Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lizzie’s Nose-Texted “Ode to Dogwoods”

Lizzie's Ode to Dogwood
Lizzie, my border terrier, has such a beautiful nose smudging script.  Her “Ode to Dogwoods” in the photo above was written on the front window of my Subaru Outback.  I am assuming that she wrote the tribute to the white dogwood tree, the one that was planted in our backyard, when she was just a puppy.  
The Dogwood in Our Backyard
That tree, as you can see, blocks the view of garbage cans that could otherwise be spotted from the kitchen window.  (Well that’s my view, not hers.)   

Ode to Dogwoods
By Lizzie   

Window text messages
Are like dogwood petals.
Transitory in nature.
Cool spring temperatures
Allow dogs to go for rides 
And wait in cars for their owners to buy
Garden supplies.

Dog text messages
Sprout on windows,
Gleaming in the morning sun.

Dogwood petals float to the ground,
While the moist nose messages of dogs disappear
Behind paper towels
On the winds of human irritation.

Next year the “Ode to Dogwoods” will look like
White Dogteeth on the window
I will bite
Paper Towels.

The End
Lizzie, Contemplating Next Year's Ode

Monday, April 20, 2015

Bike Racing Socks

I have lodged bike racers for the Tour of Walla Walla for many years now.  I say “yes” to whomever I am sent.  A women’s team from Vancouver, never-raced before-guys from Boise, a National Canadian Triathlon winner, a family from Montana with young teens and two years ago an over 50’s group of guys.  This year I hosted orange socks.

The Tour of Walla Walla has road races through the rolling Palouse hills and a criterion race around downtown.  My guest this year, Paul from Eugene, solved the problem of my finding him in his Men's Pro 1 and 2 Class of one hundred and five racers by wearing his orange night glow socks.  I counted the racers as they passed and stopped counting at the orange socks.  As the race began, I tested the sock theory.  On the first swing around the course, he passed in the position of the 34th racer, then 23rd on the next, then 6th and once in 1st place.     

I took my neighbor, Judi, to watch.  She would exclaim over and over, “They are so fast!”  We watched until I said, "One more round."  And then we stayed for many more. 

My refrigerator always fills when racers come to stay at the house.  They bring their special foods.  Good luck foods. As much could be written about food for racers, as is written about the races themselves.  Paul was no exception.  I won’t divulge his secrets, but food matters.  At the end of day of racing, maybe eighty or so miles for the hill races, carbs make the menu.

 One year I made a dinner for a group of bicyclists.  A young teenage Canadian looked with consternation at my pot of chicken and dumplings.  All white lumpy things floating in a thickness of brown gravy.  He had ridden earlier in the day for twenty minutes at twenty-five miles per hour on our notoriously bad city streets, rounding corners and hoping no crashes would appear ahead of him; his expression of fear of having to eat my dinner seemed to me to be in congruent.  However, one bite of the free range chicken and the melt-in-the-mouth dumplings, he piled his plate and had seconds.  In his first race season he had conquered fears of racing and dumplings.  Admirable.

Each year there has been a good story.  Once there was a young first-time racer.  He was in the bathroom as the road race started.  He had missed the call to the line over the crowd noise and the patter from the announcer, but he came in first anyway.  Proving that life can start well even on empty.    

Contestants from Montana would arrive happy to have snowless roads and instant spring.  Marshall, a kid who returned for a few years  from Missoula, would always request the bed upstairs by the long window.  The one in which he woke to a swath of greening leaves, as if waking in a tree house.  He would set his trainer bike up by the stream in the backyard.  The spring seemed to give him a boost.  He was a good racer and got better each year.  

Racers brought their bikes inside for the night.  I have grown to love bikes parked on Persian rugs.  And even more loved having bike guests.  Paul and his wife, Vikki, were especially delightful this year.  I hope that Paul keeps racing.  (He came in fifth overall.)  Come back, you two, and park on my Persians.



Monday, April 13, 2015

Pike Shunning

This past week I had some delightful guests, who dropped “pike shunning” into the conversation.  Pike hit the table and bounced once.  Shunning swam across the room using a paddle stroke.  Wasn’t pike a fish and shunning a term of avoidance?  I was confused.  How had the discussion turned to fishing, when we were talking about traveling? 

Pike shunning is apparently, my guests informed me, an expression that means to avoid turnpikes by taking roads less traveled and thereby avoiding having to pay tolls. A shunpiker is someone who might intentionally have a more leisurely drive skirting the straight-through toll roads.

Being a westerner, I have had little experience with turnpikes.  Last year, when I was traveling, I found myself unexpectedly in a lane with no exit onto a toll road heading towards Gary, Indiana.  The problem was that I didn’t have enough change.  As I frantically tried to find lost coins in the car, the trucker behind me came up and dropped the required amount into the slot without a word.  He must have wished that I had been a shunpiker, instead of some frantic lady with Washington plates slowing him down.

As a child Sunday was the day my dad would take my sister, my mom and I to pike shun.  We were a long way from any turnpikes, so it was easy.  Maybe what we did would better be described as way shunning, as in highway shunning.  My mom would make a lunch of fried chicken, potato salad and buttered bread.  We would load into the Olds and venture off to shun. Sitting in the back seat I played a game of It’s Mine.  Little flowered meadows, shadowed glens, arching branches over paths curving out of sight.  They were all mine, if I could merely see them flashing by the window.

Yesterday, Sunday, I had hoped to go shunning, but as the realities of my responsibilities fell onto the calendar I began to despair.  Then I thought about just playing It’s Mine.  I could play it first in my garden and then at the Fort Walla Walla Natural Area, where I was due as an Audubon member to help maintain trails in the afternoon.  As I began the first task on the calendar of dead heading and digging dandelions, I found the little meadow of flowers in the photo at the top of the blog post.  And then more lovely places in the yard.

The Natural Area gave me this beckoning pathway as mine.

The work crews at the Natural Area were working so fast that the new stairs had been dug into place, the paths all widened and the mullein ripped out a couple of hours ahead of schedule.  So at the end of the day, I had time available for real pike shunning.  Or here in Walla Walla I should call it way shunning, as we have no turnpikes. 

Pup came along with me and this is what we won in the game of It’s Mine.  We traveled up Spring Creek, down steep Tracy Road, along Biscuit Ridge and off Third Street in Dixie (where we saw the turkeys).  A most successful day of shunning.  Pup claimed the cow and the white-tailed deer.

 Got some time?  Go pike shunning, way shunning, avenue shunning.  Just go.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hot Cocoa Is My Starter Fuel.

Hot cocoa is my starter fuel.  Not any cocoa, but the one with the addition of cayenne pepper to the dark chocolate base.  I buy it in Seattle at Central Market.  I have one more container of the Equal Exchange Organic Spicy Cocoa stashed in the wooden box on the pantry shelf. This is the same wooden box, where I hide the packages of dark chocolate chips. (Whom, you might ask, am I hiding these from?  I live alone.  You could steal my computer, but you would not find my chocolate.)
(That wooden box on the left, not labeled "chocolate hidden here".  )
 I have begun contemplating the drive two hundred and sixty-two miles to Seattle over the Cascade Mountain Range to restock on cocoa, but than that’s silly.  I could buy a six-pack on line.  I’ve been 
considering that I could combine a trip to purchase hot cocoa in Seattle with a trip to the Korean spa in the suburb of Lynnwood.  Than, the trip would seem like a medicinal one. I am just nervous about that low cocoa stockpile.  The trip would help heal the tendon in my hip, ease my anxiety over low cocoa reserves and lift my spirits with a little outing. 

Actually hot cocoa with cayenne is good for my health too.  I have not been sick now for over two years.  Not a cold, not the flu, not an upset stomach. Nothing.  I traveled for seven months household to household, in tight flight quarters, on metros and buses.  I credit the cayenne.  Look it up.  The health benefits for building immunity, blocking cancer, curing upset ailments and other good stuff are extensive. 

I think that I got hooked on the combination of cocoa and cayenne when I lived in Mexico City near Chapultepec Park.  One day I encountered a little stand, which was selling chicken mole.  For those of you who have not had mole, it is made of chocolate, a ground seed like maybe pumpkin and also various peppers, usually including cayenne. I loved the spicy chocolate then and now think of my morning mug of hot cocoa as a really liquid form of mole. 

My other hot cocoa is a rose.

I first spotted this variety of a rose while traveling and purchased one of them some years back.  It has cocoa coloring opening to orange blooms.  Frost has now killed the three that I have owned.  I replaced the first one from a Seattle nursery and another one locally.  But when I lost my last hot cocoa rose this past winter and could not find a replacement locally, I was bemoaning the fact to my L.A. friend Art.  He took it upon himself to ship me a replacement one!  Good friends understand cocoa necessities.  Thanks, Art. 

The rose is hardening off, a gardening term that means getting used to the temperatures outside of a green house before being planted in the garden.  I’ve decided to plant it in a more sheltered location in the lee of the garden shed this time.  Maybe by the time it blooms, I’ll manage to squeeze in a little trip to Seattle.  Health reasons.    

Photo of Cocoa Petals.  Credit Pinterest.