Irene Panke Hopkins

Freelance Writer & Editor

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A Path to Peace

I left my hometown of New York City in the summer of 1986 and drove across the country to Seattle. Escaping from or escaping to… I’m not sure. Perhaps a bit of both. I was searching for what I was meant to do in this life and New York had all but used me up. Proximity to my family and my past and the daily influence they had on me confounded my search and kept me from thinking clearly. I knew that I had to distance myself from the familiar in order to get closer to my truth. Continue reading

Summer Travel – Don’t Take Advice From Time Travelers

Ahhh… Summer in Seattle… Our reward for enduring eight months of damp, cold and rain that is our lot in this corner of the country known as the Pacific Northwest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause my husband and I are doing some long overdue work on our boat, a.k.a. our home, we are not venturing farther than the greater Puget Sound area this summer. Which is fine because Seattle is at her most glorious right now and while we paint and sand and varnish and scrub we are becoming tan and strong as we bring our boat back to her full splendor.

I have been traveling vicariously though, reading travel magazines and guidebooks and anticipating trips we plan to take in the next couple of years. And I’ve been investigating the myriad summery things we can do right here in the Emerald City.

A recent issue of a local bi-monthly travel magazine included an article titled “Being Brave, Overcoming Travel Fears.” Curious, I read the short, bullet-pointed piece that dealt with fear of flying, medical emergencies, learning key phrases, and offered logical, basic pointers for unseasoned travelers.

However, when it came to suggestions for dealing with aggressive locals in foreign countries, I bristled in my traveler’s armchair and nearly threw the magazine across the room. Other than pretending to be on your cell phone to buy time to assess a situation, the writer’s suggestions were solely focused on women. What women should and should not do to be safe. Are you ready for this?

Continue reading

Disconnectedly Yours…

For two and a half months this winter, my husband and I escaped the rain and cold of Seattle and lived on a tiny island across the bay from Panama City.

While on Isla Taboga, I continued to work, thanks to the internet and email and Skype. All useful tools. I volunteered at an artist’s cooperative where I met people from all over the world, visitors to our island. I swam and walked and sweated out toxins. I ate sun-ripened fruit and fresh fish and lots of vegetables. It was gradual process that led to a healthier me. Healthier than I had felt in a long time.

There was something else at work, though. Something I didn’t realize until I got home. Continue reading

What I read on my winter vacation…

Remember the days of having to report in on the summer reading you did in between trips to the pool, the beach, friends’ houses, sleepovers, camp, family vacations and lying down in a field watching birds floating around high in a pure blue sky? Lucky for me, I always loved reading and managed to get more than the required amount done. But being back in school on a warm, golden autumn day, in a uniform (Catholic school), with a bunch of other despondent kids was, well, never a good thing.

I just returned from Panama where I spend two and a half months this winter, writing, traveling, swimming, sweating and taking time away from phones and texting and television. I am blown away now that I’m back by the incessant communication, the prickly distractions that pick at our psyches throughout the day.  I am sure that we are not supposed to be functioning this way.

While in Panama, my husband and I, for lack of a lot else going on in the way of social life – that and the fact that it gets dark every night at 6pm, read a lot of books! Most of which I wholeheartedly recommend. Here is my list: Continue reading

Balance: Impossible is Possible

In 1974, Philippe Petit walked a tightrope between the World Trade Center towers. For six years prior to his famous walk, he studied the towers’ ongoing construction, how they swayed with the wind, the variable conditions that could exist on a given day and countless other factors that would make this impossible act possible. He knew from experience exactly how heavy his balance pole needed to be to provide the perfect equilibrium for him as he traversed this distance of 200 feet, a quarter mile above the ground of downtown New York City. He was a master of balance. And, although some still argue his mental state in attempting such a feat, he made it across the tightrope as people on the ground – those who just happened to look up – saw him and gasped.

After the first few steps, once he was on his way, Petit felt an overwhelming sense of easiness, of simplicity. After years of ups and downs, victories and disasters, detours and decisions to abort the plan, once he was on that wire, following his dream, it became the easiest, simplest most beautiful path to walk. Continue reading

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