Laura Hartema

LoveThisDay…seeking inspiration, beauty and humor in each day.

Month: August 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Mt Rainier flowers

I Wish I Could See Mt. Rainier

It’s another hustle-bustle workday morning. I’m waiting at the Link Lightrail train station for my thirty-five minute commute to downtown Seattle. Stacked in lines, passengers’ eyes and ears are plugged into i-Pods-Pads-Phones. The wait is brief, but drudgery is worn on their faces. Mine probably looks a little weary, too. Isn’t there more goodness in the day than their expressions glean? Isn’t there more to my day?

As the train approaches, I look down at one of the paver stones on which I stand. It says, “I wish I could see Mt. Rainier from my house.”

wish i could see Mt. Rainier

Mount Rainier is a 14,410’ tall active volcano and the highest mountain in Washington and the Cascade Range. It dominates the skyline south of Seattle like a giant snowcone. Often Seattleites judge the weather by the range of its visibility. “The Mountain is out today,” means the sun is going to shine. “Dang, no mountain today,” predicts a chance of rain.

Mount Rainier

I’ve traipsed over Rainier’s flanks from all sides and roamed through endless sub-alpine meadows of wildflowers and snowy paths. Logs, rocks and bridges have supported me over glacier fed streams and rivers. I’ve camped near its turquoise lakes and under canopies of rich green conifers.

Rainier’s critters have filled my senses: trills of thrushes and nuthatches; squeaking marmots and pikas; bearded mountain goats jumping rocky ledges; high-withered bugling elk, and the rustling of a black bear in a ripe blueberry patch.

Mt. Rainier marmot

As the mountain’s wildflowers lean into the sun’s rays, I face Mount Rainier. From wherever I am in Seattle, like a broken compass refusing to steer toward magnetic north, my eyes pull southward, toward the mountain. Up close, I know it personally. From afar, I stand in awe.

Mt Rainier flowers

And though not everyone in the Puget Sound region can see Rainier from their house, on a clear day, “The Mountain is out” for all to admire.

Do we take for granted the views, the daily blessings, which surround our lives? Do we get up each day and lean towards the good, the high peaks, even though they seem distant? Though our lives become temporarily blunted by cloud cover, be assured—goodness and beauty is near.

At times we need a small reminder to focus on what we have instead of what we lack. Pick up your feet. Look to where you’re standing. This morning, at the Lightrail station, I did just that. I’m one of the fortunate ones who, as the paver stone wishes, can “…see Mt. Rainier from my house.” What is the Mt. Rainier that towers over your life, yet sometimes you lose site of it? What goodness and beauty shines on you from your home and from where you stand right now? Open your eyes and ears to the blessing that is there.

Love this day.






Dragonflies and Chapulines

I stand knee deep in hip waders in a wetland pond. I’m surrounded by native sedges and rushes, and willows chewed by beavers. Pacific chorus frogs jump from floating logs. Mallards swim in a cluster and dabble on aquatic plants. King fishers and violet green swallows bob and weave. Life is abuzz in this restored wetland, and it leaves me a little on edge.


Ever since I stepped into a yellow-jacket nest and was stung over thirty times, I’m a bit jumpy around insects and creatures that fly near my head. Fast flapping, too, sounds like buzzing. I get a bit freaked out by, say a hummingbird dive bombing me because I wear fuchsia; or a bat, loop-de-loop feeding at twilight.

And now it’s the dragonflies with their two sets of wings independent of another, flapping thirty times per second. They helicopter and hover and change directions all around me like drones. Though dragonflies may have been named the “most brutally effective predators in the animal kingdom,” I won’t go into fits of uncontrollable weeping and squealing. My console is that, like with hummingbirds, the dragonflies won’t sting me.

But the red one is there. Red like a siren. Warning. Danger. Red, like don’t mess with me in nature, because I’m red.

red dragonfy

Another, a blue and black, eight-spotted skimmer lands on the drooping spike of a slough sedge. I take a closer look. The delicate creature is still. Not flapping. Not buzzing.

I stare it down into its bulging compound eyes that can see in all directions at once. Its keen eyesight helps it target one individual out of swarm, resulting in a seamless capture of prey. Its unbothered by the mosaic it sees: 30,000 facets of me, a giant Laura head in its tiny face.

The little dragonfly, though a killer, is… kind of…cute.

Eight-spotted Skimmer (Libellula forensis)

“Boo!” It doesn’t move.

What am I to fear? Dragonflies feed “on the wing,” midflight. They approach their insect prey from behind and beneath. Zap! The prey is snared in their legs, which form a basket or a cage. Out comes the hinged jaws to destroy the prey’s wings so they can’t get away. Done. Shredded. Exoskeletons devoured or spit out like sunflower seed shells. Munched down like a bag of Doritos by a hungry teenager. Sounds scary to me, but these dragonflies eat bugs.

blue darner

I wonder what the various bugs taste like to the dragonfly. I’ve tried eating some bugs myself.

While in Oaxaca, Mexico, I sampled my way through market stalls, trying new food. There, in the ant-nest-like mounds, was my next taste. Chapulines (cha-poo-le-nes): toasted grasshoppers, these coated with garlic, lime juice, chili and salt.

chapulines Oaxaca

Their shriveled, strawberry leather, fruit rollup appearance drew me in. But, at first, I squirmed. Could I eat a bug?


Luke warm tamales were riskier to eat than these gems. I chose the smaller chapulines, the size a competing dragonfly might take down in a second. Tentatively, I studied the dried up raisin of an insect and popped it in my mouth. A delightful surprise, the barbequed chapulines had the flavor and texture of bacon bits. I ate a grasshopper. And liked it. I wonder if a grasshopper tastes like bacon to a dragonfly? Or are they crunchier, more like Doritos?

The wetland pond brought me closer to those creatures that flap and buzz and fly a little too close to my ears. The colorful Oaxacan market and Mexican culture lured me into tasting delicacies I might have otherwise rejected. Both challenged me to question my small fears.

It may be hard to rid ourselves of irrational fears. I may always freak out, jump, and then laugh at myself when I hear buzzing, because I “might” get stung. But we can begin by envisioning what we fear differently. Be intrigued instead of afraid when there is no real danger. Close to your fear, no matter how small, is where you might discover beauty in a killer dragonfly or a new experience to savor like roasted chapulines.

Love this day

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