Forest Spring

Enjoying the spring ephemerals and the dappled sunlight in the forest understory. Trillium, lady’s slipper orchid, salmon berry, wild ginger, pinesap, vanilla leaf.

Around the birdfeeder

It’s bizarre to see that it’s been almost a year since I last posted anything. An international move, an interstate move, and a new job, with a young family, during a pandemic took just about all my energy. But I have been taking pictures and we are loving being back in familiar surroundings and exploring our local natural areas. To start back up, here’s some photos from our time in California, and a few of the backyard birds we met there.

Guten Tag

In which the author spends a lot of time perfecting her deer-in-headlights expression

I recently applied for and got an offer for a research position based in Germany, with additional fieldwork opportunities in Finland. I’ve never even visited Germany—I have a German last name, but very little heritage to go with it—but my partner and I decided to take the leap and move overseas. This decision was followed by the requisite months of packing, paperwork, spending time with family and friends, and squeezing in a three-week trip to Nepal, for reasons.* Just after Christmas, we started off on our newest adventure. 

After a rather long sequence of security lines, plane flights, more lines, more security, more flying, taxis, trains, and general confusion, we arrived at a place where neither of us spoke the dominant language, hauling precisely 112 kilograms of luggage.** This luggage (6-8 bags, depending on how tightly we packed things into other things) spent the next three days piled across half of an otherwise respectable hotel room, as we wandered around town, picked up the keys to our apartment, and waited for the New Year’s holiday to be over so we could buy a few things. Like bread. And lights. And a bed. ***

The nice thing about moving to a place where you are completely clueless is you get to learn a lot really quickly. In our first week here, we’ve learned that when you step on the bus you’re expected to name the exact stop you’re traveling to; that despite its pronunciation “rathaus” means the city hall; and finally that just because you know how to say “I would like bread and water please” does not grant understanding of the first sentence pleasantly babbled at you when you walk into a restaurant, which might be “would you like a table for two?” or “please choose whichever seat you like” or “isn’t it cold out today” or even “if you’re too stupid to understand German then we’d really rather not deal with you today so please leave.”**** 

We’ve also learned that to get a phone plan you need a German bank account, and to get a bank account you need to be certified at the city hall^ as a resident, and to be certified by the city you need a special signed piece of paper from your landlady that she didn’t give you with the normal rental contract. See? We’re making progress, even if most of it is backwards. 

All of this is to say that upcoming posts will likely be Europe-dominated in pictures^^ (and clueless-traveler-dominated in text). The style of this post (with footnotes) was inspired by Robin McKinley’s blog, except for the subtitle which is A. A. Milne. Tschüss!

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*Photos to come soon. ish. 

**Plus of course a little extra, because we figured they probably wouldn’t weigh our backpacks so that’s where we carried all the heavy electronics. 

***The bed and light acquisitions took one day longer than planned (see note about New Year’s holiday and every store being closed) so we spent the first night in our apartment cooking and eating by flashlight, and sleeping on a rug that was hauled back from IKEA via two long bus rides. Much warmer than our last camping trip! 

****Nor, in fact, does it successfully acquire you normal water in a glass, but rather various iterations of sparkling water or tiny bottles of mineral water, none of which you actually wish to drink. 

^Rathaus

^^Yes, yes, and Nepal

Fly away home

 

Once again I’m staring at a calendar, watching my final days on the Olympic Peninsula flash past me. As excited as I am to return to my main research work and life in California, this place excels at being hard to leave. I’ve never called Washington home, but these mountains, and particularly the project on the Elwha, capture my heart.

My focus on this project is the vegetation, but as wonderful as it is to see valley turning green and the trees shooting skyward, I’ve been even more amazed by the transformation of the river itself. Now that the dams are completely removed and the silt has washed down to the delta, the Elwha has come alive. Each section of fieldwork I wrap up is a bittersweet victory, as I prepare to leave this shining, shifting river, which after almost a hundred years of constraint, is finally flowing free.

 

Photo: Mt Shasta, taken on the trip up here. I am in fact not flying home, but driving for fourteen hours, past some very pleasant scenery.