I’d never been to a game. Never been on the campus. I had two college teams I followed, University of Washington and BYU.

“Sure. Absolutely.”

“I’ll pick you up in an hour.”

I don’t really remember all that much about the scrimmage. I do remember Husky Stadium. They played on astroturf. Cool. I remember the coach talking to me about college, where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, did I want to play college ball. I knew, then, that I wasn’t going to play football; although, I had the presence of mind not to tell the coach.

I eventually won the starting quarterback spot. I respected the coach; although, learning a new system meant we were in a “transition” year. That translated to our record. We didn’t do very well.

I went to college at BYU and never went back to the University of Washington campus, until this summer–38 years later.

My son, Ryan, graduated from the University of Washington, with a Masters Degree–two Masters Degrees, in fact. His graduation brought me back, back to Seattle, back to a campus I hadn’t been to in a very long time, back to 1976–the summer before my senior year in High School.

In truth, I had been back to Seattle. Although I moved away, my parents lived there during the early years of my married life. I brought my young children, Ryan included, to visit in the summers. I think that is one  of the reasons Ryan chose UW for his graduate degrees.

Now, I was back. And, I really didn’t know very much about the campus, or the school. Things had changed, a lot, in 38 years. Although, the stadium was still there, under renovation construction.

As we walked the campus, Ryan taught us about the school I did not choose yet admired and still follow. The visit reinforced my love of education and respect for those who inspire and instill in others a desire for it.  And, as a proud parent, I basked in the glow of my son’s achievements :). He is a good, kind, intelligent and accomplished man who has blessed my life. He will be an asset to the organization smart enough to employ him. And, the campus will draw him back, as it did with me.

And, I took a few pictures.

Sierra Leone–Malaria meds and a touch of Melodrama

I sat on the balcony of a nice restaurant having dinner with a Doctor and his wife who were serving a medical mission in Sierra Leone.  A large orange sun was slowly sinking into the cool blueness of Freetown bay, and, in spite of the heaviness in the tropical air, I felt a relaxing peace.  The blaring horns and raucous city noise below us were quieting. If it wasn’t so hard to get there, I thought, this might be a nice place to come on vacation.

“Did you take your malaria meds?” the Doctor asked me.

I began to notice the tiny whine of mosquitoes joining us for dinner.

“I did. Yes. Of course.” I had to think back to whether or not really I did take my pill that morning. I thought so, yes, maybe.

“When we first arrived, we had over thirty cases of malaria each month, among the missionaries. Now, with better precautions and proper meds, that number is down to only four.”

My skin began to itch. I buttoned the collar of my shirt, even though I was sweating in the heat.

“We no longer allow the missionaries to hang their laundry outside to dry,” the Doctor continued, “because a certain type of fly they have here buries it’s larvae in the wet laundry. When you put your clothes on, the larvae buries into your skin. You develop a sore and then, two-weeks later, the flies come out.”


I looked down. To be honest, I wasn’t even really sure what was on my plate. A few moments ago it had tasted okay, acceptable, good even. Now, I wasn’t hungry.

I looked up at the doctor. “Here,” he said, handing me a packet of pills. “Take these if you start to feel sick. They’ll help. Then, go to the doctor as soon as you get home.”

“Would you excuse me,” I said, “I think I’ll turn in early.”

He smiled. His wife smiled. I rushed from the table as the Doctor said something I couldn’t quite make out.

Later that night, after brushing my teeth with bottled water and taking another malaria pill, just to be sure, I turned out the light and climbed into bed, pulling the mosquito netting close around me. Closing my eyes, I heard it again, that unmistakable tiny whine. That’s when it came to me, what the Doctor had said as I left the table.

“There are many ways to die in Africa.”

As I slowly fell asleep, I was sure there were giant mosquitoes landing on the netting surrounding me. I vowed never to hang my laundry outside to dry. And, I thought that a staycation might be a good idea this year, just as soon as I got home–if I got home.

Sierra Leone–Tragedy and Prayer

IMG_4914_Freetown Sierra LeonSierra Leone means Lion Mountains. Legends say that when European explorers first arrived in Sierra Leone, they could hear thunder in the mountains and thought it was roaring lions.

In 1991 the roaring changed from thunder to rockets as civil war broke out in West Africa. The “blood diamond” war devastated Sierra Leone and killed over 50,000 of its people. The war ended in 2002 but the country is still recovering. The people still remember. The scars are very real.

Now, Sierra Leone faces another crisis.


According to the World Health Organization, this recent Ebola outbreak began in neighboring Guinea, and then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Associated Press reports that over 1,000 people have died in the outbreak, with Sierra Leone losing over 300 people to the deadly virus. Many more are infected. There is no cure. Two Westerners and one Spaniard have received treatment using an experimental drug and appear to be recovering; however, no one from Africa has yet to receive this treatment.

Fear, heartbreak and anger are growing. Neighboring countries are closing their borders. Quarantine and containment appear to be WHO and Government best practices.

I’ve been to Sierra Leone, twice. Recently. It is a beautiful country, with beautiful people. Yet, it is also a West African country. And, there are many ways to die in West Africa.

As I won’t be going back to Sierra Leone anytime soon, I share these pictures from my recent visits.

I offer prayers for the safety of my friends in Freetown along with prayers for the healing of the sick and the healing of the land.

The Apocalypse is Coming

Some say the world will end in fire,
some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
                                 Robert Frost

_MGL6677Drought conditions, high temperatures and low humidity contribute to apocalyptic sunset conditions in Utah County. On July 21, it felt like the end-times had arrived. While Robert Frost went on to suggest that ice would also suffice, the state with the Greatest Snow on Earth was  and is far removed from ice-like conditions.

In 1989, Billy Joel intoned, We didn’t start the fire.

_MGL6636_POM SunsetIn this case he may be wrong. It is entirely possible, excepting Mother Nature’s lightning strikes, that we did start the fire. According to Kate Galbraith of the New York Times on September 4, 2013,

Increasing incursions by humans into forests, coupled with altered forest ecology and climate change, will make fires bigger and more destructive, with implications for air quality as well as homes and infrastructure.

_MGL6664_Highland SunsetI can’t speak for the globe, although, in the last three years I have visited every continent. What I can say, is, IT IS HOT. And, I can say, along with Robert Frost, that I favor fire. I don’t mind the heat: although, when I see the sky, the sun, the clouds, changing to apocalyptic red, with smoke tendrils ominously reaching out, I’m chilled, the hair rises on the back of my neck, and I think, along with Frost, that ice…would suffice.

We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
It will still burn on and on and on and on
And on and on and on and on…
                                           Billy Joel