Valentine’s Day: Random Love

Ah, yes, Love, Sweet Love. Can You Feel The Love Tonight? Have I Told You Lately That I Love You? Love Me Tender. Endless Love. Love Will Keep Us Together. All You Need Is Love.

Ok, ok, you get the picture. It must be Valentine’s Day.

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I once had a random unexpected experience of love. It was during a walk on the beach at Homer Spit, Alaska, this past summer.

As I was enjoying the gorgeous scenery during my stroll, I would occasionally look down at the rocks on the beach. I wanted to collect a few rocks (ssshhh, don’t tell anyone) to take back to My Love back home. He has a wonderful rock collection that was started by his grandparents as they combed beaches all over the Northern California and Oregon coasts, and I wanted to bring him back some rocks from the Alaskan coast.

Out of the thousands upon thousands of rocks on the Spit that day, I glanced down at this one particular rock…yup, it was shaped like a heart! I just had to take a photo of it. Don’t ask me why though, but I did not take this rock home with me. I now wish I had, but oh well. It is now there for someone else to randomly feel the love.

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I have also purchased a few polished stones shaped like hearts from various places during my travels to give to My Love, such as these.

Oh, here is one other blog that I previously wrote about hearts and Valentine’s Day, Heart Art.

Sweet Travels, and remember, Love Is All You Need!

The Iconic Mailbox in Alaska

Over nine decades ago, a recognizable container with a curved tunnel-shaped top, a tube-like interior, a movable signal flag, and a latching door was invented. Now everybody across the country uses this contraption, or some other form of it, such as a slot through a door, or a wall-mounted box attached to a house, or a cluster of boxes in one centralized location.

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I’m talking about the much-valued mailbox. And while the exterior shape of it is meant to prevent the collection of water and snow, the interior shape is meant to collect incoming mail. And when that signal flag is up, it informs the postal carrier that there is something outgoing.

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In 1915, a U.S. Post Office employee, Roy J. Joroleman, designed this familiar curbside mailbox to save time for the delivery of mail. You see, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, prior to the use of any type of mailbox, believe it or not, postal carriers actually had to deliver mail to homes by knocking on doors and waiting patiently for someone to answer. And when I say patiently, it has been noted that each postal employee actually lost 1.5 hours each day just waiting for the door to be answered. (A bit unproductive, I’d say. If I had an hour and a half idle time, I’d probably be fired…)

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Over time (but before 1915), mail slots in doors or in walls of homes were at least cut into place, so that if someone was not home or unable to answer the door, then mail could be delivered. This resolved the idle time, but it did not resolve everything.

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Apparantly there was still an issue of taking time to walk to homes to deliver the mail, especially in rural areas, where they were some distance from the street. (How far, I really don’t know.) In addition, some rural residents had no public mail delivery at all and actually had to pick up their mail at a post office located sometimes miles from their homes. (Interesting facts that I did not know before my research on mailboxes…)

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Finally, Mr. Joroleman’s curbside mailbox design was put into practice, especially in those rural areas. Now no more idle time or walking distances. Although, for some reason, some farmers and rural homeowners decided that they wanted to use bushel baskets, tins, and wooden boxes in which to collect their mail instead of the new-fangled mailbox. They seemed to resist purchasing these mailboxes. (I am not sure why, though. Was the cost too much? Or perhaps the custom back then was making due instead of buying new? Or maybe they just wanted to recycle?)

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However, in 1923, eight years after Roy’s innovation, it actually, really, truly became mandatory that every house have a mailbox or mail slot for the delivery of mail. (Wow, I did not know that…) I guess that meant no more bushel baskets, tins, or wooden boxes. (I wonder what would happen these days if someone didn’t have a mailbox? Would they be fined?)

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Ok, so now you probably know more about facts and history of the mailbox than you ever knew before, and you are really wondering where I am going with all this. Not too far really, other than to show you the mailbox pictures that I took while I was in Alaska with my sister this past summer.

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While traveling around, I got into one of my “photography obsessions” where I become enthralled with taking pictures of the same object over and over, such as The Windows of Porvoo and The Homes of Skagway.

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These mailbox photos were taken on the highway between Anchorage and Denali, as well as on the various roads of the Kenai Peninsula. While I am not sure what originally caught my eye, I became intrigued by the rows of mailboxes as we drove by. I am sure that I have seen zillions of mailboxes in my life before, but for some reason, perhaps because I was on vacation, I noticed these mailboxes.

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I must have stopped a dozen times to take pictures, carefully pulling off the main roads, sometimes onto gravel side streets, not only to photograph entire rows of mailboxes, but also of clusters of two, three or four, and then of individual boxes. It is these individualized pictures that I liked the best. I appreciated the creative decorations that some people put on their mailboxes, as well as the various colors, sizes and shapes.

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I believe that the mailbox has been a symbol of joy and fun for people. It seems important to everyone, as we all go to check our mailboxes everyday. (Except, of course, for Sundays.) I know I like to going to the mailbox to get the mail. And while getting the bills, and junk mail, aren’t necessarily a favorite, mail is definitely a way of giving and receiving tangible communication with family and friends.

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The Alaskan Flag

Needless to say, though, today there is a more popular way to send and receive mail, especially the communication. Hopefully though, email will never completely replace the iconic mailbox. Thank you, Mr. Joroleman.

Sweet Travels!

All photos Copyright Debby Lee 2009 (some photos altered to exclude names and street numbers)

Facts and History of the mailbox, courtesy of Wikipedia

Timeless Messages in Alaska: Peace and Love

Somewhere along the road between Anchorage and Denali (or between Denali and Anchorage if you are headed in that direction), along George Parks Highway #3, the 60’s and 70’s still exist. At least a Volkswagen bus, seemingly from that era, still exists.

Decorated with colorful flowers and hearts, and big yellow smiley faces, you can’t help but spot this vehicle as you drive by. The background is painted purple, the tires have blue hubcaps, the windows have orange curtains. The bus is just sitting there on a gravel parking lot in front of an old building, strategically placed for all to see.

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You also really can’t help but smile when you see this piece of history. In fact, it is so compelling, that you really have to stop and take a picture or two.

Because more than the visual appeal, the VW bus presents a message. You don’t have to think too deeply about the meaning of what is written. You just have to read two simple words, and instantly you are reminded of the two most important concepts of life…peace and love.

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As I was sitting there contemplating the words on the sides of the bus, a few additional significant thoughts came to mind as well…happiness…compassion…understanding…

So next time you are driving down a road, whether traveling or not, keep your eye out for life reminders like this. And just because the vehicle of the messages may have been from over 40 year ago, the messages are timeless.

Peaceful and Loving (and Sweet) Travels!

Photos by Debby

From Denali National Park to Mount Rainier (Alaska to Washington)

No, I’m not a mountain climber. Although I have taken a climbing class, but put a rope on me with some possibility of slipping, and forget it.

I do, however, love to hike. Give me a trail on a warm, sunny summer day, with wildflowers and trees and mountains as my scenery, and I’m in heaven. Add in my boyfriend, some berries to pick and eat along the way, the spotting a critter of some sort, and you have described one of my perfect days. Oh, and if there happens to be a lake or a stream, now you’re talking!

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I try to incorporate getting into the outdoors when I travel. Sometimes, I may do some other adventurous activity depending on where I am, but hiking is a favorite.

On a very recent trip I just took to Alaska with my sister, we visited Denali National Park. We were lucky, as the weather that day was in the 80’s. There was however, a bit of haze in the air from wildfires around the state, which unfortunately made views of the actual mountain itself a bit unclear. But the surrounding landscape that we were in was just beautiful!

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We went on a hike together. The first time that I have been hiking with my sister. We chose a short hike, one with a trail that paralleled a river. In the middle of the hike, we stopped in a grassy area for a rest…just ”to chill,” as my sister says. We had a snack, took in the views, contemplated life…

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It was a perfect hike for us.

I have been to Denali National Park once before, and went on a couple of ranger-guided hikes there deeper into the park than where my sister and I were. During that trip, I was very lucky, and had fabulous views of the mountain itself two of the three days that I was there.

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Now that I am back home in the Seattle area, I have my next travel plans all ready to go. In less than a week, I shall be backpacking with a friend, hiking about 30 miles of the Wonderland Trail, part way around Mt. Rainier. This majestic mountain is one of my favorite places on this planet!

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While some people take about ten days to do the entire 90 miles around Mt. Rainier, we are going to take our time so that we may completely enjoy the scenery, have time to eat, take photos, and not be in a rush…we are going ”to chill.”

Sweet Travels!

All photos by Debby

Alaska: The World’s Friendliest Garage Sale

Occasionally I have been known to stop by garage sales to see if there is something I would like to buy. Sometimes I am looking for something specific. Other times, I am just window-shopping. The thing about garage sales, as they say, is “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” You never know what you might find.

During all my travels, though, I have never really thought to stop at a garage sale. Not sure why. Probably most likely because I’m not sure if other countries do this seemingly American tradition. Maybe other countries just don’t have garages. Or maybe I just wouldn’t recognize the words for “garage sale” on a sign in another language. But really, I never thought about garage sales as something to do when traveling…

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…until this most recent trip that I just returned from in Alaska. My sister and I drove up and down Alaska for 8 days, experiencing many fun and interesting adventures. One day we were driving down one of the most beautiful roads that I have ever seen in this world. East End Road out of Homer. With wildflowers growing on both sides of the road. With homes sprinkling amongst the flowers. With tremendous views of the glacier- and snow-filled mountains in the background. With waters shimmering in the never-ending daylight. As we drove mile after mile after mile down this road, I decided that if I were to ever live in Alaska, this would be the place!

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But I digress from garage sales. Well, not really, for the beauty of this area is beyond comprehension, so that anyone who lives here, I think, is lucky. On our way back down the road, I spotted a garage sale sign. I said to my sister, “Would you like to look and see what an Alaskan garage sale is like?” “Sure,” she replies.

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As we pulled into to the driveway of a modest home, with the absolutely fabulous views, their second garage sale sign caught my eye and intrigued me. It was a large sign, in green and purple, saying “YARD SALE, 10-7pm, Thurs-Sun,” just like the sign along the side of East End Road. This sign was placed next to some flowers and a cute little plant holder that looks like a log cabin. “Very inviting display,” I thought to myself. (I guess when people don’t have garages, they do have yards.)

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As we wandered in, there was the usual stuff for sale: worn-but-still-in-good-shape clothes, out-dated electronic equipment, old sporting gear, books, knickknacks and chachkies.

But this turned out to not be just any old garage sale. It was more than just what was for sale and the signs. It was the people who lived in this home, selling their treasures. They were the friendliest garage sale people that I have ever met. A mother and her daughter.

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“Hi, welcome to our home and our garage sale,” they greeted us. “Would you like some coffee?” This enthusiasm threw me off a bit, as I have never been greeted in such a way at a garage sale before. The cheerful welcome would have been enough. And yes, I have been offered coffee before – at restaurants, friend’s homes, even rest stops on the side of the roads. But I have never been offered coffee at a garage sale.

My sister accepted the offer of the coffee, and as we rummaged through their treasures, we actually had a conversation with this family. We started out by saying how beautiful the place is that they lived. And how lucky they were to be there. And how I would live there too, if I ever lived in Alaska!

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And then the mother, as friendly as can be, told us in a nut shell of their life story, and how the family came to live there. The ups and downs of their lives’ paths, she described. She freely told us of themselves, sharing family tribulations and triumphs. Health challenges, other places they had lived, education for the daughter, marriage, etc., etc. Truly nice people, I must say!

We must have chatted for a half hour or so, as we continued to browse through their treasures. I realized as I was experiencing the interactions that the quote from above is not necessarily true…maybe it should read, “one man’s previously-used treasures could be another man’s new treasure.”

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As the coffee and conversation came to a close, my sister bought a cute t-shirt with a moose on it. I unfortunately could not find any treasure that either fit me or that I could take back with me as a souvenir of our encounter at the world’s friendliest garage sale. I was attracted to the embroidered jeans, but they were several sizes too small. And I really wanted the old wooden skis, but to transport them around and bring them back home might have been a challenge. (Which I now regret that I didn’t even try.) Oh, well. It is the memories of this experience, both the family and the scenery, that are what I bring back from Alaska!

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As we left, smiles, understanding, support, and well wishes for all were exchanged. I hope for the best for this family. And I want them to know again, what a beautiful place they live in.

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Watercolor painting, “Grewingk Glacier & Fireweed,” by Donna Martin of Homer, Alaska.

My sister and I frequented a few other garage sales during our travels in Alaska after this one, but none were anything like this. An experience with people selling their treasures and expressing themselves to two people they did not know.

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I think that perhaps that if I ever have a garage sale, I shall offer coffee to all those who stop by!

Sweet Travels!

All photos by Debby