Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pie for Breakfast

 Pie Case in Denver

       We were all lined-up in the narrow hallway waiting for that one last preschool child to use the bathroom before we all headed to the library.  There was the usual chatter interspersed with giggling, when the child holding my hand looked up at me and asked, "What did you have for breakfast, teacher?"  I answered, "Pumpkin pie."  All of the children shifted their focus towards me, bodies jostled to see me better, a surprised hush descended and eyes brightened.  At that moment their world view had shifted.  "Pie!  My teacher eats pie for breakfast!  Pie?  You can have pie for breakfast!"

     My Aunt Snowdie served pie for breakfast.   Snowdie was the sixteenth child conceived by my southern grandfather.  Four more children followed her in the birth order.  I have looked at the studies on sibling-order personalities, but there is a dearth of studies on the sixteenth child.  Snowdie was a diminutive four-feet eleven inches tall. She must have had to woo attention.  You would have noticed her cooking.   Her specialties were fudge pie and glazed donuts fried in butter.  Now imagine me as a child and being asked by Aunt Snowdie, "What would you like for breakfast?  Fudge pie, Boston cream pie or fried glazed donuts?"  My third or fourth grade school photo shows a pudgy, round face.  I think I must have spent the summer saying, "Yes, please, all of those will be fine."

    Pie for breakfast is a generational phenomena in my family.  Molly, my daughter, will make two pumpkin pies from scratch... pointedly setting one aside for breakfast.  At age three Molly painted a picture of a mixed berry pie.  We grow raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Mixed berry pies were made regularly.  Plum pies were my favorite.  One of the teachers at school, Patti, always brought a bag of her  Italian plums in the fall.  I waited with anticipation to make a plum pie with our hazelnuts as part of the topping.  I make the flaky pastry crust directly in the pan.  The recipe follows.
Make-in-the pan pie shell that I use for fruit pies:

(Put all ingredients in a 9 inch pie plate, stir and press, and make a crinkle edge.  Add extra oil if too dry)
1 cup all-purpose white flour
½ tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1 ½ Tbsp. skim milk

(If flour is particularly dry… made need more oil or milk.)

3 Tbsp. all-purpose white flour
3 Tbsp. rolled oats (not instant)
1 ½ Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. butter, cut into pieces
1 Tbsp. canola or safflower oil
1/4 cup chopped nuts optional

Fudge Pie  (Going to a potluck and only have forty five minutes to make something.  This is it.  You almost always have flour, eggs, butter, vanilla and chocolate.)

Mix these ingredients.  Bake in a round 8 inch pan at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.
1/4 pound butter
2 eggs
3/4 sugar
1/2 flour
2 squares baking chocolate or 6 tablespoons cocoa powder plus 3 Tablespoons oil
1/4 cup nuts

    Now you are probably wondering why I am writing about pies on a travel blog.  I actually have only eaten one slice of pie (cherry) so far, but we are coming up on Thanksgiving with the promise of pumpkin pie.  Eating pies is really about moderation.  I hadn't learned this lesson as a college student on a food account.  When I realized that I could have cherry pie every night, I did.  Now older and wiser I have pie only occasionally.  Pie after all takes some preparation.  I do however try to have enough left for breakfast.

Happy Thanksgiving.  Enjoy the pie.  May there be a slice left for breakfast.  Pie-pie for now!

Hey, They Are Making Pie!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Weaving and the "Trickle Down" Theory

My Mother's Basket
     I went to the zocalo squares in Taos and Santa Fe looking for Indian baskets.  I wasn't sure why this seemed important.  I don't need another basket.  I have this tightly woven one of my mother's.  I found a few baskets for sale.  Each was loosely woven.  I held them to the light judging them against my mother's.  I found them wanting.  A few places had old baskets similar in quality to mine.  Not even these satisfied me.

     Today as I was sitting in a Japanese soaking tub listening to the sound of water dripping, the answer came to me.  I revere my mother's basket for its capacity to hold water.  I imagine the fingers that wove this basket making it a tight vessel for water.  I imagine a face smiling as the basket took shape.  My friend, Shane, has a Native American aunt in Northern California. She is well known for her weaving.  I believe she uses pine needles for some of her work.  I have seen a picture of her and I've seen some of her work.  I have seen her smiling.  

     Weaving.  As we weave a vessel for our soul, we hope that it will be tight and of good quality.  Shoddy work lets the soul seep away.  We weave an error here and repair it.  Seek guidance from a master weaver and weave a new pattern. We know when the weaving is satisfying and good.  Work worth doing and deeds worth noting make the weave tight.  I was searching for the weavers of the baskets.  I wanted to see their faces, their hands and their souls.  

     We all know humans who have woven tight vessels for their souls.  Chosen patterns well.  We know others who are somewhere in the process of weaving... their work edging towards a quality that will one day be greatly admired.  We hope for the company of master weavers.  We look for their joyful wisdom and sweet compassionate souls.

     If I were to pour water from my mother's basket, it would gush over the side, splash coolly and refreshingly.  It would be poured intentionally, not dribbled away like the trickling from loose weave.                         
Weave well, dear ones.
      Once I studied economics.  When the "trickle-down" economic theory came along, I just couldn't imagine it working.  If those with the greatest wealth let their bounty trickle out instead of gush, how was this going to benefit anyone?  The "trickle-down" theory conveys to me that those with the most wealth had woven a vessel for their soul with inattention, shoddy materials and a lack of rich joyfulness.  Fear of not having enough in their leaky baskets kept them from pouring forth with a measure of generosity.  Following such a weaver, not a master weaver at all, could not lead to prosperity for all.  Silly theory.

     Back to that Japanese hot tub.  This chair by the pool was covered with drops of rain.  When I went to sit on it between soaks, I realized that the drops were ice.  I didn't spend much time here contemplating life.  I preferred the bounty of the pool of water.
A chilly welcome!
Nurturing water.
   I am blessed with many master weavers.  They have taught me the value of pouring generously.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cowboys and Indians

      Cowboys and Indians were big in the 1950's.  That's Gary in the photo in his cowboy outfit as a three or four-year old.  Our fathers both read Louis L'Amour westerns; our families listened to Sons of the Pioneers, and watched Zorro and John Wayne movies.  My mom kept bananas in that Indian basket on the right.  We knew vaguely that she had gotten it on a trip to New Mexico in the 1930's.  I grew up with an affinity for the western landscape, artifacts and tales.

          Horses were central to the cowboy mystic.  My family didn't own a horse.  My mom and dad's claim to horse fame was the time they were waiting for an elevator in Reno. When the doors opened the actor, Roy Rogers with his horse, Silver, strolled out of the elevator.  Whoa!

     As my sister and I travel though New Mexico this week, one can't miss the horse trailers and coyote-style fence corrals.  This horse was grazing in the Chamas Valley near the home of Georgia O'Keefe at Abiquiu.  I don't recall her painting any pictures of horses.

     Ha ha!  I come all the way to New Mexico to find out about Indian baskets, pueblo architecture and those gorgeous hills, and one of the first photos that I take is of a mop head.  I just couldn't resist.  Blame this photo on pup.  On our first stop in Taos we ate at Orlando's Restaurant just outside of town.  Pup as usual needed to do a little scouting, so we sauntered around the back and encountered this native species.  With cows and horses on the mind, he just looked familiar.  He actually reminded me of the stick horses that my childhood friend, Diana, and I would ride around our backyards.  Diana eventually got a horse, but I remained horseless.    

    I learned that Georgia O'Keefe moved into her home at Abiquiu when she was 62 years old.  She lived there the next 35 years.  Being in my 60's as well, I can't imagine taking up horseback riding... even if I would love to do so.  Georgia instead focused on painting the horse skulls.  I think she would have painted something extraordinary even from my mop head!

      Visiting O'Keefe's home was on my wish list.  Today we toured her main home.  One cannot take photos, so the picture below was taken from the website.  The rooms are unimaginably simple and breathtaking.  Her peaceful studio with its wall of mesa views is a room that one can hardly leave.  When O'Keefe first saw this home it was in ruins.  It took her ten years to convince the Catholic Church to sell her the property.  She proceeded to rebuild the house and layout extensive gardens.  She contributed  money to build a community center outside her walled garden.  It was a gift to the church and families in the pueblo. Later she gave more money to build an elementary school for the area.  I liked hearing of her generosity.
Living room of Georgia O'Keefe's home at Abiquiu
     The valley below her home is filled with cottonwood and Russian olive trees.  These trees likely existed when she was painting.  I was glad that we were traveling in late fall.

The southwest would not be near so impressive were it not for the Indian influence.  The pueblo architecture, basket weaving and jewelry make this area unique.  I had not visited Taos before.  We did not stay long or I would have tried to get photos down some of the lanes lined with adobe houses.  The following are just a sampling of some of my favorite snapshots.  The sky was filled with rolling clouds, not much sunlight and yet the colors used in the adobe and in window trim were still striking.


The photos are such exquisite tiny portraits.  Imagine turning 360 degrees and seeing this beauty everywhere.  Put Taos on your list. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Housing and Housers

My Sister's Beautiful Condo

     I know what you are thinking.  This post is going to be about where I am staying.  Slightly.  The brick condo unit in the photo above was built in 1950.  This is where I am staying with my sister.  She has lived here for thirty-three years.  Her length of stay is a testament to the design of both the condo and the grounds.  I have always loved coming to this elegantly appointed and comfortable flat.  That I notice the condo's architectural features fits into a long-time passion of mine.

     In the 1980's I became an active birder spending weekends out identifying birds.   I  eventually realized that I really had two hobbies: birding and “housing”.  I haven’t been able to locate a word that describes an amateur who notices houses, identifies their style and examines their details.  “Housing” is a word that seems to work.  This of course makes me a “houser”.  Birding and housing are complimentary. No matter where one travels there are birds and/or houses.

     The photo of the house on the top right is one that I spotted in Colorado Springs. The family who live here would likely love to have my paper dollhouse seen in the photo on the bottom. The dollhouse comes with a complete set of paper furniture. The two houses are fairly similar in style.

     Although I too had a dollhouse as a child (a metal one), my passion for housing went well beyond the toy version.  As my family drove around town,  I would be scanning rooflines, noting window or door designs and checking color combinations.  Think about this.  Adults ask children questions associated with reading, math or spelling.  But adults rarely ask a child what they notice about a particular house or to pick their favorite house on a block.  No one ever asked me questions like these.  I think that I assumed that every child scrutinized houses like I did. 

     I have taught preschool for years in a Reggio-inspired program.  One year I became aware that a couple of kids were drawing house details unusual for their age.  When I began making inquires I realized that there was a group of kids who could describe their favorite house... "My aunt's in another city", "the house with the stone turret", and "my uncle's castle" (which really existed).  I was delighted to find fellow housers!

    Housing around in Colorado Springs is a joy.  The chilly winds have inspired a particular porch design seen all across Colorado.  I have noted them for years.  Here are a couple of examples of porches that are only partially enclosed in glass.
Chinook winds can be wicked.

Welcoming even with the spooky Halloween spider webs!
     I have a hard time not thinking that I should buy a house here just because of the enclosed porches.  As soon as I see one I think of curling up with a good book.
One could host a passel of children of this porch!  And serve them milk from the delivery box.

This porch would have sun morning and evening.   Good orientation for a sunlit breakfast and an afternoon nap. 
    Stucco houses have their own version of places to sit and ponder life.  Most blocks in the older section of Colorado Springs have at least one stucco house.

Sit here awhile.  


    I loved this house with its second-story ramada nestled next to that narrow extension.  Surely the extension holds a bathtub.   Housers, by the way, are always examining rooflines to find those vent pipes indicating kitchens or bathrooms.

     For those of you who are showing your children who are housers these photos, here is a house for them:
Ears even!
     Actually tree houses for adults are becoming more common.  Here is a link to a tree house accommodation in Sweden:   I mostly am showing you old houses in this post, but I love modern ones with equal interest. 

    And what child can resist a turret room?  Well what adult can resist one?

   Fairy tales, knights, heroic deeds are associated with towers and turrets.     
     Turrets were originally added to buildings as defensive mechanisms for protecting walls.  Today houses with turrets are frequently located on corners giving them the long view down their streets to either side, ideal for spotting approaching neighbors and watching children. Both of these houses are on corners.  

     In the past week my sister and I took two house tours.  The first was of the oldest existing house in Colorado Springs, the McAllister House.  This is a view of the backside:

    The house has double brick walls in both inside and outside walls with two-inch steel rods running up the middle of them.  The rods reach from the concrete in the basement to the roof. At the time it was constructed a train engine had been blown off of a nearby track.  Mr. McAllister was taking no chances as he made plans to build his home.  The construction techniques were impressive for it's time.  Today the plus of its design is that traffic noise is almost non-existent inside.

     I highly recommend house tours.  A good docent can make the historical context of the house and it's period make sense.  When this house was built it was the only one in the midst of shacks and tepees.  When Mrs. McAllister would make pies from her fruit trees, the Indians would slip the pies off of the kitchen window ledge and leave her gifts like dolls for the children.  This thoughtful exchange of goods is the kind of story often left out of history books.

    The second house that we visited was the Rosemont Mansion in Pueblo, Colorado.

      Thirty-seven rooms worth of a mansion is sitting on a full city block.  I couldn't take any pictures of the inside, but the last surviving son donated the house with the stipulation that all of the rooms be left exactly appointed as the family left them.  Interestingly enough the servant's rooms located on the third floor were quite nice, but the servant's place in society was subtlety noted by the doorknobs.  On one side of a door there might be a really elegant doorknob.  However if the room on the other side of this door had a very plain doorknob, this would be a room used solely by servants.  If you were a guest and entered a room in error, you would know immediately by the doorknob that you were in say in the servant's dining room instead of the guest's breakfast room.

     House museums are often elegant.  We are lucky that they are preserved.  They help us appreciate fine architectural work.  Henry Hudson Holly was the architect for this house.  His use of the local red stone was exceptional.

     As National Homeless Month is celebrated in November, it would be negligent of me not to mention a houser's thoughts on the lack of houses for those among us struggling with the crippling effect of a political and societal failure to provide homes for every individual.  The 1980's was an era when funding for subsidized houses was slashed by more than 50% with more cuts to follow over the years.  We still see the effect of those decisions.   Homeless wander our streets.  I am encouraged to see many young architects focusing on alternative houses made with inexpensive materials.  Even more encouraging is seeing such houses designed with precisely the kind of elements that make fancy houses homelike... porches, insulation, light-filled rooms and turrets.  We have a long way to go to house our homeless.  Ponder how you can make a difference.    

Little house perfect for some homeless soul.


Friday, November 15, 2013

I Once Was a History Major

Musings on War

Frieze of Infantry Men above the Pension Building Portal
     I once was a history major which may surprise some of you.  I think what interested me were the stories.  I grew up visiting the sites of Williamsburg and Jamestown.  My Grandfather fought in the Civil War and my Dad fought in WWII.  Two years ago I visited the National Building Museum in Washington D.C.  It is America's leading cultural institution devoted to the history and impact of the built environment.  I was delighted to find that this museum was the original Pension Building constructed during the 1880's post Civil War.  Paperwork with the names of many of my family members was shuffled about in this quite elegant building when it functioned as the Pension Bureau.

Hall of the Former Pension Building
     Not one human individual has had family untouched by war.  The men in my family fought as Vikings, fought for Welsh kings, drummed in the French and American War, drove wagons in the civil war, brought home a sword for booty from the Spanish American War, drove trains in France in the WWI, served in the Air Force in London during WWII and in the National Guard in recent wars.  I don’t know what the women were doing.  I wasn’t wise enough as a child or a teenager to ask more questions of my Dad.  I think part of my searching for more stories of my family is the reason for my interest in history and therefore in war.

    Yesterday I went to a quite amazing talk about the Iraq War given by an Iraqi journalist, Haider Hamza. He came to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship and will be continuing on as a Rhodes scholar.  He is studying Global Security and Conflict Resolution.  For two hours he showed photos that he took during the time he was a journalist embedded with the United States forces.  With each visceral slide he managed to convey the viewpoint of this soldier, that mother, or of this prisoner.  A child of ten, who was registering as an insurgent on the morning after his father had been killed by United States forces, was given the same compassion as the newly-trained American soldiers, who just killed innocent civilians.  The common thread in every photo was that people make horrendous choices, while they try to hold to some ethical sanity. Haider tried to convince the child that his future would be more worthwhile if he used his articulate skills to better the world.  The child could only hold to that he was now the man of the family and needed to uphold the honor of his father.  The soldiers had just lost two of their unit and suffered from grief.  The soldiers didn't know the language to get the information that they needed and didn't know anyone even to ask.  They weren't at home, didn't know the territory.  They were carried away by their emotion of loss.  War comprises small impossible situations, decisions and actions like these, one after another.

     After the nightly twelve-hour curfew Haider said that he would begin is day daily at the morgue.  He would search the corpses for any information about who they were and how they were killed.  He sometimes recognized friends or acquaintances having grown up in Baghdad.  The United States military does not keep track of civilian deaths.  Now here is the conundrum on the larger scale.  John Tirman in his book, "The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in American Wars" has researched statistics on civilian deaths.  Here is a quote from the description of his work.

    "Americans are greatly concerned about the number of our troops killed in battle--100,000 dead in World War I; 300,000 in World War II; 33,000 in the Korean War; 58,000 in Vietnam; 4,500 in Iraq; over 1,000 in Afghanistan--and rightly so. But why are we so indifferent, often oblivious, to the far greater number of casualties suffered by those we fight and those we fight for? 

    This is the compelling, largely unasked question John Tirman answers in The Deaths of Others. Between six and seven million people died in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq alone, the majority of them civilians."

    Six or seven million and those figures don't count drone strike deaths!  Tirman suggests that while Americans may be indifferent to these figures, others in the world are not.  Civilian deaths help drive recruitment for insurgent groups.  But is the military indifferent?  I would contend that they are not.  They are caught in a bigger ethical issue just like those soldiers on the ground.  When I attended John Tirman's talk in a small and elegant board room at Georgetown University two years ago, I was the only attendant out of about seventeen individuals who could claim to be just a civilian.  The State Department, Army, Air Force, and Marines all from upper levels of administration were in attendance.  This doesn't indicate indifference to civilian deaths.

      Somewhere between Haider studying Conflict Resolution and the military trying to figure out how to do their job and minimize civilian damage, there is an intention afloat.  When I asked at Tirman's talk about what the military does about civilian injuries, the response from a few of the military present was quick and sincere.  "We are mandated to give medical care to civilians."  When I asked this question the military personnel in the room visibly leaned forward and brightened.  Here was a little window onto their intention to act compassionately were it possible

     As you can see, traveling means taking advantage of lectures.  November with Veteran's Day in the middle happens to be a month of lectures and events of military interest.   
Ranger Salute at the Washington WWII Memorial
     This week I also attended a lecture on the Buffalo Soldiers.  These are the African American military units renowned for being the most decorated units in the US.  To end this post on a lighter note, here is a fact that I didn't know before.  See that Park Ranger in the lower left hand corner of this photo?  You recognize him by the hat, right?  The Buffalo soldiers were the first to wear this style of hat.  President Roosevelt assigned the Buffalo units the task of protecting the redwood forests.  They were the first guardians of our forests, now honored by the use of the hat style by Park Service employees.

    This showing of the flags was a part of the Veteran's Day honor ceremony at the WWII Memorial in 2012 (when it wasn't closed by sequestration).

Peace will come.  One intention at a time.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fueled by Coffee and Desolation

     Decaf is for everyday, but traveling begs for the real stuff.  In the 1600's women were banned from entering the newly established coffee houses in England.  If that had been the case last week, I would have had to nap at intervals instead of cruising along at a steady 80 miles per hour, the legal Utah speed limit.

     Green River Coffee Co. was actually a destination for me.  Gary had bought a shirt at this coffee shop years ago when we traveled through with our kids. He wore it often bringing back memories of this desert area.  Scavengers abound.  Estimates of the United States crow population places it at a one crow to every thirty humans.  I have spotted crows every day of this trip.  I saw the most crows crossing the desert area surrounding Green River.  The corvidae family including crows, ravens and magpies is one of the most adaptable bird groups.  I recently spotted fourteen crows standing on a school garbage bin in Seattle picking through its contents.  In the desert they were obviously checking for road kill.  The desert and this highway are a scavenger's delight.

      I caught the Green River Coffee barista just leaving for lunch.  She stayed open to make me a latte.  The day before my coffee was served with an unimaginable graciousness.  Gramma Gianelli's Bakery in Glenn's Ferry Crossing, Idaho had been closed for more than a half-an-hour when Gramma noticed me peering through her window past her closed sign.  She opened the locked door and inquired as to my wishes.  "Cup of coffee?"  "Sure, I just poured out the old pot of coffee, so I'll make a fresh pot."  I don't know what kind of coffee she used.  I should have asked, as it was delicious.  Small town grace wafted from the cup made from a fresh pot with no more customers in evidence to drink it.

      Desolation.  What about Desolation?  What about Rifle?  What about Silt, and Cisco?  What depth of experience named Windy Mesa and Bittercreek?  Watching for the names of small towns and byways kept me awake as well as coffee.  I love this area.  Don't get me wrong about desolation.  The day that I drove this stretch will surely be one of my happiest days of the trip.  I've made this journey by train spotting mountain lion tracks in snow and traveled it with my mom and dad lying in the back window looking up at the stars.  The Bookcliff range is pleasing with it's images of rows and rows of books.  A geological bookshelf that preceded the thought of books.  I love desolation.

     I hate to post without mentioning Mollie's Cafe in another tiny town, Snowville, Idaho.  I pulled in here late one evening looking for one of the advertised "home cooked" meals.  I had a tense drive ahead on the frenzied highways of Salt Lake and wanted a little lift.

    Mollie was there!  I noticed an elegantly coiffured, gray-haired lady having an animated conversation at a booth nearby.  Something in her manner bespoke confidence like she owned the place.  Then I noticed on a wall photos of her in her cowgirl outfit and another one of her astride a horse in a group photo.  This was cowboy country.  That explained why the tables were too tall for me.  My elbows were about shoulder height when resting on the table.  These were tables for Mollie's customers.  Those tall cowboys.  This is the service of little towns.  

     As I sit here in Dog Tooth Coffee in Colorado Springs I'm having a decaf.  It is an ordinary day.  A good day.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ocean to Ocean

                                                           Ocean to Ocean
     Lewis and Clark surely took off their smelly socks and well scuffed boots and let the Pacific wash across their feet. The beach at Carkeek Park in Seattle had to suffice for me.  There was no sound of thundering ocean waves. The quiet lapping of the Puget Sound tide contrasted with the "whoopee" sounds coming from my heart.  I have begun my journey with a wash of Pacific water.  The ritual left me with sand in my freshly cleaned car.

     Packing the car for a seven-month journey has taken some planning.  At the Oregon Trail Interpretive Museum in Baker City a visitor can practice loading a small wagon with blocks marked with items like "flour", "bedding", "stove" or "china".  The blocks don't all fit, so one has to set some priorities.  I'm already sure that I have more than I need and also everything that I need.  Surely I'll be tossing things aside as I travel.  I'll try not to throw them along the highway!

    The car top carrier that I had ordered has proved difficult.  How many people does it take to make a car top carrier work properly?  Six!  Two to snap the box back into the proper shape and load it on the car and two to get the key out of the broken lock and two more to attach straps to hold the box closed.  I both cried and laughed.  Thank God for friends and neighbors.  My car top carrier with it's motley borrowed and new straps looks a little "hokey' instead of the "cool" I had aimed for.

     My first day of travel started out late with pouring rain, snowing up Cabbage Hill and then sun streaming through an opening in the clouds in the La Grande Valley.   Early pioneers to this valley were awed by its rimmed expanse.  Many years ago I came across the site of Hot Lake Springs in the eastern corner.  Three million gallons of 208-degree water bubbles up daily into a small lake.  Rushes attract yellow-headed blackbirds, a personal favorite.  Indians stopped here, pioneers and tuberculosis patients.  A sanatorium was built in the early 1900's and eventually earned the reputation as the "Mayo Clinic of the West".  Travelers arrived by train.  When I first saw the old three-story brick building, it was dilapidated.  I became enchanted with its possibilities.  For a short while one could soak in a claw-foot tub that had been hauled down from the rooms above.  The David Manuel family purchased the building in 2003 and began developing it into a bed and breakfast, a foundry for David's bronzes and an RV park.  Hard, hard work.  Worth a visit:

Hot Lake Soaking Room

  I couldn't resist starting my trip with a soak in their mineral springs.  The Manuels have renovated the many-sided building that sits by the lake.  Water gurgles up into a large stone box emitting steam.  The water is then cooled in tubs to  more tolerable 105 or so degrees.  I alternated a meditative ten-minute soak with standing at the cool open window overlooking the misty lake.  Pure joy.

     Water has both the properties of certainty and uncertainty not unlike my trip.  Gravity makes water seep through any crack, follow any downhill path and move as a tide.  I can catch water with a good plug.  Sitting in this tight tub I felt smug that my first stop had an element of certainty.  But I don't fool myself.

     When I was a child I remember slipping under water at my mother's feet.  She surely caught me up quickly, but I was under long enough to know the fear of water, the certainty of its power.  As well-planned as my trip is, I have to expect that there will be uncertainty.  I remember looking up at my mom through that blurry, watery field of vision and knowing that she would rescue me.  I hadn't intended to be sitting at her feet.  I remember a feeling of calmness, a certainty as to the outcome and just a twinge of what if...

Farewell Bend
      Farewell Bend.  I love the irony that my first night was spent at Farewell Bend.  Pioneers on the Oregon Trail left the Snake River at this Bend with the desert behind them going in the opposite direction of my travels.   As I walked the almost deserted park grounds, I mused that this is what retirement is supposed to be like.  I've passed this park on the train watching the flocks of birds' rise, in the car hurrying to get somewhere always thinking that I would love to stop here.  I took my time walking on the first morning of the trip.  It is now my time.

    I had intended to leave in September slipping over the Rockies before the snow.  Instead I got snow.  Not much.  I had to look for some that the sun hadn't melted.  I was lucky.  The trip to the other ocean has started well.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Portraits of Dog and I

                                        My Self- Portrait.  "Happy Lady with Wild Grey Hair".

   This painting was inspired by the night of my sixty-fourth birthday. A dear friend honored the occasion by setting off a huge firework's display on the beach.  Earlier I had walked seven miles along the surf and up into the hills.  As the joyful day ended with the light and warmth of the campfire, backed by the deep bluish-black sky and the silly sounds of the erratic fireworks, I could feel my brain contently tossing about the questions and decisions from the morning's walk.

    Traveling was to begin.  It was settled.

    Although I have been teaching children to draw and paint self-portraits for years and years, I had not allowed myself the privilege of painting my own portrait.  I couldn't seem to do both.  If I was at school I didn't have the time and if I was home I didn't have the materials.  I also didn't want to discourage children by competing with them as an adult artist.  Over the years, children drew portraits of their faces twice-a-year.  Eventually this evolved into drawing and painting full-body pictures like these on the right.  The process and the results were so satisfying for them and myself.  I must admit that I was envious.

   Gary, my dear late husband, and I were involved in a cancer support group.  On occasion a painting class was offered by Barbara, the beloved, artistically-talented social worker.  I never got to go.  I was always working.  Gary and I did manage to take a class in drawing portraits.  This picture is a portrait that I did of Gary from a photo. Barbara's class didn't ordinarily work from photos. (Although Gary insisted in doing so when he painted!)

     Silence.  I never really thought too much about the silence that can accompany painting.  Barbara  insisted on silence.  No talking, no music.  Enough silence to listen to the heart and the soul.  What wanted to be painted?  You had to listen.  What colors, what medium, what feelings?  For six weeks those of us in the class listened.  I liked the habit.  I am quite comfortable with silence.  I think that this will do me well on this long trip.  The silence should let me listen to myself. Want to stop?  Explore?  Keep on?  This is a good habit for traveling.

    I have a friend.  She traveled to Mexico in an old Volkswagen bug with a companion of hers.  These two came to an agreement.  One day they would both talk.  One day one would talk and the other listen.  Then visa-versa.  The fourth day they would both be silent.  On a day when both were silent the car slowly came to a stop on a desolate stretch of road.  No word was spoken.  Silence.  Along came a truck with a bunch of guys.  The truck stopped.  The guys tried to determine what was wrong.  They were met with a puzzling silence and yet they figured-out that the car was on empty.  So the guys filled the car's tank from a barrel of gas in the truck bed and left calling into the silence, "Adios!".  I love this story.  It is a funny story.  I hope my travels have this kind of luck, measure of silliness and time for silence.

   Least you think that that sunny facade at the top of this post is all there is.  I'm adding one more portrait.

   Some days start with that deep black rectangle to the left.  It is grief, not depression, but grief.  I miss Gary.  This self-portrait started with that black hole on the left.  I'm not sad about this grief.  If Gary had loved me less that hole might have only been a stripe or a dot.  But I was loved.  Each color is like a step.  Up and down followed by up and down all day long.  The direction doesn't worry me.  The color doesn't worry me.  The feeling doesn't worry me.  One follows another.  I don't seem to ever be stuck on any step, any shade of feeling.  When I describe myself as happy, I am happy.  My soul is always moving.  

   Little Dog's Portrait.  "Lizzy"

   Look at this face.  This devoted look is the look little dog gives me.  I am so excited about traveling with little dog.

   Lizzy could have been "Ginny".  Gary named  her after his great, great.... grandmother who bravely came from Scotland.  So for a few days she was called Virginia, until Gary remembered that the great, great... grandmother's name was properly Elizabeth.  Little dog is a border terrier, a breed from the border lands of Scotland and England.  I often wonder what his great, great... grandmother would think of having a dog named after her!  One day I may have a dog named after me, but the name will have to be "Kat"!

   Little dog has had a sculpture made of herself.  Borders are known for being "calm, but tenacious in the hunt".   This is pup's ferocious face.  Our previous border killed a few possums and attacked a badger in our yard.  Borders were trained to run with the horses in fox hunts.  They have long legs for a terrier. Walking a border on a leash is a joy.  They check in to see which way you are going, just like as if you were the horse.  

   Pup doesn't yet comprehend that she will be by my side for the long trip.  I can tell you that she will be happy.  New smells, new people, new dogs and me!  We travel well together.  She is dressed in her wilder winter coat.  Should you cross us in the spring, you might not recognize her.  She'll need another portrait.