Monday, October 28, 2013


    November is the perfect time to leave on my trip.  Had I left in September as planned, I would have missed this magnificent fall and the satisfaction of all is well.
    I am one of those people who wake up in the morning with a million plans.  This quiet little shop surrounded by trees in my backyard has been the site of intense activity throughout this September and October.  Before I left I wanted to have the shop a bit more tidy, the ceiling all insulated, and the kitchen cabinets for the house stained and up.
    The yard itself had an extensive list of work.  Prune the raspberries and blackberries, bark the pathways again, tarp a couple of the rose beds and harvest the grapes.  Turning the compost pile never made it on the list, partly because something was growing out of it that seemed to be doing well without any attention.  A mass of leaves covered the pile and then extended down the brick compost path and off north into the neighbor's asparagus plants.  As temperatures dipped and I began seeing what was under the leaves and realized that there was something worth harvesting!  Surprise!  Twenty-seven members of the squash family of one sort or another!  Now mostly gifted away.  
    Back to the grapes.  Although I live in wine country, my grapes are the ordinary concord grapes.  Well not exactly ordinary.  Juice made from these grapes in a good year rivals a good wine.  As a recent guest commented this juice is like a good wine in that it has layers of flavor.  The juice this year is extra rich and strong.
Sometime I get fourteen to seventeen gallons of juice, but his year I only got about six.  My grape arbor is not the usual grape arbor. The previous owner planted the arbor.  It's tunnel shape has fallen over only once burdened by a record three feet of snow.  It was rebuilt with locust wood harvested from windblown trees.  I so often try to get a picture of this arbor, but capturing its twenty-six foot length and seven foot height is difficult.
   The entrance looks like a hobbit hole.  Children and adults are invariably drawn to the entrance.  Wandering through its length breathing deeply of the tangy smell of grapes and noting the light filtering through the leaves is an experience that slows the step and delights the mind.
   I have traditions for making juice.  I brew a good Earl Grey tea, fill a bowl with dark chocolate chips and gather some grapes.  I sit in the fall cool air and remove the grapes from the stems, drinking tea and eating the chocolate and thinking.  I would have missed this tradition if I had left in September.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mother Map

     A crisp new Mother Map.  No dog ears, straight clean seams, legible type, pleasing to the eye.  This map has been my first planning tool for my long trip across the United States and Canada.

      A paper Mother Map makes sense to me.  I'm not obsessive about using just paper maps. I have spent time almost equally on computer mapping sites. However there will be times during my travels into canyons or between Internet cafes, when my computer will be disconnected from the world.  My Mother Map doesn't "disconnect".  It is not in her genes to do so.  She only has to be wary of being misplaced in my piles.  I think that she will serve me well.  Mothers don't often get lost.  

      Last summer  on a cool evening at Jubilee Lake I marked potential destinations on the Mother Map.  Purple noted historical locations, green marked "supposedly" gorgeous places and orange designated the towns of friends and family.

    "Where are you going?  When are you going? Why are you going?  Who are you going with?"  I ask myself the same questions.

     One of the answers can be found in a book that I have loved for years, which is titled: "Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes, and Values" by Yi-Fu Tuan. When the author was a Chinese-born college student studying in America, he went on a camping trip to Death Valley National Monument. He arrived in the dark. When he awoke he was startled by the wide sky edged with desert sunrise-tinted mountains. He was surprised with its instant affect on his heart. He couldn't have imagined loving a desert. This pivotal trip encouraged him to focus his studies on the intimate relationships between people and place.

     As I child I watched for places to love with my nose to the car or train windows.  I want to travel like that again. I'm not good at finding places to savor while roaring along at sixty or seventy miles per hour on a Federal highway. I want to examine architectural detail, slip through little towns and spot sweet woods where I might fantasize about building a little cabin.  So I intend to travel slow roads looking for those rare places that speak to my heart.  (For those of you that I am leaving behind and might wish a little adventure, here are a few of my favorite places near Walla Walla: Fox Valley (a tiny one) south of Pendleton on Highway 365, the wedding cake Court House in Heppner, the old community of Flora in the Blues, the brick alleyways of Baker City, Thorpe Canyon River Road between Yakima and Ellensburg, and the cemetery at Summerville near La Grande.  Go for a little slow drive.)

    The books that I will carry answer some questions as to what I am up to.  "Architecture Traveler", "Secrets of the National Parks", "Traveling with Your Pet", "Walking Tours of Boston", and "Beachcombing at Miramar, the Quest for an Authentic Life".  Computer searches answer other quests: Ancestry, yoga studios, and the location of pastry shops :).  It is easy to discern what I intend to do.

    I am also most excited about the people that I will see. I am looking forward to spending time with family and old friends scattered across this land.  I am equally looking forward to new adventures.  Do you know about Women Welcome Women?  Their site is:  The organization began in Great Britain during the 1970's with the intention of connecting women across the world who want to travel. On becoming a member one is connected to local communities and cultures by women who live there.  This is couch surfing many grand and comforting steps up.

    Mother Map.  Open up those crisp folds and let me draw paths across your paper skin.



Friday, October 18, 2013

Tire Store Heroes (Ode to Les Schwab)

      I can't hit the road without the tire store heroes.  You know them.  They hustle, grin and greet you like they are sincerely delighted to have the company of you and your tires.
       Being at the tire store is to me the perfect Zen experience.   The quick movements of the white-shirted guys, the smell of the tires n' popcorn and the chatter of the clerks will send me into a state of enlightenment.  I'm here.  I'm in the presence of competence, wisdom and joy.  I need not worry about the future.  They have that handled for me.  I don't think of the past.  Nothing that I can do about that rubber left on the road.  I am just here, mindful.
       I took this photo of tires on Christmas Day of last year.  Neither trams or buses run in London on Christmas Day, so I took a walk while the lamb roasted.  I could have taken a photo of holiday lights, but I took this photo of tires instead.  Wouldn't it take a God to reach down into that pile of woven tires and pluck out just the one you wanted?  A miracle.  Well, a tire hero could do it.  Perform a miracle.
    And the beauty of it.  Nothing even wasted.  These tires are getting ready to be reborn,  a new configuration, and a new life.  A pile celebrating.  'Tis a spiritual event of little significance, but an unexpected sign of rebirth on Christmas day.
      Check off more items on the travel list.  Tires, struts, boots.  Check, check, check.  Maybe I should take a tire hero with me as a talisman.    
    I catch myself praying that my tires will protect me, save me, take me through the storm. Surely there is a God of Tires.  I'll just leave a little check at the tire shrine for the God of Tires.  Alms for the tire heroes.


Saturday, October 12, 2013


    Taking flight soon.  I am preparing to leave on a seven-month journey.  The seagulls in this photo were startled into flight by my little dog on a recent trip to the beach.  I sometimes feel startled that I will be taking off for such a long trip alone with just a little dog for company.  I'm not afraid of being alone so much.  I am startled that this is coming to pass at all.
    I so often have an eye to the sky.  When I count my blessings one is that I live along the flight path to our local airport.  Any plane will put a little grin on my face and set me to dodging about to see around the trees for a glimpse of it's silver body.  I imagine the people looking down already regretting their journey is at an end.  Birds will do the same thing.  Geese, whooping cranes, kingfishers hawks all have captured my attention from the yard.  Where are they going?  What do they want to find?
   My beloved husband, Gary, and I had planned to travel.  The Subaru Outback was purchased as a good travel car and as a hopeful talisman that Gary would survive the cancer.  Scotland was on the list too. Gary purchased little dog, just in case he didn't make it and I would need a travel-through-life companion.  So little dog it is.
   I have a few more weeks to tidy the gardens, finish construction projects and prepare the house to be a home for someone else.  And to say goodbye to friends.