Outdoors

Beach Bums

Two bros and a plan

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Three weeks after our 79-year-old father succumbed to the ravages of Parkinson’s-based dementia and one week after a vast swath of his uptown Minneapolis neighborhood burned to the ground following the reprehensible police killing of George Floyd, my brother decided to take an “emotional health break” from the volatile urbanity of the Twin Cities and head west to respire some fresh air in the boondocks.

Having hosted my younger and only sibling in such a capacity many times over the years, the Lady of the House and I intuitively anticipated that panoramic mountain views and convenient beach access would rate highest among his preferred curative priorities.

For this occasion—bearing in mind added precautions to help prevent the spread of communicable disease—we worked out a social-distancing-friendly schedule that allowed the three of us to occupy my lady’s family cabin on Lummi Island in staggered fashion.

After my lady enjoyed a solo overnight to kick things off, my brother and I would make our way out there the following evening to join her for dinner.

Then, after breakfast the following morning, she would depart, leaving my brother and me to occupy the cabin for the next three days.

It wasn’t a perfect plan. But at least we wouldn’t be cooped up inside the same four walls breathing each other’s air for too long.

Our “patient” arrived in town just a shade past sunset on a beautiful Thursday evening looking slightly frazzled from the journey but without any trace of sniffles or a cough.

“Where’s the lady?” he asked.

“She’s already out on the island preparing things for us,” I said. “We’ll stay here tonight, then head out tomorrow.”

My brother nodded, but still looked confused.

“Staggering, she calls it,” I said. “Helps minimize our exposure to the plague.”

“Well, of course it does,” he said. “Say, you got any grub round here, doc? I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”

He tried stepping past me, but I blocked him.

“Hold on,” I said. “There are still a couple more preliminaries to go through before I can unleash the cheeseburgers.”

As my slightly annoyed sibling did not appear to be exhibiting any digestive disturbances associated with COVID-19, I ushered him inside to undergo the requisite temperature screening.

After registering an acceptable reading on our digital thermometer he was promptly issued a jumbo-sized bottle of hand sanitizer gel that he applied quite vigorously over his palms, fingers, forearms and neck.

“Well, what’s the word, doc?” said my bro with a grin. “You waitin’ for a second opinion or am I cleared for barbecue now?”

We spent a long night eating and drinking and reminiscing about our dearly departed father against the warm glow of the outdoor fireplace, not bothering to file off to bed until sometime well into predawn.

I didn’t put the coffee pot on until just before noon, and by then it was already too late for breakfast because we needed to go shopping.

Grocery store experiences with my brother tend to gravitate to the extremes. If at least one of us can summon enough wherewithal to be positive, no two middle-aged customers can do it better. But when neither of us can effectively mount even so much as a halfhearted rally before we enter the building, then we’re lucky if nobody gets arrested.

Fortunately, fate found us treading on the sunny side of the mask-wearing throngs that day and we successfully navigated the aisles all the way through checkout with plenty of good-natured sarcasm and kindly demeanor to spare.

After snooping around some trails to watch ducks surf rapids in Whatcom Falls Park and spending a couple of quality hours lazing around the sun-kissed riprap of Squalicum Harbor observing boats of various sizes ply the waters on Bellingham Bay, I directed my bro to steer his upgraded rental car on a northwesterly course to Lummi Island, hugging the Gooseberry shoreline all the way to the ferry terminal.

The Lady of the House welcomed us to the cabin with a dazzling flurry of her most unpardonable puns and served up a chicken and potatoes dinner that fortified us with special beachcombing powers.

For the next three days my brother and I got lost in a salty spectacle of shoe-sucking sand, spurting bivalves and eelgrass beds crawling with crustaceans and birds of a buoyant variety.

It was a healing tonic for grieving souls. And a rising tide moved through us.

[SIDEBAR]

Youth Leadership Adventures

North Cascades Institute will host 2020 Youth Leadership Adventures for high schoolers in grades 9-12 this summer. The weeklong outdoor day adventures will focus on leadership and community, stewardship and sense of place, and climate literacy. Attendees will explore and and build connections to outdoor spaces in local counties, investigate different perspectives and community impacts of climate change, learn how leadership and stewardship intersect in taking action, get to know peers from local communities, and canoe or kayak on local bodies of water. To minimize the chance of spreading COVID-19, the programs will take place entirely outside, and NCI staff will follow any and all guidelines released by Washington state and local county health authorities. If the county the trip takes place in is not in Phase 3 within a week of the start date for the session, the event will transition to at-home program offerings. Thanks to funding from the Washington State No Child Left Inside program, the outdoor day programs are free.

Session 1: 11am-4pm July 13-17 at Mount Vernon parks, plus sea kayaking at Bay View State Park. Please register by June 26.

Session 2: 11am-4pm July 27-31 at Gordon Carter Conservation Site, and canoeing on Lake Whatcom. Please register by July 10.

Session 3: 11am-4pm Aug. 10-14 at Mount Vernon parks, plus sea kayaking at Bay View State Park. Please register by July 24.

Session 4: 11am-4pm Aug. 24-28 at Fairhaven parks, plus sea kayaking in Bellingham Bay. Please register by Aug. 7.

For more details, go to http://www.ncascades.org

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