Thursday, December 1, 2011

You Get What You Give

How many refrigerators does it take to light an intersection? How many CDs does it take to fill a pothole? How many new cars does it take to buy a cop or a firefighter? I can’t help but wonder but am too lazy to research the concept of what we lose in government services when we are beckoned by the bony finger of “Cyber Monday” to shop on the interwebs.

I’m not immune; I’ve done my share of shopping online for un-obtainables but, as I’ve become more aware of the loss of government services I’ve come to realize that many of these items are more easily obtained than they appear. For example, for a recent birthday gift for a family member, I wanted a specific book. With the closing of Borders, we don’t have a new bookstore in Eureka. There is Northtown Books in Arcata but I live in Eureka and prefer to keep my money here when possible. This is an obscure book, not one even Borders would have had on the shelf, I’m sure. I looked it up on Amazon and could have put it right in my cart then and there but decided to check out local used book emporium, Booklegger in Old Town Eureka. They didn’t have a used copy but were more than happy to order it new. It arrived in a week and I was able to give love one a requested book while keeping my money where I live. Music? Same thing. I learned that Carole King has a new CD of Christmas music. The Works didn’t have it, but they've ordered it for me. I do this fairly regularly. Loss of instant gratification? A little. Would it be cheaper at Target, assuming they have it? Probably. But, think what you will about Larry Glass and his politics, the tax revenues will remain in MY town. I’m OK with that. I don’t have to grab the “No-Arkleyville” or “Dump Dave” buttons off the counter if I don’t want to.

I’m surprised by the people I know who work at government jobs that don’t get this concept. While fretting about “THE ECONOMY” (duh duh DAH!) they will drive to Santa Rosa or worse, Oregon, to buy big-ticket items. No offense to Oregon but it amazes me that the residents there are OK with paying higher income and property taxes while the residents of neighboring states come in to shop tax-free. Seems backasswards to me. At least shopping in Santa Rosa keeps the state portion of our sales tax in state but, shop in Oregon, California gets nothing. And, coincidentally, Humboldt gets nothing. And Humboldt has less to pay for roads, and lights and cops. And we can continue to complain about the lack of services “our government” isn’t giving us. What the heck? What am I missing here?!

Why bitch about WalMart if no one forces you to shop there? Why hate the big-box when you can simply shop at the business of a neighbor? Or buy the creations of our talented lot of local crafters. Or gift certificates to local restaurants. Big boxes won’t come if we prefer to shop elsewhere. In the grand scheme of things, we may save a little money shopping on the internet, but look at what we lose.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Tide Is High and I'm Holdin' On

Tides have been running pretty high or, as we call it..."the ocean is full". Once again, it's been ages since I've been on the water and, as always, I wonder if I remember how. It doesn't take long being afloat when it all comes back. Paddling is relaxing for me and I do it for me. As much as I like it, it's not my only entertainment. I took a week off earlier this month and never got on the water, though I got in the garden and on the beach. On the beach, I tend to augment my walks with litter collection (you take a bag to the beach, too, don't you?). And like my beach walks, my paddles tend to be a opportunity to keep trash from endangering marine life. Not far from launch, I spotted something sparkling in the water. At first, I thought it might be the head of a harbor seal. Or a bobber of some sort attached to a fishing line in the rowboat that passed. As I approached, it became clear that it was a bottle...a 40-ounce beer bottle, bobbing happily. I tossed it at my feet in the first "catch" of the day.
It was a stunning day on the water. With the water level so high, it was safe to explore up Eureka Slough, behind Jacobs Avenue towards Murray Field, without worry of 'beaching' when I take my eyes and mind from what I'm doing. Wildlife was limited to a couple egrets and a heron who stood by only moments then left in a squawky huff when I dallied too long trying to loosen another bottle from the water's edge. After just a couple hours on the water, I ended up with two 40-ouncers (what is it with the people who drink 40's of Steel Reserve?!), a couple chunks of foam, a bag of/from sunflower seeds, a rubber glove, a small blue ball of some sort...and a cigarette pack. Could have gotten more, including a soccer ball but I hesitate to get too far into the shallows when I'm alone, lest I get stuck and have no one to pull me out.

I will leave you with one last shot, taken at the surface as I approached the railroad trestle coming home. A gorgeous October day on the water. If I did it more often, it wouldn't be as special.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There Are Places I Remember

Chilled autumn morning
Blanket of fog snuggled in the hollows along Elk River Road
Contrails, four, streak across the horizon, glowing pink in the sunrise
Frustrated southbound commuter
No place to take her photo
Must commit this morning to memory,
but content that I have satisfied Fred with a post, however frivolous.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

If I Leave Here Tomorrow, Will You Still Remember Me?

My fingers are tender from carving back the sod threatening to envelope the lonely headstones. I have recently begun a real search for family history, spurred on by the deaths of the last remaining aunts and uncles. I started asking questions in the past but, when faced with ambiguity, gave up the push. Now loss of information looms and the lack, if left to it's own devises, may be the victor.
In my quest, I was led to Find-A-Grave, a website where cemeteries are surveyed and headstones photographed. As I began to search for the headstones of my relatives, I found an opportunity to post photos I had taken, and to volunteer to take photos of headstones of people in our local graveyards for family members living too far away to do it themselves. There are a few of us around here and everyone seems to have cemeteries with which they have become familiar so I held back from "claiming" requests for awhile, deferring to the experts, but when I saw no one taking up the challenge of Myrtle Grove, I made it mine.

Now, me and Myrtle have become friends and I have found it to be my favorite City park. Most weekends, I spend a few hours meandering the rows. Generally I'm looking for a specific grave as per a relative's request but often I wander aimlessly, taking note of the names. There are so many Stewarts and Fosters, McCanns and Hills. And because this was one of the original burial grounds for the area, there are Vances and Carsons and, of course, Buhne. Herrick. Glatt. Cousins. Everding. Albee.

Myrtle Grove was created in 1860 by a group of citizens. In 1958, the stones were surveyed and collected, the family plots cleared and previously upright monuments laid down for ease of mowing. That sounds so wrong, doesn't it? Rearranging the final resting places and beautiful monuments for "ease of mowing"? It even appears as if some stones, with engraving on both sides, were laid horizontal...putting the birth and death dates of one person face DOWN. Shortly afterward, the land was taken over by the City of Eureka which has cared for her ever since. The lack of a groundskeeping budget leaves Myrtle the beneficiary of only occasional passes with the mower and her residents' gravemarkers sinking away in the abyss of neglect. Slowly, many of the flat stones are being enveloped by soil and sod, obscuring the intricate dates and decorations. Alice's (below) seems to be encircled with roses... As I make my way around, I have found some contentment in carving away the creeping weeds and freeing the words to identify those that lay below. My fingers are sore but it seems a small price to pay for those who lived in this area so long ago. I can't help but wonder about their families. The sons of their son's sons. Their great great great great granddaughters. Do they ever visit?

As my knife carves around the stone, attempting to identify the perimeter, the shape of each particular memorial different from the last, I sometimes scratch the surface. The blade etches clean scratches through the accumulation of decades-old grime. My initial panic at the damage done was soon overcome by the decision that these people, these pioneers and elders of the community wouldn't mind someone tidying up a bit, allowing the sun and rain to touch a little more of their headstones.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Feel The Heat

Back to school time. No new binders, pens and dividers for me. These are my back-to-school supplies. Expect to be bored to tears with stories of my adventures in welding. Danny Walker has his work cut out trying to keep me from melting the hoses and exploding the world as we know it. But, dammit, I want to melt iron and build things or..."I'm gonna build shit with fahr"! I am woman - hear me whine when the sparks and random chunks of molten metal fly.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I am Strong. I am Invincible.

I am strong. I am invincible…. Actually, I’m pretty ‘vincible’ but I tried this summer to be less so. These are two of my sisters, as we took a walk on the "boardwalk" at the Resort in Coeur d'Alene on a choppy day. But first I had to drive there.

My first accomplishment was replacing two bathroom faucets. For the handy folk out there, this may appear a no-brainer and, in fact, I found it was not technically difficult since I simply reversed the process after removing the old icky faucets. Learning the function of a simple basin wrench? Priceless. Learning that the issue with retrofitting of fixtures is not the actual installation but GETTING in there? Also priceless. Laying there. Crawling. Sprawling. Reaching up while laying, back arched, over the edge of a raised cabinet. Reaching around existing pipes. I can see that new installation would be FAR easier. It probably took me hours longer than it would have taken Mark but I managed it. And now I know I can. BooYAH!

Going from my father’s house to my husband’s at 17 makes one the perennial passenger. My mom didn’t drive until she was nearing 40, not long before I was born so I don’t know that I ever recall her driving with my dad in the car. Heck, if there was company, my Mom took the back seat, deferring her passenger seat to a male guest. Don’t most families leave driving to Dad? I take the wheel occasionally with Mark in the car but distance driving, except in the exceptional cases, is left to the man and I seldom go any distance driving by myself. All this leaves me with little experience navigating in unfamiliar territory. I did drive to Santa Cruz from Carson City twice to visit my folks but it was a 7-hour drive and easily done in a a day. No overnights. I've even made this same drive to Idaho but had the kids along to navigate and keep my occupied. Never alone.

This summer I changed that by setting a course for northern Idaho, fourteen hours away, and driving myself to visit my family. Just making the decision was huge. Then I had to ponder my choices and decide on a route. In hopes of commandeering a spare kayak for a jaunt, I also loaded all my paddling gear. I synced the iPod, packed some snacks and set off. The world was my burrito.

It's odd that there's a real difference between traveling as a passenger and driving on a trip like this. No conversation. but LOUD singing. Although you can't watch the landscape as much as when you're riding shotgun, you see fewer things but you see them differently. You have to pay real attention to signs, both speed limit and directional. And traffic. The real joy would be stopping when I want and taking pictures. Mark is not unwilling to stop but...lets just say I hesitate to make him pull over after passing a caravan of Winnebarges on holiday, knowing he will have to pass them all again after I take a picture or two. But, by myself? Eh...I probably didn't do much passing and don't mind doing it again. So I stopped. I stopped along 199 to enjoy the turquoise waters of the Smith River. On the second day of travel, having spending the night in a Pasco motel, I stopped to watch combines working the wide open fields in southern Washington. Honestly, this area is mostly bland desert but there were stretches of ag land, tended to by behemoth sprinklers that catch my eye every time we head this way.
While in Idaho, I stayed with my sister. Wine was consumed. While wine was consumed, we sat and pondered the birds in her cherry tree and realized there was an abundance of cherries in that tree. She fetched the ladder and a bowl and I climbed. We picked bowls full before the birds beat us to them. I did not fall out of the tree. To celebrate, more wine was consumed.I borrowed my sister's kayak and joined my sister-in-law and the Coeur d'Alene Canoe and Kayak Club on an evening paddle up Wolf Creek, off of Lake Coeur d'Alene. Pretty area, known for resident eagles though just one golden sat atop a tree watching us. Nice people and warm enough to paddle in tank tops at 8:00 at night.
On the way home later in the week, while cruising south on 395, somewhere in the dreary miles of middle Washington, I spotted this train. We were headed the same direction but it was going backwards. The first time I spotted it, it was heading through an ag area and I thought a photo in order. Think about it...the perfect opportunity to catch the front if I got ahead of the it? So, I scurried on ahead to find a good spot to pull over and wait. I grabbed my camera, jumped from my car waiting for it to pass and ...CRAP, dead battery. Argh! I change the battery but the train has continued on. Backwards. The direction I'm going. I charge along, finding spots to pull over but too much junk to make a good photo. Finally, my last opportunity before it ducked to somewhere away from the highway, I pull over, take my last shot at it, surrounded by sagebrush instead of grassy fields but, still, not bad. For a train going my direction.

In Springfield, on the way home, I, booked a room and found I was just around the corner from the Hop Valley Brewery so I wandered over for a plate of catfish and a pint of Stout before hitting the hay for the final six-hour push home in the morning. All in all, a great trip. I found that I CAN do this. I drove without getting flipped off once. I pulled into motels without prior reservations. I didn't get too lost and, when I did, found my way again. I successfully located a number of card-locks so I could save a little on the fuels costs of a 1600 mile trip and THAT is no easy task since card-locks are not generally located in easily accessed parts of town. This may not seem like much, but this was an important accomplishment for me.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

She Needs Wide Open Spaces....

Feels like ages since I've been on the water. I stayed close to home, opting for the bay on the heals of a good negative tide that landed at 7:30. I thought late morning would be a safe bet to ride the flooding tide so aimed for Eureka Slough.This seemed like an odd place for a patio but the view would be nice if they turned the chair around.
Zoom in to those big chucks of driftwood.

Peek-a-boo, egrets....I saw you.

I'm thinking that super-negative tide required more time to refill the bay because, after being caught off-guard by the shallows a few too many times when I wasn't paying attention, I returned to the harbor. I paddled around the docks until the fishing boats started coming in. Rode the wakes a bit then, when it became a little too bumpy out there, I called it a day. A good day on Humboldt Bay.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

These Fragile Times Should Never Slip Us By...

It seems to me a crime that we should age
These fragile times should never slip us by
A time you never can or shall erase
As friends together watch their childhood fly ... Friends - Elton John

I remember my dad saying that one of the signs of aging is that your "wedding shoes" become funeral shoes. Those fancy black shoes he had to wear for the weddings of his children, were worn more and more for funeral masses and rosaries as he got older. Except for the aches and pains, I haven't really minded the actual aging process. It's becoming more apparent as time passes, however, that I'm not the only one aging. The worse part of getting older is that our friends and family, especially those even older than us, are also aging. And dying.

In February, it was Mark's brother Chuck. Last week, it was my brother-in-law, my sister's husband Richard Fairhurst. Rich had a few years on me and I loved to remind him he graduated from high school the year I was born. He was a water engineer for the City of Santa Cruz at a time when my sister, Mark, Mark's mom and I all worked for the City. Yeah, nepotizz! He was a big man (6'6"-ish?) that married my sister, Carol, just two months after Mark and I got married in 1975 which means they would have celebrated their 36th anniversary in September. He treated my sister like a queen. But when I think of Richard, I think of this trip.
1977. Richard and Carol in their pickup, Mark and I in our van. Communicating by CB on a road trip north into Idaho to visit my my brother and his family then on to Yellowstone. I decided not to clean up the yellow of these shots because, that's what thirty years in a magnetic photo album does to a photo. But the memories are clear. Richard and I each took at least a dozen shots of this woolly beast. He and I crept closer and closer, taking a shot each time we stopped while Mark and Carol stood by the cars.."You guys...that's close enough. Watch out....he might charge GUYS!". Rich and I were sure we could get just one more shot. We can get Finally our common sense must have told us Mr. Bison could actually catch us though, more likely it would catch ME since Richard's legs would have surely out run mine. We got back to the cars and laughed.....

The top photo? Can you guess where? Yep, Idaho border. The sign was apparently out for repair leaving us without a photo op at the border so we improvised with Richard being the obvious choice for the panhandle.

This adorable child would be Monica with her Uncle Richard. He was loving. And kind. A giant of a man and a cheek-pincher. I know my girls and their cousins will miss Uncle Richard's cheek pinching. I know we all will miss him terribly. I do already.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Water Was Cold, the Beach Was Empty But For Us

With a minus tide promised at a reasonable hour, I convinced the Old Man to accompany me out to the Lost Coast. Of course, to make it out by 9:00 we had to leave by 7:30 but this view as we approach "the Wall" heading down to the water is always worth it.
The rocks were exposed giving us a great place for climbing along with poking and prodding the marine residents.
Can you see him? He's tiny.

The view looking south at an empty beach and the King Range was phenomenal.
See Mark. See Mark tempt fate by chipping away at the berm of the Mattole River as it converged with the sea. See our little pinniped friends as they surfed the wash that churned them from three directions. They kept a close watch on us but continued to enjoy the romp. As did we.

Monday, May 30, 2011 the Eyes of A Young Girl

If there is a sculpture in the next race called, Parenting 101, I know who WON'T be piloting it. Here is a letter I wrote to the Eureka City Schools Board and Supervisor:

Mr. Haulk et al,

Is it true that, during this year’s Kinetic Grand Championship, a Eureka High School sponsored EAST sculpture was piloted by students under the age allowed by the rules? Were false documents really provided by parents, condoned by teachers, so that said students could participate? Really? Wow! If you are not familiar, please feel free to follow this link to the Lost Coast Outpost where Hank Sims lays it out. Note near the bottom of the first article, a comment by “The Original Race Baby” who admits to be being a teacher. Yours? Wow all over the place.

While you on the Board and the administration of Eureka High ponder the budget and why parents are pulling their students in favor of charter schools, I will remember a day when Rob Taylor, band director for EHS was not old enough to legally drive his own students on a band trip. Guess he didn’t know about this option or he could have provided a fake ID as well.

Should you pull the records of these two students and discover that they were of legal age to be piloting the sculpture, please let me know and I will be sure to apologize and presume they were just not responsible enough to bring ID as promised.

My involvement comes from being the mother of Monica Topping who was beat up publically as the figurehead of the Race organizers. She had to deal with these people, was threatened and intimidated on the Arcata Plaza in front of Arcata Police Sgt. Dave Brown and with “EHS” emblazoned on the sculpture. I’ve been a Glorious Spectator of the Kinetic races in all of its incarnations for the sixteen years we’ve lived here. This took a real ugly and evil turn in a way that I’m not sure even the Great Razooly would approve.. But it got ugly with Eureka High’s permission. This is how you raise the responsible kids of the future?

They could take a lesson from the Colfax High team who managed to travel here with their sculpture and actually FOLLOWED the rules.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

This Killin Time Is Killin Me

I don't get out much. Traveling on my own is adventure but, on my own I make rookie mistakes. I forget things like pocketknives in my purse (no worries-TSA found it for me...). I forget my bag on the carry-on cart and feel the wrath of the tiny Asian lady who, I'm SURE had unkind things to say about me, had I understood what she was muttering to her friend after he retrieved my bag.

This trip is one I have undertaken for work, for an expansion of my job due to the unofficial freezing of vacated positions. Learning is good. Expanding my knowledge of the world I work in is good. Spending three days in Palm Springs with training managers from various law enforcement agencies, was going to be a great opportunity but, something coastal would have been my preference.

With the disappearance of airlines willing to serve Humboldt, my flight options were slim. I left Sunday evening, hopping through San Francisco to arrive in the land of golf courses around ten, threw open the door to my fifth-floor balcony and tucked in for the night. I checked into the conference in the morning and found myself with a cohort willing to wander town at lunchtime in search of a deli I had spotted on the way from the airport. After a navigational error, we found our way to Sherman's Deli, as did most of the employees from nearby businesses. No sooner did a killer hot pastrami on rye arrive, we asked for our checks and to-go boxes in order to scurry back through the blistering heat to not miss the next speaker. The evening meal found us on a lovely patio enjoying Chili Rellenos and me having a beer alone because she doesn't drink. I hate feeling like a lush.

Day two was more of an adventure. Lunch was provided to allow for"networking" so dinner away from the hotel was the respite we needed. We headed down the strip, checking out the menus being offered by the hosts, looking for something with outdoor seating and a reasonable menu. We decided on Azul when my companion was entranced by the gliding seats and attached tables. Two-for-one dinner Tuesday didn't hurt and the pomegranate Cosmo was the cherry on top for me. We sat near the entrance with her facing the bar. She noted the abundance of men. Okay...neither one of us was shopping so who cares..... "no really, there are a lot of men." And...? I looked around to find she was right...we were pretty much the only women. Then I saw her...him...gams up to there, turquoise heels and a bouffant to match, walking towards out table to invite us to the show that night. At that point, I looked away from the menu to see the display at our table for the "Judy Garland Show". Ohhhhhhhh. We found the Castro district of Palm Springs. Turned out my companion was less than "tolerant" and didn't get how these men weren't looking at women. Well....they don't LIKE women. "But the Bible says....". Yeah. We had to finally not go there when it became obvious there was a chasm that could not be bridged. I had a second Cosmo with a huge pile of mussels and we wandered back to the Hyatt where it became clear there were other issues, not the least of which was her use of the word "fornicate"...ewww!

So here I sit at the Palm Springs Airport awaiting my evening flight. I could be doing SO many other things not the least of which is celebrating Hope's 23rd birthday. Work is no doubt piling up on my desk. At over $9 for a beer, I can't afford to get drunk. It's 93 degrees outside, the terminal is filling up because weather in SF is delaying the flight before mine and others connecting to and from there. Soon, I'll find out if my flight will also be delayed. Considering I have a four-hour layover there, it matters little except the people-watching is far more interesting in San Francisco. As long as my landing in McKinleyville isn't later than the 11:59 already scheduled.

I just realized this was never posted because, although I'm getting better at using my XOOM tablet, there are a few skills needed for posting a readable blog and I'm not there yet - cut and paste evades me. Turns out I ate something I shouldn't outta `et at one of the airports and spent much of the evening and the following day with my gut gurgling and locating every restroom in the SFO terminal. Tummy still doing flip-flops and eating brown rice and smoothies to gently ease my way back into food.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

You Don't Have To Go Home But You Can't Stay Here

It felt wrong to displace a mother on the day before Mother's Day. To spend time on Mother's Day weekend, of all time, destroying the nest of another mother. But, DANGIT, these pigeons are driving me nuts, eating the seed and keeping the finches away from the feeders.

This feeder is at eye level to the window in our laundry room. I can see the feeder as I stand at the washer and, in fact, have to fill it from there, through the window with a scoop mounted on a stick. Either that or it's a ladder operation which gets tedious, especially in the winter when the ground is soggy. In the past season, I've renovated my gazebo feeder progressively, to discourage what we see as flying rats. I've added horizontal strips of wood to make the entrance smaller. This only slowed their escape. Plus it made getting the scoop inside to fill it almost impossible. I added some chicken wire on the bottom half but that did nothing to deter them. This week, I've noticed one smaller pigeon sitting. In bird-talk, that means "I have made this my nest and I've got babies". Dammit! I had to get this opportunity closed off before it was too late.
So I waited through the week, chasing her out of the nest...I mean feeder when I saw her. I noticed that she had a companion that would stand guard on the roof and I finally figured out he was helping her build a nest. Dammit!

I decided the Farmer's Market should wait. The plan was to add vertical strips of wood between the uprights, making the openings too small for pigeons but big enough for the finches. I got the Mikita, the pliers (to remove the useless chicken wire), got a reminder on how to use the chop saw to cut the wood strips....after chasing her out a few times from inside, I decided to take a couple pictures, just for posterity. I climbed up on the washer and she flew egg. DAMMIT!
I'll see you at the Farmer's Market, I guess.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

You Got To Take the Bitter With The Sweet

I love it here but even I have to admit that this winter has been particularly cruel. Cold. Wet. Dreary. You name it. But days like we've been having in the past week make it all worthwhile. Besides, as sad as it makes me when someone I know moves away and dwells on the “!@#$%^ weather”, these days make me feel downright smug to be living here.

Sitting in my office, an inside cubicle that sees the light of day only through other office windows, I could see the sky. I could see the leaves on the trees moving softly in the breeze I knew to be a chilled northerly. But then, like a crooked finger enjoining me to come hither, I smelled the ocean breeze. The enticing smell of the sea, wafted over the cliffs, across Beatrice Flat, the cow pastures and parking lot and invited itself to my nose at the far west side of campus. I'm still in search of driftwood of a particular size so took a lunch break on the South Spit where I knew supplies would be good.

When you grow up in Santa Cruz, only a foggy winter morning might allow you a beach to yourself. Here, it's not uncommon at all. Though not a human, I did come upon this little pup. He had me worried, even as I left him there but it was clear he had come out of the water under his own power and he looked alert. We are always told to leave them be so I did. Bye, little dude!

Naturally, I took a bag and collected trash. Only a little plastic this time. But lots of shoes. There were several zories in addition to this boot and bedroom slipper. What the heck? Perhaps they belonged to the resident of this beachside abode. What a glorious view they have!

Monday, April 18, 2011

When My Face Don't Wanna Shine

"... cuz it's a little bit dirty"

When my creative writing teacher, Sally Pansegrouw, assigned a prompt to describe a rainy day, I took a little different tack from my peers. I could have written about the drops running down the metal lockers (ours were outside) or waxed poetic on the concentric circles the drops made when they hit the puddles. Nope. Not me. It would not surprise a certain administrator, who often scolded me for being without shoes, that I chose to walk barefoot through mud puddles. and describe as eloquently as a high-school freshman can describe, the cool mud oozing between my toes. There is something oddly satisfying, in a juvenile way, about stepping into the rain-soaked soil. Oh, I know there's a potential for injury -- I've got stitches in my foot to show the damage a broken bottle can do to an unprotected foot wading through a creek. I do wish I still had this assigned paper - with the bold 'A' scrawled in the binder-paper margin. Once we get beyond, say.... sixth grade, seldom do we have the opportunity to play as we did as kids. As adults, we should feel the joy of mud once in a while, or at least be reminded how it felt.

This weekend, I got a little touch of my childhood. After Saturday's trip to the Farmer's Market and purchasing sugar pea plants, I knew I had to get them planted with a means for climbing before they began caressing each other with their tiny tendrils, coiling into a death grip around the stem of their neighbor. Once that sort of love-fest gets started, you're left with one big cluster of fragile stems and no way to really contain them. Unfortunately, Sunday was rainy but I was determined to get this job done.

I had pondered my homely little garden area, still covered with soggy cardboard to smother the lawn below. I knew my only hope, sans a trellis, was to run strings to the rafters of the chicken coop, below which were other plants. So I moved pots and dug holes as a light rain fell, pulling weeds as I went, moving bricks I use as plant bases, getting muddier and muddier as I went. I managed to clear enough space for the ladder, twisted two eye-bolts into the rafters, then three eye-bolts each into two nice chunks of driftwood I had collected. I set the driftwood on the surface of large pots and planted the peas, three to a pot, each with it's own little beanstalk to climb. And the drizzle kept on. Occasionally, I would feel the collecting moisture run down my scalp and on to my face. Mark kept looking at me and shaking his head (he's been doing that for more than 35 years so I'm used to it) taunting me until I, when I was wet enough, shook my head like a dog, flinging water in his general direction.

My hands were caked with mud. My sweatshirt (and bare arms) collecting more grime every time I shoved up my sleeves with grubby hands. My socks, worn inside perforated gardening shoes, wore the grit intended for my bare feet. Eventually, my job was done and I moved the other pots back into places where they could get the best of the small dose of sun that gets between the roofs into our yard. When I stood back to admire my work, my garden was as grubby as I was. Brown hand prints on the sides of my lovely green strawberry pot. Big, angry smears from rolling the huge pot that holds my Japanese Maple. I ran the hose around each pot, rubbing my hands over to clear the mud and bring back the shine to the glaze while simultaneously creating even more muddy puddles to splash through.

The cardboard is still ugly, waiting to be covered with compost and to accept a few zucchini plants. The bare soil awaits some hand-poured steps, a project for drier weather. I have a few empty pots awaiting the season's herbs though most of my herbs grow along my driveway, and artichokes, tomatoes and Brussels sprouts hunker between roses and hydrangeas in my sunnier front garden. But I like this grubby little planting and I think the hens will, too, as they watch the peas climb their way to the top of the coop, tempting them just beyond their wire barrier.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's a Beautiful Day

It doesn't have to be sunny. Just a Saturday. With no rain. In Humboldt. I don't complain about a dry 56 degrees so market basket in hand, I strolled the Farmer's Market, open on the Plaza for just the second week. I went for honey - I love Dave Reed's Blackberry honey - but also picked up some Brussels Sprout and Snap Pea plants from Flying Blue Dog Nursery. I was cautious to be sure I'd plant what I bought and didn't get too crazy with more than I was ready for. The cilantro was looking good so maybe I'll grab that next week.

After my lap of the Farmer's Market, I made a lap through Heart Bead for a tool I need to smooth wire for wrapping. I took a class from Kim last Fall and am just now finding the time to use my new-found skill to turn my tumbled beach rocks into center-pieces for necklaces.

In spite of the timing (it was high tide and I usually prefer low tide for beach walks), I figured it was better than NO walk so stopped at Samoa Beach for a brief stroll. Good choice.For me, a walk on the beach has value, no matter the weather but I generally consider it a successful walk if I find a sand dollar. As the sandpipers (I think?) clustered and flowed and banked and wowed their way around me, as if to prevent my taking their picture, I had to watch my step for fear of crushing one of the treasures on the beach. I was surprised when I emptied my pockets at the end of my walk and found the flotsam amounted to eleven, yes, ELEVEN flawless (or nearly so) sand dollars. Of course, my other pocket contained the jetsam....actually just trash. Plastic, of course. Although, if anyone knows Jimbo who seems to own the Rose Ann, my collection includes what must be an equipment tag, perhaps from a crab pot (that's the orange rectangle near the top of the peach schnapps bottle). In spite of the trash, I can't complain about this day. It's Saturday, after all.

"It's a beautiful day; don't let it get away..."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Buzz Buzz Goes The Needle

Although years and miles kept them from being as close as they might have been, they were still brothers. They were six years apart and Chuck had joined the Navy right after graduating high school, did his stretch on a nuclear submarine or on base in Groton, Connecticut, then moved to Washington to work for Lockheed after discharge. More than the six years, 700 miles separated them. There were occasional phone calls to talk about motorcycles, their one common bond. When Mark found out his brother had gllioblastoma, a nasty form of brain cancer, it hit him hard. We made a family trip a year ago November, taking his mom and our girls up to eastern Washington to make contact. The Topping boys fried the turkey and compared haircuts. Their kids and our kids connected. Mark connected with our nieces and nephew as the only brother of their Dad. Chuck's grandkids didn't know what to think of Mark or even what to call him since he looked so much like their Grandpa but we decided against "Uncle Grandpa" when we realized how much it sounded as if the family tree didn't branch.

Chuck's health declined in the next year so and, when it became clear he wouldn't survive and his time was short, Mark and I took his Mom to visit early this year. Chuck still had control of his faculties and even his sense of humor though morphine had dulled his reaction time, sometimes requiring patience to wait out the response. We talked about the holidays and the visits from his four children and their babies. I commented that it must have been noisy and he said..."family is always good".

The family took turns sitting with Chuck, chit-chatting about the past. No real talk about the future, except plans for eagle tattoos for their Dad who was devout and inspired by a cross stitch above his bed: Isaiah 40:31 "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles" . Chuck may have been a sailor but had no tattoos and didn't quite "get" the concept but it was something they had all decided. Kids spent time while they had it with their father. His brother and mom with their only connection to their past together.

"As the ink and the blood mix with pain"

Chuck lost his battle with the cancer in February and we made plans to head up for the services - one on each side of the State. The first service would be in Kent at the Tahoma National Cemetery where he would receive full military honors. Tears flowed as the old soldiers and young sailors paid respect to Chuck's military service. The 21 guns were fired. The flag was handed to the widow. We asked the groundskeepers if they would mind our watching as they prepared the site where Chuck's ashes were to be placed. Though unaccustomed to being observed, they dug the hole and treated the ground with honor befitting the veterans interred there, even as they placed the soil and pounded the stake for the temporary marker.
In the week after Chuck's passing, his children visited tattoo parlors to have an eagle inscribed on their skin as a memorial to their dad. Even his wife, who previously had no interest in ink, had an eagle permanently placed on her body. Mark was waiting for the right design to dedicate to his brother and finally had the work done this week. Max at Sailor's Grave did the honors.
"each drop of blood is a token of love"