Sunday, September 24, 2006

This Weekend's Teen Milestones

Last night, I let Ron take my car to return several movies. At a busy intersection (Coldwater and Dupont), he came to a full stop and then turned right on red, judging that he had sufficient time to make the turn. Unfortunately, the car with the green light was speeding and, even more unfortunately, it was an unmarked police car. The lights went on and he was pulled over for the first time. No accident. No ticket. Just an "Are you in a hurry?"

This morning, I asked Ricky to warm up the car before church while I finished dressing. He came in a few minutes later to report that somehow the left rear brakelight and lens were broken. I went outside and found the car wedged up against the farm tractor. He decided to turn the car around while it was warming up and the tractor was parked in our usual turn-around spot.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In the spring of 2005, I planted five Blushing Pink Knockout roses to edge the flower bed by the front walk. I was underwhelmed by them last year, too few blooms and scrawny bushes. But they were only settling in for this year's show. They have been beautiful all season, setting off the white columbine in spring, the blue salvia and yellow lillums in the summer and now picking up the color of the dusty rose sedum. Most of the blooms are breathtakingly beautiful; however, to be fully truthful, I included a second picture.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hidden Motives of Mothers (Teenage Version)

When I dropped Ron off at high school this morning, I pulled past the door so other cars could queue behind me. At least, I thought that was my reasoning. Apparently, I had a hidden motive.

"Geesh, Mom, why did you pull up so far, just to irritate me?" Door slam.

"I love you, too, son and have a great day," I responded to the empty seat.

He's in Day 2 of his graduate qualifying exam. Think he's stressed?

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Plague of Frogs

The fall lesson plan for our second grade Sunday School class is the story of Moses. Several weeks ago, I tried to turn my 6' aspen walking stick into a snake. My husband cut the staff for me 18 years ago for our first hike and it has been well traveled and well used, but failed miserably as a snake.

Yesterday was the story of the plagues. We focused primarily on the plague of frogs, rather than the death of the first born son. We hopped around the room and made origami hopping frogs. We chanted, "Pharaoh, Pharaoh. Let my people go" and sang songs. I had fun and so did the children.
I am a naturalist and enjoy studying frogs. We've created several frog habitats (on purpose and by accident). The frog plague seems more innocuous than boils. Until...

I screamed in frightened surprise as a large frog hopped by me in the bathroom yesterday.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


What a sweet delight it was to spend a week with my father's sister. Aunt Katherine will be 90 in several months, but that is not her defining factor. She is smart, funny, active, fun-loving, and ready for adventure.

After several days in Bend (central Oregon), we took off for the coast to visit places she loved but thought she would never have a chance to visit again. We headed straight through Salem and hit the three capes area just south of Tillamook. After playing on the beach, we checked in and headed for a dinner of dungeness crab in Garibaldi, overlooking the ocean. It just so happened that the young man she was in love with during college ended his career as principal in Garibaldi High School, thus starting the recounting of her love life over the next few days.

She went to college in the middle of the depression and what a different experience that was: her folks sending her $5 a month to help her out, boarding in a private home with two other students, cleaning to earn book money. These years also started her down the road as a Democrat, in that FDR had a program to educate bright young people as part of the New Deal. I had never heard about that program, but the country recouped its investment in Aunt Katherine as she spent her life teaching high school English and Social Studies with a long stint on the school board.

The next morning, after making a trip to the Blue Heron Cheese Company, we went to Ecola State Park, after struggling through the upscale tourist trap of Cannon Beach. The flowers in this town were gorgeous, worthy of the reputation of the northwest as an ideal gardening location. Ecola mean whale and was part of the Lewis and Clark adventures. We spent most of the day at the park, before heading north to Astoria. We crossed the Columbia River on the
original "Bridge to Nowhere," shocking both of us with a dizzying rollercoaster sensation as we plunged straight down to the water at 55 mph on a two lane road with cars passing us. See how the bridge is high on one end to let ships under it and is at river level the rest of the way.

It was shocking the immediate change in the coastline, from sandy beaches and huge rock formations, to gentle shores and islands covered in evergreens. It was almost like a caricature of my vision of Washington State. But after that bridge crossing, we decided to search out some coffee. I could only find a drive-through espresso hut, which didn't have fresh coffee, I asked Aunt Katherine if she wanted a latte. That was her introduction to mocha lattes, "I've never had coffee ever give me this type of jolt," and she asked that we find a mocha latte the next day in Hood River!

We crossed the Columbia that evening on the Puget Island ferry, which brought back poignant memories for Aunt Katherine of arranging to have the ferry there at 2 a.m. to return home with Uncle Buck and his band after playing for the dances in the small towns in Washington. When she met Uncle Buck, she was teaching at Clatskanie, the new high school teacher in a small logging town. The other teacher was also the principal and she boarded at his house. His wife took care of screening all the young bucks coming round to woo the new schoolteacher. She was asked to a dance, and she checked if it was OK, in that her last school would have fired her for going to a town dance. This town was different. If she didn't go and fill her dance card, they would consider her haughty. Uncle Buck was a musician and one of the best dancers, and stole her heart.

The next morning we started down the Columbia River Gorge. But now I have to start dinner so the story about my grandmother homesteading on the Columbia River will have to wait for another day.

Aunt Katherine enjoying our picnic lunch of Oregon Brie on bagels. Isn't she beautiful?  Posted by Picasa

Riding Jester, one of my cousin's mules, at sunset at Tumalo Reservoir. This is the edge of the high desert, with the mountains behind me. Rob was keeping a close eye out (what an odd expression) for cougars who had been spotted here recently. Posted by Picasa

Looking south from Ecola Park, Oregon. The last time Aunt Katherine had been here was in the early 40s, when she brought her high school class here for an end of the year field trip. She said it was as beautiful as she remembered. Posted by Picasa

Ecola Park, northern coast of Oregon Posted by Picasa

This sure looks like an emerging skunk cabbage, but it's not March. The quarter is there for size. Click on it to get an idea of the oozy ground. Posted by Picasa

We are still trying to ID this unknown plant. The flowers are about 1/2 inch wide and the plant came to my chin so it's about 5 feet tall. Note the fuzzy purple buds and stems which should be a clue to its identification. The leaves were alternative. Posted by Picasa

There were also stands of white turtle's head. We have pink turtle's head at the site. I don't know which one is rarer. Posted by Picasa

The bog was filled with blue lobelia, some over five feet tall. Posted by Picasa

Woods and Swamps and Bogs

Yesterday I went swamp stomping. It was drizzly, cold and gray as I drove to work, trying to decide whether I should tackle a huge project (rennovating a large bed) or several small tasks (collecting seeds, deadheading). When I arrived, Ed (long time friend, now my boss) asked if I wanted to go with him to scout out a nearby swamp for a high school field trip on Friday. I grabbed my waders and camera and had such a great time. I love swamps! What these pictures cannot capture is the buzz of insects, "the place that smells of sweetness and rot," the hummocks hidden by the tall vegetation that make walking difficult and falling easy, the humidity that soaks my clothes and leaves me wiping stinging sweat from my eyes and pushing back damp curly locks, and the black "sucky" ground that reminds me that there is quicksand in the area. To enjoy a swamp, you need to adopt an advertureous mindset, actively searching for the beauty.

We walked through hardwoods and then pine woods, working our way down the ravines, first to a true swamp (defined as having running water) and then into a quaking bog (which Ed demonstrated by jumping up and down which rocked me five feet away). The bog was covered with tall wildflowers. We were in search of fringed gentian, grass of parnassus and pitcher plants but it is too early for their blooms and we didn't find the right conditions. That means we must go back soon.