I Lost a Friend I Never Met

I never met Jerry Olmstead, yet he powerfully impacted my life. Let me explain. I enjoy walking and photographing and visiting gardens. One of my favorite gardens has become the landscaping at Everett Community College. I know. Seems like a strange garden to fall in love with, doesn’t it? Its an academic setting after all. It’s classrooms and sidewalks and parking lots–huge amounts of asphalt striped and pulsating with thousands of cars coming and going daily. But it’s the rose garden and flower beds that soften the concrete and asphalt that capture my imagination.

You don’t just enjoy the flowers on this campus, you experience them. You feel the love. I knew someone deeply cared about these glorious petals and the greenery that frames them. Obviously, much thoughtful attention went into these planters and beds and sweeping vistas of chartreuse and magenta, tangerine and lipstick red.

Yesterday, I read in The Herald that Gerald Olmstead, killed in a tragic accident on I-5 last week, was the passionate lover and Mr. Cheerful green thumb behind the gardens at EvCC. My heart sank. Days earlier, I had read the tragic account of a man’s untimely death. It wasn’t anyone I knew, yet I find out now it was–it was someone whose garden I reveled in, whose passion for color and life touched me deeply, whose joy emanated from the flowers he so lovingly tended. I did know this man by his work.

Just last week, on what day I do not know, I unwittingly pulled two tulip photographs from my stack of printed images and placed them in black frames with white matting. I hung them on the wall in my office studio. They look stunning and I frequently find myself gazing at them. I now know they flourished under Jerry’s devotion and dedication.


As I study them now, it is as if each one leapt out of a still life painted by some European master three hundred years ago. Their beauty is timeless. I will not forget Jerry or the impact of his life on this college campus. Impact like Jerry’s is memorable.


I have extensively photographed tulips in the famous Skagit Valley, but when I look at the images I have made, none speak so profoundly as the two images from Jerry’s garden at EvCC. They weren’t planted to be monetized; they were planted to be savored.

I’ll miss you Jerry–and I never ever met you face to face.

You taught me much about the flourishing life. Thank you.

Marlee Huber ~ for Your Flourishing Life. 

Read The Herald article at http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20141218/NEWS01/141219033/Gerald-Olmstead-EvCC-groundskeeper-loved-his-job





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Ice Cream Break Big Island Style

Teetering on the edge of a gloomy Northwest December day, my thoughts turn to November on the Big Island. It’s the day after Veteran’s Day in Hawaii. The Engineer and I are capturing one more 82 degree day of leisurely island roaming. Heading out of Keouhou Bay, we turn right. If we keep going, we will arrive at Volcano National Park and eventually in Hilo. Today’s travels, however, will be more about meandering than arriving. We’ll just be poking around on island time in case you need us.

On the way through Kealakekua, I spot two huge American flags flying from the veranda of an antique store. I also notice a big ice cream sign. Something about best ice cream on the island catches my eye. Right now there are too many cars parked in front for a good photo. Mental note. Stop on the return trip. Those flags would make a great image. Ice cream might be attractive, too.

We meander–but that is another story–and upon our return we stop, almost missing the antique shop aka ice creamery. The flags have been removed. Disappointment best describes the mood of the photographer.

Oh well. Let’s go in and order ice cream. The place is crazy full of everything old and imaginable that could find its way to the islands. We wander among Marilyn Monroe posters and Japanese pottery and island shirts, poking around and peering behind bric a brac and baseball caps on dusty shelves. Nothing particular strikes our fancy so we head for the ice cream counter at the rear of the store.

We make our choices and wander out to the veranda to settle into matching wood benches pulled up to an old 1950s style kitchen table.

I look down at a small table beyond the veranda. Lying neatly folded in front of me are the two huge 48 star American flags. They look so lovely.Day 10-  RED

I lament that I did not get to photograph the flags flying in honor of our veterans. My tongue slurps up another mouthful of delicious ice cream. Funny, I do not remember the flavors we ordered–only the transaction that soon unfolded–and the memory that the ice cream is very good.

An old pickup full of junk jerks to a stop in front of the store. The driver shifts into reverse and eases up to the veranda almost at our feet. One grimy looking fellow with a crooked smile jumps out and heads into the store. He returns and begins unloading the truck. We make small talk. Turns out he and his partner cleaned out an old property and reaped the rewards of their findings. Now can they turn it into cash? Let’s watch.

Basement finds

Drum rolls! An impromptu island reality show is about to begin.

The proprietor saunters out and begins to dig through the truck bed making a few depreciating comments as he frowns at the bushel basket of ripe oranges, an anthurium  complete with a mass of tangled roots, a Brute garbage can, old Japanese cups and grimy paper labels and political pamphlets. He sneers at the suggestion that he needs an unopened box of Pampers circa 1979.

Rifling and scoffing he roots through the stack of dust covered wannabe treasures.

Let’s peek over his shoulder as he shops the pickup.


Primo beer

The cash is offered.

The guys in the truck whine a bit about how little the shop owner is offering. This is good junk!

The shop owner peers over the top of his readers. Can these guys be serious?


Body language is everywhere. Smiles. Frowns. The twist of the head. The grimace.

The bargaining begins. The ice cream cone is disappearing.

money exchange

They dicker–$50? I wonder if the shop owner is serious or just generous. Guess I’ll never know.

money exchange 2

Happy sellers. I cheered on the sellers. The shop owner wasn’t too happy with me.

Invitation to sellBut then he made the offer!

When on the Big Island, be sure and stop and indulge in great ice cream and entertainment at the island’s best antique shop, Discovery Antiques. I just hope you aren’t looking to build your collection of 1970s Pampers.

Marlee Huber ~ For Your Flourishing Life!

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At Ease

Today I found myself laughing. You know that throw your head back kind of laugh that issues forth from deep within. I think it might have been a prayer. Or it might have been sheer relief. I don’t know. I just know that in the last eighteen hours I have had conversations with three amazing young women that I so admire. Each has a need. A BIG need in some cases. And this morning I stood in my kitchen and laughter flowed from my belly. It just came like the postal worker comes every day and parks in front of my house. I don’t invite him. He just comes.

But let me back up and say first, I am writing this blog because when I finally sat down to eat my breakfast this morning at almost lunchtime it came to me that I am so blessed to be A MOM, A MENTOR, AND A FRIEND.

You heard it! God has blessed my life. I am many things, but perhaps most importantly I am those three things–a mom, a mentor, and a friend. Yes, I am a wife–and a friend to my precious husband. We are one. He is an extension of me, as I am of him. And in my role I touch my world as a mom, a mentor, and a friend.

So why kitchen laughter?

Because I can’t fix anything! The needs are too big for me to fix. The ingredients for the fix aren’t in the house! I can listen. I can be two ears and lovingly pull out a dear one’s deep need, but I can’t fix it.

But then I can laugh! I can laugh because these needs are so big and I can’t fix them. I can laugh because right there in my kitchen I just passed these very big needs along to my heavenly Father transported with a belly laugh. He has wide shoulders and owns everything anyway. They are His to fix. He can shift some resources around so easily. I couldn’t stop laughing! I think He was delighted with the mode of delivery!

This morning I gave the cares of three precious young women to Jesus. Rolled them right off my shoulders and onto His. And I laughed–a deep belly laugh, because when He shifts the resources and opens the door of possibility — He gets all the glory! I don’t get any. I don’t want any. I am just content knowing it’s His problem and He’s good with it!


After all, God is at ease! Did you know that? A few weeks ago, I did a little word study on the word good–and guess what? One of the ways good as in “God is good” is translated from the Hebrew is at ease.

Laughter! God is at ease about these big problems. Imagine that! You wouldn’t want an uptight God would you? That wouldn’t be very comforting! Well I think I’m going to be like God and be at ease, too. After all, He is the Creator and I am made in his image. If He can be at ease, I can, too.

How about you? Can you be like God? Can you be at ease?

Marlee Huber ~ For Your Flourishing Life!

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Dazzled by the Glory

Several times a day I pass across the stone patio on my way between street and front door. Sometimes I am aware of the beauty that surrounds me in the bobbing heads of blossoms. Other times I don’t even notice the gentle sway of fairy wands responding to the breezes upswept off Puget Sound. I am too busy so the catch phrase goes and everything washes out of focus balancing on the periphery of my next agenda item.

Grass and flower

Yesterday, I grabbed my camera after reading an article by Darlene Hildebrandt on blurring depth of field in backgrounds by using a standard kit telephoto lens.  I reached for my kit lens, Sony 55-200mm, which I rarely use, mounted it on the camera body, set my f-stop for 5.6 and ventured out my front door to see what I could see. There might not be any people willing to have their portrait made, but I knew there were flowers close at hand always ready for a portrait. Now to slow down and focus.

Blurred anemone

Funny how holding a camera slows one down to discover a bee in mid air.

bee in mid-flight

And then I turned my lens on the Japanese anemones chaotic in their ruthless advance across my postage stamp sized garden caught in the mix between sun and shade. Some blossoms, wide open, held their little heads high, while others, round globes of promise, waited their turn.

anemone 2

My heart danced until I noticed the pathos of the one gathering its own fallen stamen.

anemone 3

For the next several hours I either teetered on the stone wall peering down at these colorful dancers on stems or I crouched down from the patio below and aimed upwards. When forced to step back inside and prepare dinner, I had 588 images on my card and a bit of a kink in my neck! All but the first few images are from that extravaganza of largely unnoticed pirouetting color just steps beyond my front door.

I discovered the black-eyed Susan’s about three meters beyond made a great backdrop for anemone portraiture.Anemone 1

After dinner I sat down with Lightroom 5 to do some post processing of my favorites. A couple hours later, eyes bleary with focusing, I stood up to retire for the night. My heart fluttered with the glory of God I beheld in the majestic dance of Japanese anemone. I had succeeded in blurring the background, but more than that I had experienced a visual worship experience. I had indeed seen the glory of God right out my front door. I was reminded that what we see here on earth is but the delicate fringe of his excellent majesty.

anemone 4

In looking at this next image I thought of the words penned by St. Paul. “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible….He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16,17.

anemone 5

I could have spent more hours in my garden Cathedral yesterday, but the sun dipped and duty called.

This morning I have renewed determination not to allow hurry and inattention to blur God’s whisper through creation. This is my quest.

Marlee Huber ~ For Your Flourishing Life!

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Life is Like Daisies

This year on my self-taught photographic journey, summer flowers beg portraiture. In photographing them, I am learning that flowers are not like high school seniors or brides coming for a formal setting. Brides and seniors wash up first and remember to apply some mascara. Not flowers. They come just as they are. With the naked eye, they look fine. Under the macro lens, not so pristine. Often the photographer must do a little dusting and gardening to get the perfect shot. Take a field of daisies for instance. From a distance they are a blur of white, lovely, pure, and embracing.


Group daisy hug 1


Everything looks perfect. What a supportive community to join! What a handsome fellow to fall in love with! With a great church! The honeymoon is on and the whole scene glistens like the sun breaking through after a soggy week in Seattle.


Group daisy hug 2


Oh sure, there’s a little pollen on the white petals, but not to worry. I’m sure this is a marriage made in heaven. This roommate situation is just perfect. I’ll try this church hopeful it won’t disappoint me like the last half dozen. The vows are exchanged; the roommate moves in; the church pledge has been sealed and then the scene changes.


Group daisy hug 3


What? I didn’t realize things could get this messy. He’s getting his pollen all over me! There are notches in her perfect petals where bugs have chewed. I didn’t know the politics in this organization could be so ugly! Doing life in community is like a daisy hug–not what it seems from afar, but worth the effort. Remember that together a clump of daisies makes quite an impact. You just have to get the right perspective.


Group daisy hug 4


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Color Master

Last night the love of my life brought home yellow roses. The first roses he ever sent were yellow. I was in heaven. We exchanged vows amidst the bicentennial hoopla of 1976!

Today I do the math and check the calendar. On the 17th I will have completed 38 rich years with this gentleman who still remembers to bring roses, carry my tripod, and traipse after me on whatever scheme I am currently pursuing. I have said for years that I put the color into his life while he hangs onto my balloon strings lest I float away.

He is my rock! I adore him! Thank you, sweet Clark, for bringing your steadiness into my world. You walk a straight line while I wander. You eat the same things every morning for breakfast while I am always on a new kick. You balance the checkbook and all that other math-y stuff while I repurpose rooms in brand new ways. You surprise me still. You comment on the world with such surprising twists, I never cease to laugh. You bring sparkle! You fill my reservoir with wonder! You are a color master in your own engineeringly way. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love you!

Thank you for coloring my world with SUNSHINE! XOXOanniversary roses


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No Camera Required

You really ought to get out of the city and spend an Independence Day in a tiny hamlet somewhere on the backside of America. The fireworks still pop, sizzle, bang and blow in such a provincial setting while the crowds are much less of a hassle. In fact, we drove right into the heart of Glacier, Washington and parked our truck. With a clear view of the pyrotechnic launch site, our guests remained in the backseat of the truck enjoying front-row seats.

The engineer and I wandered up much closer, so close in fact that I set up my tripod on the back porch of the container that serves as an office outpost for a luxury vacation getaway design company. Only two or three children ever got much closer to the yellow danger tape that separated the clusters of locals and their guests from the launch site. With my wide-angle lens, I directed the camera straight up recording image after image. No long lens required.

I posted many images to my social media site, but missed posting this one–a real favorite.

green fireworks

When I went to post it, I started thinking about my encounter with the tipsy young man with the untrimmed beard who apprehended me near our truck. Hollow eyes peered from beneath a dark hood-y. His beard looked gray, tired and scruffy like that of an old time-y mountain man. I studied his fine aristocratic nose outlined in the glow of the distant streetlight. I wanted to reach for my camera and make a portrait of him right there. I knew the eye of the viewer would be riveted to this visage. Somewhere behind those empty eyes a story festered. Instead he carved the image into my memory. Drunk he was, but something in his manner begged an interview. I know Holy Spirit timed this encounter.

He told me that he lives in a tent not a quarter of a mile from where we stood in the heart of Glacier. He’d been there all winter. He came to snowboard. Let me define that–he lives to snowboard. The previous winter he spent in Tahoe. Why was he here? “It’s the best place,” he told me.

Donning my life coach hat, I queried him with questions. Did he know who he was? Did he know God had a unique destiny for him? Did he know God made him for a unique contribution to mankind?

He starred at me blankly answering once, “If God has a destiny for me, why doesn’t he tell me?” and “I thought my mom and dad made me.”

When I asked, “Where are you from?” he answered, “Cape Cod. Do you know where that is?” I responded that I did and asked if he knew the Kennedy’s. He said he liked Teddy Kennedy. I got the idea he didn’t live far from the Kennedy compound and probably rubbed shoulders with Kennedy’s at the local ice creamery. Most definitely, he is some little rich kid misplaced in the country-club shuffle of the comfortably rich or upwardly mobile.

As a mom, I couldn’t help wondering if his parents know where his whereabouts. I tried to ask, but some chatty girl came along and invited him to go to Chair 9, the local bar and pizza establishment. He wandered away. The last thing he needs is more alcohol.

Pressed like glacier into my memory, his image stands its ground before my eyes even now. I find myself whispering a prayer for him. Next time I am in town, I’ll inquire about him. I wonder if I will encounter him again? Will I have another chance to pull purpose from his heart? I breathe another prayer as the hollow eyes again appeal for hope.

I wonder if through this post and six levels of separation someone will identify her son and utter a sigh of relief laced with hope? I wonder…

Marlee Huber ~ For Your Flourishing Life!

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