The first hint of spring has me daydreaming about Skagit Valley. It's a short 6o miles north of Seattle...but it feels worlds away. Picture lush fields carpeted in spring bulbs. Here you can bring your bicycle and enjoy miles of flat terrain...with a riot of colors following you all along the way.
The Tulip Festival officially begins April 1st, but the daffodils are in bloom now.
Last year, my friend Asuka and I went whale watching. It was a lovely day out on the water and we spotted the local Orca pod frolicking just off the coast. On the way back, we detoured through the Skagit Valley.
Just before the camera died, I snapped this picture of Asuka. This photo perfectly captures her essence...and I adore it!
You see, Asuka had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball. It went undetected until one morning, while eating breakfast, she collapsed on the floor. At the time, she was living in a small fishing village in Japan. She was medically evacuated to a larger city far from her family, creating a hardship both on her and the family finances.
At the hospital, they operated immediately and thankfully, spared her life. But at 19 years old, she had to learn how to walk and talk all over again.
Once she recovered, the tumor served a constant reminder that life is short...and precious. This was the catalyst that fueled her desire to embrace every opportunity.
Although she finished later than her peers, Asuka did graduate from college. She also took short trips whenever possible...Australia, New Zealand, England, Thailand, China, etc. Contrary to Japanese tradition, she'd travel alone or met up with friends in other countries. On one of her legendary trips, she even took a tour, traveling from LA to New York City in 30 days. That's when she fell in love with the United States.
Next Asuka decided to study English.
Against her family's wishes, she left a coveted teaching position and moved to Seattle. Asuka rented a small room near the university and advanced her English skills.
As our friendship grew, we'd meet and discuss everything from what it means to be a woman in Japanese society (and America) to family values, religion, WWII sentiments against the US, and a wide range of other things.
Asuka had a love for life and was game for anything. I was at my creative best and shared all I possibly could.
She has since married her longtime boyfriend, Martin. When they met, he was a British anthropologist studying the impact of nuclear energy in her village. Together, they've built a beautiful life around a love for learning and challenging eachother. She's now living in London while he completes field research in Japan. Martin is finishing up his PHD...and they will be reunited soon.
The times I shared with Asuka are some of my most treasured memories. And it makes me smile to remember the day we tiptoed through the tulips...enjoying the patchwork of rainbow colors.
Ah...life is good!
If you happen to be visiting the Skagit Valley with your sweetie...for the ultimate in romance? Try hot air ballooning over the tulip fields.