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.