day 8: Calgary

After meandering our way down along the Icefields Parkway and through Banff National Park, we’ve landed in Calgary for the week. I’ve passed through the city and its airport a handful of times, but haven’t spent any actual time here since I was around 10 years old. My main memories are of the Olympic park, standing at the top of the ski jump and of an event simulator or two. We’re all cozied up in our little short term apartment complete with giant kitchen and European washer/dryer that I’m optimistic I’ve figured out how to use, but will know for sure in another 3 hours. My only other similar experience was with a nearly antique German one in an apartment in Prague. It seemed to mostly get clothes really wet and soapy and then give up life for a few hours. The French owner of the apartment spoke functional English and French, the device’s instructions were in German, but not words that Google translate wanted to assist with. The end result was a couple hours of odd Googling and random conversations before we gave up, swallowed a bit of pride and took a bag of wet soapy clothes to the cleaners down the road.

Sights while running – Calgary

It’s pleasant to be somewhere for a bit and pick up routines again, even if in a new city. We’re getting better bit by bit at doing that while we travel. We generally eat and move well at home and continue to get better at doing the same while meandering. It takes intentionality, planning and at least in our case remembering to not wait until we’re suddenly hungry to try planning. J The next few months of meandering are a good bit of the reason I’ve tried to jump back into running. Which has been harder then I’d like and a bit frustrating after I had hit a point in mid-July where it was almost enjoyable and relatively free from pain and misery. Now I suppose I’ve kept the habit, but there’s more walking mixed in than I’d like. I’m deciding activity is still activity and my little fitness tracker has my average still well over the recommended 10,000 daily steps so I’m trying to have a bit of patience and grace as I work back up to it. In some manner I think that’s how it works in reality. Life doesn’t really plateau at a point where an item such as “running” is checked off and always going to be easy and good, but rather it’s an ebb and flow and back and forth and there’s value in the days that are more walking than running. Or I’ll just blame the blister on my little toe that’s proof of the hikes to gaze at glaciers and my failed attempt at choosing appropriate socks. Maybe instead the walk is a good chance to slowly explore bits of the city and the blister is a good reminder of all the adventures and places my feet have carried me even this week.

From here we’re headed to a tiny town on the prairie to visit my great uncle – my maternal grandfather’s last living sibling. I’m aiming to draft up some good open ended questions for him. He’s usually up for telling stories of growing up and family history and I’d like to continue recording a bit of it. Anyone have any good suggestions on questions?



Bertha Belle

Today I’m continuing with my almost every other day instead of daily routine, while writing from incredible random locales throughout North America. Tonight’s writing spot is the lobby of the Jasper Park Lodge Fairmont where we came to trade in the mosquitoes and wet firewood of our campsite for honey beer, dessert and a spot of the Olympics and internet. I’ve been trying to keep up my goal to train myself to not hate running while traveling with marginal success. I’ve successfully run in 2 states and 2 provinces this week, but it’s involved a lot more walking then it had previously. I’m choosing to blame the hills, jet lag, the heat and more likely too much greasy food and not enough sleep. Ah well, it’s a work in progress and I suppose a couple miles of intermittent fast walking and slow jogging is still something, particularly when combined with hiking.

Part of this being “location independent” for a bit has had us crossing paths with family we don’t always get to spend much time with. As we do that, I’ve made it a goal to ask intentional questions and try to learn more both about the individuals in my family and my family history. On our way north this week, we paused for a couple days in central Washington where my parents, sister and her family and most of my dad’s family lives. My dad grew up in the area on an apple ranch that his dad was also raised on. My grandfather still owns 70 of the original 75ish acres, although the last of the apple trees were taken out when caring for my grandmother required his full attention in the early 2000s. My grandfather has been remarried for 4.5 years and we made a point to stop by and visit while in town.

Although we lived in the same area for my high school years and saw my dad’s family often, he is not a particularly easy person to get to know.  He is not one to volunteer stories about his life or history, though, I suppose I have not spent much if any time intentionally inquiring. Apples are always a safe and fascinating subject in the family so seemed a great place to start. Shortly after my great grandmother’s senior year college yearbook appeared complete with wonderful treasures such as rules for participating in rush week “never ask a butler for a toothpick.”

In 1916, 100 years ago this summer my great grandmother graduated from Kansas State 13938116_10153620626636736_1401586793358327662_oUniversity with a four year degree in Home Economics. No small feat for anyone in 1916, much less a woman with her background. She was from a small town in Kansas – Manhattan and the youngest of 8 children (3 girls, 5 boys). Her father died while she was an infant and her mother raised the eight of them on her own. An adventure full of challenges I’m sure. My grandfather thinks she took over the family business, possible a newspaper that she ran.

At some point in college she met my grandfather, although he joined the Navy in WWI instead of graduating. They were married in 1917 before the war ended and he was out of the Navy. When he left the Navy they moved to Corvallis, Oregon so that my grandfather could attend Oregon State University, known for its Agriculture and Horticulture programs. When he finished they moved to Yakima within the year and both the first 30 (40?) acres of the ranch for $500 and began planting trees. They later added to the property that makes up what my grandfather owns today and includes several houses. They lived well into their 90s and well into my childhood. My dad grew up just down the road from them, frequently stopping by to help his grandpa in the orchard and eat at their house.

I’m barely resisting the urge to go back and edit this, but for now I’m well over 500 words. And while I’d love to do something more with the family information I’m gathering, I think for now documenting it so I don’t forget it will suffice.

On that note, I think I will end day 7 by saying I am proud to call this strong woman family and thankful to have had the chance to learn a bit more about her this week.



Both sides of my family have roots deep in specific places and embedded in agriculture and a love and respect for the land. Land that their lives have been built around and that has built and shaped the individuals, both families and is part of who I am even though I’ve never called either of those particular places home for more than a few days at a time.

I love to travel. I love new places and people, exploring – I don’t much like having change thrust upon on me, but I love being the one who is changing, moving and doing something new. I always semi pictured my life spent moving fairly often, maybe putting down roots either in some distant land or future time, but at least in the imaginable future being more on the move. And yet, I’ve very much attached myself to my little corner of the world. Nearly 17 years ago I moved into a dorm room on a university campus in a small town near Portland. I moved a few dozen miles away after graduating, but 7 years ago bought a house barely a mile from that dorm room and have called that town home since. I don’t own nearly enough land for any agricultural endeavors larger than my mostly shaded small garden, but I do own a little bit of land and a house here. I run into people I know from my undergrad days or other businesses in town nearly every time I go to the grocery store and the library staff know me by name. I’ve attended the same church for over 14 years. A church that isn’t much older than those 14 years, that I’ve seen grow and change

apple orchard in central Washington

immensely over the years. That I’ve fallen in love with, been frustrated by, been challenge by, grown along with and fallen in love with again. That knows me and that I’ve helped shape in small ways as well I think. I’m known here at this coffee shop I love and frequent almost daily when in town. I’ve built my own roots and community that I love and is very much a part of me. I’ve lived in this area, gone to this church and been part of this community longer than I have been anywhere else in life.

So maybe that rootedness is more important to me than I used to think when I dreamed dreams of travel, movement and adventure. Dreams I’ve accomplished in many ways and ones that still live on, but have morphed and changed a bit as well. Somehow those roots make it more possible to both adventure and to come home maybe. They for sure make me a more stable and healthy person. My parents were somehow able to encourage us to dream, adventure, and travel, explore and learn, while giving us roots and stability to return to. Something I think more and more as I get older is no small feat to accomplish as a parent.


family history pt 1

I’m currently traveling with my mom in the Canadian Maritimes. This is our first time spending more than about 24 hours alone together, that I can remember. For most of the trip, we’re staying in a little cabin/bungalow on Prince Edward Island, which is just off the water and has an incredible pastoral view with amazing sunsets and no internet. Which is fine, outside of keeping up on 500 words a day. I’m also unbelievably exhausted. For some reason the old shoulder injury has kicked up again and combined with the 4 hour time difference, I’m not nearly as lively as I had intended on being for this trip.

We’ve been spending a good amount of the trip so far driving. First from Nova Scotia where we flew in, over and across the Confederation Bridge to the Island and then over the past 24 hours throughout a lot of the island exploring. Along the way, I’ve been trying intentionally to ask questions about my mom’s family. Her dad had 9 siblings, a few of whom I met and knew a bit, but many I didn’t. Much of my childhood holidays were spent gathered at the homestead with a collection of that side of the family and I’m trying both to learn the stories and to see if the ones I remember are myths or not. This also provides a nice change of topic from politics J.

(Side note: one of those weird amphibian tour vehicles just drove out of the Charlottetown harbor and up onto the boardwalk near where I’m sitting. I’ve never quite understood the appeal of those, for some reason that’s probably totally irrational, it feels like something should either be able to drive in water or on land, but not both.)

Some of the facts of the family I’ve known from childhood questions or family tree assignments. My maternal grandfather was born in 1914, the 8th child and 7th son of German immigrants that migrated from Russia, where they were weavers in 1900. One of my great grandfather’s brother’s had first immigrated and then as soon as he could save up $100 he would send back for another one of the other brother’s to come over. The first generation settled in Quincy and Odessa Washington and began farming. Lena, my grandfather’s oldest sibling and only sister was born in Russia, the first son was either born also in Russia or on the boat over, there’s some debate on that point. After him, followed 8 more boys all born in the US and raised on the homestead they established in 1901 just outside Quincy, Washington. Nearly all the land and the original homestead home as well as the home my grandparents built is still there and owned by the family today. I would imagine my great grandparents’ life was one full of hard work establishing the farm, building the home and other buildings and raising 10 children. That last bit alone seems like quite the feat – she gave birth to her first in 1899 and her last in 1922. Twenty-three years of pregnancy and childbirth combined with immigrating across an ocean and then continent and establishing a farm combined with a weak heart that ultimately claimed her life.

Using the ‘free write’ form of the writing challenge seems as good a way as any other to try to record a bit of the family history I’m trying to pick up and not forget. At least for the time being. Later this month, the husband and I are going to spend a couple days on the other side of Canada with my grandfather’s last living brother and I’m looking forward to learning more stories at that point.