an april tulip adventure

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Yesterday Mimi and I took an early morning trip with our friends Caitlin and Kelly up to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, about an hour north of Seattle.   I got close to them when we all clerked together, and they are both strong, smart, successful women who have supported me both professionally and personally.   They were part of Mimi’s life from the very beginning. We hadn’t seen each other for months, so this was the perfect catch-up adventure on a Sunday.

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We beat traffic and lines by arriving around 9:30 a.m. and wandered the fields at Roozen Gaarde for almost three hours.  The red and yellow and purple tulips were striking against the gray clouds and blue mountains in the distance, and Mimi loved running up and down the long rows of color.  She also loved Caitlin and Kelly, who held Mimi and taught her words related to fields of tulips and who sang “Wheels on the Bus” at least five times to get her to smile for photos.  At one point, Mimi insisted on holding both of their hands as they marched through the mud.

Back at the display gardens near the entrance we bought some kettle corn, admired the more diverse varietals, and left right before the rain started at 1 p.m. We had a relaxing brunch at Third Street Café on our way out of town, and Mimi napped all the way home.

The festival lasts until April 30, and I highly recommend checking it out.

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photo credit: Kelly Paradis
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photo credit: Kelly Paradis

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it’s morning in Fes

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Written on March 21st

I am perched in a sunny, open window writing and sipping rich coffee that was delivered to our hotel room doorstep in a thermos with two mugs. I hear sounds of early morning in Fes, though all I can see from the window is the interior of the medina’s wall.  So I crane my neck to find a sliver of the street below.

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We arrived in Casablanca and took a train to Fes last night. On the commuter train from the airport to the Casablanca train station, we met an elderly man in a pilot uniform with an impressive moustache, who Mimi took an immediate liking to. She made faces at him, and he made faces back. He put his fingertips to his lips and blew her a kiss while saying “God bless,” a culturally appropriate thing to do, and Mimi responded by blowing him a kiss back, which he thought was the funniest thing. After a few rounds of peek-a-boo, the pilot asked Sheikh in Arabic how old she was. He was pleased to find out we were American and immediately told us how much he loved the American people. The people, he said again, pointing his index finger in the air for emphasis. I acknowledged his meaning and my own distaste for our current leader.

The pilot was from Saudi Arabia and was married to a Moroccan woman. He had traveled all over the world and said that his favorite people were Americans. He had been back to the States many times since his first visit in 1976, and had been on road trips from New York to Florida and from LA to Canada. But after 9/11, he said, it became much more difficult to get a visa as a Saudi Arabian citizen, even though he was a pilot and even though Saudi Arabia had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks. The pilot said he believed he only got his visa because his wife was Moroccan. Our train lurched to a halt at the station, and we had to abruptly end our conversation with the pilot. Sheikh and I both regretted that we weren’t able to talk to him more. We said goodbye and got one more “God bless.”

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A man with a shiny black Mercedes came to pick us up, dropped us at the edge of the medina, the largest pedestrian-only area in the world, and a porter walked us the rest of the way. We are staying in a riad, a building with beautifully tiled rooms surrounding a central seating area and fluidly connecting with the intimate, beautiful outdoor spaces: a terrace off of a library only steps from our room and a garden café with hanging rose vines and a large hammered metal plate where they made a fire every afternoon and kept it burning into the night.

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When we arrived, Sheikh and I had mezze platters for dinner full of tahini dips and salads with beets and tomatoes and baba ganoush and chapatti – a flavor profile I could indulge in forever. We chatted with the manager about Moroccan culture while Mimi happily and methodically moved broken tiles from one flower pot to another.   We bathed Mimi and put her to bed in the duvet-lined hotel-provided crib, plucked some books from the library shelves, had a drink on the balcony while we read more about our surroundings, and planned the next day’s activities.

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On the plane ride over, when Mimi was especially cozy on my lap, we looked out the window together at the cerulean Atlantic Ocean below and I told her that we were going to Morocco, that I had always dreamed of going, and that I couldn’t wait to share the experience with her. Sitting with my coffee this morning, listening to her and Sheikh sleep, writing in a window with sounds of children playing in the medina below, I feel an overwhelming peace that comes with getting away for a while.

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on the road: Montana

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There is nothing like processing a really difficult news cycle to make me dream of lighter days.

This past fall our family of three took an impromptu road trip from Seattle to Montana.  Mimi was ten months old, and we were ready for a family adventure.  We packed up the car and hit the road, relieved to arrive in Missoula twelve hours later (we stopped many, many times to attend to baby needs).  All the elements of a true adventure were present – new landscapes, sweeping beauty, a certain level of risk, lots of good conversation and delicious food, and the ability to be spontaneous.  That we got to share it with Mimi made the experience that much richer.

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Missoula is my kind of town, with its mountain views, historic buildings, good coffee, delicious-but-no-fuss food, locally owned boutiques and shops, a weekend farmer’s market, riverside trails, and a state university.  The school gives the city a liberal vibe, a welcome change after all of the conservative political signs peppering the open expanses east of Seattle – not the most welcoming to this multiracial family.

Missoula was full of exceptionally nice people.  We met up with friends who insisted on treating us to brunch and who offered to babysit Mimi for us, though they had just moved houses that week (we did not take them up on this).  Our Airbnb host left Mimi puzzles and gifted her a hat and adorable Smartwool socks.  We loved the crew of bakers and baristas at the French bakery across the street from our place.  And the woman who owned this knitting shop made Mimi some mittens on the fly so she’d be warm on our camping trip.

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We then drove to Glacier National Park to hit the trails, where one in three people we passed joked about how easy Mimi had it, limbs dangling from the backpack carrier (we borrowed something like this and recommend it).  We stayed in a “kabin” at the Kampground of America, where we caught the end-of-season retirees who had hitched up their rigs for the week.  And on our first night in Glacier we watched the sun set at Lake McDonald, a stunning welcome.

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Our favorite hike was to Virginia Falls.  We started from the park’s west entrance early in the morning, stopping at Lake McDonald to rent bear spray.  We drove on Going to the Sun Road for two hours, winding up into the mountains and getting some incredible views of the valleys and the ever-receding glaciers.  From the trailhead we hiked into rich forest, bumping into a fawn on the trail and passing the double cascade of St. Mary Falls.

We hiked another half mile and emerged from forest’s cover at Virginia Falls, a gorgeous 50-foot cascade not visible until you are standing at its base.  Only one couple was there, and after we exchanged greetings and took photos for each other, we had the place to ourselves.  Mimi giggled at the refreshing spray on her face, and Sheikh and I marveled at the peace created by the waterfall’s raging descent.  (Great information about all hikes in Glacier, including Virginia Falls, is here.)

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Despite the immense beauty we had already seen, we experienced the most impressive landscapes from the car on the drive back to Missoula.  We took a spontaneous detour onto 28, cutting west and then south to drive through endless expanses of prairie as we crossed the Flathead Reservation.  The midday sun created miles and miles and miles of golden landscape, highlighted by its shadowy contours and the beautiful, big, open sky.  I had never seen anything like it.  We found a lovely play structure for Mimi in Hot Springs, where we stretched and snacked and did not look for hot springs.

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A little research about our surroundings revealed that we were not far from the National Bison Range, which boasted bison, antelope, deer, ramhorn sheep – it promised to be a pastoral American dreamland.  And it was.  We looped around the reserve during the final hours of the day, Mimi sleeping in the back seat, and happened upon a herd of bison sauntering toward us.  Sheikh and I watched the prehistoric-looking creatures approach us and cross the road in front of our car, mesmerized by their size and quiet power.

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This was such a formative trip for our family, and we haven’t stopped talking about it.  We’ll be back, Montana.

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