Sunday, December 05, 2010

Snow days . . .

If we had gotten Spokane's 24.6 inches of snow that fell here in the month of November when we lived in Corvallis, everything would have closed down. Here, the city throws snow plows out on arterials (main roads) 24-7 in staged alerts. We watch the weather channel and plan quick trips to the store. The shelves are stocked, and I have driven on sheer sheets of washboard ice. More snow comes Tuesday, we think nothing of nights that drop to the low teens, and we're tracking the melt rate on the prodigous icicles that hang from the overhang of our back window.

Next week we'll fly to Philadelphia for a three-week stay over New Year's. I'll miss Rachel and Nick, but I'm ready to travel again, and I'm no longer worried about the snow. Late last week just at dusk, I saw a four point buck grazing at twilight, daintily picking his way past the pines and through the empty field next to our house. My grandfather would have longed for his rifle. I marveled this beautiful animal made it through hunting season.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I remember walking in Manito Park earlier early this November. How quickly the leaves have fallen. Two weeks ago, I flew to Portland and saw this from above, concentric circles of yellow around each tree, denuded of leaves, surrounded by tall pine trees and undulating hills of green. Now all is covered with white.

This week, winter truly began with a blizzard. We can feel the cold down to our bones. A high of 13 degrees today with tiny bits of snow falling all day, Tonight, the low goes down to minus 1 degrees. I've been teased about driving. Rachel's promised me lessons. I'm grateful the cupboards are full, the crock pot is out, and so far, the power stays on.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

City View in Spokane . . .

Today felt like one of those end-of-summer days. Just 74 degrees, yet we could feel a twist of cold when the wind blew. We drove out along City View to discover a hiking trail that cuts straight down the hill.

A kindly mountain biker said we could hike along the fairly ambitious trail for many miles. We took the shorter, simpler loop, meandered under pine trees, spotted two magpies, and were grateful for walking sticks on the narrow, winding, slippery trail.

Tonight I can hear Canada geese honking their way north. Winter is coming.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday noon . . .

It's Saturday noon at the Brooklyn Deli, downtown Spokane, a cool 78 degrees, sunny, with Bob Dylan's raspy voice singing, "I'm walking down the highway, my suitcase in my hand." I could be in Brooklyn. I'm looking up at an elevated train splashed with graffiti, rolling by as fast as the traffic, cars and a bright yellow van. City traffic outside. I'm eating Thai chicken soup hot enough to compensate for those leaves turning red and brown just outside the door.

I'm thinking about my writing (always) and today's headlines here in Spokane. Another police shooting, the third in four weeks. This time a woman tried to cut out the back window just as the police broke in on a drug raid. She got shot in the arm. She's pregnant.

On my way here, I saw a police car parked by the local synagogue, a visible officer standing guard. I don't think that happens in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

They reappeared this morning. Two does grazing in the field, just along the pines. Their long necks stretched out in the high grasses, their shaggy red flanks predicting winter. I hadn't spotted them all summer and wondered where the fawns of early spring had gone. But they came back to this copse of pines next to our apartment building, maybe remembering home.

I ran for the camera and when I returned, only one deer remained, leisurely grazing and then moving back under the pine trees, her long white tail flicking and then hidden from view. How I fill my days with structure, deadlines, commitments. My writing continues. The seasons turn. Winter comes. And in the spring, just maybe, new life.

Friday, July 30, 2010

And in Seattle . . .

Our three-day trip to Seattle led us to a Mariners/Red Sox game (a friend came by free tickets and gave them to us), the awards dinner at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and a visit to the Seattle Art Museum. The sun shone, the sky was impossibly blue, and like any rare Pacific Northwest summer day, no humidity and no rain.

The Mariners game introduced me to the beloved Ichiro, the incomparable Japanese player, who approaches home plate with an unusual stance, knees locked together, feet widespread. When he hits the ball, his entire body springs forward, as if to release all his energy into that connection with the baseball and the run to first base. I am not a sports fan (except for being somewhat crazy about soccer), but Ichiro could make me fall in love with baseball. His every move breathes grace and intention. Though the Mariners lost, the game itself was a cliff-hanger, with loaded bases and splintered bats.

The Seattle Art Museum still dazzles with its permanent collection. An exhibit of Australian aboriginal art is planned for fall 2011, and we discovered the work of Lin Onus, whose mother was a Scot and whose father was aboriginal. His painting, "Gathering Storm" (1993) is mesmerizing. You look into a waterscape, eucalytus trees shadow the dark blue water and fantastic goldfish shimmer in the depths, painted with markings much like spirit markings. I didn't have my camera, but I will remember this painting. Allen says since the Museum offers this print through its shop, maybe that will be my anniversary present. Onus painted with a sense of the beauty of the environment and the essence of Australia. Unforgettable and he died far too young.

The reason for our trip to Seattle was to attend the Pacific Northwest Writers Association awards dinner as I was a finalist in the historical fiction category. As the names of the "winners" were called Saturday night, we held our breath. I came in second, earning my first check ever for creative writing, and so I remain humbled and grateful for this affirmation. Now, surrounded by books and online resources, I continue research for the next book in the series -- perhaps set in Hawaii, Tasmania, and the Pacific Northwest, all 19th Century. As Rick Bylina says, "Writers write!"

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Last weekend we trekked south to Redmond, Oregon, to visit Jamie and Henry. What a visit! We rode a summer ski lift (with legs dangling over the side), up to nearly the top of Mt. Batchelor (some 8,000 feet high) with amazing views of snow-covered mountains.

A thunderstorm chased us down, and then Henry drove us on a loop route around part of the Cascade Lakes Recreation Area for different views of the mountains -- the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Washington in the distance. We stopped for lunch in a funky lakeside cafe at Todd Lake, smelled the sweet smell of flowering manzanita along the way, and came home to a fish fry, fresh caught trout (what Henry calls fish bait). And that was Day One.

Saturday began at Sisters, at the 35th Annual Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, featuring this year the works of Jean Wells Keenan, who began it all at her quilt shop, The Stitchin' Post. Now at the High Desert Gallery, her mantra still rings: "Nature always wears the colors of the spirit." Her artistry is inspirational as seen here in her quilt, "Inspired Journey".

Along with 20,000 other avid lovers of quilts, we viewed not nearly all of 1,300 quilts.

For more pictures, go to my Webshot photos for the Sisters Quilt Show or here to see the Sisters Raffle Quilt ("Timeless" designed by June Jaeger). The next five quilts I hope to make are waiting.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

This morning I woke up thinking of round river rocks. Spring is beginning to soften to summer, time to hike again. Here is eastern Washington, the sky is so different, clouds move quickly, changing colors, shifting shapes, then the unadorned sky remains, that unforgettable sky blue, the color of the gods, protection. I never see a turquoise without feeling warmed by these stones.

Round river rocks remind me of how I tried to learn how to skip rocks, that magical skipping when you throw a rock and it makes these hops before sinking down, its own waves. Allen was there. He taught me to hold the rock just so, slant my wrist, and then throw with force. I only tried once, for my rock slammed into some little kid's stomach.

Tomorrow we go back on the road, south to Oregon, and we're both ready to see again the Willamette Valley, our friends, and those places along the river we used to walk. I think we've been in Spokane long enough to call it home. It feels good to sink into the geography of a place, to come to know the stones, the waterfalls, so full now with melting snow and rain, and family here, close to my heart.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Yesterday we hiked through the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge with members of the Spokane Audubon Association, who were more than generous with their spotting scopes. We saw the elusive and rare Trumpeter swans in flight; our favorites, Yellow-headed Blackbirds perched on cattails, Ruddy Ducks with brilliant blue beaks, and a Great Horned Owl with two little owlets.

Best of all, we hiked through these wetlands and Ponderosa Pine forests, surrounded by just-blooming Camas and lots of bird song. We surprised a Western Bluebird (male) popping into a nest and spotted a very fat coyote on a faraway field. Apparently winter was mild here, and hunting was good. Still, a few minutes later, that coyote circled around and scouted our group, close enough to make us a little nervous. It was fatter than any coyote I've ever seen, fat enough to be taken for a wolf. Don't mess with mother nature.

Five hours of walking and sighting maybe 30 new birds brought us home with sore feet and a renewed appreciation for wetlands. Enjoy the pictures!

Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spring has sprung here in Spokane. The air is filled with the sharp sweet smell of cherry blossoms. Sparrows, crows, robins, chickadees, and sneaker hummingbirds all chirp almost hysterically. Some 75 degrees today. Time to pack away those sweaters, though Rachel tells me it once snowed here in June.

The Dirty Dozen Band, featured on NPR, had a special song for Allen as his plantar fasciatis has reactivated. Check out their rousing rendition of "My Feet Can't Fail Me Now!" Good news, better sensation in that left foot. Bad news, too much walking brought that fasciatis back! Now he has the "boot" (foot splint) to wear every night. But he progresses steadily and is beginning to talk about possible trips. What siren song calls us to travel to Ireland for two weeks in the fall? Maybe? All depends on the neurologist if Allen can fly by then.

Meanwhile, we're going vegan, following dear Uncle Gerry's gift of Dr. Barnard's book, Breaking the Food Seduction. We're on Day 4, and I can report that tofu is fine, nutritional yeast also works well, but soy yogurt may be a taste too far.

Monday, April 05, 2010

This morning it snowed. I was up early, about 6 am, and saw three deer in the field next to our apartment. My grandfather would have gotten the gun and talked about the wonderful flavor of venison, but I just watched them graze, their brown bodies nearly hidden in the gusting snow, the grasses still brown and yellow from winter. Every so often, one would lift its head and peer around. Allen says these suburban deer know very well how to survive in this block-sized woods. But I worry about them, how they cross Freya Street, whether they go up the hill, to sleep safely, hidden under the pines.

Allen's finished his medical tests (head to toe and more), and he's cleared to train for his cross-country bike trip (scheduled maybe next summer). I think we're going to be vegetarians. Mostly. Our apartment feels more and more like home, though we're still settling in. I unpacked five more boxes of books yesterday. The next two weeks we'll be traveling -- to Leavenworth with friends, then down to Corvallis. I'll miss my quilting ladies and Rachel and Nick, but all is well.

Rachel says I should be honest. I'm not sure I trust the future in the same way before Allen's stroke and our move here back to the Pacific Northwest. Most mornings begin with writing and revising, and that goes well. Maybe in another two months, I will be finished with Standing Stones, a novel of the clearances in 19th Century Scotland. But I haven't been writing poetry.

This month I'm trying to write a poem a day for National Poetry Month. What wonderful creativity others have posted, and what a rich tradition we writers can be inspired by -- those who have written before us, those who are writing now, those who post prompts (Sunday Scribblings, Carry On Tuesday), and those who read our work. And those who have the courage to look past the superficial.

I'm still remembering Peter S. Beagle's poem about the unicorn tapestries in his latest collection, We Never Talk About My Brother, and another writer friend who has written the most beautiful poem, "All Things Matter II" in response to this prompt from Carry on Tuesday: Write a poem that uses this line somewhere: "We are each the love of someone’s life".

So if a poem is a kind of meditation, an opening of the heart, a joining to a writing community that stretches well past the field outside my window, then I am as honest as I can be.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Quilt on . . .

The Waterford Quilters opened their annual show today, this sunny Saturday in Spokane. Nearly 150 quilts were on display, and the show featured Georgie Gerl, an accomplished quilter who specializes in stunning quilt designs. Many of her quilts are featured in Asian Fabric, a magazine for passionate quilters. My two-sided African quilt was on display with the rest -- the slide show has just a few pictures (I'm still getting used to being in one place AND taking pictures).

Waterford Quilters

I've come to love my Thursdays with this group of 10-15 women who meet to work on various stages of WIPs, applique, hand quilting, and counted cross stitch. We talk more than we stitch, but stitch we do as we admire each others' works in progress.

Allen and I just came back from a week's stay in Corvallis, a nice 6-1/2 hour drive south to Oregon, over the Columbia River, past Mt. Hood, down the Willamette Valley, almost still our home, and a chance to see friends, hours of good talk, hugs, and promises to return. Then back we came, north to Spokane, where, at 4,000 feet, winter still can be seen in bare trees and in traces of snow last night.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Updates . . .

I haven't been writing. Maybe nobody noticed. Since Allen's stroke, which was mild, our life has changed dramatically. After the flurry of moving into a new apartment, unpacking, and finding doctors, food, and library, we're finally at home. At home enough to think about traveling south to visit friends. The docs say it will be ok. On the seven-and-a-half drive, we'll need to take a stretch break every hour. Except I worry if he'll really be all right. And that's the reality behind this blog. Not every day is a good day. Allen says it's ok to say that.

Earlier this week, we passed our tiny wetland, really just a marshy pond, fenced all around. Sometimes we've seen mallards poking through the reeds. This sunny afternoon, we heard a frog croaking, a sign of coming spring. The next morning, the hills were dusted with light snow. Nothing like the east coast, but still snow. And now the little pond is silent. I remind myself it's February. March and April will come.

I checked in at Subversive Stitchers to find the work of Rose Hughes profiled along with the most amazing healing quilts. What a rich mix of pure creativity and quilting resources from this online community. Not to mention courage and hope. And so I've pulled my quilting out and will try to piece together a healing quilt for those I love.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ordinary days . . .

I should be grateful for ordinary days. The morning begins sunny and bright here in Spokane, a high of 44 today. This would be a respite for family and friends on the east coast, struggling with snow drifts nearly as high as the cars they've dug out, with another, hopefully smaller storm coming in next week.

Our life seems more normal every day. Ordinary. We've been in Spokane under a month now, Allen's making steady but very slow progress. He begins physical therapy next week. The hardest part of recovering from a stroke is, for me, internal. Every time Allen has a headache or is tired, I worry about another stroke. Some days, he does have less energy. Some days, he's almost his old self. He's able to walk for up to about 25 minutes most days. He's reading again. And we have gone to the movies, out to dinner, and will go to Rachel and Nick's next concert on Sunday, Mozart's Requiem. I'm not sure we'll make it through the entire performance, but we'll still hear part.

Some things we used to take for granted, we can't any more. Allen encourages me to connect with our new community, to make it my home. I've gone grocery shopping by myself, took my first Yoga class yesterday, and as I drive around the neighborhood by myself, I wonder if this is my future.

Yesterday I submitted Standing Stones to the literary contest at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. That was more than stressful, but I learned so much from the process and from critiques by two valued online writer-friends. Of course I found a typo AFTER I sent the sub in. But it's turned in. On time.

I just finished reading Sue Monk Kidd's The Mermaid Chair, a delight I've postponed for several years. But the narrator paints mermaids! The story of Sedna and Asnara appear in the story. The reader is drawn inside a marriage that has for too long been stagnant. Kidd's ability to build sympathetic characters, believable conflicts, achingly beautiful settings, and poignant reflections is infinitely satisfying.

I'm used to posting pictures and impressions of our wild and far flung travels here. Everything has changed. I don't know quite what to write now, perhaps just to consider the ordinary, the amazing gift of each day.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

At home . . .

The new header shows the view out our front window overlooking a stand of brushy pines -- maybe pitch pines, Ponderosa pines, or scrub pines. Yesterday mid-morning, Allen spotted this young deer calmly grazing under the pines in the field by our apartment. Not a bad view at all.

This morning, under blue sky and a little fog, a cat stalked through marsh grasses toward the pines. Allen's doing well, though aggravated since the doctor said he can't lift more than 10 pounds for a while yet. Luckily he married a Viking. As the Scots say, "The worst can be handled when it's known." And I nearly have all the books unpacked.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

At home in Spokane . . .

We are settling into our new home in Spokane, somewhat in the suburbs to the south of the city, an apartment complex with views of pine trees and a winter landscape. Each day we stroll past a pond just now covered partly by ice to see if the mallard ducks are at home. The houses are all gray, the sky is gray, the trees are bare. They say spring comes in late March. Some mornings the fields bristle with white ice. But inside our new place, we've begun to unpack books and put prints and textiles up on the walls. I'm cooking again (and writing), internet is up, and a somewhat normal life resumes.

Highlights for this week (aside from seeing Canada geese fly in large arcing circles): Rachel and Nick (with cello colleague John) played Mozart's Divertimento in E-flat for Violin, Viola and Cello (K563) at the Spokane Symphony's Chamber Soiree. Ah, beautiful! They played with verve and balance, intense feeling and discipline. What a delight and privilege to be in the audience. Rachel's love of Mozart came through in her comments: she made us look at this well-known piece with fresh eyes. Altogether a lovely evening of chamber music.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

On the road again . . .

I'm remembering how we felt when our laptop was stolen so many months ago in southern Peru, just after crossing the border. A sense of violation, of things taken apart and not easily patched back together. Distrust in the most common situations. I'm feeling that way again, only this time, I can't just run to the computer store and replace a laptop.

So I'm not driving in the dead of winter 4,000 miles from Philadelphia to Spokane. Allen's doing very well after the stroke, but his stamina is limited to fifteen minute shots. I keep thinking what could I do if something happens when we're in, for example, the wilds of the Texas Panhandle.

Allen says we should not make decisions based on fear. How does he know me so well? So we're flying. Southwest. Two bags each free. The car will be shipped or transported or whatever they do coast-to-coast with cars. No stops in the many places we love, New Orleans, Tucson, Corvallis, Dallas, Portland. But home and safe by January 15. As safe as one can be. And I'm still working on patching things together.