Thursday, July 10, 2014

It's Not About The View (well, maybe a little)

This morning I was riding through the forest on Juneau, looking around at the trees and the dust motes Lou was kicking up and breathing in the coolish air. It occurred to me that a good trail ride doesn't need a view or even a destination.

It just needs to be.

Which has been happening a lot this summer. Although I will say that many of my rides have had splendid views, such as these...

Looking toward the Sisters and Broken Top 

In the Ochocos

But mostly there have been moments of serenity, contemplation and fellowship. Being a quiet sort of person, I love the first two. But the sweetest memories have been made knowing there are others who are going to share the same recollection.

Many of those rides have taken place in a wonderland of trails just across the road from the ranch. I'm marveling that I've worked and ridden from here for 12 years and am only now discovering these trails. Which, incidentally were made by dirt bikers. I think most of them have grown up and left home or maybe they are out there on the weekends or when its cooler or sometime but I haven't seen another soul out there so far.

Its been fun getting familiar with the area. Noticing this rock or that tree and figuring out which direction is home. Although the horses always know.

Every time I saddle up I'm grateful. I feel stronger and more flexible that ever before, kind of like the anti-Humpty Dumpty. All the King's horses (well, two of them) and all the King's (wo)men could put Humpty together again!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Jar Journal

This year, oh wait, I mean last year, we started something I'd seen on a Facebook post (probably from  Pinterest because it seems there is nothing original in the world any more.) For lack of a better term I'm calling it the Jar Journal. It's a plain jar that sits on the counter with a pad of paper and pens nearby, waiting for you or me or anyone to jot down something worth remembering about any particular day. If you're really diligent, the jar is stuffed full by the end of the year when you tip it all out and read the notes.

Well, we weren't all that diligent and we forgot last night (New Year's Eve) to read them, but this morning I pulled out the notes to get the fuzzy glimpse of our year that we managed to capture.

Imagine my surprise when I read this one...

The date was the day of my accident, when my mule threw me off and  ran bucking down the trail toward Highway 20, leaving me lying there with a broken back and tailbone and, six fractured ribs and one severely shattered dream. I certainly wasn't heaping blessings on his or anyone's head at that moment. Or for many moments afterward. I have to confess that I wasn't calling on Jesus or his angels either, but I'm pretty sure someone was, the way things turned out in the end.

Now, I don't remember if I wrote that note in the morning before leaving on the ride, all excited because it was my first ride out with friends on the mule and I was anticipating a long and happy partnership. Or if I backdated it after all was said and done and fixed and the damn mule was off the property.

At any rate, after thinking about it for a while I realized that date really was the beginning of many, many blessings.

I belong to a small but active Rotary club and was looking forward to becoming its president in the summer. When my husband called someone to tell them what happened, the club members rallied around, bringing meals, visiting and keeping me up to date with club activities. I'd never been the recipient of that kind of caring - we've had a fairly drama-free life- and it was lovely, a blessing. Perhaps they were concerned that all the training I'd had to become prez might be for naught if I didn't recover smartly. I say that with a smile, and as it turned out, I was able to stand up and lead the meetings right on time in July. I don't actually remember much about those early meetings - there was still a lot of recovery going on but at least I was off the pain meds!

And then there was the question of whether or not I'd ride again. It reminded me of when my parents were boating (stay with me here - there's a parallel.) They had a lovely sailboat that got destroyed when a propane tank in a neighboring boat exploded. After recovering from the shock of it all, they looked around and got a stately trawler-type boat, perfectly suited to their graying hair and creaking joints. My mom said the explosion was a really well disguised blessing and that Dad wouldn't have come in from taking down the sails any other way, except maybe falling overboard.

Well, when I fell overboard from that mule, but wanted to ride again, I didn't know if I'd be able to ride my sweet little pony mare, Peanut. I was unsure how much jarring my back would be able to cope with. So I began to think about gaited horses and found an experienced Missouri Foxtrotter mare not too far away in Powell Butte. Little did I know that that mare, Juneau, would lead to a whole new group of riding buddies and experiences. As summer progressed, those friends came to pick us up and haul us to safe and pleasant trails so I could get my riding courage back again. One of our rides took us past the place where the accident happened and it didn't make my heart race, all because of the kind and calm friends blessing me with their presence. And in searching for a saddle to fit Juneau I found one that also fit Peanut, so I get to ride both my mares in comfort. You guessed it - more blessings.

It seems that in crisis moments it's the stalwart friends who help us through. The ones who hear first about the joys and sorrows, who drop stuff to get there. I have two friends like that - Becky and Shawn. Becky showed up at the ER, bossing her way past nurses to get to my side and hold my hand. She came to stay when Goddy had to go away to shear alpacas (he put a note in the jar, "We made it through May and June," his busiest shearing months.) Shawn came when I was getting off the pain meds and didn't understand that the weird reaction making me shake and feel sick was withdrawal. She talked me through it, pointed out some natural alternatives and then we went for a little hike in the forest to breathe the air and be thankful. I am more than blessed to have these women in my life.

Yes, in those first weeks and months of recovery small blessings were all around. My dog, Lou, who usually runs around like a crazy thing, walked beside me as I slowly and awkwardly made my way down to the ranch to pet Peanut.

College roomies came for a weekend reunion and we laughed and dwelt in memories old and new. Goddy made scrambled eggs and toast day after day, when I couldn't keep anything else down. One of his shearing clients supplied the eggs.  He never let on how freaked out he was about the whole situation because he too had stalwart friends to hold him up. And Peanut, when I was finally cleared to ride, walked serenely around the arena,  Goddy holding her halter because I was too scared to ride alone.

It doesn't matter when that first note was written. It matters that it was. Because its true.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On The Road, continued...

Day two continued...

South Bend,Washington touts itself as the Oyster Capital of the World or something like that. I didn't pay much attention because neither Mom or I care for that variety of shellfish. But Willipa Bay, where the Willapa River enters the sea, has a thriving oyster industry and so the claim will stick. The town is, wait for it, on the southern end of a big looping bend of the river.

It's also just a few miles down the road from Raymond, WA, the town where my free-spirited grandfather lived his last days. We wanted to stay in that area so Mom could revisit some memories. South Bend has a much nicer motel than any in Raymond.

It is also the county seat of Pacific County and has a most amazing courthouse...

This is the floor in the entry rotunda. You stand in the middle of it to take photos of...
...this amazing creation of glass that makes up the dome of the building.

And you climb up these graceful stairways, at either side of the entryway, to get to the second level where the courtrooms are.
I had a chat with someone who works in this building and she agreed that yes, it is a spectacular place to come to each day, even though she admitted she took it for granted sometimes. Oh, human nature...
This is over the doorway leading to the sheriff's building.
As we lingered here, we discovered that this sleepy little town, like so many built on someone's hopes, has a history long on hard work and short on glory. But the people who live here love it and the views from the hill above the town were stellar. (And of course, I didn't have my camera when I went for a morning walk on that hill.)

So...on to Raymond, previously just a name on an I-5 exit and a place I sent a few Christmas cards to while my grandfather was alive. It's actually is quite a ways from I-5 and is an old lumber town with bumpy streets, brick buildings and a lot of metal sculptures of things like bears, beavers, fish, flowers and odd looking people.

It also is home to the Northwest Carriage Museum. Woo-hoo! A whole building with nothing but beautifully restored vintage carriages! Mom and I had a wonderful hour there.

So nice for a summer day.

Or a winter one.

And this beats a mini-van for toting the kids around!

We found my grandfather's old house and Mom was able to sift through some memories that hadn't been disturbed in a while. This was a good thing, and now I'll know what's out there next time I go past that freeway sign.

We left Raymond to continue on Hwy 101 to Port Townsend. No road trip is without its dramas, and ours happened when we didn't open the map completely to see that we should have taken a cutoff toward Olympia and bypassed Aberdeen altogether. Heading through that town, we followed the 101 sign, not realizing it was taking us up the west side of the Olympic Peninsula. My brain turned on again after about the third sign stating the mileage to Forks. Oops. It would have taken us 6 hours at least to get to Port Townsend that way.

In Aberdeen - should have turned right, went straight ahead instead. Could have ended up a really long, scenic drive.
Thankfully we weren't too far along and got back on the right road, after stopping to recharge the brains with some food. We did laugh about it, eventually.

The correct part of 101 runs along between the Olympic Peninsula to the west and Hood Canal to the east. The sun came out then and we saw lots of sparkling water and quiet coves.

The beach at Potlatch State Park

There was a store at Pleasant Harbor Marina, so we stopped to look at the boats and treat ourselves.

The twisty, winding road eventually led to the intersection with Hwy 20, the route to Port Townsend. It was a sunny day there too...

Looking toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca, from Point Hudson. There's a big fog bank out there...

You can't see it here, but this boat is named Kia Ora, Maori for 'hello'.

The Olympics in the background.

We used to come to Port Townsend on our boat and the old hotel I chose was right next to the marina we would come to.

The Swan Hotel, in the morning after the fog rolled in

I walked over there, and later we ate dinner in a restaurant there. When we asked for recommendations, the hotel person didn't even mention Point Hudson. Perhaps its because it isn't strictly in the historic downtown. But we liked it much better. Port Townsend is cute and funky, but the shops are a bit woo-woo and touristy for me. I liked looking at the wooden kayaks at the only retail shop at the Point.

I did walk downtown early the next morning, when you couldn't see more than about a hundred feet. The ferry was coming in - I knew this because I could hear the rumbling engine and the foghorn, but it was invisible in the fog. By the time we boarded the ferry an hour later, it was still so thick all we could see was the wake of the boat. On a blue sky day, Puget Sound sparkles like the gem it is. This was not its day.

Our landing point, Coupeville on Whidbey Island, was also gray but at least the fog had lifted a bit. We drove the hour or so along the main road up the island to Deception Pass State Park, stopping to, well, look at the fog. And a very weird looking tree.

We slipped into Anacortes via the scenic route, following all the back roads Mom and Dad would take when they had to go to Whidbey. It will always be a homecoming, driving into Anacortes. Part of me will ever be there, in my memory and up at Grand View Cemetery. Rest in peace, Dad. We had a great visit to your neck of the woods.

Mom and me, with our dear friend Colleen, who treats us like royalty when we visit!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Road Trippin' with Mom

Ramsay's taking us on another trip! This time Mom and I are on a very scenic route from Sisters to Anacortes, WA, via Hwy. 101 from Newport, up the Oregon coast to Washington and through places my mother's parents lived in their final years. It's been a bit emotional and some interesting and unheard stories have come out. I really thought I'd heard them all, but seems not. As Mom says about her father,  "You can tell your grandchildren that their great-grandfather was a bit of a free spirit."

He spent his working life doing many things, among them mining in Idaho and sailing around the world as a journeyman electrician in the Merchant Marines. All I really remember was that he brought us fun and exotic presents on his infrequent visits.

Back to the road trip...

Our first port of call was the Esther Lee Motel at Lincoln City, right next door to the Inn at Spanish Head. My grandmother lived in a cliff-edge house there in the 60's before the Inn was built. They tore her house down.

The Esther Lee, built in the 40's, was Grams' next door neighbor and not a lot has changed. Especially the views. They are always stellar on the Oregon coast.

But there was a lot of fun stuff in that old motel. Mom was most taken with the shower, a testament to creative tile work.

My favorite was this quirky window, also in the bathroom...

And then there were the hundred or so cupboards in the full kitchen. With everything except a toaster.

The sunny days hoped for on our September trip haven't quite appeared.

Except for this brief moment at Nehalem Bay.

But part of the allure of the coast is walking through fog, everything all misty and drippy and mysterious. Or so I told myself as we struggled to actually see the the ocean.

But weather makes no difference to shopping so we stimulated the economy of the outlets at Lincoln City on our first morning and eventually hit the road north.

My mom is finding that walking isn't as easy as it once was, so we drove on toward Astoria and finally found Manhattan Beach.

It was easy to access and fulfilled my need to feel the ocean breeze in my hair. It doesn't have to be much of a breeze these days since my hair is so short! But that squeaky feel of sand under feet and stopping to empty it out of shoes is part of the beach experience. Mom was able to walk out to a convenient bench and feel the breeze in her hair too. And get sand in her shoes.

We scooted through Astoria, saving exploring that funky town for another day. South Bend, WA was our destination. Granted, a town with only one motel doesn't generally rate as a destination, but we had another reason for staying in that neighborhood.I'll share that in the next post...

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Story of Ramsay

Hi-Ho, Ramsay

When Evan and I set out in 2009 on The Epic Journey across America, I thought it would be fun to tote along a mascot, a little toy of some sort that would pop up in photos occasionally. My clever daughter-in-law, Alyssa, suggested we look on Etsy, because you can always find something unique and quirky there. (Hmm, if it were a dating site, I wonder what sort of profiles there'd be.)

Anyway, she's scrolling through and up pops a photo of a cute little stuffed pony. Reading along, we discover this repurposed toy began life as a tea towel in a New Zealand tourist shop. Where his creator placed his right eye is an image of a big, old ram. Perfect! He fit all the criteria; sheep - check, horse - check, New Zealand - check, which we hadn't actually set prior to looking but who wants to split hairs?

When Ramsay arrived he had his own little carry bag and a note from his maker about how excited she was for Ramsay to have a purpose in life.

So far Ramsay's been on the Epic Journey; Hunting for Heritage with my mother and I as we went to her childhood stomping grounds; experienced A First Time for Anything with Goddy and me on our first ever multi-day road trip around Oregon; he went Traipsing around Tucson with us last winter; and now he's gone full circle, back to his homeland in New Zealand to the Max. (All those capital letters signify what I've named Ramsay's trips in my journal.)

A man and his horse

I know some people's underwear is better traveled than my little horse. I imagine he won't wear out as our trip mascot since we don't go all that often, but as time goes on he becomes a special marker of the significant moments in my life. He sits on the top shelf of my big roll-top desk, and when my mind wanders and I look around my office instead of finishing an article or paying the bills, Ramsay is always gazing out into some middle distance with a secret little smile on his face. He's ready to be stuffed into a bag and go somewhere.

Next stop, ????

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Country Style Golf

We're coming down the home stretch on our trip. Boo-hoo. Thankfully Wellington cooperated today with a nice, if breezy (as usual) day so we could spend most of it outside.

Caroline wanted to do some shopping, always a nice thing post-birth, so the whole fam headed downtown. The fellows went off with Max in the pram, armed with the nappy bag and a bottle of Caroline. We headed for the shops.

The next meet-up was at a restaurant called Leurven, a Belgian-style eatery. I did not have my camera so you'll have to believe me when I say the food was great! Max, meanwhile, had been fed, changed and enjoyed a speedy walk through downtown as the guys headed to the restaurant from cousin Livvy's flat. We'd ordered their food (mussels, done two different ways, which they pronounced delicious. We females had to take them at their word since none of us like those particular bivalves or whatever they are.)

Back home again, Caroline and Max headed off for naps and Ty suggested heading over the hill to a little country golf course. Fifteen minutes along a winding road, down into a valley with bush-clad hills all around and this is what you get...

Built on someone's farm, this little 9-hole golf course is a classic example of a New Zealand rural icon. Sure it's old, and the greens are somewhat challenging

 but these are the nearest neighbors,

there's hardly ever a crowd and it's close. You aren't allowed to wear your gumboots though. There's a sign on the door that says so.

It was a perfect way to spend a couple of hours.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Just Walking

With gas, or petrol as its referred to over here, running at about $8 per gallon ($2.11/litre), we're doing a lot of walking around. This is not a difficult thing to do in a neighborhood with lots of hills and stunning views for when the legs are burning.

Looking south-east

Goddy making sure the pram doesn't get away from him on a steep hill

It turns out that one of Caroline's favorite loop walks just happens to go past a little cafe that has the best date scones on the planet. But, we discovered they only bake them on Tuesdays, so on Wednesday when we strolled past we were forced to get something different. The coffee-walnut slice was a pretty fine substitute.
At the Gipps St. Deli

We also went past a neighborhood park that was the site of the local school's running sports day. That brought back memories of cheering on our boys as they spent an afternoon in the fresh air, competing in all sorts of events and enjoying time outside. Notice how the kids are all wearing sun hats.

"Now listen up, chaps. Here's the drill..."

Yesterday Caroline and I walked around the corner, with Max in the pram, to visit the Plunket nurse. Plunket is an organization that is devoted to new mothers and babies, doing regular development check-ups, running playcenters and support groups and generally being a resource for any question a new mum might have. I think the nurses must vie for a national chipper-and-jovial award for they are all such nice women and make sure that each mum knows that she has the most wonderful baby ever born. Of course, that is not a hard job with Max.

Cute baby alert!!!

Today the wind is howling from the north and the skies are gray. Well, there's an occasional patch of blue but the atmosphere is moving around so fast that it gets covered up really quickly. We took a trip out to where Ty works (by car, not walking this time!) Poor fellow is going to be quite ruddy cheeked at the end of the day - the sports park that he takes care of is exposed to the full brunt of the wind.

Of course, I forgot my camera so you'll have to imagine him out there in his steel-capped work boots, black cargo shorts and wooly jersey, striding up and down behind a field line marker, making the boundaries for a tag rugby field. His hair, which is in need to a trim, was blowing sideways, forward and back, sometimes all at the same time as the wind swirled around. The park is at the bottom of a steep, bush-clad hill which gives a lovely outlook. The personnel that use the park are not always so lovely, so we're told. But Ty and his workmates have it looking really spiffy.

We also stopped at a bakery to get lunch. This particular bakery makes the best eccles cakes on the planet. I have been through eccles cakes withdrawl since leaving NZ.  I tell you, this town has a lot going for it.