It’s late December, and another Christmas is approaching. You know what that means. It’s time for a look back at the high lights and the lowlights of another year in the continuing saga of that Pioneer family, the Leaches of Mountlake Terrace. No wait. That is from another book I’m working on. Hold on a minute. Here’s the correct one. ….the highlights and lowlights of the seagoing highland clan, the Leaches of s/v Marie. Hmmm. Needs more work, doesn’t it? In any case: on with the year in review.
As is our tradition….we begin with last Christmas. The holidays in 2007 brought another trip to Idaho to be with my sister, two Aunts and all kinds of nephews and nieces. No matter what pressures we face, no matter what issued are building up at work, when we cross the Snake River and see that “Welcome to Idaho” sign all our tension seems to just melt away. We know that an hour after seeing that sign we’ll be at Bardenay’s in the Basque section of Boise having lunch. Mmmm, there’s nothing like a good brewpub. About 90 minutes after we leave there we’ll be pulling into my sister’s ranch on the Snake River canyon rim, West of Twin Falls. Let the merry making begin.
We have traditions in Idaho, such as caroling and doing a little snow machine riding. But we always look for ways to mix in new twists, new variations on the old themes. It’s the best way I know to keep the fun fresh and new every year…and make it memorable. This year we went caroling in Wendell as per usual. But this year Rebecca found some friends who had draft horses….big Clydesdales…and a hay wagon. So for about an hour, Wendell was treated to the spectacle of the extended family and friends being hauled around town in a blasting cold wind….singing our hearts out. This year we remembered to bring sheets with lyrics printed on them and flashlights to read by. No more of that trying to remember carols…and only getting half a verse in before everyone starts humming.
Another new highlight this year was the dog sled races up in Fairfield. Now we’ve all been hanging around in Fairfield for decades, but this is the first year anyone could remember them holding a dogsled race. They had a ceremonial start in town, but the real course started North of Soldier, at the parking lot for a snow machine trail. In a bit of serendipity, one of my nephews, Josh, is renting a house just a short walk down the road from the start. Sweet! So even though it was a bitterly cold weekend we had a perfectly warm farmhouse to use as a warm base. We could warm ourselves with hot coco and food, then bundle up and wander up to the start line to mingle with the racers and their dogs. I think they were surprised to see so many people at their race…and even more surprised when they learned we were all one big extended family. Mush!
It was “A Redneck” Christmas in Idaho. Everyone got new hunting caps…in bright blaze orange. They also got a new “redneck” name. Basically, whack “Billy” onto the front of any male family member…and you get “Billy Jeff”, “Billy Dan”, etc. And for the ladies….whack “Sue” or “Jo” on the end of their names. “Karin Jo”, “Becky Sue”, etc. You get the idea.
The family stocking collection is getting truly out of hand. There are so many custom stockings from Aunt Karin it’s getting almost impossible to hang them all at once. This year’s special stocking went to our favorite outdoorsman, Russ. It was made of camo-velvet….with wild trout fabric lining. The cuff was shearling, just like you see on fishermen’s vest. And while the ladies may like pearls decorating their stockings, Russ was touched that Karin had put hooks, lures, and tied flies all over the cuff of his. It was very manly Christmas stocking.
Minnie and Gracie got to come with us, and they loved to run around while we all played in the snow with the kids snow machines. They also came with Karin and I as we escaped for a little snow shoeing up above Ketchum. They love to be able to run and play in the snow.
So on to 2008.
It was a pretty quiet winter and spring really. We sailed…realized the boat needed a new engine. I got to sail on a historic racing sailboat several times. I also did some races on Puget Sound with Roy Dunbar on his all wood racing sled. We had a killer church choir party, where the Nintendo Wii Karaoke was the hit of the event.
Karin finally took time off to go to Idaho to take horse riding lessons. She had a blast, working from the Ashmead ranch by day, and riding horses in the late afternoon and evening. She had her dogs with her. A woman at peace with the world.
We got to take Christian out sailing to Whidbey Island over Memorial Day weekend as a way to test the new engine in the s/v Marie. It was beautiful weather, a beautiful weekend, and the engine worked. Always a plus!
By June it was clear that it was time for me to leave Dunbar Marine. Not enough mental stimulation. But before finding new work…it was going to be a summer with sailing. (Needless to say this decision looked a little less intelligent when the economy fell off the cliff in the Fall, making work harder to come by. But it was still a fun summer). Early in the summer I headed the boat south in the Puget Sound to visit Tacoma where the tall ships were gathered for a festival. I also went to Gig Harbor, a cute little town near Tacoma with a lovely little harbor. In Gig Harbor you can row up to a bar, tie up at their dock, and stay as long as you like.
After the 4th of July, we geared up for the annual summer sojourn to the high country, family camp at Boulder Mountain in Idaho. But that plan had to be drastically changed when Aunt Roselee’s cancer finally started getting serious. Instead of going to the mountains, we went to Fairfield for lovely peaceful days of sitting with our beloved Aunt, talking about all the great times on the farm, all the love we felt around her kitchen table. We set up camp at Josh’s, and just shuttled back and forth to the Krahn ranch where Aunt Roselee was spending her days. We sang, we cried, we laughed, we hugged, and we said our goodbyes. Frankly, it’s the way it should be for all of us. Gathered with those we love around us as we prepare for the next great adventure God has in store for us. I know when she passed in her sleep Aunt Roselee went to heaven, and is waiting for the rest of us to get there.
Back in Seattle again, it was time for sailing in earnest. I took the boat and sailed north. Jim and David joined me again for the sail to Canada, where their wives, Karin and in-laws Suzy and Tom Ross would join us for a little vacation. We wanted to see those fireworks again off the Vancouver shoreline, and once again, it was a great show. You have to love the ability to sail into a foreign country, and clear customs just by making a cell phone call. We found a berth at False Creek again, in walking distance of the Grandville Island market. We found new little neighborhood bars and restaurants to try all around the area, and generally enjoyed another visit to Vancouver.
After a weekend in shore, it was time to take off and cross the Georgia Straight. I probably should have waited another hour before going through Porlier Pass. The current was amazingly fast, and it was all I could do to keep the boat going forward through.
Next time, wait. But we eventually found lovely moorage in a provincial park and spent the next two days playing in the Gulf Islands.
Then we crossed into the US again, and went looking for crab and fish. We found the crab…but not the fish. We had to cut a few days short when I developed a little issue with my shaft and coupler. Wouldn’t be a trip if I didn’t have some mechanical, sigh. Next year, we’re fishing first. Oh, and we’re going to Victoria for a change of pace.
With boat work needed, Karin and I headed back to port in Everett. It was August now, and we decided with was time to launch our experiment in urban living. Many of you know we were going to move around the country, trying cities we liked for 5 months at a time. But Karin suddenly got tapped for a new job at Sprint that would keep her more Seattle bound. Since we had already planned to rent the house to Lynn, Jared and Christian….we decided we’d still do that. Karin and I would just experiment by moving around locally. We found a cool condo in Ballard, a neighborhood in Seattle, and moved in. It’s fun to be able to walk half a block to anything…bar, theatre, restaurant, library, cleaner, bakery. I love it. There’s a Sunday Market a block away with farmers, craftspeople, buskers, and all manner of food to eat. When you load up on fresh veggies on Sunday you hardly ever have to go to a grocery store. But living in a condo is very different from our house…and it’s a much smaller space than we’re used to. What’s more, the dogs have to live with Mom in Arlington…and I can tell Karin hates not having them sleeping under her desk.
Fall in Seattle was amazing this year. There was a week of rain…but that was about it. We had day after day of warm weather into late October. The leaves slowly turned their fiery colors, but the storms didn’t come knock them down. So we could take long walks in the arboretum to admire the color. We moved the boat down from Everett to new mooring on Lake Union. It’s a lovely spot where you can sit and watch lake traffic all day. We also got to go to Oregon to watch Brady play football, and what do you know, Knappa loggers went on to win the Oregon Class 2a high school football championship two days after Thanksgiving.
Speaking of Thanksgiving….or really the day after…after 29 years Karin and I made it “official”, at least in the eyes of the Catholic Church. On the Friday after Thanksgiving we had our convalidation ceremony at Blessed Sacrament Church. The church actually recognizes our civil marriage, but gives you the option of a formal blessing in the church. So at 11am, with many of our friends beaming from the pews, Karin and I walked down the aisle to be blessed by Father Daniel. And oh wasn’t he in a funny mood. Father Daniel has the most wry sense of humor, and when he insists that “he’ll be brief”, you can bet money that he will not be brief at all. You could see as he got rolling in the homily that he was really starting to enjoy himself with this one….giving us the full understanding of the four types of love spelled out in the bible…and assuring us and those gathered that he was sure we were still living all the types of love…but please…no details. Oh…that reminds him of another thing….etc. We had friends who were not Catholic come up afterward to say, “you know, if I WERE Catholic…this would be the guy I would want to listen to every Sunday.” We agree.
Finally we move into December of 2008, and the big event everyone in the family has been waiting for; Lynn and Jared’s baby. Just was the biggest storm in years was blowing into the Northwest, Noah Alvaro Ashmead decided the time had come. That day was Friday, December 12th. Just after 1pm, Noah arrived. Jared was beaming, Lynn was tired, and Noah…he was just about the cutest baby we’ve seen since…well…the last Ashmead baby. Now we realize that he has Grandparents….and they have been visiting. But they will also be in Idaho most of the time…and Karin and I fully intend to make sure he has all the Aunt and Uncle Love possible. I was over there four days in a row….just happy to let him sleep on my chest while I sit in a rocking chair. Karin was stunned at how bonded she feels to him in just a short time. I think Lynn was horrified when I suggested we rig his Johnny-Jump-up from the end of the boom on the boat so he can just hang there while we sail. I didn’t mean right now….I’m willing to wait…some. 😉 (and it wasn’t me it was Jared that gave him his first sailing nickname; OrcaBait).
A huge winter storm blasted Seattle as Christmas drew near. Now normally a place as low and near the water as Ballard is the last place to get much snow. But this was a big storm. The entire region was blasted for days, and the cold weather has lasted almost two weeks. In Ballard we got at least 8 inches of snow on the ground. But as I mentioned, you can walk to everything here, so we mostly hunkered down and made the best of it.
We had been planning to drive to Oregon for Christmas…but the heck with that. I don’t want to drive to Eugene at 25-miles an hour, on ice the entire way. We’ll just stay here and enjoy our new baby nephew.
So that’s 2008. There was an economic meltdown, and a presidential election. But who wants to talk about that stuff. I think I’ve hit the high points of the year. Best wishes to all in 2009. I know it will be great.
Dan & Karin