Sunday, July 31, 2016

National Involvement

I would like to think that all Americans are considering their role in the future of America.  I would like to think that they are taking their role seriously considering not only what candidates they like, or who they understand the persons are, but what one might expect might happen in the future under each option.  I would like to think that everyone is looking at the big picture, how we can make life better for persons in America and around the world.  I would like to think that we are thinking about what an ideal country.

I would hope that everyone I meet feels good about themselves and where they live - everyone.  About their next meal and the one after that, about a warm shelter, about their neighbors and security, about their health and its care, about how they believe.  I would hope that honesty abounds and deception is gone.

Believe it or not I remember Adlai Stevenson and Ike at the conventions in the 50's, and many more conventions since then.  Certainly this election cycle is different.  I am so grateful for what each candidate brings to the election process - Trump for exciting the people to get out and play a role in selecting a president, Bernie for pushing processes beyond our imagination and questioning the status quo, and Hillary for bringing decades of experience and breaking the glass ceiling.  I so regret what each brining to the process - Trump for appearing dark and negative, Bernie for going beyond reality and Hillary for bringing decades of negativity.

I suspect that when I get to voting in late October (Oregon votes by mail-in only and ballots come out early) I will be voting for Katianne who is concerned about the services that her blind-deaf parents will lose under one option.  I will be voting for Francisco who died last month after fighting for his life with the aid of the free clinic.  I will be voting for Maria who lost her job, and then her home, making her and her young daughters homeless.  I will be voting for LuAnne, an admission counselor at WOU, whose parents may be sent back to Mexico.  I will be Drew who may have to leave college and look for an entry level job.  I will be voting for Kendall whose wages doesn't give him enough to support his family.  I will be voting for WOU student (I forget her name) whose brother was killed in a mass shooting.  I will be voting for Sgt Issenger who was one of the first to die in Iraq.  I will be voting for Laura, Jary, and many others whose lives may be affected in a major way.  I will be voting for Heba who is afraid to walk down the streets because of her clothing and Francis because of the color of his skin.

Even more importantly I will be for months before the election praying for peace, civility and reasonable dialogue regarding our future.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Hot Harvest Day

I remember as a youngster reading a single paragraph filler at the end of a story in Reader's Digest that told of a king who was asked if he was happy.  He answered that he could count about five.  I vowed at that time that I would have more than five, in fact I planned to be happy every day.  Not every day has been a "happy" throughout my life but I think that in recent years, essentially every day is a "happy."

Today was an exceptionally "happy" despite the terrible uncomfortable heat and that the electricity was out for several hours this afternoon.  Both Gail and I were home all day.  We worked in the garden this morning before the sun baked the day.  We picked beans, primarily bush beans - the pole beans are not ready, picked peas and pulled the plants and harvested a couple heads of broccoli.  I also mowed the area and set a rigid schedule of watering from the spring.

The beans will continue to produce for weeks into the future.  The peas were past their prime and the harvested peas were overly ripe and many were given to the chickens as they were dry and hard.  The broccoli plants are such but have in many cases already produced a primary head so we're just waiting for secondary heads.  We'll have to wait and see.

This evening after the temperature have ebbed, we blanched the vegetables and froze them.  We will have veggies from the garden at least in a few meals this year.  Tomorrow the temperatures should peak near 80˚ instead of today's 98˚F.  Some pruning of bushes is becoming more important for the next weeks.  For now we're ending another very happy day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Trees

There's a breeze this morning.  Temperatures are near perfect and sunny.  Forecast will take things into the 90's over the weekend, the first time this month.  Can't say that it's been cooler than normal and it certainly hasn't been hot either.  Since no rain; that's normal.

The plants are just hanging out, no great changes.  Fruits of pears, apples, grapes and wild blackberries are just filling out before ripening.  They say the first peaches have past harvesting and the next batch is yet to come.

Lawns are not growing except for the false dandelions.  There's no reason to mow except for pride, to be proud of the yard before the neighbors and visitors.  The water from the spring is running well and I have to move it location several times a day.  The pond has refilled even with no rain so the spring in the hillside must be producing better that usual.

This year I'm filling a 55-gallon barrel with water, putting it in the scoop of the tractor and watering the trees in the lower field.  It's a sad story but it's still moving forward.  I planted about 90 saplings, mostly from under the tree I think is a California Red Fir and a few that have volunteered around the yard in inappropriate places.  There a larch, a hemlock, a Douglas fir and a couple others.  The sad part is that only about 25 are still alive.  Perhaps they need more water more frequently.  Perhaps transplant shock was too strong.  Whatever, there are more to transplant but I'll wait until fall when the rains return and I will water more diligently.

While I was watering the trees yesterday I looked up and there were some wild turkeys in the labyrinth; four hens and ten chicks.  We have seen three hens and four chicks at other times so we suspect this is another group.  If I were a hunter I'd think that nature is raising a Thanksgiving meal for us.  However, we'll probably buy a turkey from Safeway and let these enjoy their wild free life.

It's a quiet day on the homefront.

Sunday, July 24, 2016



It's 7 o'clock on Sunday morning.  The window are ajar to let in the cool morning air while the drapes are pulled to keep some of the sun's heat out.  The world is mostly at asleep in this neck of the woods.  So listen for a moment.  Nothing.  No manmade disruptions in God's creation.  This morning is goes so far as no rustling in the leaves as the air is calm; not even the songs of the birds who are not up yet.  Just quiet.


Add to the the silent presence of God the visual panorama.  The dark of shade in the depth of the trees accented by a bright almost yellow green from a ray of sunshine sneaking through the branches. Variegated green leaves show themselves in one corner of the view while a dangling willow leaf wiggles all so slightly.  Thin lanceolate leaves poke up among obviates while evergreen needle and scales tower over head, which with its distinctive green shade and each with its unique size.  It a dance of diversity living together.

A single butterfly flutters by.  The bright spot of sunshine moves amid the shadows in the trees.  In its stillness, it is so alive.  It's is God's continuous creation on display.

As the days ages, God's ultimate creation will appear and interact with the rest of creation and themselves.  Showers will run, breakfast will simmer, dishes will clank, voices is sing from ourselves and from electronics, cars will purr, laughter will resound, crying will arise.  All this will escalate to a feverish pitch as the days goes.  People will move on foot and in cars, people will gather to play and work, and worship.  Along God is watching, involved, hoping to be remembered, hoping to get credit for their breathing and living, hoping that all will remember to love, to love God, to love the creation and to love each other.

Now the sun is reaching over the treetops touching the valleys.  Now is the time to join the growing sounds of the day.  Now is the time to continue communion with God and God's creations, especially loving others.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cool but Warm

While a third of the nation, according to the national weatherpersons, is enduring very hot temperatures, around 100˚ to as much as 120˚, we are embracing 70˚ and some areas are even getting rain.  We're not getting the rain, so I spent the day watering the newly planted black cherry tree and trees, bushes and flowers beyond the reach of the routine watering hose.  It was a great weather day.

Gail picked a bowl of peas and the first bean of the season yesterday.  The melons in the upper garden, the three plants that have survived the rodents, the terrible soil, and the dry conditions, look lush, have been placed in racks and are setting on some fruit.

The day before was the manifestation of long range dreaming and impulsive reactions; we rented a backhoe and dredged the pond, enlarged it and cleared the stream from the pond.  It looks great although I will have to move the debris sitting on the banks of the pond.  By expanding the surface area and depth of the pond, the water level dropped drastically and will have to await a good rain to refill.

I'm watering the grapes this evening as the fruit is developing nicely.  There are more individual fruit set up than any time that I remember.  Hopefully the net will give me an advantage over the birds at harvest time.

This week from the Republican Convention and Don Trump was officially chosen as the nominee for the president of the United States.  Next week is the Democrats turn but before that we have clinic tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Up and Down in the Yard

As we walked into the house yesterday, the aster showed themselves along the walkway.  It's not yet mid-summer yet these fall flowers are blooming.  The pear and apple trees are visibly full of fruit, not full sized and certainly not ripe.  The cherry tree is bare; the birds definitely and clearly won the battle over who would get the cherries this year.    There were two peaches on the counter when we arrived at home,  The house sitters said that the deer got to them the night before.  They were delicious, even if there were only two.  We will go to the local fruit farm and pick some later this week.

Other berry bushes were essentially bare; for the most part those who watched the yard in our absence harvested as they ripened.  The raspberries should produce another crop, maybe the strawberries also.  The marionberries and blueberries are past their prime.  The wild blackberries should be reaching their maturity in the next several weeks.

The garden is has moved its next phase.  Peas are full size and ready for picking, the bean plants are lush but the beans are not ready.  Tomatoes are tall and lush but also short of having anything to eat.  Broccoli heads are ready and were a part of this evening's meal.  Lettuce, well, it's past its prime and time to remove and replant.

The lawn hasn't been mowed for over two weeks and there's no grass to mow, however the dandelions need their heads chopped off.

While there were no deaths in the chicken pen for most of our trip on the last day the peacock was killed.  I built a fire and cremated him this evening.  When I checked for eggs I discovered a clutch of eggs under an araucana.  We will have baby chicks I suspect so I need to figure out how to find the chicken killers.  I did put a smoke bomb down one hole today.  We're have to see what will happen.

Possibly the Last of the Trip

In planning this trip, the horse ride into Bryce Canyon was always the most highly anticipated part.  Preplanning set the ride at 2:00PM on Wednesday so our drive from the Grand Canyon started early and was deliberation, focused and intentional.  Despite the hour change of time not in our favor we arrived in time to eat a sandwich before arriving at the corral.  The head cowboy called families and groups forward and in a very contemplative way named a horse for each rider which we were to remember until another cowboy came by to show us the named horse and help us mount.

This was the first time the girls had been on a horse.  The boys had a lesson and ride as Riley's birthday gift  a year ago.  The thirty or so riders were set onto the trail in a line behind a guide in groups of about eight.  We were the last group which included a newly wed couple from Indiana.  Deona's horse was chosen to be first behind the guide and when her horse moved, turned to follow her face lit up and could be seen across the corral.  It seemed to say, "This thing moves!"

After a few comments guiding us to a safe ride we headed down the trail.  While we were instructed how to stop, go and turn, the horses who do this twice a day on a narrow mountain trail do what they want despite our motions including walking close to the edge.  That wouldn't be so bad since none have ever fallen but periodically they would slip or stumble removing our sense of security.  After four hours of riding, picture taking, funny stories and explanations from the guiding cowboys we found a way to slip off the saddles and try to walk.

Our campsite was KOA a dozen miles away.  The ride had been hot so as we passed a local restaurant we decided to eat out after a swim and shower.  The Arches NP was next.  The route options were a scenic windy route through the eroded pinnacles of dirt and rock or a get there quickly on a 80MPH interstate freeway.  We chose the latter; we'd already seen rocks and narrow roads.

This was the one night for which we had no reservations in a campsite so our first task when we arrived was to search out a vacancy.  We were blessed because at the first closest campground to the Arches entrance we found and claimed the only remaining tent site.  In the Arches we did several walks and saw several of the over 2000 arches in the park.  A special treat was watching four climbers repelled from a pinnacle, right next to the infamous Balanced Rock.  The heat of the day and the boredom of the teenagers kept us from long hikes and so we missed some of the highly photographed arches.

The next morning we made a quick stop in Canyonland before we headed north toward Salt Lake City for the girls' flight to North Dakota and home the next morning.  Dinner was at Perkins and the sleep was in Best Western.  Denvy took the girls to the airport at 4AM before driving to Boise and Keeners with the boys.  On the final day, Sunday, we drove the boys home to Puyallup and ourselves home to Dallas arriving about 10PM.  One of the greatest events in our lives would now live on as a memory.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Delayed Catching Up

Most often there was no cell phone service in the evenings.  During the days I drove and spent time with the grandkids.  Other evenings were late and dark so there was no writing on the blog.  While it's reasonable to suspect that while at the hotel in Salt Lake City, or at Keeners in Boise or at home last evening I could write on the blog but the space in time wasn't there.  So let's try to catch up with a summary.

After twisting through more narrow roads in Yosemite, which the kids playfully pronounced yo-se-mite with a long o and long i, we drove down to Kings Canyon.  Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park have a common border and common Junior Ranger badge which the boys were striving for in each park.  This required that they acquire a workbook for the specific park, do the activities in the book and return it to the ranger at the visitor center to submit the completed workbook and take the oath to support the preservation of the park and its contents.  Dominic and Riley received the badges for five parks and completed the books for several others which they may mail in for the badges.  On the last two days they were scheming about starting a national park club.  They became were involved in the parks.  They love the animals first of all, the touching and feeling of everything, the jumping from rock to rock and the scenery.

Kings Canyon is less known than many of the parks we visited.  It's claim to fame is not animals or trees but the deep canyon with trees and its wilderness characteristic.  It leaves road-bound visitor standing on the edge of a view point in awe but without much interrelationship with its features.  It's also unique in that there is a major contiguous but also a separated finger near Sequoia NP.  After some research we learned that the highest mountain in the contiguous US, named Mt Whitney, at 14,505 feet, is in Kings Canyon National Park but on the east side and we never saw it.

After only a brief view of the Canyon we drove to Sequoia to see the giants.  After seeing the redwoods, the average sequoia was not extraordinary.  Now the General Sherman, the world's most massive and largest tree in the world, about 2000 years old, 119 feet around at the base, 264 feet tall and still growing, that was impressive.  There's a trail to and around the tree which is paved, fenced and quite long and steep so only some of us went all the way down.  For the young athletic types there are branches to the trail in just about every direction.

Back in the van we wound around and among more big trees.  It's always a thrill when one drives between two monster trees that hardly give one the space to get through.  This evening's drive from the Sequoia NP would take us toward the Grand Canyon.  The drive is long with a side stop at my sister's home outside of Flagstaff, so we drove until dark and grabbed a motel for the overnight.  The shower did feel good.

Breakfast was in the motel.  Lunch landed while in Needles, California.  We fueled up, bought several drinks for lunches and decided to fix and eat our sandwiches in the car because there was no shade and even if there had been shade, the temperature of 105˚ was more than comfortable.  That was the hot spot of the trip although our car thermometer registered temperatures in the 90's and 100's several times in Arizona and Utah.

Ruth met us at the side of the road and led us into her home.  The trail wound among grazing cattle and mature but short, about 12-foot, juniper and pinion pine trees.  The house is perched in the hillside overlooking her 40 acres.  I marvel at the house and its self-sufficiency as she has solar cell electricity, gathered rain for her water, solar panels for heating the water, portable propane for additional heat, a waterless toilet and natural temperature control because it's built into the hillside.

The grandkids loved the barren ground between the trees where they could run unrestricted.  They also loved native Americans had lived here hundreds of years ago and pieces of pottery lie everywhere.  Also near the lower edge of her property, where piles of stones, the ruins of structures and home of these earlier inhabitants.  It motivated them to play a "survivor's game" until dusk.  They choose to sleep under the stars on Ruth's stone slab deck that evening.  The adults sat and watched the stars appear as dusk transitioned from civil dusk, to nautical dusk and finally to astronomical dusk and total darkness.

Ruth had provided an awesome supper of spaghetti and salad in the evening and oatmeal with a broad collection of condiments for breakfast.  She joined us for our day at the Grand Canyon and graciously us led us on a hour and a half drive to the park.  The kids thought this would be the highlight of the trip because the Grand Canyon is known by people throughout the world.  Some of the other parks are not even known by Americans.

Certainly the view is not disappointing because it's impossible to imagine anything so grand and massive, 277 miles long, up to 10 miles across at points and about a mile deep.  Those numbers don't come close to describing the grandeur of color and shape.  Pinnacles, gorges, layers, tables, rivers, all create a masterpiece that artist can only attempt to copy and certainly not create.  The first stop on the east end was the Desert View with a stone watchtower and viewing platform.  For the next 25 miles headed west, the road follows the rim with several turnouts for viewing.  We experienced several of them and passed others.  Lunch was at a small museum which housed pottery similar to that which we found at Ruth's.  The museum also led to ruins of earlier native Americans.

After some purchases at the general store we set up camp in Mather Campground.  Campsites were reserved at all narrational parks except the Arches NP which gave us the convenience of knowing that we had a place to stay but also dictated our schedule.  In the end that worked out well.  Our senior passes to the national parks not only gave us access to all the parks free, including the one California state park, but also gave a 50% discounts on the campsites.  Truly in America this is one of the greatest benefits of age.

Next: Bryce, Arches, Canyonland and home

Monday, July 11, 2016

Day Five - Still Catching Up

It was raining the morning we awoke near the coast and redwoods.  We scrambled to get in the car.  We and everything in the tent were dry but the tent was packed wet.  Then we drove through the mountains for three hours to Redding.  Or was it four.  It was long and enlongated by lots of construction.  Gas at Redding and a drive into Yosemite which is a slow windy process.  The campsite was awesome and we managed to get the tent up and dry enough for the next sleeping phase.

Morning was awesome as the sun rays came through tall trees.  The tent was dry and breakfast was oatmeal.  Since the campsite was near the entrance the morning drive gave us the full traditional vistas.  As we rounded one corner the view of El Capitan and Half Dome burst in front of us.  Awesome.  We stopped and camera started clicking.  After several minutes of jumping from rock to rock, Dominic said, "Oh, wow, look at that!"  I guess we weren't aware that he was not in the present. The same happening at the face of El Capitan as we oohed and aahed at the waterfall.

More later; we hitting the road.

Day Five - Moving On

Who would have thought that there'd be no Wi-Fi on the coast of California.  Yosemite, no surprise that there's no Wi-Fi; and Sequoia, no surprise.  And no cell phone service either otherwise I could use my hotspot.  This will be a brief summary.

These National Parks are not close together so there's lots of driving like from Diamond Lake to the Redwoods.  We stopped at our favorite woodworking place just before the California border and the kids climbed through the treehouses.

Finally a romp in the redwoods.  What grand trees, so beautiful in their size and height, soaring far beyond what we can see.  We, mainly the grandkids boucned from rock to rock and stump to stump as they ate their sandwiches.  After some time of stretching the legs and worrying the grandparents about falling off logs or boulders, we hit the ranger station.  Oh, yeah, it's time to buy something; we find a reason later..  Only one stuffed animal during the entire trip but it was the place to survey as soon as we were in the doors.  Oh, but there's no rule about buying stuffed animals as gifts for the parents.  Ah ha, a loophole.

Oh, the ocean is so tempting; the girls had never seen one before.  "It's so big.  I love the waves."  First it was a hike up Fern Canyon, then the beach.  Walking the canyon where some of Jurassic Park and Star Wars was filmed wasn't enough, it had to be run and climbed far beyond where Grandma and Grandpa could see and supervise.  They did eventually return.  At the beach the dress and guidelines were bare feet, shorts and wading only.  Evcn though the water only came to the knees, the splash covered the enough body and Riley was hurting from the cold and wet when we stopped things at 6:30, but he probably thought he had impressed the girls adequately with his energy level.

Did I mention that as we rolled out the sleeping bags the night before we discovered that we had under-planned and under-estimated the warmth of one of the sleeping bags and Gail was very cold that night.  Tonight she and Denvy will trade and he will overdress.  That did work.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Day One on the Road

After lying in bed anxious to start our tour of the National Parks in several Wesstern states, I got up at 5:30 and got the sourdough batter ready for cooking.  After gathering stuff from freezers, refrigerators, pantries, bedrooms and closets we attempted the impossible of getting everything into the van.  At one point Denvy suggested that we draw straws because it seemed as it wee only had room for five.  A little pushing and shoving and putting things on laps and under feet and we were ready for our departure picture.

A freely roaming Oregon white tail met us as we entered the Wildlife Safari about mid-morning.  A well-deserved bathroom stop followed by a tour of the captured creatures and a productive visit to the gift shop with a couple stuffed animals joining our entourage.  The circuit through the park revealed a great parade animals from around the world.  The giraffe and elephants were a great hit but the active bears and bisons kept us well entertained.

Onward and upward we arrived at Crater Lake early evening, in time to enjoy the awesome blue of the lake contrasted with snow and greenery and gray rock.  The ranger's station was closed by the time the shoppers finished their transactions so we found our camp site at Diamond Lake and threw together some food for the evening.  A little playing at the lake, tossing around the football and journaling and by dark we were crawling into the tent.

Good night.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Most Special Day in all of America

Someone was asked, "What's the other name for the Fourth of July?'  The answer was and is "Independence Day," meaning first and foremost that the forefather declared that they were going to be independent of another country's rules and laws.  It's also equaled with freedom.  Here I wonder what we mean.  Free to do whatever we darn well please?  Free from oppression of another?  Free to seek and find happiness and justice equally with others?

It is clear that we are not all free to choose our religion without criticism, or to celebrate our skin color, heritage or language, or to experience health and safety equally, or to find peace in our leadership.  A negative as this may sound, this experiment called democracy is still one of the best adventures mankind and womankind has embarked on.

On this day we stand together, we sing songs about our country, we gather to do what we consider American like hotdogs and watch parades.  We explode with joy in fireworks, we melt with tears in sentimentality, we for one day become one family.

I have a dream: that we remain one; not the same, but one.  That even if we don't agree with our neighbor we support their right to disagree.  I have a dream, that in our differences and diversity we find our strength in kindness, generosity and caring for others.  We have thrown the word "love" around so much that we're not certain what it means, but perhaps if we just focus on unconditionally caring for others, we might get fairly close to genuine spirit of charity.

May I now again pledge my allegiance to this country and right for all here and abroad to be free to love and laugh.

With a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye, I say good night and God bless America, my home sweet home.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

It's Began - Again

The idea saw daylight several years ago; take the grandkids to explore the National Parks of the USA.  Last year we said, "Next year!"  Gradually over months we laid out a route, made reservations, created and checked off lists.  Today the grandsons drove in from Puyallup; in two days the granddaughters fly in from Mandan. The tent is setup with the present two giggling in lieu of sleeping.

Foods are in the freezer and bags in the hallway.  Undies and swimsuits are packed.  The names of the first seen animals are listed in the new journals:  a salamander from our pond, a deer who trotted along side the car as we returned from an outing, nine California quail scurrying in and out of the blackberries in the ditch, wild turkeys mingled among domestic chicken stealing their food, and a chicken vulture circling the raccoon that is no longer killing and eating our chickens and peafowl.

The Fourth is free of obligations and will be celebratory with all the packing complete.  The Fifth, on the other hand, is packed with final preparation: get the rental van, pack the van, meet the girls at PDX, have a pre-trip family reckoning, water the plants, mow the lawn, fill the chicken water barrel.  And get a last sleep in a bed.  At least for the next two weeks.

Did I mention that the boys got a bucket of water from the pond which they poured down the child's slide as a water slide for Sally, the salamander?  They thought it was great fun for them and didn't consider if it was fun for Sally.

And so it begins.