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In grade school I rode the bus to school. Our neighborhood was the last stop on Number One Canyon Road; beyond were two farmsteads. Once or twice a year a girl named Josie showed up at our bus stop. Due to Polio she had braces on her legs and I always sat next to her in the front seat, though he never talked much. My dad said her father was a crazy mountain cuss who wouldn't send his kids to school unless threatened by the sheriff. After about fourth grade I didn't see her again and always wondered what happened.
Dad pulled over and Mom took Diana for a walk to get her bearings. Dad and Mike took care of their business behind the trailer while I scouted out a big enough sagebrush to conceal me as I peed. When we returned to our wagon Diana sat in front on the passenger side and Mom settled into the back seat. Mike and I alternated sitting with Mom and entertaining ourselves in the cramped but open space in the back. We played card games, tic-tac-toe, hangman’s noose; anything to while away the hours. We were compatible travel buddies.
We didn’t stop in Spokane, though all five of us had been born there and had relatives still living in the area. Instead, Dad turned on Division and headed East to a small park in the Spokane Valley.
“Everybody out for a stretch and some grub.” Dad commanded as he pulled the wagon and trailer to a stop. Four doors opened at once and we tumbled out into the cool freshness to relax and romp under Lodgepole Pines.
“Next stop the Reynolds’ cabin,” Mom announced. “All aboard!” Babe and Elva Reynolds were family friends from my parent’s youth.
The sun was setting into the western horizon when we pulled up at the cabin on Lake Pend Oreille.
“So good to see you,” Elva said taking Mom in her arms with delight.
“And you too,” Mom returned with equal pleasure.
“Oh my goodness,” Elva exclaimed looking at Diana, Mike and me. “How you have grown up.” We accepted her hugs with genuine delight.
“What a beautiful place you have here,” Mom said. “Are there any rules Mike and Lindy need to know before I release them to explore?”
“Just stay within our property which extends to that big rock.”
Mike and I swatted mosquitoes as we explored the grounds and then joined Mom and Diana in Elva’s kitchen. They were gabbing happily - catching up with one another and preparing dinner.
“Here’s to you Harve,” Babe toasted as he handed Dad a glass of Scotch and Soda. “It’s been too long. Elva and I miss seeing you and your family.”
“Any good fish in this pond?” Dad quipped.
“Oh Christ, Harve, we’ve been getting eighteen inch Rainbow every day. Maybe you can stay over tomorrow to do some fishing?”
“Maybe, but let’s ask the womenfolk.”
Dad and Babe had been fishing and hunting buddies throughout their younger lives. As the booze flowed and dinner was served, they remembered increasingly hilarious tales of their early adventures. The fish got bigger with the telling of each story, and the antler racks grew larger than a deer could have carried but it didn’t matter. Storytelling was our entertainment and Dad and Babe were virtuoso’s.
Leaving our friends was like launching into an unknown universe. From this day forward, until late July when we visited family in Virginia, we would not meet up with anyone we knew.
Though cold in the mornings, by afternoon the air temperature invites me out to begin the process of removing winter’s mulch to reveal new growth beneath.
It all started with questions about Moss. As Josie and I came home after our walk, I noticed how the Moss on the curb was thriving.
Why the hell can this stuff hang onto the most tenuous surfaces and I can’t get anything to grow around my flagstones?
I decided to harvest some of the easier to remove pieces of Moss and placed them around the flagstones. Then I did the research.
What a sad place the world would be without fantasy. There is a poignant scene in
Miracle on 34th Street
when Kris Kringle teaches Suzie how to imagine. It always reminds me how important it is to encourage a child’s imagination using whatever means they can understand. Fantasy is one way: it is gentle, inspires hope, gives us incentive to get through hard times or to be on our best behavior when it would be easy to get cranky. Most importantly, fantasy provides room for us to expand and embellish an image or story thereby cultivating our personal creativity.
From an agricultural extension agent I found online, I learned that what is sold as moss; Scotch Moss and Irish Moss, is not really moss. It is grass and must be nurtured as grass. No wonder. How many hundreds of such specimens have I purchased and planted only to watch them die? And how much money have I thrown to the wind...no more.
I began to harvest moss from my curb, the split rail fence and retaining walls. How long have I lived here and ignored this free and ready resource? Long enough to whack myself upside the head.
On our next walk, while Josie sniffed the brambles for rabbits, I noticed moss everywhere. Soon I had half a bag of moss swinging by my side. As we came to the intersection my next-door neighbors Dee Anne and Dennis rounded the corner. We stopped along the roadside to chat and catch up.
“Whoa, did all that come from her?” Dee Anne pointed to the bag in my hand.
“No, it’s moss,” I laughed. “I’m harvesting it for my back gardens.”
“I have a bunch on the roof of my shed,” Dennis replied. “Would you like it?”
Moss synergy. Having a place to repurpose his moss, Dennis began removing it from the roof of his shed. Soon large containers of moss greeted me at the gate and I placed them into the bare grounds around the pond where little else grows. When his shed was bare, I started harvesting moss around the speed barrier across the street.
“I know what your doing,” Hope said as she and Yorvik finished their morning walk.
“Harvesting moss,” I admitted.
“Well, you can help yourself to all the moss in the tulip garden,” she invited.
“Thank you, I’ll do that.”
We have been friends over twenty years. How did we meet? Other neighbors I’m sure, but who in particular? Judy? And what was the reason I stopped in that hot summer day, sweaty and dirty from a day of landscape toil? It must have been something I could borrow, or something I was returning. Was I retrieving Scooter from a play day with JoJo?
I remember P&T were having a beer with another couple and invited me to have one too. Uncharacteristically, I did. Damn it tasted good. I relaxed, laughed and decided to call it a day.
Towanda! Evelyn is done being nice to everyone all the time. She’s tried everything to spark some romanticism from her husband Ed. He prefers a ready meal, cold brew and baseball on the Television. In a moment of total frustration, Evelyn experiences climactic release when she smashes her huge hunk of Detroit metal into the primo VW two pert young women have just exited, after stealing the parking spot Evelyn had patiently awaited. As she backs up and slams into the VW repeatedly, shouting ‘Towanda’ I believe every woman watching, vicariously feels Evelyn’s hurt, anger and growing resolve.
They moved to a nearby community around 1996 when their daughter was twelve and son four. Our paths rarely crossed after that although I always sent them a Christmas card and occasionally we’d get a call from T to come on out to party. During those years each couple experienced trauma’s unknown to the other. Theirs centered around their son, ours was C’s mental breakdown and years of recuperation. Then P and I bumped into one another at our local grocery. Literally; she was pushing her cart behind me and I backed right into her. Serendipity? Yes.
It is my niece Lynn’s birthday. Born on the Ides of March in 1969, she was six months old on my wedding day. Now she is a mother of two bright and eager young men; well not quite men, but if I call them boys I am severely reprimanded.
The weather has been mild this week and I have been playing outside every afternoon. Clearing the winter detritus from the gardens in back reveals tips of Trillium, sprouts of Bleeding Heart and emerging Fern fronds. I am reveling in the luxury of being able to enjoy daily gardening time.
When guests and family departed after my retirement party, T & P stayed on. We sat around the kitchen table with our drinks, smoking and talking. They told us about the situation they had lived through with their son, and we shared the disruption C’s illness had brought to our lives.
“Do you realize this is the first time we’ve talked about this with anyone?” P said to T.
“You’re right,” he replied. “Other than each other - we’ve never told anyone about what happened.”
“What is it about you guys anyway?” She asked. “This is frickin' amazing.”
This is true. It happened in the wee small hours of the morning after Saint Patrick’s Day. Some fool must have had too much green beer or Irish Whiskey. He was driving a big rig West on I-84, but he was in the Eastbound lanes. Oregon State Police were in pursuit as he navigated from I-84, and proceeded North on I-205, in the Southbound lanes. Eventually he sideswiped a car on the bridge over the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon, and was soon after apprehended. Amazingly there were no serious injuries. Yes, this is true.
I believe the psychic energy I send into the universe will come back to me in like form. If what I give is negative, negativity is what I garner. If what I give is positive, I will be affirmed.
I believe in the power of one to make a difference by being a force for excellence.
I believe in synergy; that surge that is more than the power of two, more than cooperative effort.
I believe Nature is the true God and Goddess of the earth. She deserves our humble respect and ardent devotion to keep her safe and healthy.
My parents always had at least one hunting dog when I was growing up. I had Tommy, my black and white short haired cat who was a bosom buddy in my adolescence. Then we moved to a farm and had all sorts of animals; barn cats, chickens, guinea hens, turkeys, cows and horses.
After being pet-less over twenty years, when my husband became a road warrior, I brought Scooter into our home. Our first of four Beagles, she reminded me how much I love having that unconditional, face-licking enthusiasm only a dog can give. Now I have Josie.
As a child a favorite story book of mine was
The Little Red Hen.
It taught me lessons about being self-sufficient, industrious, and creative. Little Red Hen wanted to make some bread. None of the other animals would help her though; from planting the seed, to harvesting and threshing, to baking. She always invited them, but they wouldn't help. She maintained a positive attitude and persevered. Then, when the fragrant scent of fresh baked bread was in their noses, the other animals wanted to have some.
“I will eat it myself,” said the Little Red Hen. “And she did.”
Spring is here and so is my new drop in range. It is lovely, but doesn’t quite fit. It will, once I find someone to sheer about a half inch of quartz off from each side of the hole. Our neighbor LT is helping us with the entire process; removing old stove, installing new. When we realized there would be a delay today, he helped us remove the old water heater and install a new one. At the end of the day I ordered a large pizza delivered, and took it over to share with him and his wife.
Another neighbor gave me the name of a tile guy named Sam. “He’s probably hungrier than the others,” she quipped. “Call him first.”
I did, and sure enough he could come today, did the work with care for cash at a discount. LT came over right away to check out the dry fit. There remained a three inch space between the bottom of the stove and the oak cabinet below. We decided to get the wood and finish everything tomorrow. Then out came a fresh bottle of Cutty Sark. I had my usual ounce. The guys polished it off.
At the same time the kitchen chaos was happening, C and I had to get our Honda to Gresham, a twenty mile drive. The power steering tube (a recall thing) had been replaced a week before. Then it started making horrible noises. C drove the Honda while I followed in the truck. On the way back we stopped into HD. In reading the installation instructions for the stove, it appeared a brace was missing. If it was needed, I wanted to get it. It wasn’t. While there we bumped into LT who engaged us in selecting the right wood.
If I’d had that much Scotch the night before, I would have been immobile. But both men were animated and able to function - totally amazing. Equally so was running into one another at HD. Another example of serendipity; that we all ended up at the same place at the same time without having arranged it - and in a huge store where it is hard to find anyone once you’ve gone different directions - to arrive in the same aisle simultaneously. And, after choosing the piece of oak, it turned out we had parked our trucks next to one another.
It is all done; two efficient toilets - installed by me, one water heater - a joint effort, one drop in range - another joint effort, a new microwave - the easiest of them all to set up. Everything fits and looks good and I feel so tremendously grateful for neighbors who are friends, who share with me as I share with them.
This week is spring break in Portland. I am taking Molly, Andrew and Justin to Corvallis for a visit. I will stay one night, they will linger longer. It is good. Again I feel fortunate to have the time and means.
Molly and Justin nodded off soon after we were in the groove heading South on the 5. Up this way we call it I-5, in San Diego is is the 5. Love those regional variations. While I drove a steady, safe pace under an overcast but not too wet morning, Andrew entertained himself with his iPhone.
Molly, usually talkative and engaging, was totally pooped at the end of her first quarter at Portland CC. The boys too were tired, but Andrew takes Adderall to control ADHD. He sleeps at night, but is quite awake and aware in the daytime.
When we pulled up in front of Diana’s home, she was about to run errands. Molly organized the boys to get their gear into the house, and I said yes, when Diana asked if anyone wanted to go with her. I wanted to pick up a USA map at AAA. Our shopping trip went smoothly until I pulled out my AARP card to show the clerk at AAA I was a member and therefore eligible to receive the map free of charge. I laughed at myself and procured the appropriate card forthwith. It is new and fun and OK.
Why the map? I am writing about the summer of 1959, when my father received a full ride fellowship from Harvard U to attend their summer institute. I hoped the map would help Dad remember some places and events from our week or more, journey East. It did, though not as many or full as I had hoped. So it goes; my imagination is rich from encountering so much I had never seen or experienced before, Dad said he just wanted to get to Boston and find a place his family could be comfortable in over the next few weeks.
It is Good Friday, the last day of school before spring break in the school system I worked for. It is the first time it doesn’t matter how much outside and inside work I accomplish this first week of April. I visited Dad last week, my gardens in back are mostly cleaned out and what isn’t accomplished today I can finish up tomorrow. It is at times like this, when I reflect on how fast a week goes by when all you have is one week, I realize anew how fortunate I am to have worked to retirement.
Though I believe, I am not a Christian. Nor do I hold to any other religion. Agnostic? No. Atheist? No.
What the hell?
My hands pull out the shrub that has died.
I add water and nutrients to a hole in the earth where I plant a new life,
birds swirl about treetops calling in wild abandon,
I think about the human need for comfort when the known world is cruel or crazy. The stories told around the campfire, passed from generations all in an effort to knit the distance between what is known and what we wonder.
Easter Sunday; the oldest and most important festival in the Christian Church. Christ,
the son of God
was born, lived, taught humility, was followed, was scorned, rejected, crucified resurrected
was sacrificed for our sins
returned to walk among us.
His Church promises life after death -
if we believe.
Yet I wonder still.
Pale pink plum petals float to the ground
a landscape one bearing a crown of thorns
and a weight of timber would find appealing.
I think of God as an elixir that knits the distance between what I know and what I have yet to discover; to comprehend.
The Tip Jar