Maia’s Birth Day

Over the last eleven weeks, in the midst of one round of finals, a new set of classes, a hundreds-of-miles-move (with wife and dog and cat and baby all in one car together), and your daily dose of grad school homework, I’ve put off writing my daughter’s birth story. Some of the reason for this is procrastination, but a bigger reason is that I believed that the experience would defy description until some of the memory had faded and I could apply words to it justly. My father says that women often forget the gory details of birth as an evolutionary mechanism–if they remembered, he says, they’d never in a million years want to have another one. I’ve done my part to help prepare for child number two by forgetting a little bit of the birth story, but I think I’ve remembered enough to give an account that Kristine can be proud of and Maia will someday be excited to read. I hope that it’s accessible enough for each of you to enjoy reading it, too. Skip ahead where necessary; the headings I’ve added should help you find the parts that you’ll find most interesting. For the truncated version, head straight down to “Delivery,” but know as you go that a start-to-finish read isn’t reserved only for grandma(s).

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Dear Grandma,

Today is your 90th birthday. Incredible. While those around you will conspire to make a huge deal of it, I can only imagine you treating it like any other day–a day when you wake up before the dawn, moving nimbly around the kitchen with an incomparable motor, putting away the things that others left out the night before and beginning the coffee grounds for the early risers (they’ll be up in an hour or two). I hope that this day is a special one for you, and I know that it will be. You’ll be surrounded by people you love! And so perhaps the best part of being the center of attention on this day–for you–is sharing in stories, smiles, laughter, and love, with so many people, one after another. You might go to bed wondering if we can’t celebrate your 90th birthday plus a day, and then plus two days, and so on and so forth because life is too short, even when you’ve lived 90 years, not to spend time talking, learning, and smiling.

You were born in 1921 (subtracting 90 is simple math), a year that saw the birth of Chanel No. 5 and the Chinese Communist party. The former would never be as sweet as you, the latter is still struggling to touch as many lives as you have. I’ve only ever listened in passing to your stories of the “Joneses,” the “Smiths,” Barbara and William Something-or-other, Joe and Harriet Whats-the-name. I couldn’t even begin to feel the depth of those stories (and your connection to the people in them), but I know that those people are vivid memories for you, and will always hold a special place in your mind and your heart. You’ll remember who they are and what they did and where you had coffee together and what you talked about. And perhaps the only thing more vivid than your memories of the people who you’ve made a part of your life are those people’s memories of you and Grandpa: the terrific, too-cute-to-be-true Bob and Bobbie. A couple with with conviction, kindness, tolerance, openness, intelligence, humor, and grace.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to expect certain things from my Grandma:

  • Birthday cards–always on time, never legible. I needed my mom to read them to me until I went off to college and truly needed to fend for myself. I remember those first few letters that I received in my dorm, and my stubborn tenacity in learning to decipher your script. I wasn’t going to let a letter from grandma go unread.
  • When I was two years old, we played ball with the big red plastic bat while Orion was being born at the hospital–a story for which I would have no memory except for the fact that you relate it to me each year. I’ve built that memory from your words. Thanks for that.
  • A special vocabulary of Grandma’s words: cherish, spirit, peace, friendship. You’ll almost certainly speak those words today, and when you do, others will hang on each syllable because you’ve lived a life that embodies spirituality, peace, and friendship. These are the things you cherish, these are the words that define you. You say them better than anyone, as though you really understand what they ought to mean.
  • As I swung into the teenage years, I always knew that a visit from Grandma meant a temporary ban on certain categories of my burgeoning vocabulary. “No swear words, Ian!” I would be warned as mom went out the door to pick you up at the airport. (“But those are my favorite ones!!”) She would implore Orion and me to say “Gosh!” in exasperation rather than take the Lord’s name in vain. I don’t think I ever slipped up. Well, maybe once. I’m hoping you didn’t quite hear it.
  • More than anyone else in my life, I’ve learned that I can always expect your focused and undivided attention on the things that matter to me. You’re curious enough to let your grandchildren tell you everything about the things that matter in our lives, patient enough to let us find the words and put them together the way we want to, persistent enough to uncover the things we aren’t saying but really want to say.

The world has become a place of extremes, a place where language is augmented beyond reason to convey a simple point to an excessive degree. (I mean, just look at that last sentence.) We hear people describe ordinary things as “fabulous, fantastic, wonderful, incredible, great, and phenomenal.” When I’ve had the occasion to describe my grandparents to the people around me, I’ve found those words to be unsatisfying. They’re exaggerated terms–extremes that seem hard to reach–words that are tuned out because we hear them so often.

And so I reserve the use of the word “good” for someone who truly embodies the spirit of the word. When I think of you, “good” comes to mind. This is not to say you aren’t great–for you are. It’s not to say that you aren’t fabulous, because I’ve seen you in a big straw hat and fashionable sunglasses, and I know that you’ve aged with beauty and with a style all your own. You’re a phenomenal musician, an incredible mother, a wonderful grandmother. But underneath it all, you’re just… as good as they come.

I’ve never met anyone as good as you, with such a caring and selfless spirit. You are a truly heartwarming person who wants to bring good thoughts, good values, good words, and the good life to each person you meet. For a remarkable ninety years, you’ve succeeded. So good, so good.

Happy Birthday, and lots of good love,

WK12 Application – Excerpts

I finally got the stones and applied (late) for Wieden + Kennedy 12. The exercise was interesting enough to share some excerpts here. If you already know me pretty well, you might find this redundant. I’m not sure exactly what WK12 is, or why I should want to do it. And that’s part of the reason I want to do it. A very good company creating a thought experiment like this one for a calendar year… well that’s just too interesting to pass up.

First name ian
Middle initial
Last name fisher
Phone number ***.7*7.7***
Email address f********@*****.com
Mailing address ** NE **th Ave. Portland, OR 97***
Country of citizenship USA
Occupation Senior Assistant Dean of Admission
Education B.A. Philosophy, Reed College
Blog address
Twitter handle ianbrookfisher

Describe yourself I was born in Arizona 26 years ago, the same year my mother earned her PhD. It was a big year for her. We lived in a desert house until I was two years old. My crib was covered with netting–not for mosquitos, but for scorpions. When I was a baby, a seven-foot rattlesnake slithered by my head with only a wire screen between us while my mom looked on, frozen in horror. I was lucky it had just fed.

In general, I was a pain in the ass as an infant, but I had a remarkable attention span. I committed to figuring things out in my playpen, spending hours on a game or a task. I’ve always been curious, always tenacious.

At two, a baby brother was added to the family and we became four strong*. In the last twenty-four years, I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that my little brother is much, much cooler than I am. Maybe the names have something to do with it–his is a warrior constellation, I was almost Ben. He has learned humility where I’ve been brash. He’s listened when I’ve talked. He’s a brilliant painter and a bold musician–stylish without trying, funny without planning on it. We’ve always been opposites and yet, the same. It comes from good parenting.

I staggered through junior high school like most pre-teenagers. I played with wrestling dolls until I was thirteen, insisting they were action figures. I bought a CD with their entrance music and turned the lights out in my living-room arena as they strutted to the stage. They say that junior high is a low point in human development. They say it right.

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On fathers and sons and baseball

say something to make sense of the Dad falling to his death trying to catch a baseball for his son

My grandmother’s favorite story to tell me is the story of my younger brother’s birth. While my parents were at the hospital, I was a little boy with just two years and four days experience in the ways of the world, and I had no business bouncing off hospital waiting rooms or dodging between stretchers and wheel chairs. So I stayed home with grandma, and we occupied the time with a game of baseball. “You were only two,” she tells me, literally every time I see her, “and you had a big, red plastic bat.” She pauses here for emphasis. “I would pitch you that ball, and you would hit it every time!” Since that day, I’ve graduated from high school and college, learned to play the violin, played varsity baseball and ultimate Frisbee, earned a job, become engaged, and yet nothing seems to make my grandmother prouder than this moment. I was precocious! Athletically gifted! Not a care in the world except baseball! The perfect grandson: photogenic, dimpled, too young to talk back.

Over the years, my batting average began to steadily decline from that perfect day of 1.000 hitting, and my Dad took up the pitching duties. We played in the backyard day after day. He’d throw me tennis balls and I’d swing and miss and get pissed at his pitching and throw the ball back to him–hard–because it wasn’t my fault I couldn’t hit, dammit, it was his. So he’d up the ante. We owned no fewer than two pitching machines in my youth, one to throw specially designed foam balls, one that pitched out golf-ball sized whiffle balls. The latter would surely improve my hand-eye coordination. The former, my timing. When my arms were achey, we’d go inside and grab a soda and sit down on the couch and watch a hitting video. Dad would pause and rewind wherever necessary. We’d look at swing mechanics, he’d draw up diagrams. We’d talk philosophy of hitting. Then, we’d go back outside and I’d take a few cuts on the tee while he loaded up ball after ball, adjusting my feet here, tweaking my hand position there.

When the light faded away, we’d get in a few final cuts and then we’d go inside for dinner and catch the end of whatever game was on TV that night. The Padres were our favorite team because of Tony Gwynn–pure hitting machine with a work ethic to feed his mechanics. We’d watch his swing and try to figure out what he was doing right and how I could replicate it in the yard the next day. In between, we’d scoff at Gary Sheffield’s wild bat or the way that goofy no-name big-leaguers would lunge at the ball without keeping their bodies steady. They could probably use the video we’d watched earlier that day, we’d agree.

It wasn’t just about hitting, either. We built a pitcher’s mound in the backyard when I made it up to the high school level and we both sort of realized that I wasn’t ever going to be a good hitter, but I could still be a good ballplayer by being a good pitcher. Dad bought a catcher’s mitt to go along with his first-baseman’s glove so that he could squat down with his newly purchased (used) shin guards and cup (“check out what I got!” he would tell me, holding the cup right up to my face).

It’s amazing to me, upon reflection, that his two mitts were each for receiving. He had a floppy, oversized first-baseman’s glove that I couldn’t even hold up when I was younger, and then the brand-new amber-colored catcher’s mitt that he bought on a whim one day at the sporting goods store. Both gloves were all about being a big target for a young arm. He just wanted to get the ball and get it back to me so I could throw the next pitch, make the next play at first, hit the glove right in the spot. On days when we practiced hitting, he’d only ask that I throw him a few tennis balls for five minutes at the end of our two hour BP marathons. Dad had played as a boy, and his dad sure as hell never pitched to him. He wanted me to love the game like he did, and always wanted me to have someone to throw the ball with.

My first pro ball game was at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego when I was six years old. I still remember, as all little boys do, the first time I came out of the tunnel and saw that beautiful green ballfield in front of me, lit under the lights, framed by the biggest scoreboard I’d ever seen and forty-thousand screaming fans. Fred McGriff hit a first-inning Grand Slam that day, his second consecutive first-inning slam, and people went batshit. Whether it was the popcorn and sodas or that important moment in baseball history, I was hooked.

We didn’t have a hometown team in Phoenix until 1998, but we got our baseball fix through season tickets to Sun Devil baseball, the occasional Pads game on television, and Vin Scully calling the late Dodgers game on the radio as I went to sleep. In the early days of Sun Devil baseball, I’d be the obnoxious ten-year-old who was just hoping to catch a foul ball. Any shot off the bat that went into the field of play was a mild disappointment for me. I’d look for lefties, because they gave us the best angle at catching a ball, and so I couldn’t care less about right-handed hitters up to bat, even at a late moment in a close game. I learned that if I just waited until the fifth inning to ask for a run for nachos and sodas, I’d have a much better shot at an “okay” than asking in the bottom of the second. I think of these as the years that my dad “tolerated” my presence at games, hoping that things would get better with age. They did.

As I got older, we became more of a team. I lost interest in foul balls by the time I hit high school, and we focused instead on the nuances of the game. We talked situational baseball after every out in every inning. “Would you bunt here?” “What pitch are you throwing in this count with a runner on second?” We kept a scorebook–he’d do the visitors’ offense and I’d do the Sun Devils. In a game with particularly bad umpiring, we’d work on our heckling. He’d look at me after yelling something and ask whether it was a good one or not. I’d give him a so/so signal. We bought sunflower seeds and practiced spitting. I gradually warmed to the idea of jalapeños on my nachos. Going to games was something for just the two of us, and we made it our own.

In our photo books back home, there are about thirteen different photos of me in various uniforms for tee-ball and little league and high school baseball teams. In all those years of playing, my dad never missed a game. He’d show up a little before game time whether we were playing at home or an hour away, whether it was a mild spring or in the dead of the Arizona summer. He’d always bring his fold-up chair, his wide-brimmed straw hat, flip-down sunglasses over his prescription lenses, and a scorebook. He wasn’t the sort to yell or cheer or even acknowledge to me that he was there–but I knew that he was. We’d talk about the game afterward, over dinner. We’d replay situations here and there. If I’d pitched that day, he’d talk pitch selection, strategy, what felt good and what didn’t. He asked more than he told. He still wanted to learn. Baseball was our thing to connect on, the stuff my brother and mother knew a little about, but not on the level that we did.

We built this stuff over sixteen years. From the first time I picked up that plastic red bat to my first Big League ball game to my first coach, our first pitching machine, my first $180 fielding mitt, my last pair of cleats, baseball was our thing. In the last few years, since I left for college, I’ve lost all interest in baseball. Portland doesn’t have a team, for one thing, which makes the Big Leagues much tougher to follow. But more than that, I don’t have someone to watch it with. I’ll grant to my friends that baseball is an infinitely boring sport–there’s more dead time between action than any other conceivable thing that human beings are willing to consider “entertainment.” And that’s why you need somebody with you. Your Dad. To watch the games and keep score, to spit sunflower seeds and talk strategy, to look at girls when you get a little older and he’s finally okay acknowledging that you think about sex more than baseball these days. It’s a perfect game on which to build a relationship. The discoveries you make in baseball are shared experiences–the moments that you remember are more about who you were with, not about what happened on the field.

Last week, a father fell to his death at a Big League ballgame in Texas, trying to catch a souvenir for his six year old son. A couple of days after that, my dad sent me the one-line email that you see at the top of this story. No punctuation, no subject, no capitalization except that one word: Dad. “make sense of this to me,” he said.

I saw a headline in an article on shortly after this tragedy that simply read, “Baseball is Fathers and Sons.”

When you’re a father, you reach for that home run ball for the same reason you buy two pitching machines when your son is struggling at the plate. The same reason you renew your season tickets to college ball year after year. Your father never took an interest in your batting average. He never took you to a ball game. You never sat in the first row of the outfield when you were a boy, and your father sure as hell never leaned over an edge to try and catch a ball for you.

Or maybe he wanted always wanted to, and you always wanted him to, but he never had that chance. Now, with a home run hurtling towards the stands, you have a moment to make that day at the ballgame something your son will always remember. When you’re a Dad, you want to build these memories with your son. And sometimes, all it takes is a home run ball. Even if it looks like it might be a little out of reach… it’s worth it.

On the Hook


On May 21, 2011, I got engaged. I wanted to follow up the question with a nice, solid, Jean-Luc Piccard affirmation but Kristine isn’t enough of a Star Trek nerd to get the joke. In retrospect, this video would have been a great fire-up moment, if only my name had been “Helm,” and “Warp 1” had been the cut of the diamond on the ring.

Our official engagement was celebrated in a preliminary honeymoon of sorts, and on the trip I began thinking of great opportunities for storytelling. I wanted people to be able to share the adventure that we were having, even though I didn’t want any of them to be there with us. After touchdown in Portland and the appropriate lag time for procrastination, I put the story together in a single email to friends and family.

The writing was well-received. It was forwarded on to more parties–even those who had never met me–and I was glad to hear that it was as touching a story to your average romantic as it was to me and Kristine. I began to think about writing more. The topics would be harder to come by–only one engagement story and then you move on to tales of picking up the farm share or watching So You Think You Can Dance or having slightly too much to drink and stumbling home, choosing to piss in the front yard instead of making the extra twenty-second trip inside to the toilet (these are the three things I did last night).

So here, in seven parts, is the story of my engagement.

ian fisher
On the Hook

Directions for reading: start in the top left and move your eyes across the screen, converting letters into words and words into phrases and sentences. There is one photo for each of the seven sections of the email. Look at them as you go, if you like.

Immediate family: Read each word, soak in each sentence, and re-read those of particular poignance. Know that your excitement is the product of evolution: your genes are now more likely to be passed on to future generations than before. Take joy! (Disclaimer: this sounds like she’s pregnant. She’s not, yet.)
More distant family: A very small percentage of the genes that you share are at stake in this union, so you’re probably less likely to care from an evolutionary perspective. But, when I see you at our next family reunion and start telling you this story, you can say that you’ve read the email and won’t have to hear the less-edited version.
Close friends with a romantic heart: Start at ONE and read through to the end. If you tire of talk of hikes, skip SIX. Share in the celebration of love! Admit to yourself that you never thought I’d find anyone who could tolerate me. Scratch your head. Laugh, for our senses of humor are similar or we wouldn’t like each other.
Close, sardonic friends: Dear Rami, Shane, and Russell. Enjoy the following. Maybe skip the second paragraph of ONE and the first paragraph of TWO. Imagine my dad in paragraph two of TWO. Imagine me being like that someday. Laugh. Make fun of me in your head, but smile when you think about it.*
All: Read the last two paragraphs of THREE. That guy was a riot.
Reed Frisbee players: Check out that safety reference.

ONE – About this Girl
TWO – Elven Rings and Dead Chickens
THREE – Denise, Fred, and Ron
FOUR – That Kid Was So Excited
FIVE – Power Crystals and Vortexes
SIX – The Other
SEVEN – The Number

ONE – About this Girl

Growing up, I wasn’t quite sure what a proposal might entail, but always kind of felt end-of-the-world to me. Asking Kristine to marry me on the apocalypse was a great way to cover all my bases: a “no” and the world ends–Christians sucked up to the heavens and me stuck on Earth to burn for eternity (is that how it goes?). But a yes and we’d have a whole new world together without any of that to worry about. Next time you see her, you can thank Kristine for staving off the fire and brimstone last month.

For those of you that don’t know Kristine, it’s not sufficient to say she’s wonderful. She’s enthusiastic, full of creativity and curiosity. She challenges me to think about things from new perspectives and she supports me when I just need someone to tell me I was right. She loves dogs and cats and mules and conejos and all kinds of baby-versions of otherwise ugly animals. She’s not a big fan of horses and downright hates spiders. Kristine is tall and beautiful with dark hair and piercing eyes that change with the seasons, and I’ve always loved that she can run a mile and look like an athlete while she’s doing it. She’s got the kind of sense of humor that sneaks up on you and the kind of heart that lets the whole world in. She’s a wonderful friend.

For those of you that do know Kristine, you’ll know that all I’ve said is true and that I left out so much more. In short, I never feel like I have to apologize for her or keep an eye on her or ask her to be anything other than who she is. I’m very much in love.

TWO – Elven Rings and Dead Chickens

I asked her in the Arizona backyard where I grew up, surrounded by gravel and cacti. I cooked a breakfast for the two of us (the only meal I can make reliably), and went for it. I wasn’t nervous because I wasn’t expecting a no, but it was hard not to feel the butterflies. I gave her a ring with some mild elf-inspiration. When I told the jeweler that my girlfriend was a huge nerd, and that a Lord of the Rings-style ring would be perfect, she laughed like I was joking. I wasn’t.

The hours that followed the proposal brought all kinds of drama. My dad caught a local chicken in a trap that he’d placed in the front yard. In our neighborhood, chickens run wild and peck away at your plants when you’re not looking, and so the only logical(?) solution is to trap ’em and throw ’em to the dogs. Literally. So as Kristine looked at me with a “is he really doing this right now?” look, my dad brought the chicken to the backyard and made a real-live squeak toy for the dog. I can at least report that the execution was quick. Sometimes you just don’t miss Arizona all that much.

Orion came over with Madison and brought a bottle of champagne to celebrate. They arrived around 1pm, so I know he got up awfully early to make the drive over from LA. We went out to the local ultra-spicy Mexican restaurant and ate our fill, returning for a tequila nap in the afternoon. It was pretty special for me to have my brother come and celebrate. It made for the sort of silent endorsement that you can only get from a younger sibling–one that says you’ve made the absolute right choice in a partner without having to be too vocal about it.

THREE – Denise, Fred, and Ron

We drove north to the Grand Canyon after a quick popover in the Portland-in-Tempe coffee shop with more hipsters than menu items. My dad recommended the North Rim for fewer tourists and an equally gorgeous view: “It pretty much looks the same from all sides,” he’d say. Driving through Arizona was a great way to get reacquainted with my home state, and with significantly fewer guns than I’ve been reading about in the paper. We went through at least five distinct ecosystems on our way up to the GC, first with saguaro cacti, then with pale grey rock and paloverde trees, barren dirt with sulphur and other chemicals, beautiful towering cliffs of red rock, and finally vast forests and fields of grass. The Navajo reservation was a smattering of trailers and pickup trucks that had somehow made it through twenty or thirty years of use, but were now covered in weeds and dust. We later learned about the nomadic character of the Navajo tribe–the largest tribe in the US at 10,000 people!–and the way that their settlements are strewn across the reservation.

The GC was grand and then some. We took photos, but it doesn’t do any sort of justice to the enormity of the place. It’s 277 miles long! The canyon is literally everywhere! It’s 10 miles across! 8000 feet deep! Carved by the mighty Colorado River! Coconino sandstone! Six million years old! You could feel the exclamation points swirling through your head.

We did what any newly-betrothed couple would do on a first visit to the GC: we rode mules down the North Kaibab trail to Supai Tunnel. I rode Fred and Kristine rode Denise. We’ve agreed to name our first child Fred Denise Mule Fisher in their homage. Led by a trusty guide named Ron, “not Ronnie, not Ronald, but Ron,” we were instructed that the most important part of the mule ride was safety. (Shit, I left mine at home.)

Ron has been riding mules in the GC since the 70’s. He was part of early blasting crews back in the day, and has ridden rim to rim dozens of times. He’s never walked, though. “If the good lord wanted me to walk, I believe he’d have given me four legs.” A real live rancher, this one. He had all the makings of old-school Arizona: a combination of classic chivalry and a tinge of an accent that belied subtle sexism: “Mules are like women. Stubborn. Dependable. No two have a personality alike.” He liked to tell passing hikers that “Bill Gates may make more money than me, but I have a better office.” I heard this joke about seventeen times, but each group of hikers liked it as if he’d come up with it on the spot. Ron put his hand right on Kristine’s ass (not the mule, the butt) as he helped her mount up, saying to the rancher he was training, “I don’t care if they’re 18 or 80, I put my hand right here to make sure they don’t tumble down the trail.” Sly. The only moment of less than full confidence was when Kristine gave him an excited hug at the end of the trip (she was literally beaming the entire ride. She loved the mules). She knocked off his black cowboy hat and we all caught a glimpse of the last remains of a full head of hair, and for a moment Ron had all the humility of a boy who has just come upon puberty in the middle of gym class.

FOUR – That Kid Was So Excited

On dad’s recommendation, we made reservations at the GC lodge for dinner. They do a pretty good job considering they’re a world away from any reasonable culinary supplies. Kristine let slip that we’d recently been engaged and our hostess spent acouple of minutes trying to convince me to re-ask her here, at the lodge. “We could place it in the cake! Or no, let’s put it in a glass of champagne! You have to do it, I want to see it!” Not a lot happens at the GC lodge, and the sea of white hair in the restaurant suggested these people were celebrating forty years of marriage instead of beginning one. Despite some awkwardness, we did reap the benefits of our newfound celebrity status among the seventy diners in GC National Park. A 12 oz bottle of champagne was brought over, compliments of the restaurant. The next table over offered to buy our dessert. An elderly couple smiled at us, and a kind old woman said she “made it 45 years in my marriage, so it’s definitely possible.” She “could tell I was a good guy,” and opined that we were starting things off right, with a trip to the canyon.

Kristine’s favorite moment was when a family of four came over and congratulated us. The father extended his hand to me and I shook it. Mom was warm in her smiles. And the older of the two boys–perhaps ten or so–jumped up and down while clapping with glee. As they walked away, dad said “best of luck. Hopefully you get two kids better’n these.” I think they’re doing okay.

FIVE – Power Crystals and Vortexes

We left the canyon for Sedona and its red rock renown, but not before a stop at Walnut Canyon National Monument. In this picturesque canyon just off I-17 are 800-year-old ruins from Hopi Indian clans who literally built their homes in caves above cliff walls. We were blown away by the opportunism of the clans and the importance of community in their settlements. A Hopi native who works for the forest service told us all about the migratory nature of the tribe, and their eventual settlement in northeastern Arizona. Pretty stark contrast to the Navajo.

The road from Flagstaff to Sedona is stunning, and I highly recommend it if you ever get a chance to go. Eighteen years in Phoenix and I had never been to Sedona–it was truly amazing. The trees crept right up to the tops of the rock formations, which were everywhere we looked. Uptown Sedona is a ridiculous strip mall of Made in Arizona products: a metal outline of Kokopeli, a jar of prickly pear jam, a shirt made from dirt. Cowboy boots and hats and the occasional bolo tie. We didn’t stay anywhere near there. Instead, we got two nights at a great bed ‘n’ breakfast south of town with a three-course breakfast and a concierge with a crystal around his neck, an orange hue and carefully gelled blond hair. He was certainly a believer in the mythical Sedona vortexes. We never found much there in the way of mythical energy, but we did take some beautiful hikes.

Cathedral Rock was the first of three stops–and the top of the list from our crystal dude. After a mild two-mile approach, we found ourselves at the base of a steep red rock incline, marked with wire baskets of rocks to point the way. The second stop was incredible: the west fork of Oak Creek. We were worn down near the end of the trail, but pressed on to a promised “abrupt end.” And then we hit it: a beautiful canyon surrounding a few inches of water. Energy renewed, we waded through pools, took photos, shared a soda, and enjoyed the beautiful Arizona weather. Photos are the only way to really do this hike any justice. The last stop was Devil’s Bridge, a rickety old natural bridge over a hundred-foot freefall. Trees on the crossing took on the feel of bonzai, and we soaked in the last bit of the evening sun before heading home for the night, and then back to Phoenix.

SIX – The Other

After our official Arizona swing, Kristine and I capped our vacation week with a trip to the San Juan Islands, complete with sea-kayaking, handfuls of bald eagles, biking, fudge, crepes, and camping. We went with three other terrific couples and another friend whose little girl is 8 months and the poster-child for adorable. It’s been great to feel welcomed into a community of new friends–I can call them “ours” instead of just “Kristine’s.”

The two of us are looking forward to an August trip to the east coast where we’ll celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday and then shoot over to Vermont for the wedding of a close friend of Kristine’s. She’ll have a chance to meet the whole Grimm clan on Otisco Lake, learn her way around our traditional card games, and share in impressions and memories of Grandpa.

The rest of the summer will be filled with adventures with our dog Arwen (told you Kristine was a nerd), barbecues, good books, and lots and lots of ultimate Frisbee on my part. We hope for much family these winter holidays–perhaps the opportunity to finally meet Kristine’s younger sister over Thanksgiving, and an opportunity for her to meet my older sister, at Christmas. I’m also hoping Caitlin will come out to Arizona this year so that we can all be together. Our great friends Eric and Katie are getting married on December 31 and we’ll be taking all sorts of notes on wedding planning in between sips of champagne and renditions of auld lang syne.

I’ve missed those of you that I haven’t seen of late, and I look forward to spending even more time with those of you who live in Portland and nearby. I’m glad to be able to share such exciting news with each of you, and I hope for more exciting news of your lives, conversation about the world, and a sharing in positive energy.

SEVEN – The Number