Oregon and Washington
Easy traveling holiday recharge - taste of solitude, taste of company
Rainbow over Breitenbush
Winter sun on Deception Pass
Same old good cooks (Carl missing) and adult children
Headed confidently over the Cascades Solstice weekend--dry, mild winter thus far--towards Breitenbush, to celebrate surviving holidaze insanity by relaxing. Yeah! Now the worst I faced would be a "piece of cake" (I wish--no dessert served): vegetarian fare, snoring roommates, and the search for an uncrowded hot pool. No problem. One morning original Breitenbush community member Peter Moore led morning circle, a blessing to this oldster who's begun to feel Breitenbush is rather like being in elder care. Breitenbush has become quite a young community the past few years, growing younger, faster than I grow old! Ah, elders returning.
As I left the parking lot, noticed an 8-1/2x11" flyer in a subaru window, reminding me I was visiting the oh so very different social consciousness west of the Cascades. A meditating, cross legged Santa floated above the slogan: Christmas: Buy Nothing; Rise Above it. A tiny adbusters web address was printed below. I chuckled.
Marcy squeezed me in for a good visit between estate work in Seattle and grandchild sitting in Bremerton. Sensed Seattlites were extra busy this holiday; bypassed Seattle entirely (except for brief expedition to purchase Earth Shoes, which turned out to be the wrong size; now that I'm home in peace and quiet listening, toes say no way). Weather was agreeable; I realized several state parks were open yearly. Spent Christmas eve at Deception Pass State Park! Found a Christmas service in Anacortes--Garrison Keillor's right: Lutheran women are fierce! A near full moon shown above clouds as I drove "home". Blissful evening under sleeping bag in back of the RAV, finishing Hazelton's biography of Mary, listening to fantastic Christmas music from BBC Canada and PRI Seattle. Beat thinking I was supposed to be somewhere else. Even enjoyed listening to the predicted light rain begin tapping towards midnight. 'Bye moon.
Ham, broccoli, scalloped potatoes and Carl's apple pie for Christmas dinner in Bellingham, with fond, same old friends. Yum. Since I hadn't cooked, took on the dishes. Good visits with Katy and Carl between holiday wedding and memorial services, and my dash to church and visit to Karen and new spouse.
Insisted on enjoying sunshine on the beach Monday. Made for a long ferry wait for Port Townsend, and very late night drive to Oregon. One last night at Breitenbush. Home again, home again, with only one white knuckle stretch of dense fog in Oregon, as the storm moved in.
This drive I enjoyed the company of more of McCullough's John Adams biography and Roy's God of Small Things. The sleeper was, how much I ended up liking The Shipping News. I admit, sometimes fiction hits the spot; News was the perfect Christmas read this year.
If I'd stayed in Bellingham - Katy and Brownie dressed for winter, Jan 8, 2005
Yi Jing anyone? autumn no. 2, camping with cranberries!
Misty Kripalu morning
Nancy loving Popham tide going out
Acadia National Park!
Most excellent Yarmouth Library email pause!
Flew east mid October combining Ken Cohen Taoist Internal Alchemy workshop with fall leaves, visiting friends, with exploring the coast of Main. Lined up weary yoga subs--traveling again! What this non scholar who made it through college without reading, is doing at such an esoteric workshop, isn't clear. Evidently just hearing the gist of such teachings satisfies some mystical yearning. Sense that yearning is fulfilled for the near future.
Thought I'd be able to set up the Yi Jing after Ken's lucid explanation, but no way. Looked at notes recently and thought--huh??? Made sense at the time! Fine dorm and classmates; great evening folk singer; and a night of dancing to drums. By the second evening, though, I was at burger king. Something about the complex retreat food... stomach years for the familiar. The last damp morning found Monk's pond in the mist.
When the workshop closed Friday noon, hustled to meet Nancy in Maine. Almost instantly my digestion recovered! Arrived in dark and rain to find camp set up. Bless Nancy! Caught up with lives in the dry tent, listening to wind gust. Next day, walk on Popham beach, seafood. Daughter Jenny joined us. They went south; I headed north enjoying Maine Public Radio to find Acadia National Park Sunday morning (after a perfect drop in church inspiration in Freeport).
At long, long last--fabled Acadia! Nancy suggested Schoodic Peninsula. Drove the loop repeatedly, savoring tannin colored streams, bogs, finding cranberries! crashing waves, light houses, wave worn outcrops, and crescent moon over lovely ocean woods campground, where I ended up in the rental car, with the engine running, to warm up. Despite lugging tent and light bag, not quite enough gear for a warm night. Added another quilt before my final night back south at Recompence--warm and comfy--yeah!
Back to CT via toll and expressway
Newest Hemphill, Matthew, just celebrated first birthday, with dad Bobby
Cousin Jim's shop (one wall only!) Contributed Bronco and Stinker stickers
Glastonbury CT--Jim with old man Ripper, Laura with Pearly Mae
However did I come by such welcoming eastern family! Cousin Jim keen to feed me the best burger in town and savvy, stylish, fund raising petite Italian wife Laura to show me around (and talk me into contributing a 20 lb squash)! Life is good!
Return to Colorado - full moon over Crested Butte
Grazing 'round Colorado - fresh tomatoes & Soupcon's best
End of September visited old friends--people and places -- Grand Junction to Crested Butte-- while the aspen were gold. Old Durango BLM boss Mike Klish (1982?), now settled near the Colorado River in Grand Junction, filled me in on life and mutual acquaintances. Evette and Mike welcomed me warmly, as always, to their busy lives--they're full time grandparents these years. My homeward bound bag was heavy with homegown purple potatoes.
Met Lorrie and John in Crested Butte, who have perfected enjoying fall in the Rockies. Lorrie and I played super-tourist, taking loads of aspen photos, like we'd never seen 'em before, on drives out of Crested Butte. Led by gourmet Lorrie, we wined and dined our way around the town, joined by George, and avalanche Art (who remembered meeting Lorrie in Berkeley in 1970)! I insisted on spending a nippy full moon night camping above Gothic (~9000'). Never wudda forgiving myself if I didn't sleep out under the full moon. As the only tourist on the road at 10pm, enjoyed a classic late night meeting with local police, on my way up to Gothic, as I rolled through a stop sign (more stop signs than drivers in town). Offered home grown tomatoes unsuccessfully. Fortunately I hadn't had so much as a drop (knowing I couldn't talk myself into camping if I did!) The night I joined in group toasts, I spent chatting and overnighting in George's suite at the Crested Butte Club (thank you, George).
Winter 1975 I lived in up Cochetopa highway, out of Gunnison, on Harold and Zelma Krueger's ranch. Lots of memories returned, being back in country I'd loved and photographed so passionately.
Colorado sunshine was so welcome, familiar and appealing that if it hadn't started to rain, I'd be there still. Surely left a piece of my heart in Colorado when I moved northwest in 1985. Inexpressible grateful to return to delightful old friends--animal, vegetable and mineral: breath taking country, old mine gulches, cemeteries and churches in aspen and pine groves, mountains dusted with snow, meadows of frosted end of season wildflowers.
Enjoying Mike and Carol's tomatoes with Evette
Grand Junction, Sept 25
Ohio Pass towards the castles
Catching up with extra special friend Lorrie (40 years!) in Crested Butte
Found: elusive orange aspen
Best of Colorado
John and Lorrie toast Lorrie's high country birthday!
California - Labor Day - San Jose to Tassajara
Grateful to visit Paul and Christina in San Jose for stay to and from airport. Off to Tassajara Hot Springs (zen monastery, complete with monks, bells and gongs, and kerosene lanterns) in the hills for R&R and tai chi workshop. Also daytime flies--or was it mosquitos! Soaking in the warm pool at dawn, watching stars and moon fade, was absolutely sublime. Must have been to get me up in the dark. Liping is a delightful instructor; however the form she shared turned out to bear no resemblance the swimming dragon I once met. Completely over my head, except for the warm ups, which, amazingly, I'm still practicing, with neighbor now and then.
San Jose Paul with fur bearers
Zendo porch, Tassajara
Sword form medalist Liping taking pictures with class!
Canada - Alberta and British Columbia
Stars over yogis and damp friends,
Figured three days drive to be in place for Judith Lasater Restorative Yoga workshop just outside Edmonton, Alberta. Headed out late in day, determined to sleep in the open during the heart of the moon free Perseids shower. Heading east, glimpses of meteors wetted my enthusiasm for a prone starry watch. Pulled off near Magic Reservoir. Ever wary of tales of heat seeking rattlesnakes, slipped into long unused bivvy sack-- just in case. Gorgeous Milky Way and enough meteors to keep hope of “just one more” alive late into the night. Slept while the heavens rotated; awoke early to relocated Milky Way.
On the road again, silhouettes of clumps of hay bales struck me as the West's version of Stonehenge. Somehow missed the roadside warm spring; worse, clonked my first coyote just after Arco, Howe (I think)--a young one, perhaps, who stopped mid road, reconsidered as I put on brakes, then headed right at the Toyota. There was a thunk; I saw blood. Took many hours to shake the bad feeling of (likely) offing one of God’s song dogs of which I am so fond. There went my formerly outstanding road kill record.
Later that day near Great Falls, on a section of Interstate with loose gravel, once again the windshield caught a rock. A crack shot like uh…meteor, parallel to the upper one (the RAV’s first sign of impermanence, acquired just 2 weeks after purchase). Imperfect windshield veteran that I've become, took this crack in considerably better humor than the first. Auspicious?
Enjoyed the warmth of a black gas station attendant out in the nowhere of Montana. The evening search for open space to camp was long and frustrating as I missed precious hours of meteors watching! Aiyee! Eastern Montana, nada but private wheat ranches, looking like pale over exposures once harvested--with an occasional missile silo fenced off! Long after midnight, public access finally appeared, to my enormous relief, leading me to bedroll space and blurry eyed very late night gazing. In the morning I saw where I was, including the giant RV on the nearby rise. Preferred the weathered outhouses, to the south.
Red Deer River Bluffs
Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park, Alberta.--nice eh?
On the road again, crossed the border at Sweetgrass, which I’d chosen because of my interest in the sweet smelling grass used to smudge. As soon as I met the Canadian border patrolmen, all thoughts of inquiry about the grass vanished. Never mind.
Changed money at the first small town—first of what turned out to be ongoing stops for Canada cash. Never the savvy traveler, I was increasingly un-impressed with the alleged favorable exchange rate for "the States". Hardly. Luckily I wasn’t traveling for profit!
Reluctant to have left Idaho produce in its prime, picked up local Tabor corn. Disappointed. Not until the following week—Kimberly BC-- did I find an agreeable local fruit and vegetable stand; fate of the foreigner.
I was however delighted by the abundance of campgrounds in Alberta, a skittish traveler's dream. As I passed more and more campground signs, and began getting a sense of map scale, targeted a park east of the back roads paralleling Calgary north to Edmonton. Dropped down badlands bluffs into lush grasslands along Red Deer River; delighted to find Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park squeezed between private ranches. Yet another lovely night under stars and meteors, this time bivvy sack coated with heavy riverside dew. I was slightly taken back that the $17 fee included no water, however the green bluffs and another starry night pleased me greatly. Began to be introduced to the cozy set up of Canadian campsites. Perhaps because Canada is sparsely populated, neighbors are more welcome, rather than resented as is often the case in the States.
The evening I pulled into Dry Island, noticed the campfire and my nearest neighbor observing me, casually walking by my car, which I parked off the mousy grass (I'm nervous about extra occupants) for the night. Didn’t go over to neighbor(s) until morning. I was right—he, it turned out, was beside himself with curiosity about the lone woman sleeping in the open. Almost immediately he went off on Bush and Iraq, until he realized I was uninformed, ignorant, no fun at all. In turn, I was disappointed, having expected to meet a tea sipping colonial rather than an “all American”, married man, who’d driven into the nearest town for java. Brian(?), my neighbor swore coyotes killed a rabbit by his tent; I was bummed to have slept through the drama. Learned he was setting up camp for an annual bash with buddies. (Got away just in the nick of time!) Learned a lot about mellow Canada from this custom builder, who rose out of poverty in the Maritimes to become railway union leader, now, successful Vancouver business man and father, whose 2nd wife stayed to work in Calgary. “No thanks”, I said more than once to offers of joints. “Gotta get my head together, set up for a workshop in a foreign country this weekend!” “We pretty much have all the drugs we want”, he shared.
Immediately realized that what I was experiencing in my highly respectful campground neighbor, was (heavily) medicated Canada. Food for this traveler's thought. North of the border--abundant drugs, little violence; south of the border—illegal drugs, abundant violence. Hmm. I was loving ubiquitous campgrounds and such a strong sense of safety, no need to worry about locking car, fine to leave kayak anywhere. Boring for Paul Theroux or adventurous old buddy Glen Lathrop, fine for Jeannie.
I was not however keen to find Alberta filled with mini-marts and the very same chain stores as USA. Until my camp neighbor said the US was the world power, I’d not given it serious thought, although I’ve long been sensitive to ugly Americans.
Therefore I was embarrassed to be in the position of ugly American with “big new” car! Loved the smaller, older, economical cars of Canada! Imagine a successful company owner, like my Red Deer River neighbor from Vancouver, a physically big guy, happy to be driving a little ol' Honda sedan “bought from a little old lady”. This wasn't Idaho, or the States. My first campground neighbor was the first of several Canadians I met who unabashedly used the E word—environment—as though everyone did!
Hadn’t been over the border long before I was eyeing campers' red and white Canadian flag folding nylon camp chairs. Since I was becoming fond of Canadians and their softer values, began contemplating a dandy souvenir. Luckily by the time I found them in a big grocery store they were sold out—end of summer, I guess.
Friday afternoon I pulled into Elk Island National Park, east of Edmonton, to see how it’d work as home base during the workshop. No problem getting a (tiny) campsite in this big, flat, aspen and shallow lake scattered preserve. Read: mosquitoes. Since it was plenty hot—grumbled why I’d come so far north to find it hotter and muggier than Idaho—I was wearing shorts. Didn't jump into long pants and socks fast enough to avoid joints--backs of knees and ankles—being nailed and ringed with bites. Rascals!
As the first to set up the tent in the walk in area, my eyes flew open to watch a big pileated woodpecker hop on tiny tree hugging legs around the adjacent site! Campgrounds seem to domesticate a lotta us! Later I watched a roadside coyote and buffalo. The wildlife event that most impressed me was the flash of a small critter streaking past the tent full throttle, right after I’d tossed a banana peel. Later I realized the peel was gone--practically snatched in mid-air by my first peel snatching chipmunk! Not wanting to aid and abet others littering, looked ‘round unsuccessfully for the peel which I was saving for the imminent simian reunion following the workshop!
Off like Robin Hood to suburban Sherwood (forest) Park Saturday morning, in search of Yoga for Today studio. After checking in, encountered an older, “blond” woman I assumed by her accent was German, waiting for class. She ordered me to check in (just had) and pointed out the blond director. When I commented that everyone was blond, she asked why I wasn't. Still working on that koan.
Delighted to find opening session (in heated room a la Bikram) was in library where I was able to check email! Seemed like a hundred of us packed together. After their long winter, cold Albertans reveled in the 90° heat; others whined, demonstrating well Judith's teaching “everything's a matter of opinion”. Away we went, watching demos and practicing poses with partners.
Next day we expanded like a universe—nearly losing each other—supposedly 60 of us--in the hotel across the street’s ballroom.
Each day Judith challenged us to be more mindful. Therefore I was fully aware that the evening of my birthday I triple tasked my way back to Elk Island driving (1) with a mellow CD playing (2) while enjoying a pint of Hagan Das (3), from Safeway. (~$7/Canadian @~1.2 exchange rate, choice of only 3 or 4 flavors!)
Back at camp, with no possibility of hunger, launched the kayak for a late evening paddle in the shallow campground lake (years of drought I’d been told). I was tickled by bearded Muslims paddling canoes, facing black veiled women, children in between. I’d met one of the men at a fruit stand. “Yes, I know and admire the Muslim faith--all religions”, I’d replied to his inquiry. Couldn't help but think the women might envy, or at least shake their covered heads, at the lone woman who simply rolled up pant legs, walked into the water and launched a pink plastic boat, paddling into the sunset without anyone telling her what to do. Blinked my eyes at a scene so un-Idaho like—no way. Ended up hanging out in the reeds, snapping photos of reflections as the sun sunk--lovely, peaceful evening. Good to use the boat I’d brought hundreds of miles!
Day job, Sherwood Park, Alberta
Evening at Elk Island National Park, Alberta
Probably that same evening helloed to my new, rough looking, bearded neighbor with a pile of beer bottles at his feet, nose in book. Related him to the pickup with Yukon plates. (Stove, pans, thermos on picnic table, tent--same gear as me.) My extremely near neighbor acknowledged my hello without lifting head. I was put off by the beer; curious about the book. Having been close enough to hear each other sigh and fart all night, curiosity overcame me in the morning. We emerged simultaneously about the time mist lifted. He was drinking coffee with his nose in a magazine by the time I stepped over with my tea and asked if I could chat. Lo and behold: first time novelist on book tour! While the Scottish émigré chatted with the cheechako, she scratched (mosquito bites) like a mangy dog. Forgot to have Bad Latitudes autographed by Al Pope his-self! Mighty interesting to hear the view from the Yukon; there was that "E" word again. I was liking this country with (at least some of) her priorities straight. Liked seeing $2000 fines for littering rather than "silly"threats to wear seatbelts!
The rest of my stay I was alone in the walk-in campground with squirrels and fast chipmunks. Coyotes serenaded nightly, as they had ever since Boise. (Weekend kids howled along.) [Look for workshop wisdom on Yoga page one of these days.]
After 4 days practicing restorative yoga poses on each other and enjoying Judith's humor, challenges and listening to her model nonviolent communication; good-byes and thank yous; headed west towards the Rockies with a Safeway oriental salad, rumors of rain in the air. Fallen circles of wheat familiar from a former life in the Palouse, triggered several days search through brain files for term for that dominoing phenomenon. (Lodging!—the effort called for a nap!) Passed sign for a saddle maker! Another night of latrines and bathhouses, camping side by side in a riverside park. Chose 2 gals whose conversation outside their trailer I didn't mind overhearing. In the morning packed away yoga gear and hand washed more sweaty clothes—I’d been so wrong to expect cooler weather further north in August—which dried in the sun.
Absolutely breathtaking drive into Canadian Rockies via Jasper Park next afternoon, despite heavy truck and tourist traffic. The very first lake I pulled off to gaze at contained the obligatory pair of loons! Again and again pulled off to gawk at gorgeous peaks, classic demos of geology, textbook milky, braided glacial streams and plains; glacial lakes, some settled out a lovely green. I was smitten. Liked seeing "Caribou crossing" (though I didn't see any.) A helpful, busy entrance fellow recommended stopping early at the next campground along the river. Clearly peak visitor season. He was right, the campground hadn't filled, was quiet, had more tents than other camper lined sites. Spent lovely night along milky river, snapping photo after photo after photo, absolutely agog at the scenery.
Hillsides of feathery mountain avens seed heads
As I drove on the next day, listening to an Agnus Dei album, I was so swept away that I could see happily dying in this stupendous, divine country. “In your face mountains,” I kept thinking. Pure bliss, poking along, pulling off, trying to capture the uncapturable on digital--endless mountains. Scenery for a disposable panorama camera—miles of tilts and scoops, flatirons, scarp faces, overturns, this way and that. Spectacular mats and carpets of mountain avens (dryas octopetala?, rose family) gone to seed lined roadsides, filled glacial valleys. (Oops--originally guessed these were buckwheat.) God’s country for sure. Memories floated back: especially of Laura who loved the Canadian peaks so much. Mountains to die for, literally. I understood. Began faintly recalling my trip to Banff and the “Bugs” (Bugaboos) in 1970 or ’71; “Simian” tales of Robson assaults; talk of Mt Edith Cavell; Laura’s beautiful black and white photo of Fay Glacier (BC), Christmas 1971. Also fondly remembered Canadian born Bellingham mentor and world class storyteller Barbara Smith, who grew up in Winnipeg and drove the back roads of Canada on her first social work assignments.
Past Columbia Glacier field (with an especially attractive pine or cedar paneled outhouse). When a tourist cut across the highway to turn into a "no entrance" exit, why I don't miss my former life as a park service seasonal came back in a flash. “Mercifully” the day began to haze over, likely from distant fires, somewhat lessening my photo stops--they weren't going to be good. Still, I kept pointing and shooting. Crossed into Banff National Park with its string of incredible blue lakes like famous Louise. At one pull off, I swear I saw the most “violent” or perhaps dramatic waterfall of my life, plunging down one of oh so many spectacular mountainsides! (Yet to see Niagara.) Ach! World class scenery for sure. At some point realized I was dressed like the fall asters I was admiring--light green pants and purple top. One of the most spectacularly wonderful, reflective days and drives on my life, despite traffic ranging from do-able to perilous. My grateful heart soared.
Turned off at the occasional campground. One seemed familiar—could I have stayed there in the ‘70s? Except for recalling the Banff town campground and perhaps buying Eric Newby’s Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, remember little of that early VW expedition!
Harvested a couple of inky caps at a bathroom stop (they, inky caps, ended up, hours later, in midnight spaghetti). Turned off to Radium Hot Springs. Things suddenly looked familiar. Curt Brettin and I must have driven through Sept 1996 on the way back from Calgary. This time: acres and miles of recently burned forest, side roads still closed.
Morning, Lake Lillian - grebes, loons and private homes too
More like it!
Low and behold Wagners camper awaited at Lake Lillian, which was far from the pristine lake I’d imagine. More of a pull off along a road to a new resort, by a lake lined with private homes. Somewhat changed since Curt and Gretchen camped there in the ‘70s with young children! As I drove upstream hoping to find a more agreeable camp, the first rain drops of the trip began ("never rains in Aug"--Curt). After my report and a good chat in the trailer, we stayed put. Cooked in the toyota, in the dark; dined late on fresh mushrooms and spaghetti. Off and on during the night, rain drummed on the roof. (Couldn't see packing up a wet tent.)
In the a.m. our young neighbors filled us on on free camping; I was keen to relocate, free or otherwise. Before packing up, paddled with loons and pied billed grebes; Wagners folded down pop top. By late afternoon Gretchen and I soaked in popular hot springs near White Swan Prov. Park; in the (pay) campground I enjoyed a super look at the resident barred owl. Turned out I enjoyed more than I planned, access to 3 handy latrines during the night. Weather too mild to have left, leftovers that long?
The next day, after considerable debate over my non-4WD vehicle limitations. and a welcome fruit and vegetable stop, we headed west, up and over Gray Creek Pass, guided by Curt’s log of his last crossing. I particularly enjoyed the half hour huckleberry stop which turned out to be the only such opportunity of my summer. Straight on down the west side of the pass to the ferry across Kootenay Lake to the land Curt knows and loves. For more about Curt’s Shangri La (spectacular peaks hidden in the clouds) and my polluted bay (waters swirling with logging pollution) and Rube Goldberg house of cards shelter (also see Simian Outing Society Rendezvous 2004 webpage). Between showers we continued to enjoy catching up on old times. I particularly liked and appreciated the evening we borrowed a neighbor's campfire (stoked night and day in the drizzle). The semi permanent camps of Glacier Bay campground inhabited by local loggers (my guess), reminded me (not that I've been there, but I've read about ‘em!) of Russian dachas [web: "Dachas" are summer homes located outside the city, sometimes as close as 40 minutes by train, mostly inhabited by children and grandmothers in the summer months where vegetables and flowers are grown. Dachas may be close to forest settings, lakes, Gulf of Finland, but nevertheless will be relatively close to civilization and perhaps next to a hundred similar dachas.]
Hemphill-Wagner camp, Aug 2004
Rain proofed dacha - Hemphill style
The sober moment came when I realized this wonderful vacation would end. Wet weather had settled in and Curt and Gretchen were waiting to visit friends on along the shore. Headed south.
Spent a final Canadian night at the same lovely lake near Slocum, BC, where I’d kayaked in the early ‘90s. Like old times, managed a dreamy swim and paddle between showers. The parking area had been ”improved”; the adjacent slot (á la Canada--a few feet away) was inhabited by a suspicious Live Free or Die compatriot with trailer and kid's bikes, who stayed out of sight. Over here, Mounties.
En route to the border, drove through the intriguing mining town of Trail. Awesome, awesome country-- Canada! May the winds of fortune blow this way again!
Memorial weekend plus, 2004
Northwest Folklife Festival time
Folks, tide pools, bamboo and such,
Always enjoy the spring drive across Oregon, over the Cascades to Seattle's Folklife. Ah, Seattle. "Too bad it's going to be raining for Folklife", a friend west of the Cascades reported. I shrugged, veteran of numerous predicted "rained outs" that never came to pass. A "newcomer", my friend doesn't yet know the magic of Folklife, the memorial weekend ritual I've enjoyed 18 of it's 33 years!
This year another wayfarer beat me to Marli's 2nd bedroom, so I camped in the living room, trying to ignore the tv guest #1 kept on all night for company. Spoiled, ain't I!
Despite more cell phones, dogs and paid staff, Folklife is still pretty darn folksy. Not the old time music gathering it once was, it's now multi-ethnic/multi-faceted, like Seattle. One afternoon I watched agog, a man in a business suit sitting cross-legged on the grass, chanting with a circle of tie died hari krishna devotees. Right beside the chanters a variety of folks hula hooped in an informal class. Like Dorothy's "it's not Kansas", I shook my inland head--it ain't Idaho--at the sea of ethnicitys mixed around me, enjoying the weekend together!
Opening evening Rose from my earliest folk dance years bounded up to greet me warmly. Soon I was cajun 2-stepping and waltzing around the huge dance floor (one of several) with gals who, when I first arrived in Seattle took me sometime to realize, preferred women. A couple nights later while watching Rev Chumleigh's vintage flicks out on the lawn backlit by a full moon shining through clouds, I decided the cute, cute gal near me might be Rose's 28 yr old daughter, Cory, I hadn't seen since she was a kid! "Cory?!" I ventured? She introduced her boyfriend. Watching CSL's Choir of Light on stage gospel morning, I learned Rose now goes to Kathianne's church and loves it as much as I!! Shift happens! (Enjoyed early service with Kathianne more than ever this year.)
Rev. Chumleigh presents flicks on the lawn!
A super plus this festival was the presence of legend-in-his-lifetime, IWW activist and folk elder Utah Phillips. After wriggling into one of his day concerts to assure myself Phillips had continued to mellow to perfection, dashed for a Saturday evening benefit concert ticket. I was so moved by his world class evening of poetry, passion--"Give up the weapon of privilege! Give up violence, alcohol...", song and stories, a few days later I decided to see if I could be a part of getting the concert offered on CD (still working on that). Also moved to "dangerous" Mother Jones' grave in the Mt Oliver Cemetery near my old stomping ground, Springfield IL.
This year's festival highlighted the Horn of Africa--art, crafts, tea ceremony, dress, etc. Enjoyed documentary films on the Lost Boys/Children of Sudan settling uneasily into Seattle; smiling women of the Humar village of Ethiopia; and "Bury the Spear", the story of tribal peace making between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Sat riveted on the edge of a chair listening to Lesley Hazleton read from her book on the virgin Mary--can't wait to sink into it. Caught up with Judith happily living between Munich and Seattle with her once upon a time exchange student turned partner, Kurt. Old friends Marcy, Karen and I watched Ballard Sedentary Souza Band. I howled when Liz Driesbach announced the 1/2 hour delay on the schedule would not go unnoticed, knowing that woman is a force to be reckoned with. I miss the Liz D's, Sandy Bradleys and Edith Ferrars of Seattle!
As always, sublime Balkan dance to live music Sunday evening.
A touch of Idaho homework Memorial day morning--successfully found Donna Thornton's cousin Sam on the job in her gallery across from the Space Needle! Was that fun! How I appreciated the vitamin C drink Sam mixed up on the spot (as I coughed and snuffled)! Months of tension, including too much travel, caught up with me as I hit the road to Seattle--awoke with a funny throat the first night out. Had been dragging a bit, keeping silk scarf around neck all weekend.
The icing on the cake of another wonderful Folklife was running into dear old dance friends, Dikka and Susan, when I stopped by the contra dance hall bathroom closing night. We walked outside to chat, running into Olemara, John and Chris. Hallelujah, Chris finally has a CD! How I miss the eccentric, passionate folks of Seattle. I was glad Dikka and Susan encouraged me to dance a couple of contra dances before dashing--no-- hobbling to the number 16 bus up the hill. In the company of gentle partners I said hello to a number of once very familiar dancers and musicians, as we moved up the long line. Thoroughly enjoyed being back in the middle of the music I'd once immersed myself in night after night while living in Seattle.
Cash only at this Ethiopian booth!
Folklife behind, the following day, headed to the Bremerton ferry to visit Marcy. Like a deer frozen in headlights--only it was the moon-- "squandered" stunningly perfect weather in town, rather than heading right off to camp under the full moon, which I did once clouds and rain began moving in! Hindsight!! Even so--What I'd give to be back at the airport having fish and chips with Marcy! Watching clouds and rain move across the Sound was breath taking for this inlander. How gorgeous can it get! Filled the new Sony digital memory stick.
She who doesn't know what she's doing, misses the ferry by a moment.
First vehicle on the following one.
Perfect old growth backbend logs of Puget Sound!
Beautiful day, Dungeness Spit
Clouds move in
After the night listening to rain pat on the car top, tore self from the coast; headed to Oregon. Visited LEC on their Wilsonville grounds for the last time. Nervously headed downtown Portland, where wonder of wonders, with the kindness of strangers, managed to find the new Chinese Garden, stories of which had reached Boise! What an urban gem! Light rain fell as we toured with a docent.
Into the Cascades for a shower and overnight at Breitenbush. Unable to tear myself away from the rhododendrons and peace of Brietenbush until late the following afternoon, paid dearly, having to drive sleepily onward late into the next night in order to be back for 10am yoga.
Chinese Gardens, right in the midst of Portland.
Good to be home! What a trip! Now to stay awhile.
Late Spring in the Southwest
Venus and roasted red peppers
Rick at overlook
Fisherman Gary tells evening desert tale!
When I learned (via Nancy now in Vermont) the group I’d camped with in Utah so many springs was planning a late spring expedition, decided to combine visiting the family cabin in southwest Colorado (while still co-owner) with meeting up with the campers. Both felt like unfinished business.
In order to be gone only a week, made the uneasy decision to try to fly with all my camping gear. I’d like to blame this on my appalling blunder-- forgetting the cabin key, which resides in the glove compartment of the car. That's where it was when I landed at the Durango airport and rented a car and drove to the cabin. I'm not sure when the realization dawned. As I tried to sleep in the Nissan, then on the pine needles floor, the moon through the pines was magic. Particularly wished brother Jamie, with his sense of the exquisite, could see it. In the morning, instead of borrowing camping extras (like chair and foam pad) from the cabin, hit the humane society thrift shop and headed to Utah. Late for first option to meet hikers, hung out at Plan B, Mule Canyon ruins, writing in long hand—oh so good to be back overlooking Comb Ridge, and so good to have time to write up winter events still stuffed away. Towards the end of the afternoon the 2 Nancys pulled up, even further behind schedule than I it turned out.
Followed to nearby Cedar Mesa campsite. Over the years since I last got together with the group, they’ve become quite the regional experts. Not since have I encountered such an observant, respectful group—noticing every ant lion, primrose species and sign of ancient hearth. Having just been back to Illinois in March, I was particularly keen to visit with fellow home town classmate and junior high astronomy club buddy Rick, chemist, still up on astronomy, and self taught botanist. Colorado Nancy is now professional archeologist and geologist; Gary’s the engineer; Vermont Nancy works in hospital labs. (Jane turned back with car trouble.) I stood out as ex-scientist, turned spiritual seeker.
We hadn't started setting up camp long before I brought up the long anticipated subject of seeing Venus during the day. “Of course”, Rick responded, citing the magnitude of other potentially visible day stars. Because Venus had been so bright all winter, we knew about where to look. With Rick’s guidance we were soon shifting focus to find this daylight “star”. I was thrilled—I knew it!
Chairs (desert sand for me) circled the existing fire pit; tarps and sleeping bags were lined up for the night; snacks were pulled out and arranged. Ever snack queen Colo. Nancy trumped with a plain roasted red pepper sauce she’s blended for chips. As always, snacks eclipsed dinner. How good to enjoy the pinon-juniper forest (becoming primarily juniper I learned) as the sun lowered, and moon rose--back in the desert with the old, so familiar, hiking group.
I was acutely aware that though we’d camped together for a decade, they’d continued sharing adventures after I dropped away half dozen years back. Gradually I got the gist of the intervening years. My retirement career in yoga seemed to meet with silence (although last winter Vermont Nancy began enjoying yoga), as did any of my health opinions. I was clearly reminded that I was now something of a stranger midst very close friends. When Gary pulled out pages of jokes off the internet and began reading, I remembered who changed--me, not the group. I was restless even during discussion of our common denominator--science. Interesting.
However, sleeping in a pod under the desert full moon was absolute bliss. (Figured Gary chose to make camp off in the trees because dealing with a new hip might not have been as effortless as he suggested). I’d been concerned there’d be heat and gnats this late in the spring. Evenings were sublime. The same parade of planes blinked high overhead as we fell asleep—we always figure southern Utah's on the way to LA.
In the morning, to the hiss of Colorado Nancy’s stove caffeinating her for the day, the rest of us lazed in our bags (me, recovering from a night on hard ground—missed borrowing one of the cabin’s thick foam pad). No one reported having heard coyotes. Smitten by the beauty of juniper silhouettes and rows of morning clouds, I tried taking photos.
That first day Rick and Nancy led us into a canyon with some pools of water. Loved sniffing primrose and puccoon again, with or without company--not everyone keen to bend down to that level--as well as seeing flint “flakes” everywhere. Loved prowling canyon country with dedicated naturalists, walking, scrambling, stopping, snacking. Wonderful to have good desert company again, which included a collared lizard willing to pose!
collared lizard strikes pose!
One of several oh so fragrant primroses
For once I wasn’t entirely miserable hiking! Pleased with my “new” feet and hips that have been on an extended, painful time out. That I was patiently reaping the harvest of a dozen years of yoga came to me that evening when everyone else moaned and groaned about this and that around the snack table and, later, the campfire. It had been a do-able day, even by my exceeding slack(?) standards. I felt "ok".
Still, after another glorious evening and night together—no cars, no one else, only distant cow bellows—the next day I opted to stay behind while the others prowled the mesa top. Instead, I followed the shade of a juniper, reading Uncle Tungsten, thinking how chemist Rick would enjoy Sachs. (Kept waiting to learn how Sachs went from chemist to brain expert, but never did!) Rick (then Ricky) and I endured high school Latin together (no fault of Mrs. Savage). Earlier, in junior high we’d both fallen under the fortunate influence of one of those extraordinarily enthusiastic teachers, Mr. (Harry) Emrick, who inspires a generation of students. From rocks to dragonflies to stars, we were forever hooked on science. (I was particularly ripe from a girl scouting mom.)
When the group returned, it was obvious we’d enjoyed our respective days enormously. It’d been bliss to read and clear my soul by writing, in the peace of the desert, watch ravens, listen to wrens. They’d enjoyed their time scouting. I think it was that evening several of us drove to the nearby overlook (photo above). Ahhhh.
Two days later, I felt the tug to return and deal with getting into the cabin before flying back. Said awkward good-byes to the group I love being in the desert with, but don’t quite fit with. I know because of the emptiness that has always followed. No “see you next years”, no group photos like we used to set up. I let the extraordinary beauty and scent of carpets of orange globe mallow and primrose fill the void as I drove back across the reservations of the four corners area. Each spring features a special combination of blooms. The Navajo prayer walk in beauty ran through my mind.
Only once had I say something about how I believe our thoughts influence our experience (probably in regard to science research). I kept quiet about mind-body association as I listened to joint replacement, bone fusings, tales of certain aging. How I’ve changed and yet how I appreciate these predictable, salt of the earth folks I've spent so much time in the desert with.
Back in Colorado, made phone calls so I could get in and say good-bye to the cabin, in case I don't see it again. I lived there for awhile one winter. As an elder, I practice closings, saying and doing what needs saying and doing. I was probably still counting blessings intermittently when the waning moon shone through the pines again.
Thank you great spirit for putting up with this uneasy traveler dragging a ridiculously heavy airline bag, with unused tent, cold and rain gear, back home again safely!
East Coast again - MA and VT
Visualizing planets and sugar houses
Nancy said, "Sugar should be running while you're out". A gal from Pittsfield MA, now living straight north in VT ougtta know, sez I, a great fan of maple syrup. For this brief trip East for yet another Ken Cohen workshop, combined with a little fun as long as I had come sooo far, I tried the Albany NY airport, rumored to be small. I was charmed by its meditation room! After confusing east and west for many miles, finally pointed rental Nissan north to VT. Then south the next day via back roads by slate quarries, to sign in for another Ken Cohen workshop, this one entitled something about visualizations.
A few days before I left, Nancy warned me it was still snowing in VT. By the time I arrived, spring was in the air, though lakes were still solid. I was uncomfortably overdressed. Kwan Yin, St Francis and the Buddha still sported mufflers and mitts at Kripalu.
Buddha still in mitts
Ken started by explaining 5 planets were visible (behind the clouds). Seems like Venus has been absolutely brilliant for months. As always Ken's workshop was wonderful. I'd never seen Kripalu on a weekend--full to brim. After arid Idaho, loved that first rainy Friday evening--helped drown out an intermittent engine that annoyed me, just outside the window by the bed. The next day, low clouds lifted, sun lit raindrops on bare trees and bushes, and early flowers peaked through leaves. Lovely I thought. Good to be in the oh so different East. By Sunday I was glad to leave the atmosphere of illness and fear I feel at Kripalu, along with the diet of beans, lentils and breads (mercifully I was saved by a debut of tuna in the salad bar--Allah is good!--heard grumbles around me, but I purred.)
Beautiful drive back north to VT. Swung over to Adams for a successful search for the ice cream parlor overheard about while in the Pittsfield thrift shop on the way down. Love those old industrial towns, buildings, and houses. I'm particularly bonkers about the incredible, old churches and cemeteries. The geologist is me was smitten too, by slate roofs.
That evening I again nestled in the Nancy and Alan's daughter's-away-at-college waterbed. Mornings, I sat on their porch enjoying sun. The cat frolicked, the hugely loved dog tried with little success for attention. Recent VT transplant Alan grumbled, saying I was just lucky to be there between snow and black flies. Allah is good. Returned to black tea and burgers with relief. Enjoyed revisited our old Colorado pastime-- birdwatching--with these now Vermont folks. One evening Nancy and I shared our new love, yoga, with her local (Kripalu, nat) instructor. Alan logged hours in town, Fairhaven, rehearsing his lead in a sophisticated half hour long Easter cantata! After listening to Alan sing with the CD, how I hated to miss out; however my choir called me for our 2-3 minute piece with the kids!
Watching hawks & geese from Nancy and Alan's backyard ridge;
Lake Champlain in background
Since weather warmed and nights were barely frosting, "sugaring" slowed. No smoke from sugar stacks. It took driving back roads (with research from Nancy's coworkers) and my imagination seeing heat waves over a stack, before we stumbled onto a shack that was about to fire the wood furnace. The scene was picturebook--grandfather stoking fire; grandson, stacking, middle son, keeping after his teen. Big, burly, quiet men. Watched this 9th generation Vermont family of maple syrup makers make sap into syrup. I was stunned to learn that gallons and gallons of sap boiled down in about 3 hours! Naturally I tagged and lugged a gallon of Seeley syrup onto the plane to Boise!
Pilgrim to Illinois - No. 1
I grumbled about the mid March date brother Scott sprung without input, to hold a memorial for mom back home; it fell back to back with the long arranged trip to VT. However the idea of returning to hometown Jacksonville, Illinois, seeing dad's grave site and setting a stone for mom, was ripe. Scott and family evidently had the energy to make arrangements. Maybe due to my lack of enthusiasm, I fell from grace again, and emails; but other brothers filled me in when I learned it was a go. Brothers unite in a mystical way I can't fathom; I followed.
In the words of pastor Tri, I knew this trip was pretty huge for me. No dark skinned native lover was gonna whisk me out to the country for burgoo and betting, like the heroine of Animal Dreams found when she returned to her hometown after her parents' deaths, but the possibility of being with folks who had known both parents and grandparents, as well as my own somewhat estranged brothers, shimmered.
When I learned I could hook up with brother Stuart in Minneapolis to fly into Peoria, that solved that piece of the puzzle. Packed and headed out on a Friday afternoon. In Minneapolis, handed the remaining half of my morning tuna sub to Stu after we boarded the small prop plane. Turned out Ohio brother Jamie met us at the other end. With ears still roaring we headed out in the dark, Jamie routing us most efficiently in his spiff car, with spiff music. His (music) expertise exceeded my appreciation; however I got the idea how important music is to him.
Luckily Stu and Jamie had been back to Jacksonville since me (can't even recall my last trip--likely late '70s); they oriented me as we neared our childhood home, or else I'da been utterly lost. We even thought we could tell where the old (hwy) 67 Drive-in theater used to be. I was agog by this foreign, yet familiar place, grateful to have guides help span the decades.
Ring leader and middle brother Scott had reserved rooms out on the "new" highway, in one of Jacksonville's 2 or 3 possibilities. Uncomfortable in motels ever since "Psycho", I was relieved when Stu was open to "bunking" together. Perhaps living with an insomniac 3 year old, made a seldom seen sister no big deal. Jamie chose to snore on his own.
Day dawned fine and sunny; Stu and I were stunned how well we'd slept. Met Scott and family at continental breakfast to review the day that was focused on holding a memorial at the new gravestone Scott arranged by dad's. While Scott/wife/3 boys checked on cemetery arrangements, Jamie chauffeured Stu and I around the town--up Lincoln Avenue to the old neighborhood. Mauvesterre "crik" at bottom had been "improved" but Jonathan Baldwin Turner Jr High was unchanged. Cornfields still came right up to roads. I liked that. Illinois College (IC) had a few additions. We drove slowly past the old house, around the neighborhood; down State Street, over to College Avenue where we stopped at the Congregational church we'd attended. A few blocks further was the downtown square, significantly changed; not a single business from our childhood remained. A St Pat's parade was in the making. We studied the war memorial in the center, recalling how Ricky Rowe once had painted it. A few more blocks on east(?)-- MacMurray College and the mysterious Our Saviors Catholic church and it's high school.Memories drifted, then deluged us. Among 3 of us, someone had the answer. I was stunned how nearly always Stu and I had identical recollections. We were 2 years apart, but hardly buddies. Fortunately whatever kept us distant lifted for the weekend. Jamie wasn't sharing our sentimental journey. His discomfort was clear. 13 years younger, growing up was dimmed by years of mother driving dad to Mayo Clinic for treatments. To cope, he simply forgot. Stu and I both remembered "Portugee" Hill, wanted to find it and did. Jamie had no trouble finding to the Country Club where we spent summers at the swimming pool and golf course. In our childhood minds the pool across town used to be so far away! Shouldn't have, but come as a shock the pool had been totally redone! We change, but don't expect anything else to!
"Stu! There's a Peace Pole at the Congregational Church!" (say, what?)
Some of Scott's family at Steak'n'Shake
Personally I was a happy camper to rendezvous for lunch at Steak'n'Shake with Scott and kids (others were good sports, but not as lucky as me). Love S'n'S; had no idea Jax had one (respectfully, to the visitor's eye, Jacksonville doesn't a lot!) Enjoyed lunch with lime shake a lot.
While the others opted to watch "the game" on hotel tv before the gathering for mom, Stu and I borrowed Jamie's car to head back up Lincoln Ave to 327 Lockwood. I remembered mom selling the house we grew up in to one of my high school classmate, so was game to knock and see what happened. Professional Stu was horrified at my boldness, but curious enough to follow up the porch stairs. Why not, I thought, boldly shifting into why not gear. Nothing strange about this door! With a "We've been expecting you", an unfamiliar woman ushered us in, for the tour of the decade, and I began to fall in love with small town openness again. Owners since 1985 Don and Nancy Jolly have restored the Hemphill House (as they deferred to it in our presence). Since they've opened the house for tours, they learned its history (which we didn't know). Older than we thought--1865! Jollys are 4th owners in 135 years! First house on block, land given by Illinois College (across the street) in lieu of salary! Overwhelmed by the graciousness of the new homeowners, Stu was a veritable Eddie Haskell (if I have the character right--we didn't have tv when I was young). Our crusty city hearts melted with the kindness of strangers to unannounced Hemphills. I was profoundly touched and grateful to see everything from basement to bedrooms, bathrooms to backyard again. Although some things--the beloved backyard magnolia and redbud in front--so clear in my memory, were long gone, I figured no way the brick walks we burned leaves on each fall would still be there. But I was wrong; the one along Mound, was entirely overgrown by grass.Hustled to fetch Jamie, who drove a few blocks to Diamond Grove Cemetery, once seemingly "way out of town". Pulled in behind line of cars. Jamie especially was stunned by the crowd. My attempt to display photos I'd brought so far, blew away. Dozens of not all that old, remarkably spry folks, were gathered to remember mom, greet us. We were blown away--although Scott's wife had made phone calls, the newspaper announced the wrong day. By now weather was classic early spring, cold, overcast and blustery, perfect for an Illinois cemetery gathering.
Brick walk exactly as I remember!
327 Lockwood Place
from favorite play tree across street on college campus
The childhood magnolia from slide ~1950!
big enough to play under (no longer around in 2004).
Old friends gathered at Diamond Grove Cemetery, March 13
After memorial gathering: L-R: Charley, brother Stuart, Pat's wife Barb, brother Scott, Pat Ward (back of Jamie's head)
Jamie and Stu about to scatter ashes to the wind
Sunday morning, March 14, 2004
Who were these people smiling at us! Somewhat panicked, in a flash of perhaps intuition, also compassion for those standing in the bitter cold, I asked emcee Scott if we could begin by having everyone introduce themselves right off. With each name we exclaimed--Doc Davis! Evelyn Mason from history class--I'd totally forgot that part of mom's life! Grandmother Hemphill had been in history class too, I think. As a terrified child, in my wildest dreams I couldn't imagine presenting a half hour talk, but mom did it. (Even now, the idea is daunting, but faintly appealing.) Wellers! Wards! The Jollys Stu and I had just seen... Taylors, from grandmother Hemphill's side... On and on. Huddling from the sharp wind, each told a microstory of mom. I particularly appreciated the woman who mom had picked up at the post office and brought into the bike club--never heard of her. There were bike friends, like spry 90some Alvin Marshall; birdwatching Auduboners, neighbors, friends of mom and dad, and of dad's parents.
When the family's turn came, I took the opportunity to reinforce mom's embarrassing legacy to me of endless friendliness (like the PO woman). I hadn't had the presence of mind to articulate her most important gift to me, last year. I read "Poem of a Camper" again (found in mom's papers) that seems to fit her so well. Stuart read a poem. Jamie was speechless. Scott was emotional as he shared how much the gathering meant. One of Scott's kids--Kevin?--played "Amazing Grace" on the fiddle. I could almost hear mom "rolling over in the grave". I may have been wrong! Harriet Bradney (from the circle of friends) read from the Book of Common Prayer. Most folks left quickly; it was bitterly cold. How I hated not to speak with each one, and learn treasures from mom's past.
Few crossed town for the social gathering Scott scheduled. Bird trip leader Pat Ward (and wife), who'd taken mom to south to somewhere like Guatamala, came down, a few others interested in "spirits". While the 3 brothers socialized, I was relieved to connect with another very free spirit, 2 years ahead of me in high school, who'd moved back to Jacksonville to care for his mother, who died the day after ours. I was keenly interested in Charley's experience returning home, after decades on the East coast. Ever since Kingsolver's Animal Dreams raised the concept of "returning home", I've been fascinated with the formerly unthinkable. Would I really feel more accepted if I returned to my roots? Hmm.
Moved my mint tea to the supper table. "How was dinner?" folks interested in Jacksonville cuisine queried later. "Dunno." For once, food was lost on me; the evening was all about mom and being back in Jacksonville after so long.
Again that second morning, Sunday, Stu and I were astonished how soundly, peacefully we'd slept in this strange room. Repeatedly he thanked me for the visit to the Lockwood house. Jamie, down the hall, reported later he'd awakened in the early hours with an epiphany about his void of Jacksonville memories. Each of us needed this long awaited trip for our own reasons. Dreaded by me because with mom laid to rest, I sense I may not see the brothers again. But anticipated with great interest, perhaps because I'm part archeologist. Illinois is where I learned to love rocks and stars, dragonflies and dutchman's britches...
After breakfast Stu, Jamie and I said goodbye to Scott and family. We almost forgot to return to the cemetery to scatter the ashes Stuart had brought from Minneapolis (especially for Scott!). Since I'd scattered ashes Out West, took the opportunity to photograph and look around mom and dad's grave stones while Stu and Jamie through some ashes into the wind. Slowly realized mom and dad's stones appeared to be in a plot of grandfather Hemphill's mother's Smith family. Snapped digitals, planning to use them to piece together more of dad's side of the family. Until this winter, I hadn't even realized we had relatives!
Jamie was particularly uncomfortable at the cemetery, Stu too; however Jamie reluctantly (and I think nervously) drove his intensely interested- in-cemeteries sister around a few loops. Pleased to find high school friend Rick's dad's new grave. So many familiar names brought a rush of remembering--black Leroy Whittaker of the garbage truck lived long.
Although anxious to escape the past as quickly as possible, Jamie conceded to drive back roads to Peoria. I loved seeing our old backyard again--small, old towns and fields along the Illinois River. I'd loved spending a weekend off the beaten path. No traffic in Jacksonville or all the way to Peoria for that matter. Not much change. Living in the booming West, this was a balm to my soul.
I loved seeing so many familiar, warm smiles at Diamond Grove. Inexpressibly good to see Mary and Jim Buck; Susan and Sam Weller; Betty Schoemacher (Fischbeck); Randalls; Davises; Bradneys; Betty Hamm; Barbara Rose; Virginia Calhoun; even Jim Mann (who I couldn't recall until later). Everyone seemed like a gold link to a past I hadn't realized how much I needed. I've never been able to imagine still being in Jacksonville-- whatever would I have done!!! Now, however, I wonder... perhaps I'd go to history class and the Congregational Church and love it. My mind and imagination stagger, reel and continue to do so, following the powerful experience of revisiting the scene of lost family blood!
Stu and I flew north, feeling completely full, awed. Jamie continued east to Ohio. Back to our respective lives; mine however feels changed.
Two weekends later I was back on the same Northwest flight to Vermont (story above).
Fingernail clippers and lemon squeezers
Because it’s been SUCH a cold, gray winter (gray being the compelling force) by mid February, like it or not, I was able to get up “in the middle of the night” (5am) to drive in cold rain to the airport. At the Phoenix airport, hooked up with old college George for the full plane to Puerto Vallarta. By 4pm we’d exchanged money and were waiting for leader Don to corral the others. By sunset, we were dining by the beach with the rest of the winter escapees, well north of Puerto Vallarta. I observed las pappas fritas? [French fries] were frozen. Air travel--mind boggling, ¿no?
1st morning - (foreground--tea in the making)
In the dark, I could tell the beach at Casa Mañana (our hotel for a couple nights) was far sandier than last year when it was filled with concrete blocks, after the fall hurricane. Crumpled onto the big hard bed “early” to the crashing of waves. Significantly cooler than last year--didn’t even turn on the menacing overhead fan. No laying it bed, panting, steaming this year--just opened the oceanside glass door for the night. Perfecto! By morning, I was deep under covers, purring! (While “the group” drank coffee.”)
Tried ordering manzanilla tea that first breakfast. Although the waiter wrote it up in a serious pantomime, I'm still waiting. Soon I began setting my plastic peanut butter jar out for sun tea--this year I knew to bring tea bags. [Why our neighbors south of the border can’t just say “No way tea, gringa”, is a mystery!] The jar did the trick until I enthusiastically poured real hot microwaved water into it, at our 2nd hotel, transforming it into a squatty, round bottom blob that had to be propped up!
While the group took day trips, I walked barefoot, north along the sandy beach, butted with narrow, walled backyards, watching kites (long tailed birds anyhow) circle. Then I’d make a nest in the beach rocks and pull out either yoga magazine or Jung’s Memories… Did I say the sun was out, there was a light breeze (and gnats chewed subtly…)? Yes, it was bliss. Occasional gringos marched by with dogs. Locals, especially kids, sometimes on bikes, appeared with buckets, sacks and pry bars at low tide to harvest something, I was never sure what was left in the occasional tide pool or rocks! Not much! I practiced “Holas”.
Since Don had a brake part "on order" (mañana style, of course; he was still waiting when we got back on the plane), excursions were reduced, which suited me fine. As long as we could get to the San Blas Wala Wala café (operated by a gracious Mexican Mormon family), I was happy. Absolutely delighted to find ensalada de broculi on the menu. Don supplied the café with camarones giganticas--that's giant shrimp. Fine dinning and company.
Enjoyed our group a lot--all roughly the same speed (except the grandchild of 5). George and I walked down to the San Blas harbor; successfully found and purchased fingernail clippers—joint venture. [“Nail shorteners”, George later translated] With folks to wander with, I was braver this year, purchasing a lemon squeezer—called something like an extractador de limones. George was a natural locating cerveza.
One evening it was announced at dinner that Chris had a toothache; would be going to dentist after supper. Hadn’t realized quiet Chris was suffering until I looked across the table and knew it was true. (I recently hustled off to the Idaho dentist in order not to vacation with a temporary crown.) Leader Don took Chris around the block to the dentist he uses in Mexico. Imagine--a dentist open for business evenings!!! This windfall of time in town plus the chiming of church bells on the square created the rare opportunity to slip into the old church (featured in some famous movie) for mass. George braced himself and crossed the threshold for a short visit inside; Mac peered safely, from the outside. The doors--more like gates-- to the church were covered with fishing net, to keep the abundance of birds (grackels, I think) from coming on in. After mass, I swung by the dentist sign; the good looking man standing out front indicated Christopher was finished!
Back at the van, Chris was smiling and root canaled. Apparently the dental experience was so positive, while we returned for lunch the next day, Chris had a second root canal and cleaning. The whole experience is reported to have cost just $125—an inconceivable bargain, based on my recent $700 crown experience! Chris took a photo of the dentist, reporting “He looks a lot like me”. Wish I’d been there to take a photo of both! After that, Chris smiled and talked.
A key to Chris’ ease with pain came later when I saw him walk the beach in pointy toed cowboy boots. Now that’s an Idaho boy who appreciates suffering, I thought appalled.
Following our San Blas stay, we headed back to Puerta Vallarta where the part for the brakes "had been ordered" from the Ford dealer. By popular request, Don dropped most of us at Walmart, for "stuff", while he went to back to the Ford dealer. I dashed to find another disposable camera, "flip flop" sandals and vegetables for the next stay, where there'd be a kitchen. Shortly Don returned fuming. Even a huge American who loves Mexicans and speaks their language can't make things happen. Though paid for, the part hadn't been ordered. Bless Don; he loves Mexico anyhow. There's too much gringo in me to understand mañana philosophy, especially when it comes to car repairs. That's why Don's guide. We headed south to Punta Perula minus whatever makes brakes "power".
Welcoming sunset, Puenta Perula
Maria (L) with gringos "from Idaho"
I was delighted to be back at Maria's hotel Saturday night, with gecko's calling from the walls. I took the extraordinary sunset to be a personal welcome--in my brief experience with the area, such color isn't common. I lingered in awe as the sky evolving, knowing it would likely be The Sunset of my trip [it was]. Fellow traveler Mac watched from a safe distance and thanked me. Married men--nervous species! The Saturday night disco went loud and late [but was reported empty by Ziggy and Chris], although volume didn't hold a candle to last year's. I'd forgot how wonderful Maria's beds and sheets were--never experienced anything like 'em! Still, I don't sleep well to disco. The following nights, however, slept blissfully to waves breaking two blocks away, all night roosters on the extra cool night breeze this year. Heaven.
The following days consisted of getting comfortable with neighborhood markets, beach walks, romps in the waves (followed by sandy showers); boat outings and hanging out in the hotel courtyard. Gringos left Maria a microwave; I was able to do my tea thing in the midst of the coffee drinkers. Though shoppers twitched so far from shopping, this years group was considerably more content with the pace. Twice a day, Don drove us back to "Shio's" cafe on the main highway. Generally I walked back to the hotel along the beach, more or less my idea of heaven. Stretch of deserted beach with only the odd native or gringo passing by; generally no one at all in sight until near the hotel. From time to time, various fellow travelers joined "my" beach walk.
If Don hesitated to drop me off in the setting sun to hoof back, something seemed to happen to fear in Mexico. With the exception of grandmothers and grandkid, more or less no one seemed to worry about anyone else. One morning after breakfast, even they, perhaps seeking relief, entrusted their beloved child to kidfree George and I for the beach walk back to the hotel! I was shocked and all was well. The 5 year old, of course exhausted me, clenching my hand while jumping the incoming "waves" much of the way back!
Cowboy boots on the beach!
Several times I passed up cafe meals and used Maria's kitchen for the green beans, onions and potatoes (soaked in mantaquilla--butter) I'd picked up at Walmart in Puerta Vallarta. The vegetable supplement to cafe omelets and beans helped my Mexico challenged stomach.
Exactly like last year, a new moon hung low and splendid our last evenings, accompanied, I think, by venus. I loved the darkness of the nights, brightness of stars, the conspicuous lack of jets and contrails. One sunset a couple of us watched from the beach as dolphins jumped and dove. I was thrilled speechless.
No takers our last evening for the walk back to the hotel after dinner. As I bailed out of the van alone George said something about jelly fish lighting the way back. Hadn't walked far before I realized the glimmers in the waves weren't reflections from stars, but what we called luminescence in Alaska. Didn't see that last year! After a while I turned back and lo, my footprints were filled with glowing specks! Was this magic, or what!! Could hardly believe the experience of walking on a sparkling beach, with sparkling waves, under a starry sky. I was high as a kite when I staggered back to the hotel to join the mosquito swatters. My lit up beach report received underwhelming response--thought everyone would thunder across the mainstreet! Nooo.
The next morning, as we packed the van, I "begged" to walk the beach back to the breakfast cafe. I'd learned to buy yogurt (with all it's fat still there!); didn't need breakfast. About time I walked the opposite direction and evened up my hips! In order not to delay the group, kept nose to grindstone. Took quite a way to outhoof the last of the gringo dog walkers, so I was able to peel aweay clothes for one last sunbath. (I was a bit toasted by then.) Low and behold, in day light were the tiny white dots in the sand that had lit my way the night before. Fragments of jelly fish? George had been right--my way was lit. How I hated to leave this sublime climate with its gorgeous evenings.
Flew home on what turned out to be Ash Wednesday. I'd been puzzled by sooty crosses on foreheads. The recovering catholic in our group filled me in. I wanted one badly but had missed the local parish ritual (a marked bilingual fellow traveler told me).
Raining in Boise, just like the morning I'd left. Mexican beach by morning; gray Idaho by midnight. Mind boggling.
Breitenbush to Bellingham
Sleeping with Buddhas and Semis
The last few years I've promised myself that if I can make it to the middle of December, I'll escape the holidays. By the time I pile in the car and head to Oregon, I'm a woman so desperate, breathing so shallowly, a long ride looks good even in rain or snow. The new Ben Franklin bio was particularly good company. The starry night filled with fog around Bend. I usually don't get all the way to the river campground near Detroit, but this year I did. Fog and stars came and went throughout the chilly night. The next morning I drove under helicopter logging operations up the valley to Breitenbush Retreat. Bless this intentional community for managing their hot springs get away amid big trees so the public can visit. As I carried sleeping gear to my cabin assignment that afternoon I recognized the same punk couple I'd met another solstice. Hardware sticking out everywhere, they absolutely glowed when they told me they're celebrating their anniversary. Talk about cute! Welcome to Oregon. It ain't Idaho, Jeannie.
Always takes at least a day to settle in. Vowed to relax, not worry like I used to about whether I meet anyone. Rather quickly the solstice program people connected this year. By Saturday I was singing along with the brother from Virginia while the woman from Arcata played piano! The brothers seemed to be an epicenter of love which filled their table first at meal time. By the end of the retreat I'd learned the Arcata husband knew my old school friend and the Salt Spring Island husband knew the boat builder I'd met years ago. The last morning, cameras and hugs came out at morning circle; addresses were exchanged. I'd not experienced that at Breitenbush in such a big way. I promised to send Field's "Consolation" poem to the Oregon brother who'd read his own poem. [Did, but haven't heard from anyone!]
Hot pools were extra welcome this cold year and not as crowded. The only reading I accomplished was a good start in Ken Cohen's new Honoring the Medicine. Saturday night we danced as only Breitenbush does. Sunday morning I dashed into Wilsonville for church with Mary. Stopped at Wendy's for chili to compensate for the bread and tofu theme I end up finding unsatisfying. That night the layer of bread and vegetables I put on top sat uneasily. Early in the solstice ceremony I headed for the trees. Heard there were fire dancers again. Hid under the covers as my new roommate journaled. Mercifully recovered overnight.
Breitenbush feels young and immature. It struggles, in a material world. Luckily Jamshed's back. I do yoga on my own, rather than attend class with young community members. It's a dilemma. Nevertheless, this stay was filled with laughter. Before I left I purchased not one, but two small buddhas--the serious, meditating buddha I'm especially fond of, the other the laughing one I need.
Heading north to Bremerton Monday evening, I satisfied my craving for protein with smoked salmon. Marcy and I visited like I hadn't talked with anyone I could relate to for years. We also found the airport fish and chips. The day before Christmas Seattle Susan and I chatted and ate at Whole Foods. Christmas eve I shopped unsuccessfully shopped Capital Hill for a satisfying church service. Spent a good night in the toyota at the rest area before Bellingham, recovering from so much eating and socializing.
Christmas day ham and more laughter with Katy and Carl, Jo and Gary. Cudda hung out with Katy and Carl for days, but the call of home and home church headed me back over the Cascades, without even a stop along the salt water this trip. Never enough time around Puget Sound.
Perhaps the urge to head home had to do with a sense of a shift from the "good" weather of the past week. Didn't realize I'd be traveling the leading edge of a big storm. Exited the freeway in Seattle long enough to choose a concrete garden buddha from East West Bookshop and have it loaded in the back of the Toyota; the bamboo store was closed. Once again too much wonderful food pulled me into a rest stop early with a belly ache. Spent the very cold night sleeping comfortably (after my stomach recovered) with three buddhas--one rather large--to the drone of idling semi's! Back onto snow covered road next morning and good drive home. Luckily all my years of Colorado driving taught me to slow down. Not so numbers of upside down and crunched trucks and 4WDs. Good practice praying.
Enjoyed a warm Saturday night in my own bed and early service at what felt more than ever before like my home church! According to those traveling the next few days, I made it back just in time. The West was hit. Boise was, and is, still snow covered as I write the last week of January!
I was sure I'd laughed enough on these holiday travels for a whole year, but as the gray ceiling of inversion settled over Boise, shutting out moon and stars, I wondered where in heck those laughs were stored!
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