Inside Outside (December 15)

Winter is a balancing act. In the summer, the wide world is open all the time, early in the morning, late in the evening, with only rare rain showers to negotiate…Winter can bring long stretches of sodden conditions, and dry sunny days bring temperature drops…Planning is advisable – in the summer, with a pair of flip-flops, you can pretty much go anywhere, stop anywhere, and do anything 🙂 But in the winter, outside activities require proper gear, and may best be saved for a stretch of dry weather, so indoor activities begin to fill the weather gaps 🙂

A week of rainy days took us to the Marine Center, a wonderful indoor-outdoor compromise. The building itself is a compromise. It’s enclosed with window-walls looking out on the bay, but the roof is a canopy. So it’s sheltered from the wind, but similar in temperature to the outside. And in the winter, it’s the closest I’m likely to get to sea-life – low-tide wadings and wanderings are definitely summertime activities!

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The water in the tanks is just like the water in the bay: hand-numbingly cold and full of amazing life-forms that are perfectly comfortable and don’t notice the chill at all 🙂

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(Some of the life-forms in these pictures have some very specialized layers of insulation from the conditions!)

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IMG_2599Anemones form the rainbow of the underwater world in the Pacific Northwest, amid the lovely subdued pallet of grasses and seaweeds and algaes, mussels and barnacles, clams and limpets and snails…

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IMG_2627Sea Cucumbers and Chitons and Sea Pens, oh my!

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And we even had the chance to discover something new (as usual!) – a Grunt Sculpin…Cute face, no? I first noticed his sweet little fishy snout peeking shyly out from among the barnacle-covered rocks. I waited for him to swim out into the open, but he had a surprise in store – instead of swimming, he hopped! Turns out, he’s well-known for his puppy-ilke characteristic of trotting around on his specialized fins, instead of swimming.

IMG_2648And here, he even seems to give a great yawn, before hopping merrily on his way!

And, since we expect to be moving soon, it was also a time to say goodbye to the wonderful marine life that I’ve so greatly enjoyed…I’ve never had much preference for living on the coast, but I’ve still been filled with wonder at the depth and variety of discovery and beauty to be found, just along the edges where shore meets sea, finding God’s hand at work under each rock, inside each shell, hidden by the waters, then revealed by the receding waves…Such a constant reminder of how God is always present and always at work, whether or not we are watching 🙂

And then we got a break in the rain, so we decided to get outside…We took a drive to a new trail in a familiar park. We’ve been to the Fragrance Lake area several times, starting at the base of the hill and hiking up…But in the wetter winter conditions, it seemed like a good time to try driving to the overlook at the top and following the trail from there…It’s a bit of a longer drive along a bumpy dirt road, but it turned out to be well worth it…

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As we happened to get there just in time to encounter our first snowflakes of the year!

IMG_2730IMG_2736IMG_2691IMG_2756.JPGWe ate lunch in the midst of a beautiful snow-shower, which lasted just long enough for our short afternoon outing, and melted away into rain half-way down the hill…The right place, the right altitude, the right time…

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There is simply nothing like a softly falling snow, the endless view of perfect white crystals floating silently down from their heavenly storehouses, to re-awaken your spirit!

Inside or outside, the winter days are full of things to enjoy!

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