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My lawnmower broke a second time this year, and while I was unable to mow, the daisies took over! What a delicious silver lining.

My lawnmower broke a second time this year, and while I was unable to mow, the daisies took over! What a delicious silver lining.

I couldn't get enough of the daisies. I never did mow them because I didn't have the heart. Just let them die and then pulled them up.

I couldn’t get enough of the daisies. I never did mow them because I didn’t have the heart. Just let them die and then pulled them up.

I am reluctant to say goodbye this year. Last summer was dry and hot for so long. That’s the way I like it. First, because I am crazy for dry & hot weather (don’t ask me why I live on the Columbia River, 45 miles from the ocean). Second, because when you have full-on summer, it makes you hungry for Autumn. This summer was cool and wet. Bleh. And while the crisp mornings and short sunny days and October colours are my favourite season… this year I’m still yearning for summer. Just when will summer start anyway? I think I was warm enough to wear sandals without socks on about six days in total, and those weren’t in a row! I look at the calendar and see I may as well give up hope and start looking forward to summer 2017.

Here’s a goodbye to my summer. As you can see, the sun did shine now and then, and I ran outside with my camera!

First I am excited to show off some new birds I have spotted this year, as well as some I’ve seen before. I just learned that the Eurasian Collared-Dove first arrived in the contiguous 48 US states in 1980, in Florida. And look! Happy and healthy over here on the West coast already.

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

This was Thomas, while I was taking photos of the Yellow Throated Warbler.

This was Thomas while I photographed the Common Yellowthroat Warbler.

You talking to me?

You talking to me?

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Beneath the bird feeder I've collected two Juncos, a Black-headed Grosbeak, and a chipmunk.

Beneath the bird feeder I’ve collected two Juncos, a Black-headed Grosbeak, and a chipmunk.

How cool is this?!

How cool is this?!

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Even though I see them on a nearly daily basis, I still love the deer that show up. There have been two regulars all summer, both small does, but one is noticeably smaller than the other, so I have wondered if they are mother and daughter. The smaller one loves to play, and prances, and bows, and sprints in circles trying to get the bigger one to play. The bigger one twitches her ears and reaches down for another mouthful of grass. I love getting up in the morning to see them sleeping beneath the apple tree.

The littler, spunky one that loves to play.

The littler, spunky one that loves to play.

The mellow deer, eating from my garden.

The mellow deer, eating from my garden.

Waiting for the apples to ripen.

Waiting for the apples to ripen.

Thomas and Chaplin love it here, but there are continued problems. They fight with my Racecar and with each other. Do you know anyone in Oregon who wants to adopt?

Chaplin is named for his mustache, and because he's in black and white!

Chaplin is named for his mustache, and because he’s in black and white!

Thomas is wary of the freshly escaped chickens. (Don't worry, they are back in their pen.)

Thomas is wary of escaped chickens. (Don’t worry, they are back in their pen.)

Bullfrog enjoying a rare sunny day.

Bullfrog enjoying a rare sunny day.

My pond is evaporating again and it’s distressing. I really need to find a way to keep that thing filled. I can’t count on another humongous flood this winter like last year, to fill it up again. I have enlisted the input from my neighbors. There are three homes in a row here, and no one else in sight. And it’s nice that I can only see forest and fields in all directions except one, but why cram all three houses together with all this land? I just don’t get what people are thinking sometimes. So anyway, I’ve talked to the neighbors farthest away, because their back deck looks down onto my pond and they are always worried about it. They have lived here 22 years and know exactly how to take care of it. Their ideas are great, and their offers to help are great, so now we just wait on the spare change to collect so I can purchase the needed equipment. Stay tuned…

In fact, rain and lack of funds is keeping me from my annual 5-day solo backpacking trip this year. It’s such a sad thing. I toyed with the idea of driving down to New Mexico or Utah, to get some sun, but then there is also the problem of taking care of the animals. I’ve opted for a couple overnights locally. Hopefully it is just as fun, if not as epic, to stay one night somewhere nearby, and do it again a few days later.

Vacation car! Most people over about 45 years pointed with delight at this display. The kids were all, "Uh, Dad, what's so great about that old car?"

Vacation car! Most people over about 45 years pointed with delight at this display. The kids were all, “Uh, Dad, what’s so great about that old car?”

We celebrated two things last week: Tara’s graduation from High School (with High Honors, I might add with pride), and – as it turned out serendipitously – Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary.

This amazing theme park was opened on July 17, 1955.  Our trip to Disneyland was planned sometime around September of 2014, and neither of us knew that in the meantime, the big 6-0 would pop up, resulting in massive park renovations, updates of old shows, and all-around spit-and-polish.

A 60th anniversary is the “diamond” anniversary, and thus the park heartily embraced the jeweled theme (glittering diamonds could be found on castle spires, on T-shirts, on signposts, on Mickey Ears), as well as lots of icy blues (in fabric banners, in cupcake frosting, in the flowers planted, in logos).

It's A Small World - familiar to anyone who has ever been here.

It’s A Small World – familiar to anyone who has ever been here.

Lamp post over Casey Jr. Circus Train ride, another 1955 original, named after the train in Dumbo.

Lamp post over Casey Jr. Circus Train ride, another 1955 original, named after the train in Dumbo.

The Mad Tea Party's tea cups have been spinning since opening day in 1955, bringing us six decades of motion sickness.

The Mad Tea Party’s tea cups have been spinning since opening day in 1955, bringing us six decades of motion sickness.

As longtime readers know, I visited for the first time in my life just last year, in March. At the time we felt as though half the park was closed for repairs, and we cursed our bad luck. On this visit, we not only realized why so many renovations happened last year, but we also were able to see and experience all the new stuff!

There are a remarkable number of rides and attractions from 1955 (and those installed in 1958) that are still running today, and those are my particular favourites. I’ll admit, however, that not much can beat the thrill of a modern rollercoaster, or the dazzle of movies shown onto a towering fountain spray of water. And I can honestly say I’d be happy to hanglide in Soarin’ Over California or board a spaceship on Star Tours once a week for a year, because the wonder of flight combined with a sense of realism in those two rides is indescribably exciting.

Goofy walks with a fan through Toon Town.

Goofy walks with a fan through Toon Town.

Blue banners and sparkly spires to celebrate the Diamond Anniversary.

Blue banners and sparkly spires commemorate the Diamond Anniversary.

Metal bonnet over a shop in the New Orleans district.

Metal bonnet over a shop in the New Orleans district.

A larger-than-life ringmaster holds up a tent in Disney California Adventure Park.

A larger-than-life ringmaster holds up a tent in Disney California Adventure Park.

Fabulous rollercoaster above the water in Disney California Adventure Park.

Tara looks out at the fabulous rollercoaster and Ferris wheel above the water in Disney California Adventure Park.

I found a lot of joy this week in observing people find their bliss. Kids went out of their minds with happiness to see their favourite characters, and parents were gleeful when watching their kids interact with the characters. Adults would start to get testy (the crowds, the heat, the lines, the noise), and then suddenly smile and relax as though a voice in their head had just said, “Cool it. You’re at Disneyland.” Teenagers wore completely ridiculous outfits and were proud to be a part of it all. Elderly people walked very slowly and looked for shady spots, and I never saw someone acting impatient with them. Staff went out of their way to get people using wheelchairs into rides. We saw a Disney employee in a wheelchair, and Tara was helped at one store by a Disney employee with Down’s Syndrome.

We are now home, a little sunburned, still recovering our sleep, and still happy.

magical moment

It’s a magical moment for two little girls (the older one got hold of the princess’s hand a few moments later). And then, look at Mom in the back ground.

The Queen

The Queen says to the little girl, “Of course you want me to sign it, because then it will have some value.”
When it was Tara’s turn, their Mickey Mouse pen ran out of ink. “That’s what you get for trying to use a rat to write with,” sneered The Queen. She walked over to a nearby tourist woman, snatched a pen out of her hand, and said, “I’ll be using this.” It was brilliant.

We caught some really great shows. Some on the streets, and some on stage, like this one, featuring King Louie from one of my most beloved Disney movies: The Jungle Book.

We caught some really great shows. Some on the streets, and some on stage, like this one, featuring King Louie from one of my most beloved Disney movies: The Jungle Book.

Tiana, from The Princess and the Frog

Tiana, from The Princess and the Frog

These dancers leapt through the air, launched from stylized surfboards in a piece from Lilo and Stitch, another of my top 5 Disney movie faves.

These dancers leapt through the air, launched from stylized surfboards in a piece from Lilo and Stitch, another of my top 5 Disney movie faves.

Just like last year, I was impressed with the attention to detail in creating realistic scenes to entertain and educate. At the Redwook Creek Challenge, we explored a U.S. Forest Service fire lookout tower.

Just like last year, I was impressed with the attention to detail in creating realistic scenes to entertain and educate. At the Redwook Creek Challenge, we explored a U.S. Forest Service fire lookout tower.

A real U.S. Forest Service jeep was parked outside Eureka Mine No. 2 entrance, at Grizzly River Run (an innertube ride on river rapids).

A real U.S. Forest Service jeep was parked outside Eureka Mine No. 2 entrance, at Grizzly River Run (an inner tube ride on river rapids).

Multiple artist workspaces are installed throughout the parks, and frequently have real Disney artists at work.

Multiple artist work spaces are installed throughout the parks, and frequently have real Disney artists at work.

Captain Hook and Tara were both in good spirits, flashing their hooks.

Captain Hook (despite his rather nasty reputation) and Tara were both in good spirits, flashing their hooks.

Peter Pan has adoring fans. Just catch a load of the face on this girl as she realizes who is walking toward her.

Peter Pan has adoring fans. Just catch a load of the face on this girl as she realizes who is walking toward her.

Oswald (who inspired Mickey) greets his fans.

Oswald (who inspired Mickey) greets his fans.

There's a big Goofy. And a Disney character too!

There’s a big Goofy. And a Disney character too!

The crowd all wine-happy and warm and anticipating The Wallflowers

The crowd all wine-happy and warm and anticipating The Wallflowers

Just a short one today. I wanted to show off the great venue at Maryhill Winery on the southern Washington shore of the Columbia River Gorge.

Arno took me to see Counting Crows, and I was delighted to hear, belatedly, that The Wallflowers were opening. I love the music of both groups. Yes, it does indeed date me. So be it. 🙂

The average age of the crowd was easily 40, and it reminded me that I’m aging. But who cares when the point is to Live! and have a lovely day of it. Thank you Counting Crows and Wallflowers for being so good that you can still draw thousands of people to a remote grassy lawn in the middle of nowhere on a perfect summer night…

Arno and me in the welcome cool after the sun moved away

Arno and me in the welcome cool after the sun moved away

Happy people sprawled in the lawn

Happy people sprawled in the lawn

The Wallflowers on stage. Jakob, does it bother you that I can't help but think of your dad when you sing certain songs?

The Wallflowers on stage. Jakob, does it bother you that I can’t help but think of your dad when you sing certain songs?

Counting Crows on stage

Counting Crows on stage, with the gorgeous gorge in the distance

A super show and an excellent venue. We will be back!

A super show and an excellent venue. We will be back!

 

Back! Back! You creeping monster!

Funny how a distinction created by humans can be a sign portending such spiritual and elemental evaluation. Last day of August. Last days of Summer. Last days of freedom before school. Probably because the dates and the seasons are so cleverly merged with the way our earth tilts and whirls, we react on a chemical level to what we are/would react to anyway, with only a little number on a calendar trigger.

It’s very exciting to get my girlie ready for the sixth grade. I haven’t had the opportunity to usher her through the first days of school for a few years. I’ve already had administrative snags, met the office people trying to clear up the snags, toured the school, and found her classroom. Though I tried to get everything set up for her in May while people were still at the school, when I went to double-check last week, they didn’t have a record of her anywhere. I am so glad I checked! Our bonus gift was that we showed up the day classes and teachers were being assigned, and we learned the name of her new teacher. The next prize was getting a letter from her teacher in the mail yesterday, addressed to her new students and anticipating a fun year ahead.

West side still waiting to be tamed

I just love this stuff. I always loved school, and many of the teachers, and the activities and friends, and clubs and events and sports. Girlie struggles academically, but I hope that she is getting other positive things out of school.

Did some yard work yesterday, because it’s got two things that heal my soul: hard physical labor, and hands in the dirt. Well, ok, it wasn’t entirely a spiritual pursuit. I also really needed to chop back that horrible ivy before we completely lost sight of our sidewalk. I eagerly anticipate the day when all that will be GONE! We would like to terrace the hill in front of our house, and landscape with attractive, non-invasive plants. But for now, I’ll just incessantly hack at the ivy.

We also went to Freddies and bought a new backpack, two pairs of jeans, and a shirt. I can’t BELIEVE she’s wearing a women’s size 1 already, and women’s size 4 shoes. Jeez! My man reminded me that what this really means is that she’ll soon be raiding my closet for clothes. ha ha. She does already actually. She met me at the bus stop after work Friday evening in a darling outfit that included one of my shirts. “Can I just have it, Mom? I really like yellow, and it’s so cute!”

She changes clothes about 4 or 5 times a day. Everything she comes up with is adorable, so I have a hard time getting mad at her for wearing all those clothes. We just decided that she can do her own laundry, and then she can wear whatever she wants and deal with the consequences herself.

Her Saturday chore is to vacuum the whole upstairs (which is a trick to get her to clean her room). Then I had her come out in the street where I was clearing ivy and pick up all the trash out of the gravel in front of our house. She is such a good worker, such a good girl. She never fusses. I have not heard her whine or have a fit about chores yet.

Work is so good for a person’s well-being. Just hard work. Builds up your body, forces you to gulp in the air and get your blood pumping. It builds a satisfying sense of accomplishment. Sometimes you can even see what you accomplished. As I sit here on the couch in my fuzzy jammies next to my kid tearing it up on her DS, the aches and pains in my back and shoulders have erased all guilt I might have felt for sitting somewhat unproductively at the computer.

Ahhhhhhh….. It’s 92 outside right now, and it reached 92 yesterday. The sun hasn’t stopped, and I am blissfully warm. I feel like a complete woman for the first time in a very long time.

I am a skinny body and half reptile I guess… because I am not completely warm until it gets freakin’ HOT outside. And I do not do air conditioning. The worst part about summer is going to work because inevitably I’m in a climate-controlled building with windows that don’t open, and AC blowing through my hair. In the summer, I always have to keep a sweater at work so I don’t freeze. Am I that much of a freak that all the world except me wants it 47 degrees inside while it’s 85 outside? It’s summer; it’s supposed to be hot! Can’t we compromise?

Anyway, love this heat! I am fleshed out and swollen to be completely me. The sensitive follicles on my forearms have laid to rest flat against my skin. I am barefoot and soaking up my Mother Earth with pleasure – straight through to my heart through my feet. Even in the shade, even with a breeze, hot hot hot. Deliciously hot.

The last three summers, the best thing about summer has been my daughter. We were all living in California when I made the decision to head East and attend school full time. Though I spent two years in court begging for the chance to take my girl with me, I was told it would be too disruptive to move her, a five-year-old, from her “community” of friends and neighbors. Oh for Pete’s sake! She was a little girl and her community was mainly her family at the time.

But who am I to argue with the great all-knowing State of California when it comes to family law? Two years and $19,000 later… my spirit crushed, my faith in justice demolished, I gave up and moved to Boston to go to school without her.

There are many more gruesome details I left out (there are always gruesome details in family law), so in my mind, I was in complete shock that I was not allowed to take my girl with me. Instead, I settled for long holidays and summertime.

Summers from school I refused to work. Dirt poor as I was, that was a difficult choice. But since I only saw my girl for a few precious weeks (summers are only 2 months long these days – not the three months I remember from my own school days), I committed myself to her and only her in the summers. We couldn’t take trips or go to museums or anything – not enough money – but we had so many good times. Honestly, what makes kids happiest is playing in the mud, climbing trees, running around in circles and screaming loudly with their friends. That’s actually pretty inexpensive entertainment.

This is my last summer like that. I just graduated and now it’s time to work. I had a good interview and probably have a good job, but we’re still working on a start date. Anyhow, no more lolling about for weeks because now it’s time to put that education to work. But until I have a start date, that means she and I get to play, play, play.

Today is my first full day with her for the summer. I am so excited to have my world coming together again. Now that we all live in the same town again, I’ve been able to see her almost every single day. Summer after next, our arrangement switches and she’ll live with me full time and only visit her father on holidays and summers. It will be nice to have her call my place “home.” But being in the same town means we can both see her practically any time we want to. The three years away from her were filled with so much self-doubt and loneliness and sadness. I’ll probably beat myself up the rest of my life for “leaving” her, even though I am convinced that it was the best thing to do for her (i.e. get an education so I could get out of rotating shiftwork). It’s all behind us now, and that’s the important part.

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