Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mother of the Groom

In less than a week, I will leave on the train for Colorado for Andy and Laura’s wedding. Making a list and checking it twice. What to take? Her parents’ cabin is “off the grid” so I will be tent camping and solar showering. The dress code will be “rustic casual” except for the ceremony itself and the celebration dinner afterward.

Without actually “shopping,” I found a dress to wear. The background is “peach mango” (my new favorite flavor and color) with flowers the color of hyacinth to match the lace sweater I bought a few months ago. Gauzy and wispy, so half hippie and half sedate. No “mother-of-the-groom” fashions for me!

My gift, the piano, has been purchased and delivered and now graces their living room. I was over there last weekend and Andy played for me. Tunes from childhood piano lessons. The thank-you note has been written and received so we can all relax on that front. But the excitement will build this week as we all get ready for this momentous event. The start of a wonderful summer.

We are all so excited to welcome Laura into the family. She is a beautiful talented young woman and we love her. Their new address:

Andy and Laura Graham
7330 N. McKenna
Portland, OR 97203

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Lure of the River

It’s HOT and folks are flocking to the lakes and streams and rivers to cool off. This weekend brought the first hot days we’ve had this year. What people forget is that the water is still cold, usually around 58 degrees. As soon as seven inactive (wading) minutes in the water and hypothermia can begin to set in. There can be treacherous rapids and hidden dangers such as rocks and logs.

This weekend there were five water fatalities. One in the Sandy River, not far from my house. The river where Princess swims, where little kids fish, where the smelt run used to draw fishermen from miles around. It looks gentle and the cliffs along the riverbank are tempting jumping off points. But below the surface lurk sharp rocks and whirlpools and eddies that can catch a person unaware.

A bit farther away, a young rafter drowned in the Clackamas River when his rubber raft flipped and he was trapped underwater. The others were swimmers who went under, two of them children. None of the victims was wearing a life vest. All of them were accompanied by friends or parents who were unable to save them.

The Water Patrol and the Rescue Teams are out today reminding people of the possible dangers in the river. Laws cover boaters, but “walk-ins” are on their own.

TV stations are advising viewers to be cautious in the heat. To drink lots of fluids, stay indoors (or relatively quiet) during the hottest part of the day, take precautions if you are swimming, pay special attention to young children and the elderly. Old news to someone from Missouri, but a much needed advisory for some Pacific Northwest residents who are not used to this weather.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Start of Summer

Portlanders are all astir that the temperature might reach triple digits today. Yesterday’s high was 94 degrees (no record) and the two days together make a Heat Wave. This makes me chuckle thinking of summer in Missouri and long strings of hot days at Terrapin Station. By this time of the morning (10:00 a.m.) back there, I would be done with my chores and safely inside with the shades drawn while the outside sizzled and popped.

Solstice came and went and I barely noticed in the midst of all the busyness that is going on. It is now officially summer in the Northwest. Flowers are blooming in all the gardens and residents are flocking to the parks and rivers and trails.

It’s very pleasant here at The Hideaway with a gentle breeze and the thermometer (inside and out) at 70. As you know, I don’t have air-conditioning and I actually enjoy these warm days. It did seem the occasion (finally!) to take the electric blanket off the bed. I have been out to the yard and watered the plants, and a load of laundry is just finished. I miss being able to hang out my sheets, especially on a day like this. That wonderful fresh windblown smell.

Soon I will mix up my pitcher of raspberry tea for sipping throughout the afternoon. By four o’clock I’ll be on the couch and watching (with all of Oregon) as the OSU Beavers try to win the championship. Their miraculous winning streak ended last night, so tonight is IT. Two out of three. So many people pulling for them.

Sundays are wonderfully relaxing and this first one of the summer is no exception.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Cartography School Dropout

When I chose the University of Colorado, it was because it was one of the few places to get a degree in Cartography. Life, love, skiing, and my mother’s terminal illness conspired to cause a change in plan. I transferred back to the University of Missouri and ended up with a degree in Psychology. Road not taken.

Nevertheless, my interest in maps and charts persisted and at one time I had an astonishing collection of topographical maps of areas in Colorado, California and even Central Oregon. The “tubes” are long gone, and even my interest moved to the back burner over the last few years. Imagine my surprise to be introduced…on my recent trip to Canada and Alaska…to GPS (Global Positioning System) computer software. Even though it has been advertised and available for awhile, I was not aware of its real-time capabilities and ease of use. Wow! This is awesome! I am once again entranced and fascinated and captivated.

So I was able to track my route to Ketchikan with accurate Latitude and Longitude readings easily obtained from the handy computer screen on board the Delphinus. How good are you with meridians? As you know, all ship’s logs start with the maritime location. Here are the headings for my Canada/Alaska Journal:

05/30 Lat 48°37′N Long 123°07′W Friday Harbor
05/31 Lat 48°58′N Long 123°41′W Preedy Harbor
06/01 Lat 50°05′N Long 125°14′W Quadra Island
06/02 Lat 50°37′N Long 126°34′W Village Island
06/03 Lat 50°49′N Long 127°31′W Bell Island
06/04 Lat 52°03′N Long 128°03′W Ada Cove
06/05 Lat 53°05′N Long 128°30′W Khutze Inlet
06/06 Lat 53°33′N Long 129°34′W Lowe Inlet
06/07 Lat 54°58′N Long 130°56′W Foggy Bay
06/08 Lat 55°20′N Long 131°39′W Ketchikan

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Pied Piper(s) of Friday Harbor

In the Ferry Terminal in Anacortes, men in kilts were milling about. Being the Scottish lassie that I am, I had to speak to them and inquire if there was, perhaps, a Clan Gathering or Highland Games event going on somewhere. No…they were (still are, I guess) a Pipe and Drum Band on their way to Friday Harbor to play a Memorial Day concert in the park.

On board the sparsely populated Ferry, the lads and lassies unpacked their pipes and drums and decided to get in a little practice. The wail of the bagpipes always stirs my heart and I thought myself privileged to get this practically private performance. But suddenly all the passengers from the front of the boat came rushing to the back windows and pointing and exclaiming.

Lo and behold! A pod of Orcas was following the boat. Determinedly and purposefully it would appear, as if they were on the trail of something very important. They trailed along all the way into Friday Harbor, almost up to the boat dock. People who live in the town could not remember when, if ever, the whales had come that far into the harbor.

While the Pipe and Drum Band played in the town square (that is really a circle) and the bagpipes wheezed, the whales frolicked in the water…jumping, splashing, diving, fluking and breeching as is their wont. Almost, it seemed, doing the Highland Fling. During this astonishing display, eagles were flying over the harbor with wings spread wide, floating and gliding to the music. [They tend to follow the whales who often lead them to a food source.] As the band played the final piece, “Amazing Grace,” people in the audience were moved to tears. As soon as the music stopped, the whales headed back out to sea.

This was Day One of my journey! An incredible send-off, not to mention a one-of-a-kind event for whale-watchers. The fact that the bagpipes spoke to the Orcas is not really surprising. They have a communication system all their own that depends on high-pitched sounds. They must have enjoyed the performance judging by their exuberant behavior. Witnesses, including the whale researcher, were astounded. Certainly the tour companies that promise whale viewing might now be advised to have a piper on board.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

My Father

Clarence “Andy” Anderson
1896 - 1964

He was 68 (the age that I am now) when he died a few months after Scott was born. He never got to see his grandson. Or any of my other children. He would have loved them and they would have loved him in return. A man of remarkable skills and talents with wide-ranging interests, he taught me so much of value. I am only now realizing what gifts he gave me.

His deep-rooted concern for the earth and for protecting the world around him pre-dated the current environmental movement, and was, in fact, ahead of the curve called “conservation” even back in the forties. He knew the names of trees, and plants, and flowers, and taught these to me on our walks. He taught me to walk. I don’t mean toddle. I mean walk to enjoy all the wonders of our neighborhood. He knew the history of houses and architecture, he knew where our water came from, he knew what weather was coming from watching the clouds in the sky and the birds in flight. We walked together almost every day all through my childhood and those rambles now live in my memory as very special times.

By profession he was an engineer. By avocation he was an artist. These talents together enabled him to supplement his income by making detailed drawings to accompany patent applications. This resulted in a parade of rather strange inventors through our living room and the assembly of unidentifiable machines on the back porch. In his spare time, he “tinkered” in his workshop in the basement where he kept a short wave radio, a 24-hour GMT clock, a Morse code transmitter and an assortment of art materials for making his “illuminations.” At night he laid on his back out in the yard and watched the constellations. He read Latin and Greek and had an incredible library of classical literature. He knew all the great myths and most of the stories of the Bible. He could quote Shakespeare and often referred to Socrates and Plato.

He taught me Latin and tried to teach me Greek. I learned Morse code and the names of all the constellations and the mythology that went with them. I learned the names of most things living including trees, plants, flowers, birds, animals, bugs, fish, snakes. And things not living like rocks, mountains, machines. He taught me to read and to appreciate literature. He taught me to draw and get the perspective correct. He taught me to use a slide rule. He taught me the principle of internal combustion. And nuclear fission and fusion. He taught me to make a fire and other survival skills. He taught me to use a map and compass. He sang old Celtic ballads in Gaelic and knew the words to many Broadway shows.

After I left home for college, he walked with his beloved collie, Boss. After that dog died, he gave a home to Skipper, a Llewellyn setter, who was a staunch companion after his stroke.

No one but his close family knew that he was deaf. He lost his hearing as a small child due to an ear infection. (Pre-antibiotics.) He wore a hearing aid, read lips, and faked it. He was a ferocious advocate for the handicapped long before they had come out of the back bedroom into the public eye.

Today, I salute him, my wonderful father who made it possible for me to enjoy life the way I do. He taught me to find joy in every day, love the world I live in, and be compassionate to the other inhabitants of the earth. He was an extraordinary person whose legacy I hope to have passed on to my children.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I "Drove" Alaska’s Marine Highway!

My return trip from Ketchikan was on the ship Columbia, part of the Alaska Marine Highway System fleet that travels the Inside Passage. I was able to board early, well ahead of the 5:00 p.m. departure time, and stake out my camping space on the top deck under the Solarium (a glass roof with hanging heaters). For most people staying up there, “beds” are slatted plastic deck chairs, although a few hardy souls stretched out flat on the deck. Strategic arrangements of packs, duffels, pillows and blankets, supplemented with creative use of bungees and duct tape, marked out the individual spaces. No one touches your stuff except the ravens who have a fondness for bread products as some naïve travelers learned to their dismay.

The ship offers many amenities including a dining room, a snack bar, a 24-hour coffee bar, a movie theater (with first run movies), a lecture hall, cabins (these cost a bit!), laundry facilities, showers, and an awesome GPS system outside the purser’s office. It takes two nights and a full day to make the journey to Bellingham which allows time for visiting with other adventurers, reading, knitting, napping, and watching the beautiful natural scenery on all sides. We were visited by a pod of Orcas that entertained us for half an hour. We passed historic lighthouses (some still occupied) and small settlements nestled on the banks.

I met people from England, France, Germany, Australia and Texas. And most extraordinarily, the woman camped next to me was moving to Clinton, Missouri! (A few miles from Osceola.) There were many young backpackers as well as families with kids. Not any other “seniors” up top as that required hauling your gear up some steep stairs. My ThermaRest pad was a vital part of my bed arrangement. Could not have slept without it. My Columbia sleeping bag was toasty and my pop-up expando pillow worked very well. I was very snug and comfortable.

When I arrived in Bellingham, the train station was located right by the Ferry dock so the transfer was smooth. Only a two hour layover. The train was crowded with people on their way to the Rose Festival in Portland. And many delays due to passing freight trains that have priority on the tracks. More reading and knitting and gazing into people’s back yards in small towns along the way. Home a little later than planned. Windy and Phil met me and brought Princess and Little Buddy. Hugs all around. We all missed each other. It was good to be safe home. I realized I already live in an equally beautiful place where similar cruise ships ply the nearby waters, although there are no whales in the Columbia River.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Among My Souvenirs

In the event you are headed north to Alaska and were planning on buying some cheap, poorly crafted merchandise produced in third world countries by underpaid workers, you will be relieved to know there is now a Wal-Mart in Ketchikan! To make room for the giant footprint of this mega-store in the geographically narrow town, great hunks of the hillside had to be carved out and hauled away. As with towns in the Lower 48, local merchants bewail this development as they lose business and struggle to keep open. Other evidence of the Lower 48 can be found in the opening of a new Safeway and, of course, the ubiquitous Starbucks.

Stopping there in my travels, I marveled at the busy port. We have a working port here in Portland, and I lived near one in San Francisco for many years. But here and in The City, those are not so easily accessible, not so much a part of the town. Ketchikan’s main street is practically in the water. The steep hills put me in mind of Sausalito and I would say the traffic line of cars on the main drag is about the same as on Bridgeway. Just like home in Oregon, road repair work advances at a snail’s pace tying up access and frustrating drivers.

The main occupation in Ketchikan in June appears to be power washing the winter’s dirt and grime off every visible surface, buildings and boats. This provides full employment to that contingent of hourly workers that have a comparable crew back in Missouri mowing lawns and hauling hay. Traffic, road work, and lethal jet sprays made shopping a bit difficult.

Canada, on the other hand, has managed to avoid the encroachment of merchandise mania and tourist “improvements” and along the Inside Passage there are small towns with small local shops and galleries and museums that offer a variety of high quality, hand-crafted wares, many made by Natives. In Telegraph Cove and Alert Bay I visited several of these places, met Native artisans, and purchased small souvenirs. And to remember my trip, I invested in one art piece, a beautiful hand-carved wooden wall plaque of an eagle. Of all the wildlife I saw on my journey, eagles were the most abundant.

Whatever preconceived notions I had of Alaska, I found in British Columbia instead. Alaska itself (the part I saw) looked a lot like home and seemed caught up in tourism to the detriment of all else. Canada offered much more rustic scenery, more interesting lore, incredible wildlife, a sense of wonderment, and a chance to bring home some memorable souvenirs.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Back from the Hinterland

My trip to Canada and Alaska was awesome! Both exhilarating and exhausting, it was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It may take awhile to write about all my doings and sort out all the input from so many adventures crammed into two weeks. Be patient. You will get the whole story bit by bit.

It was good to get home and sleep in my own bed. Although I will say my investment in a ThermaRest pad made sleep on the trip very comfortable. Also felt good to take a hot shower with unlimited hot water. And need I say how much I appreciate the city sewer system! I missed the dogs a lot and their warm, wet kisses of welcome were happily received. Not to mention Lenny’s purrs into my ear the first morning back.

Windy kept the home front going and I came home to a clean house, tended yard, watered plants, neatly stacked newspapers, magazines and mail. Food in the fridge as well. Certainly made my travel worry-free. The dogs and Lenny were delighted to be spared the boarding kennel.

I’m back at work with Friends of the Columbia Gorge for another three weeks before I leave for Colorado and Andy’s wedding. Lots to do in that regard. And getting the final details taken care of for The Book which should go to the printer soon. Plus working in a trip to the dentist and the eye doctor and buying a dress for the big event are filling up the calendar.

Mostly I came back from the trip realizing how blessed I am. With health and the ability to make the rather physically demanding wilderness venture. With a wonderful family that missed me and was on hand to greet me on my return. With a job to earn the money to pay for all this. With a joyous event coming up to add Laura to our family. With another exciting trip in the offing. With healthy happy pets. With the publication of my first book. With a cozy home in one of the most beautiful spots on earth.

As I approach my 69th birthday I can truly say life has never been better. I am grateful.