This blog contains 1000 posts. Posting to Blogger with such a large archive has become unwieldy. Also, your blogista, who is sewing a kesa, is not writing much at present. She has ceased adding new posts. Still-active links are here.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Blue Hole


I was able today to take advantage of what we in this part of the world call a "blue hole" -- a gap in the weather -- loaded up Little Eva, my seven-foot kayak, and sprinted for the reservoir.

I haven't been here in months, and, sure enough, there have been changes. Most of the ducks have moved on, to be replaced by about two thousand coots. The cormorants, whom I haven't seen for awhile, have returned and established themselves on the breakwater booms. The booms, meanwhile, have lost their moorings in the storms. Wakes and waves are crashing right in among the moored yachts. The owners don't come around much at this time of the year, and may not be aware this is happening; the marina isn't staffed.

Mr. and Mrs. Park Keeper are missing, as well -- and so is their trailer, which has been here for four years. They are frail people, and I hope nothing has happened to them. There are no cars in the parking lot, and no boats on the water. There is snow on some of the surrounding mountains. But the lake is reasonably calm, so I decide to have a go before the next storm can get at me.

The kayak, as I've said before, is a Micro Poke Boat, a bit stubby and wide for a kayak. In it, on the water, I mostly look like a turtle. But it's very stable and sturdy and offers some protection from wind. It fits in the back of a Saturn wagon. I can carry it down to the water in one hand, with all my gear already in it.

I snap together my paddle and shove off.

From old habit, I assemble a rod and tie on a nymph. It's the wrong time of year for nymphs; might do better towing a spinner. But I cruise around the water in dual purpose mode. If a trout bites, we may eat trout. If it doesn't, I've anyway had a good workout, with spectacular scenery.

Someone puts a runabout into the lake from the landing on the opposite shore, and drives off in a cloud of blue smoke.

Too much blue smoke.

Way too much blue smoke.

The boat coughs, and loses way, and the blue smoke turns brown. They're on fire.

This is a quandary. Since they are a mile away, and I'm in a tiny cockleshell that couldn't tow anything that size or take on passengers, I want to resist the impulse to go over. The most I could do is add to their embarrassment. They had better have an extinguisher; it's the law.

On the other hand, if they do lose control of the fire and have to go over the side, they'll need me. This water is extremely cold, and they are at least five hundred feet from shore. They could latch on to my stern loop and hopefully I could get them to the landing before they go numb.

I start paddling toward them.

They do have an extiguisher. The fire is put out, and after awhile the runabout begins limping home with awkward, but determined, paddle strokes.

And I get a good solid strike! I'd forgotten I have a line in the water, and it takes me a moment to re-focus.

The line has been run out into the backing, so it takes a while to strip in in. The fish is heavy, and not a jumper, but gives enough head-shakes in the deep that I know it's not a pikeminnow. Carefully maintaining line tension, I work the fish in to Little Eva's starboard, and, yes, it's a big holdover rainbow, almost two pounds.


The wind picks up and little whitecaps appear all around me. I check the western horizon. There's another storm coming in, almost on me. But it's been a perfect blue hole for me. Everyone's Thanksgiving wishes for me have paid off.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Baptist minister weighs in


I'd like to call everyone's attention to a remarkable article in USA Today. It's by a Baptist minister, and I think it's very solid. I have been saying all along that the real target of the opposition isn't us, it's Galileo.

:::

Last night, we had Day of Remembrance here at the University. There wasn't much; tabling during the afternoon, with the names and the short biographies on signs, and then the candlelight vigil, with open mike in the auditorium afterwards. I read Bear Bergman's poem again, as I did two years ago, and had the shakes afterwards, as I did then. It's a hard read. Grief courses through your veins when you do that poem, and it takes a while to recover. But this time Beloved, was with me. She'd had a hard day, as I had, or maybe even more than I had, and got lost in the vast Student Union trying to find the event, but she made it, and put an arm around me, and I cried on her shoulder a bit and pulled it together to listen to the other speakers. She brought Last Son and Daughter, and we had a pumpkin pie and ice cream dinner just before the event, which was an energy boost we all needed, especially with the hugs all round.

:::

The Tribe from the City to the North can't make it until Sunday, which is good, as we will need the rest. Stony Run can be Fort Bear for a few days. Tea, song practice, quiet talk by the fire, feeding the chicken, a good book. There has been little opportunity for these things, and we're definitely up for it ...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thanksgiving Prep


Our stove has died, just in time for Thanksgiving. We have one on order, but delivery ran into a snag and we won't see it until December.

This is a holiday that means a lot to the kids, though.

Daughter can't be here next weekend (ask her about her nice new fella), so, this Monday, she and Last Son and Beloved and I will have a symbolic feast, featuring pumpkin pie, at the university's student union, where I'll be tabling for an event. More about that in a couple of days.

The Tribe will come down from the Big City sometime during the holiday weekend; we're not sure yet when.

Because some Tribe members can't do without turkey, Beloved plans to go to Last Son's apartment and bake the big bird there. Then she'll give him a ride here.

Meanwhile, I'll be running back and forth between the crock pot, the electric frying pan, and the zapper, as well as arranging fresh veggie slices on trays and the like.

Today is my bake day. I've just created a loaf of acorn/apple bread, and am now setting about to bake Jerusalem artichoke/garlic bread.

For these loaves, I chose to grind some of the ingredients in a hand grinder. Ours, a Universal that we inherited from somewhere back in the Seventies, is simplicity itself. Clamp to table, put bowl in front, grind, unclamp, take down into three parts, wash, reassemble, and dry on top of the wood stove.

The acorns I steamed a couple of weeks ago, then froze. A couple of handfuls of these, straight from the freezer, put through the grinder, make an acceptable flour, but they're a bit strong for our taste, so I use this with chopped apples and the usual bread ingredients, including some oats and a couple of cups each of white and whole wheat flour. By cutting the sugar with a little bit of molasses, you can get a dark loaf that rises well and doesn't overpower you.

The Jerusalem artichokes, I noticed, don't store well, so I tossed the bad one, and re-washed the good ones and put them through the grinder. Some I have frozen, some went into a soup, and the rest is going into the next loaf. I put a clove of garlic through with the artichokes, and after throwing the ingredients into the bread machine, added the same flour, oil, salt, yeast, sugar and molasses ingredients as went into the other loaf.

Oldest Son sent me this bread machine as a gift a decade ago, and it has been going strong ever since. One of the switches on the bread machine finally gave out this morning. I have to unplug it to change settings. Hmm. But I hate to give it up, because it's from him.

His tribe will be the one that dosn't make it here for Thanksgiving, not that I've asked. I think they're a bit nervous about me, still, and it's a long way -- over three thousand miles. Would be too much to attempt with the two young girls. But I'm thinking about them.

I had hoped to work in the gardens, but there's an icy fog out. Instead I'm running to the woodpile pretty much all day, between other chores, trying to keep the house warm. These fogs do more to chill the house than just about any other weather, including snow, which we rarely see any more. Even Julia, the irrepressible Banty hen, has given up scratching for bugs for the day and is hunkered on her roost by our front door, depressed.

It's hot cocoa weather. With lap robe.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Celebration

A November storm approaches Stony Run.

Saturday, my faith community, the local Friends Meeting, held a Meeting for Worship for Welcoming, signaling their recognition that Beloved and I have successfully negotiated a difficult life transition.

In Friends' tradition, the event was kept very simple. At noon, the welcome committee arrived at the meeting house to spread table cloths, set out dried-flower arrangements, and chop veggies and cheese. At one p.m., those who felt like singing gathered in the rec room and chose favorite songs from the hymnal, including Simple Gifts and This Is My Home (Finlandia). I also requested, and taught everyone, Stephen Foster's Hard Times. I'm working on a documentary, and wanted this for the soundtrack. Everyone was very obliging.

At 1:30 all moved to the Meeting Room and settled in for about forty minutes of silence, with some seasoned spoken ministry. Then we broke for a finger-foods potluck in the rec room (which is also the dining hall), and at 3:00 we all pitched in and did dishes and such, as another activity was coming in at 5:00.

:::

We have had some serious storms in the region of late, with most of the worst of it coming through north of our area. The moisture is picked up in the vicinity of Hawai'i and funnels into the Northwest, bumping into the mountain ranges and unloading. Two, three inches in a day we shrug off, but these "pineapple express" clouds have been known to drop eight inches of water in twenty-four hours. I have seen a bow wave on the corner of my foundation, when our three-foot wide creek jumped its banks and was nearer 100 feet wide; that hasn't happened yet this year, but I think it's going to be one of the wet ones. Wonder where the footbridge will end up. I no longer have the strength or I would go and jack it out of the creek banks and store it.

Tonight, as I was coming home from work, I queued up with other vehicles to cross the Union Pacific onto the riverside road, and spotted the ghostly headlights of a train around the bend. Traffic was thick on the highway, and the pickup in front of me sat with its turn signal going, the light splitting into momentary rubies on my rain-swept windshield, for what seemed forever. At length it was my turn to jump across the tracks and wait, on the steep incline, to feed into that traffic flow, so I checked the train again (much closer now, but still over half a minute away), checked the crossing gates (not ringing or flashing yet), put the Saturn into first and trundled across.

There's only room for one car at a time on the downhill side of the tracks. We're country people and local, so we all know this, and everyone knows to stay well behind the spot where the crossing bar comes down. But every now and then, someone forgets - and the Honda behind me did just that, tootling up behind me as if taking up slack at a traffic light.

And the truck behind her did the same thing, trapping her with the tracks of the U.P. main line right under the middle of her car.

I felt the universe slow to a crawl. Must get out into the traffic now, my adreneline-hyped brain told me. I checked the oncoming cars. Too many, too fast, too close together, both ways. I checked the train. Closer. I checked the gate. Not coming down yet. If it does, will she have the sense to gun through it? I checked the pickup. Nope, he can't move either. Everyone has sidled up behind him, fifteen cars at least. I checked the traffic in front of me. A gap? Not really, but it would have to do. Flashing my headlights twice, I floored it, fishtailed down onto the highway, and cut to the left between two startled drivers. In the rearview mirror, I could see Mrs. Honda dropping down onto the edge of the intersection with the gate closing right behind her bumper. The train, horn howling, thrumbled by, with -- I counted as I drove, to calm myself -- four engines and fifty-seven loads of dimensional lumber. A lot of tonnage for any little Honda to take on, as that one had come within seconds of doing.

Hopefully she learned a little something there.

So much happens in the dark evenings hereabouts! And so much doesn't happen. You never know.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ripening


I have apples on the brain. It was a good fruit year for us all round, except for the plums, which were apparently having a rest.

I blanched and froze as many bags of apples as I dared (ours being a shared freezer with negotiated project space). Beloved has been making applesauce (hers includes a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg). I cut up apples and make apple wraps, apple pies, apple bread and even apple soup. And I carry at least three with me every day to work.

They don't always get eaten right away, as there are a couple of freebie trees between the area where I park and the library where I work, so I pick from these as I go by. They provide outstanding flavor, so my own apples, with which I'm understandably a bit jaded, wind up in the "offering plate" -- intended to funnel chips and candies and such to my data entry student workers -- and usually the apple-orphans find a good home, like the summer zucchinis.

I have been noticing, in the last half year or maybe a little longer, that on the right side of my nose there is a discolored area that wasn't there before, and it sometimes cropped up like it was going to scab over, and then maybe bled a little, then more or less went away, then returned. This was unnerving behavior, unlike anything my body had done before, so I asked my doctor about it, and she sent me to a dermatologist.

By the time I got in to see him, of course, the spot was the least alarming it has been in months -- like the car that runs perfectly when threatened with an actual mechanic -- but he took it seriously.

"What you have there is not a melanoma -- yet -- but I'd characterize it as a precancerous growth. We could biopsy now, and find out that it either is or isn't, and if it is, we can freeze it. Or we we could just freeze it now, and if it ever returns, we could biopsy it then."

"Umm, I'd say, we could freeze it now. How long does that take? I have another appointment."

"About ten seconds." He grinned.

So we did that, and my nose has swollen up a bit, and where the blotch lived there is now a red circle, as if someone had placed a red-hot dime there for a few seconds. Having had a lot of practice working on that side of my nose with foundation, concealer, and powder, I was able to minimize, but not quite eliminate, the change in my appearance.

"What's with your nose?" asked one of the students.

"Cancer! Well, pre-cancer anyway."

"Ahhhhhhh!" she screamed.

"But we froze it off. That's why it shows up more today."

"Aaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

"Not to worry, It just means I'm getting ripe."

"Ripe?" she wheezed, catching her breath.

"You know, like an apple. First it ripens, then it falls from the tree."

Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

Poor thing, I thought, as she ran back to her station. What do they teach them in these schools nowadays?

And I notice she didn't take any apples home with her this afternoon.

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