Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon

Such a fitting way to say good-bye to the Oughts and Welcome 2K10. Tonight’s full moon will be the second full moon during this month of December. This is a rare event and worth going outside to view. Except of course if you live in Portland where it is pouring down rain (surprise!) and it won’t be visible.

2009 has not been a particularly good year for some of us. My stroke in June, Windy’s decision to end her marriage, the loss of Andy’s treasured pet. But it has had a few good spots like our family camping trip and our Solstice celebration, and now that it is ending, we are all hopeful that Ten will bring days of joy and happiness.

At this point in my life, there is no point in wasting time looking in the rearview mirror. Tonight we’ll put up the new calendars and wait for the ball to drop at Times Square. Ember will bang on the dented pot her mother banged on years ago. Windy & Ember will spend the night. Scott is coming for dinner. Phil & Debbi will celebrate at home, and Andy and Laura may be able to see the Blue Moon in Arizona where they are visiting Laura’s parents.

Wherever you are, sing a verse of “I see the moon, the moon sees me” and think of us. Happy New Year to all.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Is It Still the Holidays?

Some of my neighbors take the outdoor Christmas lights down the day after Christmas and many trees will be out in the trash tomorrow. Others leave the lights up until Easter causing some kind of seasonal disconnect. Somewhere in between fall the Twelve Days of Christmas. These were the days my parents considered The Holidays. They put the tree up on Christmas Eve after I went to bed and I first glimpsed it on Christmas morning when I came out to see if Santa came.

We kept the tree and decorations up until January 6th, Epiphany. Then the church would have a service and a giant bonfire and all the trees burning would light up the sky. This year my little artificial sparkling tree (on the hutch out of reach of Skye and Ember) was up early as we had a Solstice Celebration on the 20th. It will stay up another ten days. I have no plans to burn it. But I will continue to turn on the holiday lights until the 6th.

So yes…it is still the holidays for me. The mail this week will bring cards and gifts from friends who can’t seem to get their act together before the 25th and who shopped and mailed late. Midwest weather may have interfered with postal competence. Or maybe I won’t hear from them this year. It seems more and more people are cutting back on this simple gesture. A few cents postage seems a small cost for preserving friendships. The once a year greeting is so welcome and I am always glad to read the newsletters that some send. But some people are “too busy” or “overwhelmed” by the massive merchandising onslaught to keep in touch. Or I have fallen off the “A List.” In any event, I continue with my own rituals and I am still enjoying The Holidays.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In Memoriam

Squeaker Louise Anderson
March 1987 - December 24, 2000
My special kitty.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Lights of Tiffin

Way down home…in the depths of West Central Missouri…there is the tiny town of Tiffin. It’s located on Highway 82 west of Highway 13 (the road to Branson) about halfway to El Dorado Springs. In other seasons, you might zip right through and not even notice a town was there. But should you drive by in December you will be astounded. Every building in the town is brightly decorated with Christmas lights. All the houses…but also stores, storage buildings, barns, sheds, even outhouses. You can literally see it from a mile away and it lingers in your rearview mirror for quite awhile after you pass through.

When I lived in Osceola, my friends and I would drive that road on our way to the Christmas Party at the Nature Conservancy Preserve. Even in the worst weather Missouri can produce, it was worth the trip just to see the Lights of Tiffin. I never met anyone who actually lived there, but mentioning it in a conversation will often reveal someone who has down home roots in that part of Missouri. “Oh yes,” they will say. “I’ve seen the Lights of Tiffin.”

That winter drive through the elements, warm and toasty in my friends’ car, remains one of my treasured memories of my life there.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice on December 21st at 09:47 PST marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. As the Earth tilts toward the light, spend some time in silence to meditate on the past, honor the present, and look to the future.

Here at The Hideaway we celebrated together yesterday. We clicked on the party lights, put on some Celtic music, lit scented candles & incense, and enjoyed the quiet pleasure of peacefulness and togetherness.

Each of you is a special part of my network of wonderful friends. At this holiday, I wish you all joy and happiness. And I send best wishes for a Wonderful New Year. Please keep in touch and let me know how your lives are going.

Pax vobiscum …

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lives Lost

Today I remember my friends and climbing partners, Sandy Miller and Kathryn “Tap” Rees, who died in a mountaineering accident on the Little Matterhorn in Rocky Mountain National Park on July 31, 1953. We were a party of eight women. We had spent the summer climbing the “high peaks” in the Park and felt ourselves experienced and well-trained.

My friend Tap was directly in front of me. We were, perhaps, hurrying a bit to get to the summit before a storm closed in. Suddenly Tap slipped while we were crossing a steep field of scree (talus) and tumbled 150 feet to the bottom of the slope. The two co-leaders, Joan and Gretchen, determined she had died instantly.

They decided the slope was unstable and the rest of the climbers would remain in place under Joan’s direction while Gretchen and the strongest climber, Sandy Miller, would hike out for rescue help. Gretchen later stated that on the way down she and Sandy disagreed about the route to the trailhead, and they separated. Gretchen made it to the ranger station. Sandy slipped on a snow slope and tumbled to her death.

Five of us huddled on the mountain as the storm came in and drenched us. The rocks became even more slippery as they got wet and no one wanted to rope up as we were afraid of being pulled down if one of us fell. When a team of rescuers finally arrived, it took us five hours to descend and we traveled the last stretch in the dark. When we arrived at the ranger station, we learned that Sandy was lost in the wilderness. We called our families and then ate a meal in silence. We wanted to wait for the Search and Rescue climbers to return with Tap’s body and news of Sandy, but they were unable to carry out the recovery due to darkness and weather. They did not find Sandy’s body for two days.

Having risked my own life, and having lost two close friends, I can better understand the story that has unfolded on Mt. Hood this past week.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Late Afternoon Nap

Waking up groggy and drenched in sleep. Outside bare tree branches are barely visible against the darkening sky. Too early for the neighbors to be home from work to turn on their lights. It looks like a scene from a “day after” movie. This is when I usually walk the dogs but the rain is heavy and blowing sideways and Buddy did not want to go out. Me either.

Last night I went to Powell’s and blew the gift card I got for my birthday last summer. The store is not easy to get to downtown and somehow I just didn’t get there all through the fall. I took the #12 most of the way and Scott met me at the bus stop. We spent some quality time in the store browsing and choosing and re-choosing our purchases. Now I have a stack of books on my coffee table and I am looking forward to some good reading over the holidays.

Afterward we had a fantastic dinner at Salty’s restaurant on the river. The point was to see the decorated Christmas Ships glide by, but the weather put the kibosh on that. Still it was a very pleasant evening with good food and good company. Scott’s treat as a Christmas gift.

Tonight’s plan to drive around and see the beautifully decorated homes on Peacock Lane has been cancelled due to weather. Weather, weather, weather. The Search and Rescue party is still on The Mountain but will soon have to call it off again for the 5th day. I am so glad to be warm and dry and cozy in my home with my pets soundly sleeping and holiday music playing on the radio. I have a few decorations up…lights and my tiny tree. Cards displayed on the hutch. The Nativity Scene from my childhood is waiting to be unpacked. This year Ember will put the Baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas Eve.

It’s a peaceful day with much to be grateful for.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Human Sacrifice

It is almost a pagan ritual this taking of human life by The Mountain. Only three years ago Mt. Hood took the lives of three climbers, and today…of the latest trio that started out last Friday…one is found dead and two are missing and possibly injured. Theories abound. One member of the deceased climber’s family believes there was an earlier accident up above 9,000 feet and that Luke, the most accomplished mountaineer, was on the way down to get help. He died of hypothermia with no sign of fall or injury. Some equipment belonging to the lone woman climber including an undamaged climbing harness was found near his body. It is customary, in an emergency, for the runner sent for help to mark his trail by dropping pieces of equipment along the way. In this case, nothing was found at higher elevations.

Searchers on the ground and in the air have found no sign of the missing members of the team. No scattered equipment, no climbing rope, no ice axes, no footprints, no excavation that might indicate a snow cave. Nothing. It is like the climbers vanished into thin air. Danger of avalanche and the current whiteout conditions have stalled the effort which is still being called a “Search & Rescue” mission. After four nights on the mountain in the most debilitating conditions, it is doubtful anyone could survive. Soon it will be called “Search & Recover.” The families wait at Timberline Lodge along with the media.

Here is what you need to know. These climbers were apparently “purists” and did not carry a mountain locator beacon. Such a device would have provided assistance to the search team and aided in pinpointing the search area. This is a hot topic, controversial among the climbing community, and the benefits/risks are subject to debate.

Here is what Portland Mountain Rescue has to say “Though locating beacons (MLUs) can potentially make searching for lost or overdue climbers less difficult and result in a faster rescue, we strongly oppose mandating that beacons be carried because of potential unintended consequences. Contrary to what might seem common sense, we believe that mandating beacons actually increases risks for both climbers and the rescuers.”

It has been documented that people engaging in potentially dangerous sports exercise less caution if they believe that they will be rescued or that their equipment will “save them.” Those who disdain the safety net available to them, voluntarily take the risk inherent in their actions.

What do you think? Should MLUs be mandated by law? Would you carry one?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Uh…it’s like…you know…really, really irritating when people pepper their speech with these really, really annoying phrases that mean nothing and simply take up space. Obviously none of them had a Speech teacher like Miss Breen. A failed actress that somehow ended up teaching a bunch of reluctant teenagers at a high school in Kansas City. She would not put up with such nonsense and she would call you on it every time until pretty soon you would just not want to open your mouth ever again. She taught us Public Speaking and Debate and she was one of my earliest experiences in striving for excellence.

Even though I would not have admitted it then, I loved her classes. I learned to get up and stand up straight and speak to a group and organize my thoughts and not use those dreaded “fillers” I mentioned above. And debate…ah debate. I was born to debate. I absolutely loved being the Devil’s Advocate.

My training in her classes stood me in good stead. To this day, I am often recruited to testify at hearings. I can get right up and say what I mean and mean what I say, and I can tailor my remarks to the allotted two or three minutes down to the second. So Miss Breen…wherever you are…I am glad you did not live to see this day of instant messages and abbreviated texting and news reporters who were never lucky enough to have a teacher like you. Here’s a belated thank you from a former student.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Remember Pearl Harbor

I was four years old on December 7th, 1941 but I remember the day very clearly. It was a Sunday and my father had taken me to the park as he always did on that day of the week. I had a green hoop I liked to roll on the vast expanse of grass in Gilham Park. But on that particular day there was something extra, something special. Santa Claus came by on the streetcar that ran along the top of the hill, and good little boys and girls waited at the stop to tell him their wish for a Christmas present. We had been out in the cold for some time before the trolley came, and by the time we headed home we were both cold and looking forward to a cup of hot cocoa.

When we walked in the door of the apartment building, my mother was standing on the landing. Dressed in her Sunday navy blue polka-dot dress and pearls, she had her hand to her throat and a horrified look on her face. “Oh Clarence,” she said. “They have bombed Pearl Harbor.” My father bounded up the stairs and into the apartment where Mother had the radio on and chairs pulled up close beside it. They sat there in silence listening with rapt attention to the news that the country was at war.

To me it meant only that the hot cocoa was forgotten and that I had to be very quiet and not disturb them. I sat on the Oriental rug at their feet, coloring and hearing the voice of Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking to the nation. The phone rang and it was my sister calling from KU in Lawrence. She had found a ride and she was coming home to be with us at this time of tragedy.

All these years later, that day lingers in my mind. The cold winter chill of our outing, the smell of pot roast cooking in the kitchen, the rasp of Roosevelt’s voice, the color green of the sweater my sister wore. I still have my mother’s pearls. And a copy of the Kansas City Star my father saved from December 8th, 1941.

On December 8th, we listened to the radio and heard the President give his now famous speech that began, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

“A date that will live in infamy.” And in my memory. Remember Pearl Harbor.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Freezing Fog

Well…I can’t see the neighbor’s ugly house this morning. Freezing fog has wrapped my place and blotted out all views. The streets are sheets of ice and thankfully it is a Saturday so folks are not having to take off early to get to work. Buddy skidded off the back steps as he went out and I was careful to hold on to the banister as I went for the paper. The weatherperson on TV says an Arctic Blast is on the way and we may have snow flurries tomorrow. This is Oregon where the weather is NEWS.

Last year I knit a pair of socks in the week I was confined to quarters by the severe weather. I am ready this year with yarn on hand to finish making Christmas gifts. I will be grateful for the extra time to knit and read. Next week is a busy time with Holiday events. It will be a shame to miss any of them but I don’t drive in bad weather despite having a four-wheel drive.

Today is Ember Louise Fay Roth’s second birthday and there will be a party for just family. No repeat of last year when 20+ people squeezed into Windy’s house. I bought Em a computer! She loves to play with mine and her favorite pastime is checking out You Tube. Her own setup will have learning software instead. So HAPPY BIRTHDAY little sweetheart.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Grey December Day

The sky is an ugly gunmetal grey and the sun has already disappeared behind the hill. The afternoon is waning fast. These December days as we move toward Solstice are short and mostly dreary although the sun makes a cursory appearance around mid-afternoon just before it sets.
I walked the dogs early today so we are already in for the night. I have a good book to read and an unending shawl to knit. I might even finish the crossword!

The tenacious maple leaves have finally descended and they are all piled up along my fence. The blustery East Wind helped strip the tree and my neighbor’s leaf blower finished the job. Now there are only bare branches and an un impeded view of things I don’t really want to see like my neighbor’s puke-pink house.

Earlier today I finished the Solstice edition of Vibes, my Christmas newsletter of sorts. It was up on The Ridge fifteen years ago in 1994 that I started writing Vibes. I was living off the grid so it was handwritten. It used to be mailed out to friends quarterly or sometimes monthly. In the old days before the Internet, it was often thick with copies of interesting articles I had clipped from newspapers or magazines. Now everybody can read all that stuff online.Recently, Vibes has been down to once a year. But it’s ready to go along with a photo of my adorable grandchildren. I’ve already stood in line at the post office to get stamps so pretty simple this year.

Time for my afternoon pot of coffee (don’t worry…it’s decaf) and the late afternoon news.