Sunday, December 24, 2006

Stray socks

Fir branch done up to look like a tree.

Oldest granddaughter was here for a week.

I set up my tent, a pop-up model that has been with me to the wilderness many times, in my bedroom and we camped out on a mattress that stuck out of the tent door like a gian't tongue. Camping is what she likes to do when here, but with the torrential rains on most days of the visit, and the clod clammy conditions generally, indoor camping was indicated and it was a roaring success.

Most of the time we did pretty well together, though I think she's being raised in a culture of -- well, not as much respect for adults as we're comfortable with.

I think the purpose of respect, when it hierarchizes age, is safety. You want to be able to tell a small child to stop -- and they stop -- and the truck, or whatever is coming down the street, doesn't run over them. That kind of command-driven safety is lacking sometimes, with the result that we are very tired grandparents after these visits. The kid does try, but she's got years of helter-skelter behind her already. It's not easy for her, or us.

That said, the old lady (me) and the young lady (she) went up to the park by the boat basin and had a pretty good day. At her suggestion, we went fishing, and she hauled in an undersized kokanee, which we carefully released after a bit of a petting session. Then we moved up to the playground, where she practiced on the monkey bars for a while, and then discovered some sprouted acorns.

The acorns were a big hit. She dug holes all over the park, and basically planted a forest. We also collected mistletoe, lichens, and moss, which had come down in the big storm, and brought these home to add to the greenery on the mantel. A few extra critters appear to have been added to the menagerie -- mostly small tree spiders -- but the effect is quite cheering.

A particulary rewarding aspect to this visit is that Granddaughter has become a very good audience since the last time she was here. We went through the Sendak-illustrated Nutcracker that has Hoffman's entire, weird, but worthwhile story, with all the chapters that are missing from the ballet and the board books. Beloved would read a chapter, then later in the day I would, and when Granddaughter knew we had had come to the chapter called "Conclusion," she placed a bookmark in it and saved it for the morning of her departure. As Beloved rounded up Granddaughter's things to drive her back to the Big City to the North, we came at last to Marie's wedding to the Prince, and were all three quite emotionally affected.

After they left, I cleaned house, and kept finding stray socks and toy people, and such. I didn't realize I so much missed having children in the house.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The howling wind

A brief respite from the storms

We heard there was a storm coming -- with winds of fifty miles an hour. Lots of storms here gust to fifty, but when fifty is sustained, that can mean trees down and power lines lying on pavement, crackling, and the like.

One of the venerable pseudo-cypresses framing the front of the Library was shoved over, and had to be cut up ignominiously and hauled away in a dump truck. Houses and parked cards in various areas were serving as resting places for trees both large and small. One man died when his pickup hit a patch of black ice; three experienced climbers have disappeared on Mt. Hood, and sixty people can't find them. A catamaran has washed ashore upside down, and bodies are appearing on the beaches. So it's been kind of a rough week here.

As I was driving home from work during some of the worst of all this, I saw three explosions of blue light against the black sky, and the neighborhoods around me went dark. I drove the twelve miles to our place through rain and an unaccustomed lack of illuminated windows. Even the country mall and its usually brilliantly lit gas station were out cold. Nothing glittered except for the headlamps of other cars.

As I reached our place, I found, at last, some light -- for Beloved had got out the candles and lit the kerosene lamps.

These lamps were passed down from my grandmother's mother. They're no-nonsense nineteenth century lamps, with a fluted glass base sweeping up to a champagne-glass shaped reservoir, a brass fitting for the wick and chimney, and the tall chimney itself. Regal in bearing, these lamps can keep a room fairly well lit. Thanks to the wood stove and the lamps, we had dinner, hot cocoa, and a good book. It was almost a let-down to have the power come back on just as we were going to bed. What had been a romantic interlude ended in a clock frantically flashing "12:00 -- 12:00 -- 12:00 -- ."

Snow did not come down to the valley floor, as they say, but it has dusted all through the hills amid the upper elevations look like a winter scene from a New Hampshire calendar.

This morning I had a kitchen frenzy, making creamed sweet potatoes, whole wheat onion-garlic bread, steamed beets with honey and vinegar, mixed vegetables with Jerusalem artichokes, and veggie soup with garlic blossoms (from the freezer).

There was a hard freeze, and the roofs in the neighborhood were all white. This meant that the chard, bitter in warmer weather, would be edible, so I hopped out to the garden, you see, and one thing led to another.

After all that cooking, the weather moderated, and I felt a yen to go fishing. I pulled out the kayak and drove over to the reservoir. No one there, as is usual this winter. This place had been popular over the last decade or so, winter as well as summer, or even more so in winter, as it's known the trout will bite here in the cold, when they seem sulky elsewhere. But not as many have been stocked in the lake as in the past, and the regular season was so poor that all the men have either gone elsewhere or hung up their rods, leaving it to one old madwoman in her little cockleshell and about fifteen cormorants.

We're not complaining.

The bite was on, and the trout, as has been usual for the last few weeks, have been heavy holdovers, fish that have survived the motorboats and sonar over the last couple of years. They have lots of fight in them, too, as they no longer remember the hatchery, and the cold water holds more oxygen in it than in warmer seasons.

The surrounding hills were all white with snow, and the sky was quilted over with that thick, dirty cotton that says "snow coming." There was a biting northeast wind, against which I was well muffled, and a heavy swell running from the other end of the water. Sunward, the swells glittered wanly; elsewhere there seemed little difference between light and shadow. Cormorants dove, then popped up elsewhere, fixing me with their unblinking stares.

I had to divide my attention between the trout, who were certainly active, and the wind, which drove me toward the dam at a spanking pace. I might hook a trout and start reeling, only to find myself too close to shore, and then switch to paddles and make for open water over the grey peaks and troughs, almost shipping water, towing the fish behind me.

When I had had enough, or about an hour and a half, of this fun, I put in to the boat ramp, packed everything away, used the jiffy johnny, which was actually invitingly warm out of the wind, and went down to the boat basin for a glance around. The rich people's boats live here, lonesomely gathered together, clanking against their moorings, the wind howling through the stays, unvisited by their owners for months at a stretch. No one was home but a handful of gulls and some fifteen cormorants, sulking in a row along the breakwater.

One of them turned his head to run an appraising eye over me, then dismissed me with a bird's equivalent of a shrug. The others didn't bother to look.

It was a place where one has no name.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Up and down

Up and down weather and such. I made it over to the reservoir again in a grey hole and brought back three largish trout, one of which was one of those landlocked jack salmon that are stocked in the upper lake. You only find them in the lower lake if they got through the turbines intact and then grew up. This one had to be at least four years old; towed the boat in a circle before I got the landing net out.


I made a soup on the same day, using leftover water from steamed broccoli, some red chard, beet greens, a garlic clove, a green onion, a leaf of red cabbage, black beans, and tomato sauce, We didn’t grow the black beans. I’m happy about the extent to which we are using our own garden through the winter. Beloved also thawed out some of our diced apples to use with oatmeal and such. I’ll probably put the last of that into a loaf of bread.

In two days the Library will have its holiday potluck and I’m so apathetic; haven’t made anything or even thought of making anything. Sigh ... Should maybe pick up a couple of sweet potatoes and some walnuts ....


Local Granddaughter is coming to stay next week, so I need to find the tree trimmings for her to use; I should also have repaired the creek bridge so that she can safely get to the playhouse but I have put that off due to the cold and my diminished strength and resistance. So instead I have wrapped everyone’s gifts; Beloved will add her contribution to the various heaps and pack and mail them next week.


Spare time, such as has been available, has been divided between napping and revising old poems. The poems were written by a former self. I kept about two thirds of them and have changed the pronouns in more than half; otherwise they are fairly recognizable, I think. So I’ve taken down links to the original books and replaced them with a set of Collected Poems.

Here's one of the earliest of them:

she sells books

She sells books from nine to six. They are
good books, well bound, well written, colorful
to the eye, and children love them, but

the town is poor. She sits waiting for hours
for one grandmother to come in and buy one book
for a favored grandchild. The owner of the store

is her friend; she cannot leave her just now, but the store,
she knows, is not her place in life. All
she has ever wanted is to farm: at evening,

when the dinner things are cleared, and the hot sun
drops behind the cottonwood, she farms.
Food for the ducks, and soapy water for broccoli;

old lettuce gone to seed comes out; the hay
is rearranged, and fall peas go in. She stops
only to hear the geese pass overhead,

then bends among her plants until the stars,
first one and then another, leap and are caught
in the hair of approaching night, so like her hair.

She comes in, soiled to the elbows, leans against
the table, extending an open palm. "Look,"
she says, her eyes afire. "Marigold seeds!"