By Linda Wallace

Author's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

White Center Pond

Today, 40 industrious volunteers planted 1400 native plants at the White Center Greenway Regional Stormwater Pond. I personally planted 9 madrones, which put me rather far behind the 35 per person average. Probably because mine were planted perfectly.

The White Center Pond is a three-celled, six-acre water quality and retention facility that is part of an extensive urban lake-stream-wetland complex of approximately two miles in the Salmon Creek basin. The stormwater pond collects excess rain and street water and holds it until pollutants have a chance to settle to the bottom. Some of the water exits to the South and goes on to Mallard Lake and Hicks Lake. I wrote about my involvement with Friends of Hicks Lake in the "Benches for Bumbershoot" post. Improvements to the White Center Pond complex also help clean up the water in Hicks Lake. The native plants we put in today will take up excess water, protect the pond, feed birds and look beautiful for our community.

I felt quite proud to be among so many good people who were willing to volunteer their time and energy. Most of them were much younger than I am, which might be another reason they were able to plant more trees and shrubs than I did during our 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. work time. When I see young men and women working hard to improve our environment, it makes me hopeful for the future.

And on a side note, while speaking of good people, my husband was a beneficiary of an act of kindness this week. He was assigned to lockup his church each weekday morning after an early session of Bible study for high schoolers. When he was ready to get into his car to come home, he realized he’d locked both building and car keys in the church.

The church is rather isolated with no businesses or homes nearby. He didn’t have a cell phone with him to call for help, and he isn’t much of a walker, so he didn’t think he could make it home or to a phone. Then he saw a man and a woman walking out of a stand of trees near the church. They had parked their car in the church parking lot and slept in the woods. My husband told them about his predicament, and they offered to take him home. They drove him to our house and waited for him to get my set of keys then took him back to the church. My husband gave them $10 as a thank you, though they had volunteered to help him without asking for any compensation. I love this story. It so turns upside-down what most of us think about the homeless. The vagrants rescued the solid citizen.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


At the end of September, I toured a gorgeous stretch of the Oregon/Washington coast. One of the places I visited was the World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame in Long Beach—Washington, not California, home of the Queen Mary. Long Beach hosts the Washington State International Kite Festival in August. World-renown and amateur kite flyers, along with thousands of spectators, descend on the small town. Note the 2006 poster designed this year by Wendi Peterson. The kites featured on Ms. Peterson’s poster are on display at the Kite Museum.

To me, before I visited the museum, kites were only toys that little kids, like Charlie Brown, tried to fly with varying degrees of success. What I remember from the few times I attempted to put a kite up in the sky when I was a child was running until I was dizzy and discouraged with zero flight to reward my efforts. My husband knows kites. "Not enough tail," he said, and sure enough, he and my daughter managed to fly her pink kite with a regal black cat on it after adding yards and yards of tail there in Long Beach on a vacation years ago when she was small.

Modern kites are not only easier to fly than the ones that so frustrated me, they also can be powerful. Having dinner at the hotel where we stayed in Seaside, OR, my husband and I watched the kite flyers on the beach. The kites dragged fairly good-sized men along the dunes as though they were sand skiing. And when a kite first whooshed up into the air, it yanked the flyer several feet up off the ground.

The Kite Museum houses a wealth of information about the history of kites. For instance, kites were used during World War II for target practice, barrage, mail delivery and as an antenna lifter in blow-up life rafts. The first kite competition in the U.S. was at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Alexander Graham Bell and Lt. B. Baden Powell of Boy Scouting fame were among the sixteen contestants, many of whom were experimenting on using kites to lift men. And in 1906, George Lawrence used a kite to hoist a specially built fifty-pound camera to take aerial photographs of the San Francisco earthquake. His widely published photos documented the true scope of the disaster and helped mobilize the public to rebuild the city in a mere two years. The Kite Museum exhibit includes the remarkable before-and-after pictures.

I’m a bit of an airhead about history and can only absorb so much information at one time, so what I most enjoyed at the museum was feasting my eyes on the glorious kites from around the world: China, birthplace of the kite; Japan; Thailand; Malaysia and Indonesia, where the first kites were made of leaves and were used to get their fishing lines farther out to sea. And to catch fruit bats.

But never mind about how useful kites can be, what I love is the art. Birds, fish, frogs, bats, dragons, insects, warriors, bathing beauties—all depicted in intricate detail with rich, jewel-toned colors. Some emit sounds, too. Gongs and drums are controlled with miniature windmills. Whistles made from gourds, reed pipes and bamboo play songs changing with velocity. Bells produce sounds ranging from tinkling to gong-like. Hummers are produced by stretching strings of silk tied to the ends of a bowed piece of bamboo on the back of a kite.

Kite fighting is big in many cultures. When I read that the Taliban had forbidden and criminalized kite flying, I wondered why that was such a big deal. Kite flying didn’t seem all that important to me. Why would they even bother to ban it? But it’s major entertainment in many countries. Large crowds gather on rooftops in Afghanistan to battle with kites. The kite strings are coated with pulverized glass and used to saw at the opponent’s string until one of the kites is liberated. In last Sunday’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer comics, Jason from the Bill Amend cartoon, "Fox Trot," attempts to destroy the competition by attaching a chain-saw to his fighter kite. But, of course, it won’t fly. Somewhat like the kites of my youth.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Fashion Conclusion

I attended Macy’s Better with Time fashion show this morning. The one where I was not picked to be one of the models. In the first two blogs I posted in August, I wrote about competing in the modeling contest. Today, I wanted to see how well the women who beat me performed.

I might not have made it to Macy’s downtown Seattle store on time if I hadn’t noticed in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the Alaskan Way Viaduct was going to be closed for a Heart Walk fundraiser sponsored by the American Heart Association. When I read the article, I felt a pang of guilt for enjoying the frivolity of fashion when I could be joining the 10,000 participants expected at the fundraiser. Then at Macy’s, I was confronted by larger-than-life posters of breast cancer survivors in the windows. Good causes abound, but today was for fun.

Inside the store, the runway was surrounded by dozens of tables where hundreds of attendees were being served a sit-down brunch. I hadn’t expected so many people. Maybe it was a good thing I didn’t get to be a model after all. You can bet there were some serious cases of nerves backstage.

At 10:30 a.m., Terry Ahern, Macy’s Fashion Producer, introduced our MC, Micki Flowers. The program started off with a shot of culture to offset the unavoidable triviality of fads and fashion. Mary Ann Gwinn, The Seattle Times Book Editor, presented her "Top Picks for Fall Reading." I was happy that she included some of my favorites such as The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. When she asked for a show-of-hands of how many of the audience had read the series, a gratifying number of arms were raised. Many of my fellow authors mistrust and resent book reviewers, but I don’t feel that way. I see no reason for a reviewer to say they like a book when they don’t, and even when they can’t praise your writing, they’re still bringing it to the attention of potential readers. You can see what a few reviewers have said about my books on my Web site,

Then Regina Hackett, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Art Critic, talked about "Pluralism and Northwest Art." She said artists should follow the philosophy, "You see a rule, knock it down."

The last presentation before the fashion show started was a demonstration of Shiseido’s five-minute facial. Shiseido rep Casey Jaeger said all of the Better with Time models had a facial before they donned their stage makeup.

Finally, sound the horns, bang the drums, the regular-people, fifty-or-older models pranced down the runway, wearing nifty clothes and brave smiles. They did a great job; they all were truly winners. My only regret was that I had brought my camera. I would have enjoyed the fashion parade much more if I had concentrated on simply watching the models instead of trying to photograph them. Recently on NPR, I heard Annie Leibovitz say during an interview about her latest book, A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005, that taking photos of her family and friends could be troublesome. She didn’t necessarily always want to record family events because the camera had a way of taking over. If a camera changes the nature of an occasion for a superb expert like Leibovitz, of course it would for a bumbling amateur like me.

But I did take pictures, so I posted a few of them for you. The bottom shot is of Jeanne Joseph, age 65. In the essay required for the preliminary competition, Jeanne quoted actress Billie Burke, "Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless your are a cheese." Jeanne could be on one of the posters in Macy’s window. She is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed when she was 55.

The middle photo is of Henrietta Feinberg, age 93. Amazing, huh? She was born in 1913 in Metz, France, and came to the United States through Ellis Island in 1922. She started dancing when she was seven, taking ballet in Texas and at the Shehe Dancing School in the south side of Chicago. She traveled with a dance company from Portland, Maine, to the world’s fair in Dallas, using the stage name Henie Hagen.

The top picture is of Nadine Madison, age 70. Do you think these ladies are lying about their age? Only instead of subtracting a few years, they’re adding a decade or two. When she was 50, she left her job as an English teacher and opened a Sylvan Learning Center on Queen Anne in Seattle. Now, she says in her essay, "I still love clothes and parties, I’m more inclined to say what I think, and I’m no longer evasive about my age. I savor being 70."

I’d like to tell you about all of the fifteen models. They’re all fascinating women, but it would take too long. Instead, I’m only highlighting the three I managed to get an in-focus picture of without chopping off their heads or zooming in on their backsides. I have to say, after watching the fashion contest winners walk the runway and reading their essays, I don’t need to feel bad about being bested by any of them.