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Dichotomy of Place

Barred Owl. Skagit Estuary, Washington State.

Last week, Stephanie and I flew to Las Vegas, picked up family and drove some two-hundred miles across the Mojave Desert to San Diego to spend a week on the beach. The transition from Bellingham, home to puff jackets, salmon, fall rains and the start of winter in the mountains, to bare feet and board shorts on the sand, with abundant sun and warmth in Nevada and Southern California is a true dichotomy. Definitely mutually exclusive and contradictory entities and locations.

Anna's Hummingbird. Anzo Borrego State Park, California.

While true that Bellingham sits on the shore of the Salish Sea, a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean, and San Diego is also on the Pacific coast, these places are in so many ways a complete contradiction:  Hot not cold; dry not wet; urban not small town; coastal desert vs. the world’s largest temperate rain forest ecosystem; and 1.3 million people vs. just over ninety-five thousand in Bham. These are just a few of the hints that you have traveled to two completely opposite places. The immediacy of flight makes this much more pronounced – transported by air and quickly finding yourself headed across the desert. It feels like waking up in a far distant and dissimilar galaxy.

Calling it a Day! Southern California Coast Sunset.

I have many friends who flee the Northwest each winter to go south to Arizona, New Mexico, or southeastern California, but while I love the desert, I have no wish to live there for an extended period.  Much happier in the Northwest, with the opportunity to go south for shorter trips.  This trip provided a pleasant transition and the time at the shore gave us time to slow down and refresh our spirits.

Small Fry! Coastal Southern British Columbia.

We got great weather, nearly a week of quality beach time, and hours and days with family. There is something about walking along the beach, hand-in hand, that is definitely romantic.  You can do that in the Northwest as well, but not usually without a full-on rain suit (at least close at hand).  And just sitting and looking out at the green/blue swells and breaking waves – I could do that probably forever. Sleeping with your door open and listening all night to the waves crashing is pretty special, and not something we get at our place back in the woods.  The combination of light clouds and sun led to wonderful sunsets every evening.  Of course, we have great first and last light at home as well over the Salish Sea, but you can never get too many amazing sunsets and you should watch and enjoy them wherever you may find yourself.

"Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn."

Ralph Waldo Emerson


White Crowned Sparrow. Anzo Borrego State Park, California.

And regardless of the timeframe, it is impossible to not enjoy blue skies, bright sunlight, pelicans, dolphins, surfing, and beach volleyball. It is also fun to just sit and watch humanity cruise on by via foot, bike, rollerblade, or other transportation. On several mornings we would grab breakfast on the boardwalk and just let the beach vibes and unique personalities sink into our psyche and carry away any troubles or worries that might have followed us south.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Nevada.

Two things are assured with any adventure: first, you will never have enough time and second, it is always good to get home.  After getting back, we threw our clothes in the washer, sorted through a week of mail, and crashed early.  The next morning, we decided to extend this vacation by ignoring the mounds of leaves that we need to rake and to head out to photograph the waning fall weather here in the Pacific Northwest.  We spent the entire morning in the company of bald eagles (we counted a baker’s dozen on that morning… there could have been more?) as they buzzed flocks of gulls, cartwheeled together, and emerged from the water with fresh caught kokanee. So different, contradictory, and far from just a day ago, equally beautiful, and home! 

“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realized what’s changed is you.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald


Northern Saw-whet Owl. Southern British Columbia.


·       I rarely write about cities and tourism, but this was a different trip from heading into the wilderness.  Our first night in Vegas, we wandered through the Bellagio’s Botanical Gardens and their free Magic of Fall display which creates another realm with fantastical fall flora and fauna.  It is pretty cool and different.  My only regret was that I didn’t have my daughter or granddaughter with us. It is definitely something to take the kids to.

·       On our last night (back in Vegas to fly home), we went to see  by Cirque du Soleil. We have seen other Cirque shows over the years, and this one did not disappoint. Another journey to a mystical realm, and another show that your kids (and you) will love.



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