2019 in Ten Significant Photos

2019 in Ten Significant Photos

Every December, it has become a tradition to assemble a post wherein I share ten photos from the year that represent the most significant moments of my past 365-ish days. I look forward to this every year. This annual ritual forces thought and introspection in a way algorithm-driven apps like Top Nine avoid. (I ranted about this a bit at length, last year.) It leaves me to ponder how I lived my year. What mattered the most? What experiences drove me? What did I find meaningful? What shaped me as a person, a partner, a creator? What made me or my world around me better?

The rules are simple but firm, pick ten photos from your past year that are the most significant to you: positive or negative—significance can be found in either. But it can’t be more, can’t be less. Some moments will have to fall by the wayside—and that’s intentional—culling is essential. It’ll help create a more realistic picture of your year. Some years will be harder than others and you’ll need to discover significance in the smaller quieter moments. The ten are irascible and relentless.

So, enough talk! Let’s take a look at my 2019 distilled into ten significant photos.


Lime Kiln Trail - 2019New year, old trails. Kari-Lise and I always like starting the year off right by escaping the city and heading into the mountains for a hike. (In this case, the Lime Kiln Trail and easy little seven-miler in the Cascades.) This year was no different. We had big plans to hike more throughout the year, but life got in the way. Still, it’s always refreshing to start a year in nature, and 2019 was no different.


Amsterdam - 2019
In mid-January, we took a trip with our ex-pat pals Kelcey Rushing and Jimmy Rushing to the beautiful (and infamous) city of Amsterdam. It was terrific. Great place. Wonderful sights. Amazing people. Delicious food. We were there nearly a week, it was packed, and I felt like we had barely scraped the surface. There was so much we didn’t see and so much more we could have done—I absolutely want to go back. If you’re interested in more details, read my Amsterdam Trip Report here.


ECCC - 2019
Emerald City Comicon happened, and once again they somehow let me returned as a pro. My buddy Steve Toutonghi and I attended together, and it was a really eye-opening in a lot of ways. As much fun as fan conventions are, I’m much more interested in talking shop, attending readings, and sitting in on discussions about story-craft. That said, it was enjoyable, and there are worse ways one can spend a weekend. Plus, I managed to see some good friends, and Steve and I sat in on some great panels. You can read about my experience in this debriefing.


Finished Manuscript - 2019Roaders celebrate! I finished another manuscript! (Two years in a row!) Gleam Upon the Waves has been a bit of a fight, but I am thrilled with how it turned out. I got some great feedback from my first round of beta readers, and I’ve been neck-deep in revisions since. It’s so close. I can hardly contain myself; I want to share it with everyone! Gleam’s a little different, but it’ll be worth the wait. I promise.


The Vision of Graces - 2019
Early in the summer, Kari-Lise and her friends Laurie Lee Brom and Syd Bee had a three-person show at Roq La Rue Gallery entitled The Vision of Graces. All three artists brought fantastic work, the show sold out, and the turnout was stellar. After moving to Seattle in 2008, I’ve attended hundreds of art openings across the city (and around the world), and this was easily one of the best.


13 Fantasy Map Brush Sets - 2019
I completed a project! A quite large mapping project. One that is really hard to capture in a single image. This year I began to release completely free brush sets for Photoshop that would empower indie authors (and anyone else) to create high-quality fantasy maps for their projects. The goal was to release a free brush set a month, and thanks to some overeagerness in February, I ended with thirteen free brush sets for the year. The response was overwhelming. I couldn’t be more humbled by the reaction, and I’m glad everyone has been so receptive. You can download the brushes from my Free Stuff page.


Two new nieces - 2019I leveled up as an uncle and now can dual-wield nieces! Up until this year, I was only proficient in nephews. Liesel Lynn (Left) was born in August to my brother Anthony and his wife, Aischa. Blakely Michelle (Right) was born in October to my sister Meghan and her husband, Tyler. Aren’t they adorable? I’ll be meeting both for the first time at Christmas, and I cannot wait. And, as a bonus, I have a THIRD niece due next year. Nieces! Nieces EVERYWHERE.


Art Happened - 2019
So. Much. Art. Beyond Kari-Lise’s show we attended two amazing exhibitions with our pal Kai Carpenter at the Seattle Art Museum, we hit up the Seattle Art Fair, and took in many many many art walks. Stand out openings include an incredible show from Rick Araluce and a recent one from one of my favorite artists working today, Peter Fugerson.


Haleakalā National Park, Maui, Hawaii - 2019For Thanksgiving, we went to Hawai’i with Kari-Lise’s family hanging out on O’ahu for a few days and then spending nearly a week on Maui. I’d never been to the Hawai’ian Islands until this year, and I’m generally not a tropical-destination traveler, but the trip was memorable. Even after nine-ish days, I came away feeling like I have unfinished business with Hawai’i. But more on that later—I’m in the process of putting together a more detailed trip report.


The Kari-Lise Klassic - Burke-Gilman Invitational Marathon - 2019On December 14th, Kari-Lise ran her first marathon. This spring, she started running again, and this summer, she decided she would train for a marathon as her eventual goal. We were traveling during the Seattle Marathon, so to complete her goal, she decided to host her own with me running ahead, setting up aid stations along the entire 26.2-mile course. Friends came out and cheered her on, I made her a teeshirt, a few ran with her some part of the way, and one all of the way. She crushed the run, and I couldn’t be more proud.


In Conclusion

Since changing the title last year from “awesome” to “significant,” I find myself taking more time with this list. Much of the labor from 2018 blossomed in 2019. Where last year felt sparse, this year, I found myself culling more than I expected. There were lectures and readings I attended with my friend Steve Leroux. Time in the backyard with Kari-Lise around our fire pit. I got really into smoking meat and making stock—cooking in general, really. Our friends Roxy and Redd deciding to leave Seattle and travel indefinitely (Follow them here.) Then there was the excitement of Moth & Myth, which I’ve barely mentioned here. The Sounders winning another MLS Cup. Birthdays and anniversaries and snowstorms. It was one hell of a year and if I wanted I could have tripled this list. But the rules are the rules, and distilling the year into ten is the requirement—no more, no less.

So, how about you? What did you experience in 2019? What are your ten? Assemble them and leave a comment with a link! Let us all know about the significant events in your year.


Want to revisit photos of past years? Click on any of the links below and check out my pictures from that specific year. I find it fascinating to watch subtle changes year over year.

2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 2018


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

Trip Report - Scotland - Photo by Kelcey Rushing

Trip Report – Scotland

Last week, Kari-Lise and I returned from a two-week trip to Scotland. It had been over a year since our last holiday, and between work, Coal Belly, and multiple gallery openings a vacation was welcome. Once again we ended up taking a long road trip through the country. Starting and finishing in Glasgow and taking us all over Scotland. I’ve driven in Ireland and Australia, so the shift from left to right wasn’t a big deal. After a few weeks, it felt completely normal.


“See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask for no guarantees, ask for no security.”

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451


For this post, I’m going to take a little time hitting the significant places we stayed and share a few photos from the trip. One resource I cannot praise enough is Atlas Obscura. Many of the strange places we visited were featured on their site, and I recommend checking them out anytime you travel. Proper research can make any trip significantly more enjoyable.

Okay! To the report! This is going to be a long post, so consider yourself warned.


Loch Lomond & Kintyre Peninsula

I can’t sleep on planes. Not sure why. Probably a combination of being both a big guy and a light sleeper. So we arrived in Scotland exhausted. Thankfully, we were traveling with our friends Kelcey Rushing and Jim Rushing. Since this was a road trip and I just got off from roughly 24-hours of travel, Jim volunteered to take the first shift driving. Thank goodness.

We didn’t have far to go for the first night, so we had a leisurely breakfast then made a pitstop at Buchanan Castle in Stirlingshire, just outside of Glasgow. It’s an incredible manor house that has slowly been overtaken by nature. The resulting ruins are nothing short of spectacular.

Kari-Lise captured this photo of me among the ruins
Kari-Lise captured this photo of me (still awake after twenty-six hours) among the ruins

We stayed overnight and the next morning, hit up Finnich’s Glen (also known as the Devil’s Pulpit) before we headed off to the Isle of Islay. Fans of the Outlander series will recognize this deep sandstone gorge as the Liar’s Spring from Season 1. Since it was an early Monday morning in September, we had the place to ourselves.


Islay

Port Ellen, Islay
Port Ellen, Islay

I love the ritual of scotch. The sound as it hits the bottom of a glass. The scents it carries that evokes the landscape from which its made. The complex layers of flavor inherited from the barrels in which it was aged. Few foods or drinks are as reflective of their history and heritage like scotch. Islay in a way was a pilgrimage and its hills and bogs holy ground for the scotch enthusiast. It’s the home of smokey malts that taste of brine, salt, and peat. It’s my favorite region.

The ferry to Port Ellen was long, a few hours but we arrived and quickly established a home base in an apartment. The following day, thanks to Jim’s planning, we began our scotch experience with a peat cutting for Laphroaig (my favorite Islay malt) which we followed with a tour of their facility. I have been a Friend of Laphroaig for nine years, and I collected the rent on my 1’x1′ piece of sod, and promptly set out to plant my flag in the bog north of the distillery.

My piece of Laphroaig was past a hillock and just beyond a depression, and while much of the field was solid, hidden springs lay everywhere sometimes many feet deep. I found my ground and turned to call to Kari-Lise stepped back and sank into what looked like a bunch of grass. It wasn’t grass. The grass had abandoned me, and I tumbled backward into a deep pool of cold, muddy water—it was a memorable cap on our visit to the distillery.

Thankfully, it was only a mile walk back to our apartment, and I changed into drier clothes, and we continued on, visiting Lagavulin (my 2nd favorite distillery) and Ardbeg before the day was over and wrapping up our visit to Islay. (I could have spent a few more days there. But there was more of Scotland to see.)

Since I know people will ask here are the scotches I added to my collection:

  • Clynelish 14 yr. (Highland)
  • Dalmore 15 yr. (Highland)
  • Ardbeg Uigeadail (Islay)
  • Ledaig 10 yr. (Island – New favorite)
  • Edradour 2002 (Highland – 14 yr. Sherry Cask)
  • Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2017 (Islay – My ultra-special bottle)

Skye

The Stoor, Isle of Skye
On the northeastern side of Skye is The Storr

The trip to Skye was beautiful taking us through Glencoe and Glenfinnan. (Both would deserve their own section had we spent more time there.) But Skye itself was a wonder. Our cabin was off the beaten path far in the north, and it was here we spent time in the mountains and glens of the countryside. It also poured rain. Which was fitting for Scotland.

The Fairy Glen was stunning. The Storr was amazing. The Fairy Pools had become Fairy Torrents after all the rain. But the countryside was vast and open and made one feel small and insignificant. Skye is a draw for many reasons, and all of them are good.


Edinburgh

From Skye, we drove down to Edinburgh, pausing for castles and stopping at the Edradour Distillery. It was here we eventually split from Jim and Kelcey but not before we spent some time exploring the city. Many people often say Edinburgh ranks as a favorite and I can understand why. The mixture of medieval and modern creates a fascinating place of winding alleys and layered roads. Space is at a premium and nothing goes to waste. We were there only two days and just saw a fraction of the place. We climbed the Scott Monument, visited the National Gallery, toured Edinburgh Castle, explored Old Town, played in the Camera Obscura, had tea near the University, poked around Dean Village, and late at night we located the oldest Masonic Lodge in the world. All that and I feel like we barely scratched the surface. The city is impossible to grasp in a single visit. I have unfinished business in Edinburgh.


Northern Highlands

As the city faded behind us, we hoped we’d find something special in the far reaches of the Northern Highlands, and we were not disappointed. There is a vast wildness along the North Coast: tall mountains, twisting rivers, and expansive vistas that are difficult to capture on camera. Ancient castles perch above lochs that stretch to the horizon. Peaks and valleys fold into one another, and the roads that cross these spaces are windings and narrow. (See the video above.) We spent several days in the Northern Highlands exploring the coast, visiting castles, checking in on a few distilleries, eating cheese, seeing wonders, and experiencing much of the North Coast 500. In the end, we returned to Glasgow tired but fulfilled.


I cannot recommend Scotland enough, it was easily one of my favorite trips. A huge thank you to Kelcey and Jim joining us for the first week. We had an absolute blast, and it was an honor to experience Scotland alongside two of the best people I know. (Don’t be surprised if they don’t show up in photos on future trips.)

One other unexpected takeaway: outside of uploading a few pictures to Instagram I stayed off the internet for the most part, and it was grand. It really allowed me to absorb the experience and thoroughly lose myself in the rich history of the land. Standing in castles a thousand years old and seeing landscape and towns that are older than most cultures in the western hemisphere put a lot of things into perspective. It made a lot of the news happening in America (the reaction to NFL players protest in particular) look incredibly petty. I recommend taking an internet diet. The echo chamber is dumb, and the internet is not as important as we all like to pretend. Go out. Travel. Meet people. Listen to them. Get uncomfortable. (This is where I quote Mark Twain again.)


“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Mark Twain


I’m a firm believer in travel and allowing yourself to get lost in someone else’s culture. (Important aspect there, as G. K. Chesterton once said, “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”) I think travel is important for the writer as well. As I said in the trip report from California: a cleft of rock can inspire a thousand tales, a family of marmot running across a subalpine meadow can spark ideas for plots, and meeting interesting people along the way can usher forth a whole civilization of rich characters.

So that’s our trip! Coming back to work Monday was tough, but I was excited to reestablish a routine. By now, I feel like I have conquered my jet lag and its time to dive back into work. I finished a manuscript before this trip, and I have pages to edit. Also, it’s nearly time to start writing the fourth book in the Bell Forging Cycle.


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

A Hiatus

A Scottish Hiatus

Observant readers probably saw this coming after reading the alleged Ibn Battuta quote I shared on Wednesday. I am going on a trip! For two weeks! That means starting tomorrow, I Make Stories will be on hiatus as Kari-Lise and I spend some time among the mountains and islands of Scotland.

We’re going to be busy hiking, looking at shaggy cows, wandering castle ruins, eating haggis, taking photos, tasting scotch, poking around cairns, and exploring. We’ll be joined for the first week by friends of ours, fellow writer J. Rushing and photog/designer Kelcey Rushing. (I recommend following them both.) Ever since they absconded to Europe we don’t see them often enough so hanging out should be fun.

Make sure to follow me on Instagram or Twitter where I’ll be sharing photos. As always the goal is to return physically exhausted but mentally refreshed and inspired. The Highlands await, I’ll see you all in October.


For more travel related photos, previous trips, and trip reports check out: