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Carl Gray's Journal
It has been a very long time since I've blogged anything here.  By now only the most loyal followers will ever check this site.  So this is for you.

This blog entry has been almost exactly a year in coming, but I've thought about what I want to write here for all that time.  As my mind thought back to the events of exactly one year ago this past week, I was again reminded of the time spent with some very special friends whom I had met through the blogsoshpere.  In fact, my own blog was greatly inspired over the years by another blog I happened across that had been such an uplifting encouragement in the simple, yet profound messages, accompanied by such beautiful photographs of a family living out the joys of a rather simple life in some unknown part of the United States.  I remember studying each photograph and trying to determine what it was that moved me so much, brought a smile to my face, a real sense of hope.  Inspired by the Eyes of Wonder blog, I sought to capture some of the same enjoyment of beauty in nature and in childhood that has a way of touching us with a sense of wonder in all that God has designed and made for our enjoyment.

For years I dreamed of one day actually visiting the world captured in Eyes of Wonder, looking into each photo and thinking, "What would it actually be like to be in this place, to see this countryside, to meet the people and find out if they are real, and to actually live amongst them for a time?" But this was always only a passing fancy, a dream that I knew had no possibility of becoming reality, so I never held out any real hope of this ever coming to pass.  I knew that the family must live far from my home because the pictures depicted a very different countryside than that of the Pacific Northwest.  Yet, I had no idea where that place was.  I knew that the blog had hundreds of followers and there would never be any reason that anyone should notice me buried amongst them or ever consider reaching out to me in any way.  Yet, that is exactly what happened.  One day God decided to bless me with bringing about the one thing I would have never thought possible, yet had longingly thought about every time I read a new entry from Eyes of Wonder land.  And so, one day exactly one year ago, I made my way across the country at the invitation of Jewels and her family and spent the most memorable 10 days of my life.

Here are some highlights of my time last October enjoying the warm, gracious hospitality of my new friends, whom I then met for the very first time.

October was the perfect time of year to visit as the leaves here were at their peak of their glorious beauty.  Here is the driveway coming off of the very rural country road where I finally met up with the family.

The rope swing here is exactly as I remember it from the blog.  I was really pleased to capture this photo almost exactly like one of those I remember especially admiring.

And here is Aimaija on the same swing, with her always bright cheerful smile, wearing the cute little cape her sister made for her.

And here she is again, with a lovely bouquet of wildflowers picked in the yard.

Celeisa also wearing a homemade cape and an apron (for she was working on a salad at this particular time) found a colorful bunch of flowers to bring in and brighten the house, while she was out finding ingredients to add to the salad she was making with two of her sisters.

Here she is looking for something special to add to her salad.

Meals were often the highlight of each day.  This was the very first meal I enjoyed on that first morning, when I had barely met any of the people you see here.  Yet, looking at the photo you would think these were old friends of mine who had enjoyed many meals together with me.  As I said, meals were a big highlight.  They were always very tasty and nutritious, made out of lots of basic, wholesome ingredients.  Every meal of each day was at this table, everyone who was home sitting down together, eating and talking together, not in a hurry, savoring the fellowship and the food.  This is the kind of meal time I had enjoyed when I was growing up and it is becoming a lost art with so many taking meals on the run or just grabbing something to eat in front of the TV.  What a treasure it is to break bread together, sharing a meal with friends or family, sharing true fellowship around the table.  Eating is, after all, more than just filling our body with food to sustain us.  The Bible talks about meals in a very different way than we Americans typically enjoy our food these days, even mentioning a future feast in heaven.  So I think God considers meals to be pretty important in ways we don't usually quite understand.

Another highlight was taking walks to enjoy the scenery of the area, which was particularly resplendent with color at this time of year.

Here is one of the more memorable and enjoyable walks we took, for the purpose of procuring a beautiful wasp's nest to use as decoration in Rosie's room (she is the one holding the saw).  It was quite an expedition, which in the end resulted in a successful transfer of the nest, with no one getting stung.

The trail went along this road, which had a gate that wasn't particularly blocking the passage around it on foot.  However any true child who has been raised in the country knows that gates are meant to be climbed over, not walked around.  I think every one of the children had a turn at climbing over.

Finally, we made it to the tree where the nest resided and went about the process of bringing that nest down from a height of about 10-12 feet. Nicholai helps his sister Rosie get a start on climbing the tree to see if the nest could be reached.

In the end a ladder was required for Rosie to be able to stand up with enough stability to handle the saw and bring down the branch.  Only a few almost dormant wasps came out to see what was going on, but this time of year they are so groggy as to be mostly harmless.  Also, as wasps typically build a new nest each year, there were really very few left in this nest.

Another special walk we took was to this nearby park where the leaves were especially marvelous.

A rather impressive waterfall was a treat to view from various angles along the trail that led through the park and down to the lower area where I could take a nice shot of the whole falls.  I do love waterfalls and this one is quite different than the sort that are common here in the Northwest.

When we weren't enjoying walks in the outdoors, there was plenty to keep us occupied indoors, such as these very young kittens that were always ready to be held and played with, and many books to read since I brought my black bag, filled with children's books to read over and over again.

One of the children's favorite books was about three girls named Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka who make a surprise birthday cake and that inspired Sophia to enlist the help of her younger sisters in baking a surprise cake for their new friend.  This was indeed a complete surprise and the joy on their faces throughout the day as they secretly planned their mission, whispering to each other with great excitement, was sheer delight, even more than that of this lovely chocolate cake that they brought out, faces beaming with the joy of sharing something of themselves.  Even now, the rapt expression of pride and satisfaction in Sophia's eyes brings tears to my eyes.  This was such a thoughtful gesture, entirely their own idea, and they took such pleasure in doing it.  Oh that children in every home could be so filled with such caring attitudes of serving others.

I love a home with a porch and  a porch swing, which invites you to just sit there and gaze out across the land and take in the wonder of the countryside, calming the thoughts and mind with a sense of just listening and observing, not caught up in the busyness of the day and mundane duties of life.  I believe that it is necessary to take time to pause and reflect regularly in order to have the clarity of mind and strength to actually accomplish those duties as God intends.

This porch has not one, but at least two swings, rocking chairs and other chairs so that on a warm summer evening the whole family can sit out and listen to the frogs in the distance and watch the fireflies (I don't know if they actually have fireflies here, but I was reminded of that very scene sitting on the porch of my cousins home years ago).  Notice the apple trees in the front yard.  There were dozens of apple trees all through the property and we had a chance to harvest enough to make delicious desserts and just eat right off the tree while I was there.

Here Nicholai is enjoying one of those apples right off the tree sitting on a porch swing.  I love the colors in this photograph and the way they make such a pretty background that shows the best of what I enjoy about this time of year.

Finally, here is one last parting shot, taken on the morning of my very last day from the front porch, the sun rising off in the east, the mist also rising and dissipating above the nearby farms.  This has kind of a blissful, but melancholy mood, which matched my own mood on the day of my departure.  I had spent a little more than a week experiencing the world of Eyes of Wonder, enjoying the truly warm and gracious hospitality of this dear family, quickly making life long friends and it was hard to say goodbye, yet I was completely content and satisfied, ever so grateful to God for providing this once in a lifetime adventure just because He loves me.


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This Sunday I had a family photoshoot with some of my cousins.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the day.


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This blog is for all of you who have been wondering what I have been up to on the weekends.  It will be mostly just a photo blog of some of the fun times I've had with friends and family lately.  I don't really have much to say about these, other than that I had a blast trying to capture some of the joy of childhood that goes on all around me and to share some of my favorite photos from these times.

The first photo is actually not one that I took.  In fact I'm not sure who took this one since I wasn't even there to see!  About a month ago I had visited some friends and accidentally left my camera behind.  I told them they were free to use the camera if they wanted and they managed to take a few photos.  I liked this one so I decided to post it to the blog.

Here is a favorite of mine from two weeks ago when I got to see two very tiny goats that had just been born.  These were the cutest, tiniest goats I have seen and were a great deal of fun to watch as they played around with the older goats.

Speaking of newborns, these two baby lambs think they are goats, trying to play King of the Mountain on a large rock.  They were quite adept at jumping up onto the rock and seemed to enjoy taking great leaps back off onto the grass.

I spent the whole day last Saturday with my cousins and we had some great times playing outside after the rain.  The sun came out just long enough for us to go on a pretty little hike, after playing outside the house for awhile.

This little one can never resist a mud puddle.  As you will see later on in this blog, getting wet is one of her very favorite things to do.

She is also very good at climbing trees.

This is the view at the start of our hike, looking down on Hood Canal near the Hamma Hamma estuary.  I had actually never seen this particular view point.

Here is another view looking north, the bustling metropolis of Eldon in the background.  The main channel of the Hamma Hamma River is in the lower left of the picture.  What an amazing view and what a beautiful place to live.  I am so grateful to live here on the Olympic Peninsula where I can enjoy such rare beauty every day.

This nice old log looked like a good place to take a group shot, so we started lining up the children.  You can tell how much they are enjoying this little outing.

Finally, all four children are posed and ready for the picture.  Actually, they were not quite ready here, but I liked this shot much better than the more posed one later where they are all looking at the camera.

The trail wasn't really this rough, but of course you have to explore every hillside and tree root.

This little girl crafted a work of art out of the red clay from along the road.  She eventually packed this and shaped it until it was perfectly round and hard like a ball.

And of course to protect her treasure she made a pouch out of a large maple leaf to carry it in.  Several other treasures ended up in my coat pockets to be carried the rest of the way home.

At the end of the journey, we take a break and play in the sunshine, which was actually getting quite warm by now.  Here the cousins are making a volcano in a dirt pile.

The most fun however, was playing in the huge mud puddle here, or at least these three thought so.

This was fresh rain water and rather cold, but that didn't stop them from having a blast running and jumping in the puddle.

Those pants are going to be fun to wash out when we get home.

I'm glad for parents who are willing to put up with a little extra work in the laundry to let their children enjoy the delights of childhood.

Don't you wish you could have this much fun when it rains?

Finally, things are winding down and now it is time to just sit and bask in all this wet, muddy bliss.

On Sunday there was an open house at Wilderness Northwest, a Christian camp.

This fabulous tree house is technically not part of the camp property, but actually part of The Refuge, which is a Christian retreat center right next door.

"Would you like a haircut", she asks, holding two play table knives in her hand.  Don't you love the way this huge maple grows right up through the center of the treehouse?

A plastic tool becomes hair spray in the Maple's Tree Salon.

Here is another of the darling play houses on the property of The Refuge.  This retreat center is designed to be a retreat not only for adults, but for whole families and so there are many wonderful places for children to play.

There is even a Dutch door and working latch.

Inside are all the accommodations of home.  What a wonderful place for these little girls to play house.  I have to admit none of my treehouses or forts ever looked quite this nice.

Finally, it is time to check the mail.  I think this leaf is going to be mailed to the other girls, still playing in the treehouse.

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As a native Washingtonian, I have learned to love the rain that is so much a part of our climate, especially here on the Olympic Peninsula.  So when last weekend came with a 100% chance of rain and it became obvious that the rain was going to last pretty much all day long, I was not deterred.  I so look forward to my weekend wanderings and the time of reflection and respite before returning to the land of technology where I spend my working hours.  So this weekend I took a leisurely drive up towards Port Townsend and found the best place to enjoy a rainy walk was North Beach Park, right next to Fort Worden.

There were actually quite a number of other folks out there enjoying the weather, all with smiles on their faces, evidence that they also were native Washingtonians.  I walked along this trail, breathing in the wonderfully fresh air with the aroma of wet grassy meadows mixed with the salty breezes coming off the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  I then walked down to the beach where the wind was blowing and the dark clouds constantly shifted, causing the light to change and creating new moods each moment, one minute bright and warm, the next dark and foreboding.

I must admit that I love the rain, not the least for all that it brings to the beauty of this Evergreen State, but also just that there is something clean and refreshing about water coming down out of the sky, straight from the clouds.  When I was young I was known to rush out of the house at the sight of a big downpour and find a downspout to stand under just for the thrill of getting wet I suppose.

Here some friends of mine seem to have the same thought as they enjoy standing directly under the downspout, getting very wet but with huge smiles the whole time.

On another occasion my cousins and I enjoyed a delightful moment of picking and eating fresh carrots from the garden in the pouring down rain.  Those carrots tasted SO good!

And here are the same cousins in one my favorite moments when we went gold panning in Alaska and the rains came along, but that didn't dampen the spirits of anyone as we ran across the meadows, finding the wild blueberries to be a more abundant treasure to fill our pans than any gold nuggets.

Even volley ball is more fun in the rain as this game shows.  I have never seen so much laughing and merriment as there was at this graduation party in the middle of June, 10 years ago.

Even a baptism is not delayed by rain in Washington and this one of my cousin Reuben was very well attended, despite the tremendous downpour (also in the month of June).  In fact, we had all the more enjoyment singing at this joyful event.

This part of the state, the Hoh Rain Forest, averages 150 inches of rain a year and produces the lush, emerald green canopy of mosses which drape down from the maple trees and the abundant green vegetation that covers the forest floor.  This particular spot has always been a favorite of mine since childhood.  For some reason I have always been a huge fan of moss.  There is something about that thick, green, plush carpet of plants covering everything in sight that seems comforting to me, much more so than the warm sands of a beach in Florida.  On dry days it has always been a pleasure to go to one of my "mossy spots" where there is a flat enough area to sit down in the moss and enjoy picnicking and then just sit back and rest in the soft blanket of moss.

And often at the end of the day, as the cruise ships are leaving for Alaska or the South Pacific, I see rainbows like this one in Port Townsend, which not only show off the most vivid riot of colors found in nature, but also reminds me every time that God has promised that the rains are under His careful control and that, though the rain can at times be troublesome, there will always be a sunny day ahead which folks in Washington enjoy all the more because of the rain that has passed and left the air all the more clean and fresh.

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Some friends from church invited me to a Scandinavian folk dance and Santa Lucia festivity in Poulsbo.  This was on December 13, the day traditionally associated with St. Lucy, who was an Italian Christian who was martyred because she refused to renounce her faith.

Here is the girl representing St. Lucy, with seven candles on her head and bearing gifts of sweet bread.  She wears a red sash representing the blood of her martyrdom.  She is followed by girls wearing white gowns and gold sashes and head bands, along with a single candle.  At the very end of the procession are boys wearing tall, pointed caps with stars on them.  Everyone sings the song of Santa Lucia.

It was fun trying to figure out the best settings on my camera to capture this procession, lighted only by candle light.  I had many failed attempts until I finally found settings that gave the proper exposure and color balance without blurring the scene as they walked past.  This was not easy and it was good that I had my F/2.8 L-series lens.

The ceremony was very beautiful and interesting.  I don't know that I quite understood all the of the traditions behind this festival, but it was an interesting look into the celebrations of a different culture.  The music was very pretty too, with the Santa Lucia song being sung a Capella.

The children also demonstrated their folk dances, which were quite lively and appeared to be a great deal of fun.  You can see in this photo how some of the boys would raise up the girls straight up into the air as they circled around with a lively step.

It was a real treat to see these very young ones enjoying themselves so much in this kind of community activity where they all had to work together and learn the proper courtesies of this kind of dancing.  It was also fun to see them dressed in traditional costumes.  They have all worked very hard to learn these dance routines well enough to do such a good job in this public event.

Current Location: Poulsbo, WA

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Since it is almost time for my favorite season of the year, Autumn, I thought I should write a quick blog of some of the enjoyable moments of this past summer.  Then I can start all over for the next season collecting favorite photos to post later.

One of the big events of the summer was the wedding of my good friend Candice and it turned out to be a perfect summer day for a wedding, not always guaranteed for outdoor weddings in Washington.  I snapped this shot of a little flower girl before the wedding, helping to water the flowers.

Much of my time has been spent helping cultivate the pumpkin patch at Creek House Farm in Port Orchard, home of the personalized pumpkin which has been a real challenge in this off and on summer, but a great deal of fun as well.

Here you see some of the fine artistic hand that goes into personalizing these pumpkins in August so that they will look amazingly beautiful as the scab heals and creates a lovely raised lettering that will be truly impressive in October.  You can see an example of the finished result in my blog from last year.

The pumpkin blossoms are looking pretty colorful by August, but the weeds seem to enjoy the warm, often wet weather even more than the pumpkins and keeping them away has been a constant challenge.  Yes, there are small pumpkins just starting to grow under those big leaves.  Running down the rows of the pumpkin patch is a great way to spend a summer day,

as is eating little green apples in the rain...

or playing with newborn goats as this sweet little girl is doing.

Among my favorite things to do is to go on adventures, generally involving plodding out into uncharted territory, where no trails exist and lots of possibilities of discovery lurk around every corner.

One such adventure excursion led to finding this very old electric cook stove buried deep in the woods.  This model appears to be from about the 1930's and would have been one of the earliest electric models around.  I'm sure the owners of this were very proud to be able to cook with such a modern appliance that required no fire, just the flick of a switch.  Some folks would consider this unsightly garbage (you may be thinking that right now), but to me it is a fascinating part of history, just waiting to be discovered and then examined and pondered as to just who might have used this and what they used it for.  Can you imagine cooking a pumpkin pie in the tiny oven and frying some farm-fresh eggs on the range top?

Another kind of adventure I enjoy is exploring by car, going on long journeys into new territory (away from any cities of course) in the hopes of finding some new place to visit.  I have found some of my most treasured places by going off the beaten path to see where a different path may lead and what might be at the end of a rarely traveled country road.  Recently, I decided to head off in a new direction far to the south, and explore the farming country around Buckley, Enumclaw, and toward the Green Valley.  Friends of mine had moved out there in the past year and I had never even tried to find where they might be.  So, using a very inaccurate map from Google (which had me turning left over a guard rail and down into a steep canyon) and a little common sense and just "exploring" I set off on the journey one weekend, with the thought that I would try and find their home.  Yes, I know a normal person would have called ahead for directions, arranged the time to be there, and all of that sort of thing.  But that really rather spoils the adventure of it all, don't you think?  People who operate this way (the majority of you, I suspect) must lead rather dull lives, always doing things the proper way, with a plan, a purpose, and an agenda.  As for me, I prefer to just strike out on the road and see where the road leads me and if I find what I'm looking for, how nice, but it is the journey, the many things along the way, the unexpected turns that make life enjoyable, not just the destination.  In this case I did arrive at my hopeful destination and rather surprised the occupants of a bright green house, far off the beaten path. I found the correct house, just down the driveway near the abrupt end (just below that guard rail Google wanted me to plunge over) of a road not really connected to anything, except another unassuming road turning off a country lane.

The family graciously accepted me into their home and made me feel welcome, still surprised I could have found the place without proper directions.  They too had discovered a path, which they then followed until it led down the hill and into a lovely creek valley, lush with wildflowers and plenty of rocks for throwing into the creek.  I was very pleased to be able to take this delightful trail through the woods, down to the stream, and enjoy watching their little girls very much enjoying the water and nearby flora.

The youngest enjoyed playing with the sticky, velcro-like, thistle burrs which grew all along the stream.  They were not terribly pokey, but would attach themselves to anything, even the end of your finger, which made for no end of fun.  We attached these to leaves and floated them down the stream, trying to make them so that the leaf would remain upright, and the prickly occupant would survive the rapids of the rippling brook down stream as it washed over the rocks.

There were also some very lovely little orange flowers, really quite delicious in appearance, which the bees were also quite attracted to and I was quite pleased to catch this fine specimen trying to find the sweet nectar to take home and make into honey.  Hmm, I wonder just where that honey is!  Wouldn't it be fun to follow the bee back to his hive and collect some wild honey?  Ah, that reminds me somehow of The Berenstain Bears and one of my favorite stories to read as a child.

The rains have started now and summer appears to be over for awhile anyway.  I know it will come back later in September and October for one last showing of sun leading into the crisp days of Autumn.  But, as you may know, I truly love the rain, having been born in Washington, on the rainy side, in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains, not far from the rain forest.  So I feel the most at home in the rain.  Besides, without the rain, how could you ever have such a lovely thing as this delicate rose blossom, from my own garden?

Doesn't that rain look magnificent, perched oh-so-delicately on the very edges of the pretty pink blossoms?  Sorry folks, you won't find this in Phoenix.  Yes, I think I'll stay in Washington.  I don't think I could truly enjoy living anywhere else.

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I know I haven't written a blog since Christmas.  It is just that I haven't time to look over my photographs and find any worthy of a blog.  So, for those who are still checking this blog, here are some scenes from my drive home from work last night.

This is a shot of the Olympic Mountains as I was driving north of Shelton.  This is always one of my favorite spots along the way.

Can you see the profile of Washington lying down, forming the peaks of Mount Washington on the right?  Mount Ellinor is on the left.  Both are excellent for casual mountain climbers who want to get a good view.

Here is a view from the Skokomish Valley, with the contented cows feeding on the rich green grass and the sky taking on bright colors.  From Highway 101 I was able to see an even more brilliant sunset, but by the time I drove 2 minutes to get an unobscured view, the colors were waning.

Current Location: Shelton, WA

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