Monday, July 31, 2006


The fifty foot high Ponderosa pine in the backyard has expired. The needles are brown and falling, and stunted pine cones still dangle at the tips of branches. We are sad to see it go as it provided shade and marked our property. But it must be cut down and today is the day.

A local tree service of good repute will come with saws and ropes and come-alongs and a chipper and prune the limbs and then fell the trunk of the noble old tree. Hard to tell the age although we may be able to count the rings on the stump that will be left. When they are done, a pile of firewood will be left and various neighbors with wood stoves can help themselves.

It will leave a gaping hole but we have no plans to plant another tree. We only rent this land and we would have to leave behind anything we put in the ground. A big pot or wooden tub with flowers of bright colors will sit on the stump.

The dogs are confused wondering what happened to their play space and not understanding it will be restored as soon as the work is done. I am waiting for the arrival of the loggers and using the time to continue reading John Adams.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Can You Read This?

Every time I read the proofs for my book I find another typo. Or inconsistencies. Or awkward phrases and grammatical errors. Finally...I felt I had found every error and off it went to the printer. Of course, immediately after, I found one last error. I am, however, reassured by the Cambridge study that found people can actually understand some pretty convoluted spelling. See below.

O lny srmat poelpe can raed tihs.

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy.

It deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm.

Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? And I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

My Summer Book Report

Two hundred pages into John Adams and I am still plowing along. I will mention that it is a fair substitute for Ambien or any other sleep medication, as I have dozed off repeatedly as I read. However, I have not set it aside. Partly, I am sure, because of the intense heat wave that has kept me nailed to the couch and needing diversion. But I am finding the author to be a convincing writer, and, despite the back and forth date line, it is not that hard to follow to understand the sequence of events at that fateful time in history.

Some of the names and places sound familiar and I find myself wishing I had paid more attention to Miss Guyer, my American History teacher at Southwest High School fifty years ago. She would have loved this book as she loved historical biographies! I still have a picture of her in my mind, wild white hair flying about her face as she waxed on and on about Carl Sandburg’s Lincoln. And I do remember reading that thick volume during a hot springtime in Kansas City as I approached my graduation. I think I still have it somewhere among the books in storage.

One surprise as I started this book was discovering I was wrong in thinking I had started it once before and put it down from boredom. The book that left me cold was not John Adams, but 1776 by the same author. I think I will skip that one. On the other hand, since I have great affection for the thirty-third President, I might embark on reading McCullough’s Truman when I feel the need of another heavy tome in my hand. It also won a Pulitzer Prize.

The Oregonian’s recommended read for August is Ivan Doig’s This House of Sky, one of my all-time favorites and already read and re-read. That frees me up to finish this undertaking before the September 7th deadline. As always, I like to know what friends are reading and welcome their suggestions for my never-ending list.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Havin' A Heat Wave

We are all stretched out, limp as rags, waiting out the heat of the afternoon. The dogs are full length in their spots on the carpet and Lenny is along the crack in the door like a draft catcher. I’ve just napped on the couch for the better part of the last hour and I’m still in a bit of a stupor. The thermometer has climbed from the 70s before sunrise through the 80s and into the 90s and may not stop until triple digits are reached again.

Day Five of the Heat Wave that has descended upon Portland. Word comes from friends all around the country that temps are high everywhere, and no hope of relief. I have written so many times of my ways of coping. Shades drawn, fans going full blast, minimal activities, loose clothes, iced tea, a good book, and nap time.

With all that, the place was an inferno last night. A virtual blast furnace inside, but I did find surcease on the front porch where a cool breeze had come up. A late night ice-cream run took some of the edge off. But at bedtime, it was still too hot to put the dogs in their crates. They were not happy on the deck, feeling the need to bark at every tiny sound or motion outside. They ended up on Windy’s bed with the fan blowing straight on them.

There seem more sirens than usual. Emergencies like drownings, heat stroke, kids/pets left in cars in parking lots, road rage. In several parts of town, the power is out and those used to counting on air conditioning are suffering. At one Baskins-Robbins, the ice-cream all melted when the power went off. A huge sea of flavors swirling on the floor.

My plans to attend a picnic this evening are cancelled. I am home and quiet and wondering if we will see a shift tomorrow. This was to be a busy week with friends coming. Not the best time to show off Portland. Hopefully wherever you are reading this, it is cool and pleasant. Stay safe.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wedding Album

Windy was the official photographer and you can see many of her photos on her Blog at


Due to the nationwide heat wave and the failure of the telecommunications industry to prepare for such an event, power failures have caused the verizon/yahoo server to go down. E-mails to are not getting through and I cannot send out any messages. The error blurb from Verizon said "Try back sometime." Tra la.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Incremental Reading

The Book Club reminder phone call came in a couple of days ago. The non-fiction selection for the September 7th meeting will be David McCullough’s John Adams. The copies were in at the Library and ready to be picked up.

So now I have mine and it is sitting on the coffee table in all its mighty glory. Even in paperback, it is hefty. This book won the Pulitzer Prize and has received high praise from all quarters. This is, in fact, just what I like for my Summer Reading Project. Something big and sprawling and full of all manner of characters. Normally, I would find that in fiction so this will be a bit of a change.

Six hundred thirty four pages to read. And 48 days to do it. That’s only 13-14 pages a day which is not exactly overwhelming. Of course, I could read 20 or even 30, and finish it more quickly. Always a possible. But I like to space it out.

I remember the summer of my 51st birthday when I finally got around to reading War and Peace. That year my friend Ann and I were going to read the classics we had missed. We started with The Red Badge of Courage, and then Tolstoy was our next choice. I remember I tried to read 50 pages every evening before I went to sleep. I did finish it and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed a book about war.

To be honest, the Revolutionary period of American history has not been a favorite of mine up to now. I do think I read a fictionalized version of the love story between John and Abigail back in my youth. I am counting on McCullough’s talented writing to make this enthralling and captivating.

I’ll start it today as I laze about avoiding doing much in the triple digit heat. As I said one year ago in the opening lines of Down Home Musings… “For keeping cool, nothing beats kicking back on the front porch on a July day with a good book and a glass of iced tea.”

Osceola or Wood Village…the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Walk A Mile In My Shoes

Make that more than 700 miles. That’s how far Princess and I have traveled on our daily walks over the past two years. On July 12, 2004, I started on a Lifestyle Improvement Plan that included healthy eating and walking one mile a day. I’ve really gotten used to my modified diet of fresh, non-processed food and as a result I have plenty of energy to enjoy my life. And each day, rain or shine, snow or triple digits, I’ve gone for my exercise walk. Except for the few trips (Reunion, Alaska, and Colorado) when I was away, Princess has gone with me.

Together we have walked over 700 miles. That’s an impressive figure and only the day before yesterday did my sneakers come unglued. Literally. One sole flapping as I headed down the hill to the house. A trip to the Shoe Repair Shop has put it to rights and tonight we will be back in business. Summertime I go in the evening after the sun goes down.

That brings me to the heat wave which is not happening here. Only 58 degrees this morning when I went out for the paper. The news last night had reports of very hot temps everywhere else and we will likely not escape. It is just delayed a bit and won’t hit till the weekend. In anticipation, I cleaned the house. A lesson I learned in Missouri…it is easier to feel cool in a dust-free, uncluttered space.

My Midwest experience stands me in good stead for a heat wave, but Portlanders are in a dither. I shake my head at how many people think they need to get out in it, wearing skimpy clothes and taking risks in the local waters. There have been TWENTY-NINE water deaths in this area since May 1st. People just don’t get it.

According to the local paper, many of the people flocking to the rivers are young people or blue collar folks or immigrants, many of whom do not have Anglo last names. These are people who live on the “East Side” (wrong side of the river), who don’t have air-conditioning. And may not have English language reading skills to understand the posted warnings. Or in the case of teens, are looking for a cool (in both ways) place to party. Many of these fatalities have been in the Sandy River where, in the off season, I hike with Princess and where she likes to swim. We stay away during these high use months and won’t return until October or November.

My way of coping with hot days involves staying inside with minimal moving about and plenty of fluids. I take my walk early in the morning or late in the evening before/after the sun beats down. Light meals or smoothies, no cooking to heat up the kitchen. All the fans are in place and I still have the books I bought for my vacation trips waiting to be read. Plenty of my raspberry iced tea on hand. The yard is under control so not too much outside work except watering. Plus, there will be great golf on TV (the British Open described in Musings in “The Claret Jug”).

So bring it on. Just the excuse I need to kick back and be lazy.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Men In Skirts

Today was the Portland Scottish Highland Games and I went to celebrate my heritage. I was disappointed that the Clan MacLeod was not represented in the parade or with a clan tent. Not a bright yellow plaid tartan to be seen. I would have thought Portland would have had some proud Islander Highlanders at this big celebration.

Pipe Bands, Highland Dancing, and the Caber Toss were the most popular entertainments. There were Border Collies sheep herding demonstrations and classes on genealogy. Celtic music on the small stage (hard to find). And vendors of all manner of items from kilts to key chains. Scots are not vegetarians so my food choices were limited to scones at the British Tea Society tent, ice-cream and sodas. No haggis, or meat pies, or fish and chips for me. The weather was perfect. The Games drew a large crowd.

I left before the main event for the evening, the Ceilidh (pronounced "kay-lee"), a Scottish party. Home to feed the dogs and kick back for a relaxing summer Saturday evening.

Friday, July 14, 2006

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

Recognize that first line? Who among you readers know that today is Bastille Day? My friend Larry, I'm sure. Who else? It's not a day to remark upon in this country, but it is important in history as well as in literature.

In case you slept through Western Civ, on July 14, 1789, the storming of the Bastille was the beginning of the French Revolution. Charles Dickens used that time in French history as the setting for A Tale of Two Cities. That was my first encounter with great literature as a freshman in Mrs. Flory's English class at Southwest High School. I was 13 and way past Nancy Drew, but mostly reading stories of pioneers and Book of the Month Club novels.

I still remember when the books were passed out and we were assigned to read the first two chapters. A total of eight pages! I read 100 pages the first night and finished it over the weekend. It is still one of my favorite books and I just pulled it off the shelf to thumb through. I usually write in the front of books with the date and, if a gift, who gave it to me. This particular volume was a gift from my son Scott on my 50th birthday in August 1987.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Joyous Day

Laura Kay Duffy
Andrew Carl Graham
were united in marriage
on July 7, 2006
in Hastings Mesa, Colorado
in the presence of their families.
This was a joyous day and
I wish them a lifetime of happiness.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Leaving for the Wedding

This is it. The time has arrived. It seemed so far away last November when Andy and Laura announced their engagement just after I arrived in Portland. Now I have been here eight months and suddenly the wedding date is next week.

On Friday, July 7, 2006 Laura Kay Duffy and Andy Carl Graham will be joined in marriage in Hastings Mesa, Colorado. I hope you will all join with me in wishing them a wonderful life together.

Her family will be coming from Arizona and the East Coast and Andy's brothers and sister and I are going from here. The kids are all driving but I am taking the train.

There will be a temporary break in postings on the Blog. Please come back on July 12th for more news. There will be photos on Windy's Blog as well.