Category Archives: Call to Wonder

Strange cluster of dragonflies on the susquehanna river near falls, pennsylvania

The Northwest Nomad has gone to Northeast Pennsylvania to visit family, and in so doing spotted a truly bizarre natural phenomenon on the Susquehanna River. The footage he captured is not ideal, but he didn’t go there expecting to document anything.

He was just enjoying the sunshine and teaching his nephew how to skip rocks when he saw this strange object floating his way. It looked at first like a big bundle of fishing line, but as it neared he realized it was an entangled cluster of dragonflies.

Every now and then some would fly off from the cluster and then light back onto it. That activity is what cued him (meaning me) into the fact that it was a cluster of dragonflies floating over the water.

I grew up on the shore of the Susquehanna (which happens to be one of the oldest rivers in the world) and spent hours exploring its shores. I never saw a floating cluster of dragonflies before. This was truly fascinating.

For whatever the footage is worth, I wanted it to share it here with my fellow nomads. It’s one of the most interesting natural phenomenons I’ve seen since the baby frog explosion of Irely Lake.

Happy nomadding friends.

Hidden Treasures of Tumwater Historical Park

On any nice day (and even on many not-so-nice days), you’ll find crowds of people hanging out at Olympia’s Heritage Park and walking around Capitol Lake. It’s with good reason, of course, as both are excellent places to enjoy the outdoors. Not far at all from those spots, though, is the much quieter, secret gem of Tumwater Historical Park.

You can actually walk the whole way from Heritage Park to Tumwater Historical Park without having to cross any streets (the park’s location is pinned to the map at the end of this article). You can follow the paved walk that goes around the lake and then dip down the trails leading through the Interpretive Park and walk the whole way without having to worry about traffic.

Olympia, Washington—An Endless Procession of the Species

Or, you can just drive there. It’s simple enough to find.

Either way, you’ll find a spot much quieter and more private than Heritage Park. Even on sunny days, the number of visitors never strains the park’s capacity. I don’t know why this is. I only know that the huge grassy space and trails there rarely have more than a handful of people.

I’ve had many days where I bummed around Heritage Park and found it crammed with people, then skipped over the the Historical Park and found it nearly empty.

Even those who know of the park, I think, largely don’t realize all the hidden historical gems there. I assume this is the case, anyway, because I’ve been going to this park for years and only recently learned that it’s named Tumwater Historical Park and that it’s full of neat stuff.

I usually go there to relax in the lawn and get some sun or read a book in peace and quiet.

For starters, the park is an official Blue Star Memorial Highway point. I’d never heard of this organization until stumbling upon this marker (which is in the parking lot and concealed by bushes), but it’s a project of the National Garden Clubs.

The markers are placed in honor of the United States Armed Forces. I have to say that I found it somewhat disrespectful that park maintenance has allowed this sign to be partially swallowed up by vegetation, BUT it’s also kind of cool because now the sign is sort of like a hidden artifact.

What is not so hidden is the pair of houses you can find atop the hill where the road leads down into the park.

House at Tumwater Historical Park.
The interior of this house can be toured at certain times. It’s got beautiful landscaping and an educational flower garden.


A house from the early 20th Century.
As the placard in the lower screen says, this is a house from the early 20th Century. It’s so beautifully maintained that I didn’t realize it was a historical site until happening by and seeing the placard.








These sites aren’t going to blow many minds, I’d wager, but they make Tumwater Historical Park a great little spot for a lazy weekend afternoon. For history buffs such as myself, they’re a bona fide destination.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than taking in some history, and Tumwater Historical Park is a great place to explore and feel the tides of Time lapping around your feet.

You don’t even need to visit the historical sites to enjoy the park. It’s got a huge playground for kids and a great big stretch of grass for soaking up the sun or throwing a ball around.

But, if you happen to be a history enthusiast, it’s got some real magic to offer—and it’s all free!

Double Breasted Cormorants on a Rock in the Ocean Just off the Coast of Neah Bay

I caught sight of some double breasted cormorants hanging out on a rock in the savage waters of the inappropriately named “Pacific” Ocean. I found the image to be rather striking and fascinating in some aesthetic way that I can’t fully explain.

So, I then took pictures of the double breasted cormorants perched there on the rock out in the raging sea.

I’m arrogantly proud of those pictures…oh so arrogant, and oh so proud! And here I show those pictures off in all my arrogance and haughty, Godless pride! Look upon the visual grandeur with me, and wonder and awe!

Awe and wonder, my friends! Awe and wonder at this savage, tender world! Ha!

Three double breasted cormorants perched on a rock in the Pacific Ocean. Three double breasted cormorants perched on a rock in the Pacific Ocean. Three double breasted cormorants perched on a rock in the Pacific Ocean. Three double breasted cormorants perched on a rock in the Pacific Ocean.

Dreaming about the Lions, the Mountain and the Sea

Come join me by the fire, friends. I’d like to talk, if you’ve got the time. I’ve been dreaming about the lions. Maybe you have been, too.

Do you know what I’m referring to? Yes? No? Let me explain.

From the first time I read Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” the book’s final line has stuck with me. “The old man was dreaming about the lions,” that line goes.

That sentence refers back to an earlier part of the book in which the story’s main character, the “old man” Santiago, is said to have found that in his old age he’s been thinking less and less about his own exploits and accomplishments. What’s stuck with him the most in his twilight years are the wonders he’s seen. One of those wonders is a beach full of lions.

Much has been made about these lions and about Santiago’s dreaming of them, and most of that much-ado is interesting and worthy of meditation. What resonates so much with me, however, and what has me feeling so sentimental today, is something different.

For me, Santiago’s dreaming about the lions is ultimately a hopeful thing. The most hopeful thing in this life of rust and despair, in fact.

For me, the dream of lions comes to Santiago because old age has softened his ego, and the softening of that ego has made him wise. Santiago in his final years has found the simple love of life for the mere sake of life, rather than life as a stage upon which to assert his own being.

To my view, Santiago has achieved enlightenment. This doesn’t mean he isn’t still a proud, strong, defiant man–indeed a “strange man,” as he so desperately wishes to prove himself. But, in that strangeness, he has learned to step outside of himself and appreciate the grandeur of life as it was and will be when he is gone.

I find that notion very beautiful, and very hopeful.

I’m not an old man yet, but I’m old enough that that line from the book has been resonating powerfully with me. As I find myself ruminating upon the things I’ve seen, the mountains and seas and rivers, I find myself thinking about Santiago.

And as I think about Santiago, I think about all my friends, too, and about all of their own inevitable endings.

I thank God for the mountains, seas, and rivers I’ve seen. Beyond all the hardships and the tears of this life, I’m grateful to have smelled and touched and heard nature’s music. I don’t ever want to lose that gratitude, and I hope that no matter how hard things get in the future, I find myself dreaming about the lions.

And to you, my friends, on your own hard, splendid roads, I fare thee well with gratitude. Through all the suffering life will inevitably bring, through all the loss and sadness, may you dream about the lions.

And when your present seems pale and twisted, your future dark and broken, may you dream about the lions.

And, most of all, when that good long night of forever comes to sweep us up into the canopy of mysteries, I hope you’re dreaming about the lions, my friends.

And I hope I am, too.

And that’s all I have to say, I guess, tonight around the fire. Thank you for sitting a while.

In Order to See the World, You First Have to Get Your Ass Off the Couch

Knock, knock…

If you answered “who’s there,” you’ve already failed, sucker, because that means you were home when you should be getting your ass off the couch!

Bam, I just got caught you in the act!


Okay, that was an obnoxious opening, I know, but that’s actually the effect I was going for (and the one I’m most personally inclined towards). You’ve heard of tough love; well, this is “obnoxious love,” and it’s even worse. You’ll probably hate me (if you don’t already) by the time it’s done but, hopefully, you’ll get frustrated enough to get your ass off the couch.

Seriously, I’m tired of hearing people talk wistfully about how they can’t wait to get out there and see things and finally be happy, finally really grab life by the horns, soon as they get the bigger paycheck.

Look, going on some momentous trip is a great goal, but unless you cultivate the passion to GET OUT THERE in the world RIGHT NOW, to see the things all around you, you’ll never make the big trip happen, anyway.

As I’ve been screaming at the sky ad nauseum: travel is wonder, and wonder is free. I’ll say it again: travel is wonder, and wonder is free.

We all think we want to travel in order to experience this or that place, but that’s not really true. It’s a trick we play on ourselves.

The real reason we travel is because of what we believe those external things will do inside of us. We’re after the emotion and the wonder. The object, the thing outside of us, is really just a vehicle to get to the inner goal.

There’s no doubt that hiking Mount Rainier or doing the Appalachian Trail are big, unforgettable experiences. But, if you cultivate the right mind-eye and wonder-heart, there’s just as much adventure right outside your door. Just as importantly, if you learn to cultivate that daily passion for life, then you’re more likely to make that big adventure happen, anyway.

Every town has its oddities, like the terrible, mysterious suspended bike of the Ruston waterfront, or the weirdest damn building in Tacoma, just as every town has its local stores full of history and character.

I fully encourage everyone to get out and make those big adventures, but in the meantime, why not strive to awaken your passion by exploring the world right outside your door?

You can get your ass off the couch, right now, choose to renew your curiosity, passion, and wonder, and revitalize your daily life. Isn’t that what you really want, anyway?

You don’t want the big vacation or adventure for the momentary thrill. No, not really. Deep down, you want that experience to shift something permanently inside of you, to make you a richer, deeper person.

That’s all fine, but the irony, is that if you first make the shift by looking at your own world with new eyes, you’ll rekindle the fire that is gong to make sure you actually book that big vacation in the first place.


If you’re fixated upon some big trip, then that means travel and new experiences are things deeply meaningful to your personality. It’s a driving force in your psyche, which means it’s potentially an engine for self-transformation.

So, harness that psychological power by getting your ass off the couch, right now, and getting out and seeing your own neighborhood, your own road or yard or the park up the way, as places of wonder.

Walk around the block. Walk down the street. Drive to the park. Whatever. Anything. Get your eyes off this screen and stop reading this stupid post and get out there into the world.

Life is waiting for you in all its weirdness and wonder right outside your door, and it’s in learning to embrace each day that you’ll stoke the soul-fires that will enhance everything in your life, including making it more likely that you’ll actually go on that big adventure that you’ve been saying “someday” about for the last 10 years.

Okay, that’s all I have to say for today. Hopefully no one is reading at this point, because if you didn’t get your ass off the couch and get out there, then I’ve failed.

Maybe I need to be more obnoxious next time.