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Colours burst at Cathedral Park beneath St. Johns Bridge in Portland.

By the looks of the gold and red leaves, summer slipped away and Autumn is here. Yay for October, my favourite month!! I leave tomorrow for two weeks in Jordan with everyone’s favourite travel-partner: Sassy, fashionable, California-girl Margaret. I’ll do my best to keep up with the blog while traveling.

Met up with my other girlfriend, Heather, for drinks, eats, and a play. She is colour-coordinated with autumn. ūüôā

While mowing, a dragonfly with a truncated abdomen rode on my arm for a long time. I made about 3 loops around the yard before it finally flew off.

Summer was unseasonably wet this year, and the winter rains started early. However, there were a couple of dry breaks in there during September, and I was able to do a final lawn mowing job. The bee people came and removed their bees September 30, so I had a chance to cut the grass all around that part of the lawn. Needless to say I had been giving the bees plenty of space all summer. If the grass continues to grow during October, I’ll just have to leave it alone because it’s too muddy out there for my little Husqvarna tractor. It doesn’t usually snow here, and doesn’t freeze very often, but thankfully the grass does stop growing during the winter.

Girls take one of their last dust baths in September. They won’t be able to do this again until about July 2020 because the ground is soaked now.

FINALLY two of the new babies are old enough to lay eggs. I’m getting small green eggs from the Easter Eggers. Here you see their egg compared to one from the store.

I don’t make it into the big city (Portland) as often as I used to. When I do, I have fun noticing all the extra things to look at. Graffitti always catches my eye, traffic patterns, how the sky looks when I leave the forest and there aren’t trees in the way, and I even notice my car itself, which does not get enough love from me. Thank god it beeps at me and blinks messages on the screen when it’s time for an oil change or that might not ever happen. When I’m rich, I’ll hire someone to take care of my car, ha ha. Until then, I’m sorry Jeep.

I spotted this message on a garage door while I waited for a red light.

I caught these double-rainbows while driving home.

I spotted this on my dashboard while driving. The odometer says 111,111 miles. That’s a lot of miles. I still think of my Jeep as new. I guess….it’s not so new.

Once the rains begin, that means it’s bonfire season for me!! I love having fires at my place. The first one of the season is often the best, because I’ve been piling up branches all summer, and the wood is nice and dry. When I set that thing alight, it usually causes an inferno. The rest of the bonfires for the winter will be when I have collected saturated branches (branches blow out of the trees all year long in storms, and I collect them and burn them to keep my land clear). Success then will be a matter of whether or not I can get all of the wood to burn. Sometimes I can’t even get it to catch fire to begin with, the wood is so wet.

A September blaze is made up of very dry wood beneath. The green branches on top are from recent pruning.

It’s also the season for the local wildlife to bulk up for the winter. Here I scold a deer from my office window. She is clearly hoping to fill her belly from my garden.

And as well as a fabulous performance of In The Heights with my friend Heather (at top), I also was fortunate enough to catch a Portland Symphony Orchestra performance. There was a trombone choir outside the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and then I went into the gorgeous venue for the symphony.

Rose City Trombones performs in front of Antoinette Hatfield Hall, across from the Schnitz.

The inside of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall is sumptuous.

Portland Symphony warms up before their performance.

1000 Broadway Building gleams pink in the evening light.

I made a couple of short trips recently.¬†Since my friend had made the long drive down to Portland to do the sensory deprivation tank with me, it was my turn to drive north and meet him at his stomping grounds in Olympia. It’s the capital city of Washington state and I had never explored it. We walked up and down streets on a gorgeous day, seeing the sights and the people. We ate great barbecue, bought art in a gallery, smelled sea air at the marina, talked to protesters at the Capital steps, and more. It was a long fun day.

Marina in Budd Inlet, one of the southernmost parts of Puget Sound. Olympia is 70 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, but from here we could sail north to Seattle. The mountains in the distance are in the Olympic National Forest.

We walked all over the beautiful capital grounds.

WWI memorial statue at the Capital in Olympia.

A week ago I headed up to the Canada border to subject myself to an interview for the Department of Homeland Security and become a “Trusted Traveler.” With all my travelling, can you believe I had never even heard of this program till a girlfriend mentioned it two months ago? Well good heavens, better late than never. Fill out an application, pay a fee, get an interview, then badda boom – skip the horrible security lines at the airport!! And skip the customs line coming back!! Yay!! The interview seemed ridiculous – not sure exactly why they needed to see me in person. They asked my full legal name, whether I had used any other names (I had used a hyphenated surname during my first marriage), what my current address was, and my current phone number. That was it. I assume the content of the answers was not the purpose of the interview – probably more like comparing the photos on my passport and driver’s license to the woman standing there. The best part about all this hassle is that it’s all done in time for my trip to Jordan. Sweet.

I drove through Seattle to get to the interview, so I picked up my brother and he shared the day with me. Thank goodness because it would have been so boring otherwise. The border is 2 hours north of Seattle, and we talked for 2 hours going north, for an hour while we waited for my interview, and for 2 hours going south. I stayed the night in Seattle with my brother and his girlfriend and their super sweet cats. I always love the view from the guest bedroom.

Looking out the window from my brother’s guest bedroom.

I can’t tell you how eager I am to leave all this rain behind me and head out to the desert! I am very sad to leave for two weeks during my favourite month. And I am sad to be on airplanes during my favourite holiday of the year: Halloween. I will spend 28 hours on airplanes or in airports, before I arrive in Portland at 9pm. One silver lining is that it will be the longest Halloween of my life. Because we’re travelling “backward” around the globe, it’ll be Halloween the entire time.

A house in St. Johns I spotted while walking with my friend Vladimir.                                    Happy Halloween everyone!!

Looking through the open doors to a sensory deprivation tank at Enso Float in Portland.

I am going to do some of you a favor right now. I am going to clear up a mystery. If any of you are terrorized by the idea of a sensory deprivation tank, like I was a few weeks ago, I’m probably going to reassure you. Turns out, it’s not a big deal at all, and perfectly normal people can go spend some quiet time in a tank.

I have a friend who likes to float in a sensory deprivation tank. He has PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) and the tank is a way to force peace onto himself. He repeatedly invited me to try it. I have PTSD too, and thought that my mental health condition would be the main reason I should AVOID a float. You see, one of the characteristics of this disability is that your brain thinks you need to be in fight or flight mode all the time, every day, just in case. Most of the time I have it under control, and I can keep my thoughts relatively quiet and my heart rate at a normal level. However, just under the surface of my calm behavior is this constant absorption of stimulation. Sights, sounds, smells, changes, impressions, suspicions, questions… all these things are being gathered every waking moment (and often when I should be sleeping) in this massive data collection operation. It’s exhausting. One of my tricks for smothering the data collection operation is to distract myself with activity. When I’m quiet is usually when the brain stimulation gets ramped up, sometimes into a swelling spiraling tornado of incoming thoughts that causes a panic attack.

What my friend was suggesting to me sounded CLEARLY like a situation I needed to avoid, for health reasons. But what made me keep my mind open to it is that he suffers with PTSD also, and said the tanks help him calm down.

I had heard of sensory deprivation tanks, but only barely. I had never actually given it serious thought before. It was the kind of thing I read about in magazine articles. In my mind I thought it would be a huge cube-shaped tank big enough to hold a person upright and underwater. In truth I was envisioning a tank containing spice in inhalant form from the Dune novels (I’m such a nerd). I couldn’t imagine how a person would breathe inside a tank of water. Would I have to wear a scuba mask? I tried to imagine how one would get out of such a tank in an emergency. What if I needed to get out while I was in the middle of panicking?!

Fear isn’t allowed to rule in my life, so anytime I feel myself getting frightened about something that I know other people think is normal, then I tend to make myself try it. First I did some research and found out I was totally off base to begin with. Instead of a “tank” it’s more like a big bathtub, and the water is only a foot deep. A billion tonnes of epsom salts have been dissolved into it (ok, not quite that much), so your regularly sink-prone human body floats right on top of the water with no effort. You can actually fall completely asleep in the water and be perfectly safe.

The idea is that your tank water is programmed to match your body temperature so you won’t feel it. You are suspended in the buoyant water so you won’t even feel the tank around you. The lights are turned out so you won’t see anything. The room is insulated so you won’t hear anything. Only the pure absence of stimulation for 90 minutes. People believe it results in increased visual acuity, improved tactile perception, improved hearing, and increased sense of taste. I said to my friend, “Omigosh, 90 minutes sounds like FOREVER. What do you do with your head for 90 minutes?” He said he just thought about stuff, and sometimes zoned out for awhile. I agreed to go with him to Enso Float in Portland, and float at the same time (different tanks) so he could reassure me up to the last minute.

Enso Float is relatively new, clean, and classy. We were met by Trevor, who had a soft, soothing voice and a veeerrryyy laid back nature. He made me think of a young hipster surfer hippie. My naturally loud voice clanged against his till I settled down and got in tune with the quiet place. It’s tastefully decorated with stone tiles and bamboo walls and simple modern elegance. He showed us our rooms and explained the rules.

Shower area beside the tank. Shower before and after your float. Soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, towels, robes, slippers all provided.

There are lots of rules. Before you go, you are not supposed to drink caffeine, dye your hair, or shave. The caffeine I suppose would stimulate you when you’re trying to relax. Hair dye can dissolve into the epsom salts. Shaving can open up tiny wounds that will sting when the salt water gets into them. Trevor showed us earplugs that we were encouraged to use to keep the water out of our ears. He also pointed out the ointment we could use to cover any cuts or wounds that might sting in the salt water. My friend had learned some tips from his experience, and recommended inserting the earplugs before showering, because it’s hard to get a good seal in wet ears with wet hands. Also, he recommended drying the face absolutely before getting in, so the salt water doesn’t creep up your wet face into your eyes.

Trevor explained about the lights, and that we could float with lights on if we wanted to. The soothing nature music would fade after movement stopped outside. There are buttons inside the tank to turn lights on, and then off, and a button to summon help in an emergency. He showed me that the doors to get out are like saloon doors: just push them and I’m free. No need to feel trapped. He said, “At the end the tub light will come on and music will stop playing. But if you go to sleep, don’t worry, we will sound a bell that is louder and will wake you up.”

I said goodbye to them both, locked the door, and took a deep breath before I headed for the shower. I took a long time to get ready because I was so anxious. I tested the lights a little before I got in, pushing the buttons and making sure I knew which ones turned lights on, off, and how I could avoid pressing the emergency button (same shape, but in a different part of the pool). There were lights in the bottom of the circular pool that lit up the room, and “star” lights in the ceiling. I fantasized that it would be fun to turn off all the lights except the stars. Then I would try to see if there were constellations, or just random specks of light.

Looking into my float tank, with the stars glittering on the ceiling.

The pool itself, stars reflected. Here you can see the white lights on, and black lights off buttons.

So I did it! And here are my impressions.

I’m glad I went to the float. It was very interesting and I have been curious (and terrified) about it for some time. I told my friend Will about it on the way home. Honestly I was bored out of my mind for most of the time, and I think I may have actually dozed a little because the time went by more quickly than I expected. I was doing all this stuff to try to entertain myself for 90 minutes. Stretching my arms, lifting my arms and legs out of the water, pressing them down, turning in circles, fascinated by the fact that I couldn’t make myself sink. As I described it to Will, he kept laughing and saying he didn’t think I was the right kind of person to benefit from a sensory deprivation tank. “You were doing it wrong,” he said. “You needed a mother in there to keep an eye on you. Instead of saying, ‘it’s time for bed, get ready for bed’ she needed to be in there saying ‘it’s time to relax now, stop playing around and see if you can be peaceful.'” ha ha.

I told the friend who floated with me that I repeatedly freaked out about the comment Trevor made at the beginning. At the time I wanted to ask Trevor “How do you know if I am asleep?” But I was too scared to hear the answer: cameras? what? I was too chicken to ask. So I was trying to figure it out the whole time I was lying there, “If somebody falls asleep, how will they know it? Do they come into the room?” Then I couldn’t remember if I had really locked the room, and every little thump or click the whole time sent me into full alert: Do they think I’m asleep? Are they in my room? I wonder if anyone has done a study on personality types to see who gets the most out of a float.

My idea to turn out all the lights except the stars didn’t work like I imagined. The light for the stars is behind the plastic ceiling, and illuminates the whole ceiling. I wished they had designed it so the ceiling would be black, with only the pinpoints of starlight. I still think that would have been cool. I confirmed that they are only random points of light though, not constellations.

I had another thought while I was floating, that it reminded me of being home. About the same level of quiet, and floating was almost as comfortable as my bed. It occurred to me that people who live in the country and have found their perfect mattress might not be good candidates for the float.

My biggest disappointment is that I don’t think I ever felt deprived of any senses. Not at all. Well, sight. It was purely black in there. And I could never get a good seal on the earplug in my left ear, so there was a steady pop, pop, pop as salt water slowly leaked into my ear. That scared me because I assumed I was plugging my ears for a good reason. I don’t think anything happened to my ears, and I never felt a sting anywhere on my body from the salt. But all the descriptions I read included someone saying how remarkable it was that they couldn’t tell where their body ended and the water began, and how they lost a sense of the room, felt like they were floating in space, and all that stuff. I never did. Maybe because I was trying so hard to discern it the whole time. I wasn’t playing the game. But…I had been hoping for it, because I wanted to see what it was like. Even though I was goofing around when I got really bored, I did periodically try to hold perfectly still and see if I could get the effect. But then I’d hear a low rumble sound that went the whole time – like the hum of the heater or something? I could tell when big trucks rumbled by the building on the street outside. Or I’d notice my left knee was further out of the water than my right knee. Then I’d notice the water was a little chilly. Then I’d notice my back was hurting.¬† I couldn’t help but notice all those things.

My back was starting to ache by the time I got out. It was as though I had been standing too long. When I got out I had to curl into a ball for a while, and stretch my back the other other direction. I needed to sit down and take the pressure off my back. Weird! I never expected that. I wonder why that happened, since the water is so supportive. My theory is that it’s because I have mild scoliosis – that my hard mattress at home is comfortable to me because it forces my back to flatten out due to gravity, and the soft mattress of the water let my back curve too much. I don’t know. Just a guess.

The powder room. I can’t remember what Trevor actually called it. Apparently it’s a place to make yourself beautiful again after soaking off your moisturizers and makeup. There were books inside too.

More books and all-natural skin and beauty products to buy.

My friend’s experience was that after a float all his senses are heightened, and the world is a fantastic place to walk around and experience: new sounds, new sensations, new smells, brighter colours. I was very eager to experience that! But… of course, I noticed no difference at all. I walked out of the place with wet hair into the lovely day, and was my usually chattery self, blabbing on and on about something unrelated, like what I had done that morning, till I realized my friend had not yet said a word. He moved dreamily along and was feeling unsteady and was focusing on obeying pedestrian rules and lifting his foot high enough to step over the curb onto the sidewalk. A little too out of it to even talk.

Huh. I really am not the right kind of person for a float.

Many many choices of ciders at Schilling.

Flights are the only reasonable way to taste a wide selection without getting hammered.

After he came down off his float high, we went to a cider place called Schilling that he had heard of. It was a super choice. Schilling serves some creative and delicious snacks, but is not a restaurant. Their point is to be a place to drink cider. There were too many choices and we both ended up getting flights. That way we shared and were able to sample 12 ciders total. He likes sweet, I like dry, so we did get a wide variety. When I noted the numbers of the ciders I wanted in my flight, the guy behind the counter said, “Wow, #42 and #43, those are some serious ciders.” I asked what he meant. He said these are serious ciders for people who are all about cider. I asked him specifically what they taste like. He said there was no way to explain it, but as soon as I tasted, I would know what he meant. I did.

My fave of the day ended up being the #42 Herefordshire Blend. Brewers are Oliver’s from the UK, and Anxo from the US. Unlike the bartender, I can explain the taste. It tastes like dirt. But in a good way. Ciders #42 and #43 tasted like moss, and rotten wood with some fungus in it. You know, I don’t think that description would appeal to anyone, so the bartender’s choice to play dumb was the correct choice. I drank the distilled essence of a wet, old forest floor, and it was far and away my favourite taste of the twelve! It’s in a class by itself. Now that I know there is cider that tastes like this, I will be on the hunt for it. You can take your fruity sweet froo froo flowery ciders and shove them.

We looked down on Belmont street and chatted about our float experience.

So there you go! If you’ve never heard of a sensory deprivation tank, now you know. And now maybe you’ll try one. If you decide not to, then I recommend you try a cider instead. In my opinion, the sense response I got from the ciders was way more fun.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge gets us across a bit of Puget Sound on our way to Gig Harbor.

I don’t believe any musical ability came to me when I was formed. My vocal pitch is flat, I only mastered Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the French Horn in the 5th grade, I played guitar for years and years, but barely advanced beyond what I was taught as a child. I finally traded my guitar – a beautiful instrument, lovingly made in Canada – to a collector friend. The one musical thing I *am* good at, is listening to music!

The way to get more music into my life is to make friends with musicians. Luckily for me there is a lot of overlap.

In August I was excited to make the trip up north once again to gather with other expert listeners at Roy and Lucy’s house in Gig Harbor. I left later in the day because I was waiting for Tara to arrive from Corvallis. Tara had to work that morning, then make the 2 1/2 hour drive to my house. Then I drove us the 2 1/2 remaining hours. While I waited, I made my jalapeno poppers. For the first time, I remembered to wear gloves!! You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Now my skin wouldn’t burn for the next three days.

To make poppers, carefully clean all the seeds and pulp from inside the jalapeno before stuffing it with creamed cheese and baking it.

To keep the poppers warm, I plugged the crock pot in and heated it up. When Tara arrived, I pulled the poppers out of the oven and packed them into the ceramic pot, and brought the whole pot with us. This worked great!

People relax in the yard while the stage is prepared for the next performance.

A view through the trees to protect the identities of the innocent! ūüėČ

Walking into the house I saw Lucy right away, and she greeted me with a generous smile and hug and convinced me that she really was as happy to see us both as she said she was. Roy came in from outside right at that moment and did the same thing. “You’ve come to the party so often that now you’re a regular!” he said to me, and I beamed with pleasure. I am so honored to be invited, but even more honored when they show me that the invite is not merely out of politeness, but because they want me to come. Roy even included a link to my blog review of last year’s party in his Facebook event invite this year.

Lucy and Roy McAlister call the gathering McAlapalooza! It’s an annual music party and barbecue. Roy McAlister is a luthier, and through this work and also by teaching and mentoring, Roy knows many musicians. He has invited them to his annual gatherings. The couple also invites their neighbors and friends – and if you are a neighbor or friend and want to take the stage, you’ll find total support. Roy has in mind the bigger names he wants to highlight at the end of the evening, but prior to that we in the audience are treated with an honest-to-goodness music festival, all in the McAlister back yard.

I found this short video by Joseph McAlister that highlights his shop that I always want to show in my blog posts, but can never capture it just right. Turn up your volume and listen to how Roy talks about his art. He explains that each guitar is crafted with the musician and their purpose in mind. Meaning, he creates a guitar specifically for what the musician wants to do with it. I’ve actually witnessed musician reactions to handling a McAlister guitar for the first time, and can tell you that in this video, Roy is not exaggerating about the response he gets.

Roy also finds joy in using gorgeous materials, like you see here.

My friends Andre and Diana were there again. Andre and I have known each other for years. He had just sprung a surprise on me the day before: our mutual friend, Marcus Eaton, would be there too! That is why Tara made such an effort to come. I haven’t seen Andre for a long time, not since he invited me to see the Milk Carton Kids and The Barr Brothers in November. Tara and I haven’t seen Marcus since December. It’s hard to pin those boys down when they both live so far away and lead full lives. We did some catching up and it felt good.

We arrived the same time as Jerry and Terry Holder, a duo and couple with great music but even greater personalities. These two are funny and fun, and always reach out to Tara and me when we show up, asking for the latest news and offering to let us crash at their house if we don’t want to make the long drive home.

Annual favourite Rick Ruskin, who has been playing for audiences since the 1960s and the talent to prove it. Look him up on YouTube.

Tara and I arrived late and missed the earliest performers, but got there in time for Rick Ruskin, a crowd-pleaser. We were then treated to artists we did not know: Butch Boles followed by Steve Hurley and Mary Kay Henley.

Butch Boles talks with us before a song.

Roy McAlister helps Butch set up.

Steve Hurley croons.

Jerry Holder and Terry Holder are more annual favourites that win me over every time.

Terry plays her new McAlister ukulele.

Behind the audience, a bunch of guitars rest together and swap stories about what they’re good at and where their owner took them last.

Andre was brave enough to leave his own McAlister guitar with me for a few minutes. It’ll probably be the only time in my life I touch one of those.

Then Andre needed his guitar back so that he could play for us.

Andre’s lead guitar backs up Diana’s great voice.

Tara and I were thrilled to get a chance to catch up with our favourite musician, Marcus Eaton. Apparently there was a memo about wearing black.

Marcus finally took the stage after dark.

Eaton is so good that the members of the Alec Shaw Band, warming up in the shop in the back, actually poked their heads out to listen.

Marcus Eaton played stuff we know and love, and was kind enough to drop some new songs on us (Mark I’m so sorry I didn’t get a playlist for you!!). The ones we’ve heard, we sang along with. The ones we hadn’t heard froze us in place, like usual. Marcus is my favourite musician for a reason. I know of no one who plays with such innovation and precision while seeming not to put any effort at all into it. If you are one of the few people who has not heard me rave about this guy, please please please hit that link or YouTube, and listen to a couple of songs so you know what I’m talking about. (and check out those photos – yes, that’s him on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon & Crosby, and that’s him playing beside Tim Reynolds) His guitar playing is beyond brilliant and his lyrics are connected and genuine. I can’t wait to the hear the new album when it’s ready. Marcus has been playing a lot in Italy, and the influences keep showing up in his music. It’s been a good year for Marcus, and also for his brother, A.J. Eaton. The documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019) is produced by Cameron Crowe, directed by A.J. Eaton, and scored by Marcus Eaton and Bill Laurance. It did very well at Sundance and has done well since it’s release.

Typically at McAlapalooza we see individual artists or duos, singer-songwriter folks. Roy invited an actual band this year! The Alec Shaw Band with Zan Fiskum. Good call. They were GREAT!¬† Alex Shaw has a great voice and together the band has a polished, confident sound that matched the mood of the night and all the music we had previously heard. I got a kick out of seeing a trombone on stage – there’s a new one for the McAlister back yard.

Zan Fiskum on the left, with the Alec Shaw Band. Sorry for the blurry photos. I didn’t have a tripod and neither my camera nor my iPhone could really deal with the dark.

More Zan Fiskum and Alec Shaw Band. Love that trombone!

Tara and I went all the way back to Rainier that night. T had work the next day and wanted a head start and a good night’s sleep before heading back to Corvallis.

Entrance to Providence City Hall. What a beautiful way to see “please use a different entrance.”

This one will be real quick since I’ve got other stuff to do today.

My blogger friend Manja posts a lot of doors, and while I was in Providence I kept thinking of her while I noticed doors. I took photos of a few. This selection is not comprehensive of what’s in Providence, Rhode Island, nor is it a complete collection in any sense. Just a few doors that I thought were pretty, and remembered to take a photo.

Entrance to the Rhode Island State House.

The magnificent doors of St. Stephens Church.

My friend Curt over at Wandering Through Time and Place introduced me to his friend Bone, the bone, last year. He was telling Bone about my place, and when Bone talked to Curt about a visit, a plan was quickly put into action. He put on his favourite leather vest and came up to northern Oregon for a few weeks last year, and at the time I posted a photo of Bone with my bees, and a little later, Bone in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I intended to do a Bone-centric post and it slipped through the cracks. So, without additional delay, here is the full story of Bone’s visit.

As I mentioned, we visited the bees on my property first.

Here, a bee tells Bone something that I didn’t hear.

Bone really liked my back yard and thanked me for my hospitality. I said I was happy to have such a pleasant guest.

Next, Tara and I took Bone to the coastal town of Astoria. Sometimes people are reluctant to climb the Astoria Column that overlooks the mouth of the Columbia River as it empties into the Pacific Ocean, but Bone didn’t hesitate at all! He was on vacation and wanted to do it all. So I helped him climb the 164 steps to the top.

Bone told me a joke right as Tara took the photo. Lucky I didn’t fall off!

We had sushi for dinner. Bone was fascinated by watching the chefs prepare our meal, but was not interested in tasting any of it.

He never did get tired that day. Bone was hopping around, trying to look out the windows, so Tara let him sit on the dashboard to watch the road as we drove home.

The next week I was in Oklahoma, at the invitation of the Cherokee Nation. The week started off with a three-day conference in Tulsa. Of course, Bone came along.

Inside the Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa, we Cherokees spent the whole time viewing the Cherokee art throughout the facility. Bone and I liked this one by Jane Osti best.

To the bottom left, you can see Bone trying to decide if he feels lucky.

When the conference was over, my group of visiting Cherokees went out to Cherokee country and were treated to up close visits at some important historical sites. At the Saline Courthouse, we walked around till we found an old cemetery. I had not done my research prior to this trip, and inspected gravestones at random, based on how interesting their appearance from a distance. Thus I missed the one that says, “A. J. Colvard.¬†Born April 12, 1858.” and it then lists the date Andrew Jackson Colvard was murdered. It actually says “murdered” on the gravestone! I am so sad I didn’t see that in person. Interestingly, I did get this gravestone, which is linked to Mr. Colvard’s:

Bone likes exploring cemeteries.

Another place we visited was the Cherokee Heritage Center. This center for Cherokee culture, history, and the arts is located where the first Cherokee female seminary used to be. In the 19th century, Cherokee prided themselves on exceptional schools. In the traditionally matriarchal society, girls’ education was as important as boys.’¬†The¬†first Cherokee Female Seminary¬†was a boarding school opened by the¬†Cherokee Nation¬†in 1851. A fire burned the building in 1887 and all that remains are three columns.

First Cherokee Female Seminary, courtesy Wikipedia.

Bone quietly contemplated Cherokee history as he gazed at the columns.

The heart of Cherokee country is the city of Tahlequah, where the Chief and his administration are based.

Can you see him sitting on the bricks?

While waiting for the speakers to get organized, Bone gasped and pointed. There was Chief Bill John Baker!

We both learned quickly that when Cherokees get together, there will be food.

And before we knew it, our trip to Cherokee land was over and we had to go home. Bone wanted to stay longer with the Cherokees, and so did I, and he was pretty sad while we sat in the airport waiting for our flight.

Sad as he was to go, Bone couldn’t resist watching the planes load and unload.

Bone slept almost the whole flight back. I had finally managed to tire him out. His emotions are hard to read and I’m never quite sure if I can catch a facial expression, but it seemed like he was smiling while he slept. When we arrived back in Portland, I asked him about it. Bone said he was dreaming about Cherokees, and imagined that he got to meet Sky Wildcat, Miss Cherokee 2016-2017 and Lauryn Skye McCoy, Junior Miss Cherokee. He described the two young women so well, it almost seemed like it wasn’t a dream after all.

Bone with Sky Wildcat and Lauryn Skye McCoy.

This is the final version of my painting before I gave it away.

You may recognize the image above. It’s similar to a photograph I took when I was in Myanmar in February:

Our first view of the Golden Rock from a distance.

I’ve been wanting to paint more, but hadn’t been making time for it. So I tricked myself into it. For me, overcoming challenges in life is often a matter of using the correct psychology on myself. Self-care and personal health don’t seem to motivate me enough. However! I am very good at keeping obligations to others. I signed up for a night class at the local community college, and now at a bare minimum, I paint once a week on Wednesday nights. My responsible brain goes to class because I respect the teacher’s time. A bonus is that I paint, which I love, and it fills my heart and makes me happy.

The instructor recommended we paint from a photo, and as a helpful suggestion, said that his students in the past painted scenes from their travels. I had been thinking of this one for a long time, but was avoiding it because it seemed too ambitious. When no other ideas came to mind, I started it.

This much I did at home, prior to classwork. One of the instructor’s first suggestions was to fill in all the white area. Paint the background a dark colour, and complete the sky. I should paint the tree and rock over the top of the sky, rather than inside the white areas.

So I did.

Each Wednesday night I painted at class. Usually I painted during the week also, because the painting was still on my mind.

I particularly love how the sky turned out. There was a lot of burning happening in the region, as local people cleared land and burned the brush piles. The sky was hazy from smoke and I think you can see that in the painting. It was sunrise as we arrived at the rock, and in the photo, the sun had only reached halfway down the rock. Everything else in the photo remains in the shadow of morning.

It was suggested that I paint the things farthest away first, then move to the foreground.

It’s hard for me to paint in class because the flourescent lights are terrible and 5-8 pm is my lowest productivity period of the day.

My artistic friend Lloyd saw my very first draft (with all the white parts) and was excited about the painting, and asked me to keep him updated. I sent him new pictures of my progress every time I painted, which was usually twice a week. He was ecstatic with enthusiasm each time, and that helped me stay motivated. It felt like we were doing the project together.

Almost done!! I added people, landscaping, and finally began plodding through the masses of foliage in the foreground.

I sent Lloyd this close up. Look! People!

Lloyd and Genevieve got married over the weekend, and I had a gift in mind that they would both love. There was really no question who was getting the painting when I finished it.

I grabbed a couple of quick photos before I headed to the wedding.

Comparing the painting to the photo here in this post, I see that I needed to add glints of sunlight to the rock. It is not bright enough where the morning sun touches it. I’ll have to bring some paint next time I visit my friends.

One day I was sitting at the dining room table and heard a thumping in the cupboard. I had a suspicion that I knew who was in the cupboard, and began recording. Viola! My cat, Racecar, emerged from where she clearly does not belong. I explained to her about cats and clean pots, shooed her away, then did some dishes. Sigh.

Early this spring, my financial advisor told me that in his opinion, I could afford the kitchen remodel I have wanted since I moved into this house. There is great light coming into the house from the north side, where the small kitchen and dining room are. It’s dark as a cave on the south side, where the living room and woodstove are. My idea: knock down the wall and make one giant open room!

My sudden loss of a job last month was unplanned, but much of the upfront fees for this kitchen remodel had already been paid.  I had no choice but to follow through, despite the fact that right now is bad timing for spending money unnecessarily. The bright side is: I am home and available to let construction workers in.

Before photo. From the living room, looking toward the kitchen. You can’t see the kitchen because there is a utility closet (door on left) and a pantry (door on right) blocking your view.

My front room is a very big room, and off in one cramped corner was a kitchen. The appliances are black and the cabinet doors dark brown. Inside the cupboards were particle board shelves on plastic pegs with peeling, wrinkled contact paper. The countertop was old school formica with gold flakes in it. I plan to update everything.

You noticed in the paragraph above, I used past-tense verbs.

First step was to remove the furniture and art, and to empty the pantry.

The next step was sorta drastic.

Everything that had to be removed was removed. The water heater will be replaced with a tankless (on demand) water heater in the future. For right now, they will leave this tank here so that I still have hot water.

This is what it looks like right now, the first week of November. See the extra framing to extend the dropped ceiling?

There is still a problem with light. I just have a dark house. I’ve included some of the better photos above, so you may not notice the darkness. With the room opened up though, it is significantly better, and that makes me happy.

The plan is for the new cabinets (already completed and sitting under a tarpaulin in the garage) to be installed against the two walls you see. From the electric panel to the corner, and from the corner to the big window. There will also be an L-shaped island where the pantry used to be. The floor footprint of the kitchen will match the dropped ceiling area.

Old floors had three styles meeting. The tile has all been ripped up and the natural wood on the right will cover the kitchen as well.

Dark cupboards are gone! I am holding a sample piece of oak with the new light finish.

I am not allowing myself to get excited yet. This project has taken so long just to barely get started. I know construction always takes longer and costs more than expected, but I can’t tell you how impatient I am already. Like I said at the top, this began in the Spring. I settled on a plan with the contractor in April, and it is still only this far. I’m trying not to go crazy, ha ha. He assures me that it will only be another 6 weeks, possibly 8. So there is a potential for this to be done by Christmas. I’m going to plan on a Valentine’s Day kitchen instead!

Jerry and Terry Holder are annual favourites because they are so much fun on stage, they’re lovely people, and we love their music.

I went to my third backyard music and barbecue yesterday at Roy and Lucy McAlister’s home. Remember how enchanted I was the first time? It’s like that every time. Roy McAlister is a luthier, and consequently knows a lot of musicians. He and Lucy host a gathering every summer at their home, where they invite neighbors, celebrities, local stars, old friends and brand new friends to take the stage and perform for all of us lucky people who are invited. The music is always exceptional. The people who show up – every single soul – are always exceptional.

Damp but optimistic audience.

We’ve had an unusually hot and dry summer here along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Day after day of temperatures in the 90s have finally dried out the earth to dust and much of the greenery has yellowed. So in between two solid weeks of clear blue skies and 90-degree temps, there was one day – a single day – of rain in the forecast. Any other day we would be cheering for the much-needed rain, but instead we remarked about the bad timing. And then… we appreciated the rain a little bit anyway, because we live here and have made peace with rain.

It intermittently poured, then broke up and splashed sun on us – teasing us and getting our hopes up – then started pouring again, for hours. We fretted about the electronic equipment under plastic sheets, hoping nothing would get ruined, hoping there would be a way to have an outside concert eventually. And yes, around 6pm the clouds began to break apart in earnest. By 7pm it had cleared up for good and people moved permanently out of the house. We sat on wet lawn chairs and got ready to be delighted.

A series of fabulous musicians took the stage!

This photo is from 2017, since I didn’t take any good perspective photos this year. Behind the stage you can see the glowing windows of Roy’s shop.

Steve Hawkins was gracious enough to start off the night with some beautiful songs. One song was interrupted by low-flying aircraft, and he calmly took it in stride and incorporated the demonstration into the show. Now there’s a performer for you.

Rick Ruskin is another familiar friend and performer. His ease with his guitar made the audience forget it was a show and just get caught up in the music.

Roy McAlister, left, introduces Andre Ranieri and Diana Brown. It was their first time on stage and Andre impressed us with his lead guitar while Diana wowed us with her vocals.

Andre has been a beloved friend for years.¬† We met through a mutual friend and musician, Marcus Eaton. In fact, it’s because of Andre that I received my first invite to McAlapalooza in 2015. Andre plays with Diana, and so she made the journey from the TriCities to be here tonight. I loved her of course.

Peter Jacobsen used his guitar to accompany his outstanding voice.

Christine Gill and John Resch knocked our socks off with their great songs! John played a guitar he built himself.

Christine and John get a second photo because this one was too good to leave out. They are such a loving, open, humble, and generous couple. I begged them to come and play again next time.

Pianist and singer, Grace, a McAlister family friend. This young woman’s talent will take her places. (and look how much fun she’s having)

Our hostess Lucy took the stage to introduce Save the Bees, a new act and immediate favourite once they began belting out brilliant harmonies.

This is where the guitar magic happens.

Andre plays his new guitar.

As I watched Save the Bees, Andre gestured to me from the other side of the lawn to follow him and John Resch up the hill to Roy’s shop. When I arrived he announced, “This is my new guitar.” We admired the nearly-finished instrument (missing accessories like a pick guard and strap button) that Roy has been making for him. It’s a sister to Marcus Eaton’s guitar, that stirred up so much excitement in 2015. Andre humbly handed it to John, who tuned it and played a few pieces, and then Andre finally got to hold his new baby.

Diana showed up a little later and played it too, Jerry and Terry Holder stopped in to watch the delight settling over Andre. Terry showed us her mostly-built ukulele that Roy is making. Then Andre played while Diana sang, and I was a quiet, wide-eyed witness to musicians simply reveling in the joy of making music.

Jerry backs up Terry who wrote a new song while teaching herself to play the ukulele.

I had been stuffing myself with food all evening. That’s one of the fun things about McAlapalooza: guests trickle in from 3 to 8, and everybody brings something: salads, blueberry tarts, roast potatoes, noodles, fresh vegetables, cake, and artichoke dip. The grill was fired up and then chicken and sausage appeared. Every time I walked into the house, a new dish had found a place on the table and I had to sample it. It was late, and dark, and I was tired and full of delicious food and wine. I missed the final act, James Anaya,¬†and climbed into the Jeep and set the GPS for home.

bat+open door = oops

So. Much. Stuff. Happened. Last night.

Except sleep. Sleep did not happen much.

The evening was fine until I got a text from someone who pissed me off. And I could not stop thinking about it. I was mad, mad, mad. I went to bed and stared fiercely at the shadowy ceiling while I tried not to worry about the 6:30 am alarm that would be coming soon.

My cat Racecar likes to sleep on my neck. It’s hard to breathe, but she’s soft and warm and she’s my comfort blanket. Except last night it was 87 degrees and neither one of us could get comfortable. I had opened the deck-side sliding glass door a little, and the window, but there was no cross breeze. Racecar walked across my throat, stepping on a boob now and then, back and forth, back and forth, but could not pick a satisfactory place to curl up on my neck. Too hot. She finally found a place at the foot of the bed and it suited us both fine.

Even with my comfort blanket down at the foot of the bed, the damp sheets, and no cross breeze, I finally fell asleep, who knows when. But I do know it was 11:47 when I heard a “mrrroowr! meeeooowww!” from a strange cat that woke me out of a dead sleep. It had managed to squeeze through the opening in the sliding glass door and got all the way to the kitchen to eat my cat’s food, and then couldn’t find it’s way out. I started yelling and it found the door and skeedaddled. Racecar, worthless cat, was still curled up at the foot of the bed, clearly not defending me from foes.

Then I was awake again.

Ugh. It was so hot. Against my better judgement, I went to the other side of the room and opened the door to the back yard. And opened the glass door wider, trying to bring the outside air in. I figured the strange cat probably wouldn’t come back. I tossed and turned for at least another hour. I was hot and mad, trying to sleep. You know how you silently yell at yourself, “go to sleep NOW!” and it doesn’t work?

Then I started wondering what that fluttering sound was. Such a soft, pretty sound. Probably a moth. Fluttering around and around the room.¬†Racecar got up and started following it around the room. “Good girl,” I thought in my fogginess. “Eat the moth so I can sleep.” Flutter flutter. Moth wings have a sort of fur on them, which must be making that lovely sound. Then there was a quiet “eeeek” on one of its passes over my head. Funny, it reminded me of a bat. Racecar started jumping as the moth swooped close.

Actually the flutter was pretty loud. That must be a damned big moth. I picked up my phone and turned on the flashlight app and shined it up to the ceiling so that I could see into the blackness…and saw a BAT swooping around my bedroom! Shadows cast by my phone covered half the room. Wing shadows, probably teeth shadows, but I didn’t hang around to look. Obviously it came in through one of the wide open doors and now couldn’t find it’s way out.

A bat! A Bat! In my bedroom!¬† I slunk off the bed, crouched, arms over my head, and duck-walked to the door to the living room. Once out, I closed the door behind me. The bat could find it’s way out of my bedroom eventually, but I needed to sleep in a bat-free zone.

I checked to make sure kitty had come out of the bedroom with me, then padded down the hall in bare feet to Tara’s room (unoccupied while T is at college), and climbed into bed, pretty much awake.

I took deep, slow breaths, calming myself, thinking some more about the 6:30 am alarm. Still mad about that text message, planning all the clever mean things I would text back in the morning. Tara’s room was a little cooler, and the bed is comfortable. My eyes began to close and I began to drift off.

thump I hear from the living room. Thump thump…bump. CRASH! What the?? I sat up and listened. Whack-bump! thud.

Jeeze Louise.

I got up and walked into the living room in the dark and found Racecar leaping from the furniture into the air, trying to get the BAT that had followed us out of the bedroom! I ducked.

I wouldn’t even walk through the living room. I went out the front door of the house, outside in my bare feet, around the house to the deck, opened the living room sliding door so the bat could get out, then through the sliding door into my bedroom again, and dropped to the still-damp sheets. Is this for real?

Fully, fully awake. I checked my phone. 2:12 am. I went to the bathroom and swallowed a sleeping pill. I had to work in the morning. Sleep was critical. It worked after another 45 minutes, and I finally fell asleep after composing a perfect text response in my mind.

There was a time warp and in four minutes, the alarm went off. “Like hell,” I mumbled. Turned off the alarm and went promptly back to sleep, only to be awakened immediately by cluck, cluck, cluck…brrrrr cluck? Clearly chicken sounds, and clearly too close. “Arrrggghhh!” I said to no one, looked at my phone, which said 6:33. I heard it again, cluck cluck?

I got up and opened the door to the living room, and crept in while crouched, eyes at the ceiling. No bat. But there, in the living room, was one of the Hussies. Of course this would be the morning Tawny got loose, and of course she came up on the deck and found all the doors open, and came on in. Because, she’s a chicken. Chickens are dumb, and annoying. I love them, but it’s an honest relationship.

“Come on, chick! chick!” I called, and dumb, happy Tawny followed me out the door, across the porch, down the steps, across the grass, and to the chicken pen. I’m Momma Chicken to her.

Back in the house, I checked for poop (none! yay!), and resigned myself to starting up the work day.

As I settled in at the computer in my home office, I heard CCCRRRREEEERRRR….CCRAAAACCKK! BOOM!

Pretty little elderberry tree by the creek.

Exactly 24 hours later. Can you see the massive tree that has fallen across the creek?

I ran outside, and saw that a huge Alder in my back yard had just fallen. No wind. No storm. It just…gave up and fell. An enormous tree that now lies in the creek. Just last night I had stood there, captivated by glowing evening light on the elderberry bush beside it. That must have been an omen, the light on the bush. Earth was saying to me, “Pay attention and enjoy this moment of peace. Because… well… you know.”

It was pitch black through my nighttime adventures, and I couldn’t get a photo, not that I was even thinking of it. I told a few people today, “I’m gonna write a blog post about it, and Allie Brosh will do the illustration.” Sadly, I don’t know Allie personally. So I had to do the illustration myself a-la-Hyperbole and A Half.¬†¬†This is me, crouching behind my bed, arm up as protection against the bat:

In lieu of Allie Brosh.

Here’s another photo of the downed tree. You still can’t get sense of how big the tree is by looking at the photo, but it’s a little better.

All those sideways branches=one tree


Section of my most recent painting.

I took one oil painting class in 2006. Ever since then, I’ve been thinking I would like to paint again. Finally I dug out my old paints, threw away the hardened tubes, made a new palette, fixed a shelf in the spare room to hold my canvas, and slowly tried to teach myself to use oils again.

I am so happy when I’m painting.

In 2005 I needed a job and it was convenient to find work on campus, where I was studying as a non-traditional undergrad. Yes, 35 years old and pursuing a Bachelors degree. I had modeled at a community college in California before I moved to Boston, so I inquired at the Art Department. Sure enough, they wanted another model. So I posed for figure painting classes for a couple of professors as needed, but most often for Professor Wardwell. After a year of modeling, I liked Joe Wardwell and I liked the way he taught. I liked the music he played during class time.

When a slot opened up in my schedule in 2006, I took Art 101, and was exposed – in a different way! – to oil painting.

Professor Wardwell started us off with black and white. So when I began painting last year, I started in black and white too. I wanted to remember what the paint felt like, how to capture light and shadows again. For my very first image, I chose a Japanese land mine that I pulled from a shelf. It’s a simple shape.

WWII Japanese ceramic land mine. It’s designed to be filled and thrown by hand.

Here’s my work space in the spare room.

And my first painting, nice and simple, 11 years after my only painting class in my life.

I am always drawn to nature. So when I was walking through my property and found a newly broken branch with leaves on it, I brought the branch to the house and began painting. It shriveled up in two days and I had to finish the shadowing with my imagination. It got a little frivolous, but I had fun.

Leaves partially realistic.

Stumped with what else to paint, I actually turned to my left and began painting the spare bed next to me. I had recently had a guest in the room, and the slightly rumpled pillows were interesting to me. The crazy 4-armed lamp arced over it and out of the image. The old cast-iron hospital bed frame (from my mother) showed through.

Spare bed, slept in and somewhat tidied.

At this point I felt like I could move to colour.

Every now and then I get to stay at my brother’s house in Washington. Ian and Karen live in an amazing spot in Seattle. The view from the spare bedroom at their house is a clear shot of the Space Needle. I took a photo and loved the way the colours worked. I decided long ago that one day I would paint that photo, and now was the time.

The photo I took from Ian and Karen’s spare bedroom.

I started out slowly, and took a very very long time to finish the painting.

Here’s my first day’s work

My workspace. I pulled the photo up on my iPad to reference while I painted.

I added some orange and yellow

More detail. I was excited to finish the Space Needle.

I had so much fun with the brick wall.

Ian and Karen told me they would be coming south to spend the weekend with me while Karen attended some training in Portland. I had to grab the painting and finish it up! I added my signature and a couple touch ups. My idea all along had been to give it as a gift to Ian, and now was the perfect time.

They showed up on Eid al-Fitr, so I did a quick Google search to see how people celebrate Eid. The first three steps were all about praying. Since I’m atheist I skipped those. But then there was gift-giving and food. I made a wonderful lamb stew and couscous, and honey-walnut cookies for dessert. I had the perfect gift to give.

Final version of the painting. It was sort of dry by the time Ian and Karen took it home with them.

One of my many guises

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