Happy Holidays from the Boyles! Last year we wrote about a Christmas Comeback, and the comeback continued in 2022.
The COVID pandemic passed over us this year (knock on wood!), and we did manage to get out and about. Alan is easing back from full-time work — but he continues to write about space, science and tech for GeekWire and Universe Today. He also collaborates with a science-fiction author, Dominica Phetteplace, on a podcast called Fiction Science. More than 30 podcasts have been published since we began Fiction Science in 2020. Most significantly, 2022 marked the 20th anniversary for Cosmic Log, the blog that Alan started up during his time at MSNBC.com. (It’s the website you’re on right now!)
Tonia has plenty of planting projects — including the vegetable garden and raspberry canes in the backyard as well as the EarthBoxes on the west deck. And of course that means there was plenty of produce to put up. Our shelves are now well-stocked with raspberry, strawberry, blackberry and peach jam, tomato sauce and rhubarb sauce, and jars of salsa. She also made some delicious batches of blackberry and pear shrub, a drink that we learned about from our daughter, Natalie.
Natalie is an assistant research professor at Penn State, specializing in bee science and pollination. She serves as the coordinator for educational programming at Penn State’s Insect Biodiversity Center. Her husband, Dan Plotnick, is a research scientist at Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory, specializing in underwater acoustics.
Our son, Evan, is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at San Diego. The focus of his genetics research at the Yeo Lab is RNA-protein interactions. His current fellowship is nearing its end, so he’s considering options for his next move.
The other member of our immediate family is Ollie, the rescue dog we adopted last year. We had assumed that Ollie was mostly Tibetan spaniel, but this summer an Embark DNA test revealed that he’s actually 51% chihuahua and 49% shih-tsu — that is, a chi-shi. Woof!
We think the most entertaining parts of a holiday letter are the photos — and so we hope you’ll enjoy this recap of the past year in pictures. Click or tap on any of the images to see a full-resolution version.
We were blessed to have Evan, Natalie and Dan home for Christmas.
Alan took a 7-mile hike to Windy Knob in the Cascades with a group of fellow Seattle P-I alumni in January. Alan’s the guy with the Kraken cap at center. Hoping for more hikes in 2023!
Ollie knows how to beg for a belly rub.
Alan and Tonia enjoyed Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Swan Lake” during a rare post-COVID theater outing in April.
Our trip to Tofino on Vancouver Island ranks among the year’s highlights. On the way to Tofino, Tonia and Ollie take a walk through the Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park. The 800-year-old Douglas fir you see in the background is known as the “The Big Tree.”
This panorama shows our view from the Tofino Motel Harborview.
Back in the 1970s, Tonia’s first trip to the West Coast was to Tofino — which was a tiny, remote fishing village at the time. She stayed in the A-frame cabin you see in this picture. That visit was the catalyst that made her decide to move to the West Coast from Windsor, Ontario. She fulfilled her wish to go back and see what had become of the town — and the cabin — 50 years later.
Indigenous Canadian sculptor Carl Martin is carving wolf statues in a workshop at the Naa’Waya’Sum Coastal Indigenous Gardens near Tofino. The botanical garden features wooded trails, native flowers and lots of totem poles that are carved on site.
June was a month for visitors: Alan’s brother Dave and his friend Nancy stayed with us and enjoyed a repast complete with mint lemonade, a drink that’s served widely in the Middle East.
Dan and Natalie visited later in the month, to pick up Alan’s old car and go on a road trip back east (with stopovers at Glacier National Park in Montana and the Badlands in South Dakota). We saw a Mariners game, and also took a hike along the Red Town Trail on the edge of the Issaquah Alps. Dan and Natalie did a thorough house-cleaning at our place and loaded up the car with items to bring back to their house in Pennsylvania.
In July, Alan and Tonia toured the Amazon Spheres — a giant glassed-in terrarium filled with exotic plants, and situated in the heart of Seattle. It’s only open to the public on the first and third Saturdays of the month.
It was Evan’s turn to visit in July. Here’s Evan and Dad sharing a moment at the Harvey Manning Trailhead’s “Million Dollar View.”
Alan took off in his brand-new Ford Maverick hybrid pickup truck to begin his second annual road trip in late July. The 24-day odyssey included stopovers at Glacier and Yellowstone, a family reunion in Colorado, visits to Mark Twain’s home in Missouri and the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois, a 50-year high school reunion in Iowa, a pilgrimage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin home in Wisconsin, and camping at Utah’s Arches National Park. This is the obligatory selfie at Yellowstone’s Old Faithful during its eruption.
Alan posted lots more pictures from the 2022 road trip in July and August to his Facebook page.
Alan’s road trip brought him to Dyersville, Iowa, for the second annual Field of Dreams game in August. He didn’t score tickets to the big MLB game, but a couple of days earlier, he did attend a minor-league game between the Cedar Rapids Kernels (a.k.a. the Bunnies for the nostalgia-tinged game) and the Quad Cities River Bandits (a.k.a. the Davenport Blue Sox). In this photo, Alan’s sister Donna poses with one of the Field of Dreams’ “ghost players,” Frank Dardis.
Here’s the itinerary for the 2022 road trip. Alan listened to audiobooks as he drove along the 24-day, 6,500-mile route.
Memorable books include “The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America” by Bill Bryson; “Undaunted Courage,” a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition by Stephen E. Ambrose; “The Writing of the Gods: The Race to Decode the Rosetta Stone” by Edward Dolnick; and the “Wheel of Time” and “Mists of Avalon” fantasy series.
Alan suffered only one significant breakdown: a flat tire on a highway that plunged through the mountains of Utah. Thanks to a Good Samaritan and a helpful Ford dealership in Provo, Alan got back on the road quickly enough to stay on schedule.
Harvest time at the Boyles. The blueberries were particularly plentiful.
The smoke season came late to Seattle this year, but air quality (and other impacts of Western wildfires) got pretty bad in October. Here’s an afternoon view from our neighborhood.
Thankfully, Alan was able to get away from the smoke in late October to attend the ScienceWriters 2022 conference in Memphis, where the weather was more Seattle-like.
We played host to several guests during November, including Dave’s son Eric, who traveled to Seattle for a conference on tropical diseases. Just a few days later, Dan, Natalie and Evan came home for an early Thanksgiving — and the timing was right to introduce them to the Amazon Spheres.
Evan and the Seattle Space Needle are at the center of “Black Sun” a 1969 sculpture by Isamu Noguchi that’s located in Seattle’s Volunteer Park. Evan and Alan toured the park as well as its main attractions — the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Volunteer Park Conservatory.
Volunteer Park isn’t stingy with the nutcrackers and the red and white poinsettias when Christmas nears. May your holidays be just as colorful, and may you experience comfort and joy throughout 2023!