Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Love Letter

Dearest ~~

I find it so hard to believe it’s been three years since that sunny April afternoon when everything changed so irrevocably.  With just a thought, I can be instantly transported back into nightmare: The 911 call as you lay at my feet, doing CPR—a skill I never thought in a million years I would actually use—while the heartbreaking wail of the ambulance echoed up the ridge and even as it raced closer, I knew it was too late.

How my world shifted on its axis that day, how my breath labored in my lungs as if I were drowning, how my heart stuttered as I found myself, between one moment and the next, a widow.  Far too young, too soon, too much.  Too…everything.

I got through that first year.  Somehow.  I spent hours, days, months wondering why.  Why now, when we were just starting our Grand Adventure in America?  Why was I alone on top of a mountain in a strange town when all our friends and family were 6,000 miles away?  Why did you leave me?

Eventually, I stopped asking questions that had no answers. You know I’m not a Buddhist for show, I actually embrace the concept of living in the moment, I understand that life is just…what it is. You can’t come back no matter what I wish, and I can’t change the inevitability of death, no matter how cruel or painful.  That doesn’t mean I don’t think of you, smile at our life together, talk to you when I hear something, see something that I know you would think was funny or outrageous or annoying.  I still cry sometimes, though mostly these days it’s more because of a perfect, happy memory than a mournful sorrow.

It’s funny the things I miss.  Your laugh, that quirk at the corner of your mouth when you tried to keep a straight face whilst winding me up.  I miss your mind.  I miss being able to ask you for a particular word I can't remember and you would know it immediately. I even miss your occasional irascible, bossy laird of the manor attitude, our quiet talks, our wonderful road trips.  But what I miss the very most, love, are your hugs. You could wrap those arms around me like a shield, protect me from the world, warm my neck with your breath, your kisses.  Oh, I miss those full-body, encompassing hugs.

Tonight I will raise a dram of Dalwhinnie—yes, that same bottle of whisky we brought with us from Edinburgh—and I will toast your life, our life, and the fact I’m still standing even without you at my back.

I hope wherever you are, you will know...  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

There and Back Again...

I had a most excellent long weekend.  Not only was it liberating to get away from the drudgery of the same ol' daily stuff, have a plethora of shops, stores and restaurants to entice, but I was able to spend time with my sister and the bro-in-law.

I didn't take as many photos as I wanted, mainly because I was having too much fun ogling the wonders of a large city.  Honestly, I have never been a country bumpkin, nor wanted to be, but I had a moment or two over the five days where I felt like one.  Oh, how I miss the bright lights and big city energy.

On Friday, my sister and I went to a few of my favorite shops--ones that will never appear in the hinterland of southern Oregon.  I bought teas, exotic spices and breads.  I found some biscuits (cookies) that I haven't seen since leaving Edinburgh.  We bought some gourmet cupcakes for our Easter dessert that were as big as softballs. Only two actually made it to Sunday...


Saturday was relaxed and easy, a bit more shopping, some reading.  Then Saturday night we went out to dinner at Bernie's, a bistro in an eclectic neighborhood of Portland, with lots of cool eateries, art galleries, food trucks, old Victorian houses.  The specialty at Bernie's is the southern-style food: buttermilk chicken, hush puppies, collard greens, corn bread.  It was incredibly delicious...all of it, not just the chicken.


Sunday it was time to hike off three days of wine, whiskey and great food, so my bro-in-law took us to his favorite weekend dog walking haunt, the Washington State University campus on the outskirts of Vancouver. The original university is in eastern Washington, but now there's this new campus annex with nine miles of wetlands, hidden artworks, and glorious hiking up hill and down dale.

Go Cougars!!



Not only were the grounds and surrounding acres beautiful, but the campus itself was truly stunning, with Art Deco flourishes and unique mosaic columns...





Wetland areas were scattered between buildings, down trails, under walkways, across bridges; even the culverts were cool. The entire campus was a working, growing, thriving eco-environment that was just...totally wonderful on a quiet Easter Sunday...



There were artworks displays that appeared out of nowhere.  We were walking down a steep trail, wild grasses and giant rocks to our right, when out of the seemingly barren landscape stood this bronze sculpture...




After an hour or so, and just when I thought it was time to turn back, my bro-in-law said he wanted to show me something that I would really like. It was a long hike down (which meant an equally long hike up), but he said it would be worth it.

And it so completely was.  We entered a portion of old forest, dense and lush.  Around a slight bend...The Wailing Bell.  It was at least 14 feet tall (based on my height), the posts were massive, and the bell actually rang.


The clapper was really heavy and the sound was deep and terrible and mournful.  I understood why when I read the message inscribed on the bell itself.  Hopefully, dear readers, you can read it if you click on the photo.






I loved the way the base of the posts were wrapped with hammered copper...













What a perfect way to spend a couple of hours.  We went home, had waffles and Mimosas, and eased into a late Easter dinner.

I had such a great time, though somehow five days flew by faster than should have been possible. Before I knew it, the boys and I were back on the highway and heading south. The drive seemed endless, but wasn't really, and both dogs were thrilled to be home, rolling on the carpet, throwing toys around, then suddenly falling into their beds to sleep away the rest of the afternoon.

How I would have loved to do the same!  Numerous trips up and down the stairs, lots of unpacking, laundry, a walk to the mailbox, dinner and I was done for.

Just like you're supposed to feel after traveling...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Break

Okay, so I've got the food, snacks, water, blankets and meds ready to go for tomorrow's road trip. And that's just for the dogs. Honestly, it's like having two toddlers with all the stuff I have to pack and organize.

I'm leaving the laptop, taking just my tablet and camera.  My sister is fully wired in case I have a meltdown or a sudden withdrawal spasm, though I'm hoping to just fall off the grid until sometime Monday when I'm back in the wilds of southern Orygun.  We'll see how it goes.

And so, because I won't be around this weekend, dear readers, let me wish you an early...

Happy Easter/Chocolate Bunny/Egg Salad For a Week Day!!


See you on the flip side, peeps...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Postscript

I got a few emails today from friends across the Pond with some questions about yesterday's post.

To clarify:  DQ = Dairy Queen, a fast-food place with the usual suspects (burger, fries, etc.), and also some really good ice cream treats, like sundaes and cones and my favorite:




The Peanut Buster parfait.  A layer of hot fudge, peanuts, soft ice cream, repeat until the container is full of yummy deliciousness.


Just looking at the photo makes me want to drive to the other side of town to get myself another one...though I will resist. Summer's coming after all.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Moments

Today has been slightly crazed, fraught with many errands, appointments and scurrying from one side of town to the other and back again.  Mondays.  No matter who you are, where you work, what you expect, Mondays are just...Monday.

I had to drop Oz off at the groomer's, especially now the heat and humidity are becoming a daily event and the poor wee thing has too much hair. Then it was a trip to the vet's to refill prescriptions and possibly get Max's demon claws cut at the same time.  No such luck on the claws, the place was mobbed.  Monday, don'tcha know.

After the vet's I got gas for the trip north Thursday morning, went to the grocery store, the post office, then to the bank.  It's about 12:00 when those tasks are finished, Max is grumbling for his lunch and I'm sweating in the mugginess of a semi-cloudy day with temps running toward 80 degrees already. Buggers.

Home for lunch, then I planted the peony--with difficulty since I'm on solid bedrock; the lavender didn't need such a deep hole.  I had to reconnect the hose now the danger of frost is over, then since I'd hauled the ungainly and heavy POS up the slope to water the peony, I decided to wash out and refill the birdbath.

That work done, I get cleaned up and think I should have time to sit for a while with a nice cuppa and my book. While the tea is steeping, I remember Ozzy's meds, get them out of my purse...and discover the tech gave me the wrong pills.  Quick glance at the clock. 1:45. Okay, I think I can get across town to the vet's, and with any luck at all, dash across town in the other direction and still make it to the groomer's by 2:30 to pick up Ozzy.

Are you laughing yet, dear readers, at my blithe intentions?  My idiotic naivete?

The pill mix-up is taken care of fairly quickly.  Lots of apologies, etc., which I am gracious about, mainly because I just want them to hurry up so I can get going.  Finally, back in the car, correct prescription in my purse, I give Max some water and a cookie before driving away with all windows down to help him stay cool.

You know those tiny little decisions, usually made on the spur of the moment?  The ones you always regret when it's too late to change your mind?  Uh huh, yeah, those.

It's now 2:20...I'll be late, but not too late, and I've got options.  I can head through the center of town then meander side streets to the groomer's...or take the secondary highway which skirts the high school but drops me within blocks of the groomer's, bypassing the congestion of downtown altogether.

I choose the high school route.

Of course I do.  Because there is some kind of major event going on there with traffic backed up for miles--literally--and kids, parents, cars, buses everywhere.  It is a jam of epic proportions.  There are more people along this road than live in the entire frigging town!

At last, I make it to the groomer's just a hair after 3:00.  Max is hyperventilating in the back seat, I'm sweating and my left eyelid has begun to twitch.  I run in, all ready with my explanations...to find the groomer has fallen behind due to a very matted and unkempt dog that has thrown off her entire schedule.  Can I come back in an hour?

I gave Max another drink of water, and another cookie, while I pondered my next move. I totally refused to even think about my stress levels, or the heat, or that my left eyelid is doing the rumba.  I don't want to drive all the way home, I can't go shopping because I have Max in the car and it's too hot.

Driving to no purpose or destination I pass a DQ. Huh. I haven't had a Peanut Buster parfait in years. I pull in, order, then drive to the river where I parked in a perfect spot under a large shade tree. It was quiet and peaceful with a slightly cool breeze coming off the water.  My twitching eyelid was gone by the time I was scraping the last bits of hot fudge from the bottom of the container.

I found a few precious moments of tranquility in the midst of mayhem.  It made all the difference.

Because it's Monday...but I had ice cream...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Nothing Much...

The weather has been warm and sunny, making the lawn and the weeds grow practically before my eyes, so I've spent the last three days working outside whilst battling Mother Nature.  She's winning.

My gorgeous French Lilac bush is just blooming on the back slope.  The deep purple color, with the nearly overwhelming scent...well, it's not only drawing me, but the bees and hummingbirds, too.


I saw the most beautiful peonies the other day while shopping and just had to have one. My sister gave me a lavender plant a few years ago that bit the dust over this past Winter. I'm going to put the peony in the large empty space and hope the blistering sun doesn't fry it. The plant is supposed to love sun, but it's pretty relentless in the back during the Summer.


The deer have disappeared.  Why?  Because little bambinos are being born, no doubt all across the mountain ridges, even as I write this.  At first it seems perfect timing as this will save my newly budding trees and shrubs.  Unfortunately not. What it really means is just when my garden is starting to look good, all the babies will come and eat everything in sight.  And they're so adorable, all gangly and speckled and tiny, that I almost don't even begrudge them.  Almost.

I took this shot the other day of what, I'm totally sure, is a very fed-up and ready to pop pregnant dove.  She sat on the edge of the birdbath for most of the morning taking little naps and occasionally snarking at her partner when he'd drop by to check on her. Apparently those cranky don't ever touch me again feelings are universal. She didn't even care that her tail was in the water the whole time...


I'm going on a road trip next Thursday.  Heading north to visit my sister, do some shopping in a real city and have an adventure or two for the long Easter weekend.  I'm looking forward to hanging out with her and the bro-in-law, and the boys will enjoy seeing their cousin Cooper, the Jack Russell. Chaos will ensue.  Makes me smile just thinking about it.

I plan on having lots of fun because when I get back I have to face the grueling task of power washing the two decks, then staining front and back and two flights of stairs. I skipped it last year, but can't do that this time around.  To say I'm dreading the monumental work involved is an understatement. More like I'd rather have a root canal.

Have I mentioned before that I love Winter?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Opinion vs Censorship



I belong to GoodReads, a wonderful site for writers, readers and book lovers.  One of the advantages to GoodReads is the plethora of reviews by folks across the globe, which often help me weigh the pros and cons of a book to see if I'm interested in reading it even though, in the end, I'll always make my own decision; books are just too subjective.

Now, on to the crux of this post.

Yesterday I was reading the reviews for a book I was pretty sure I wanted to read. The reviews were 4 and 5 stars for the most part, with excellent praise for the author, the plot, the characters.  There were several references to the deep, dark secret, which I found intriguing.  I was just about ready to order the book when I scrolled down to read one more review...a 1 star rating and curiously very negative mixed in with so many positives.

Imagine my irritation and total surprise when in the first damned sentence this reviewer reveals the deep, dark secret!  I was really pissed!  There is a kind of unspoken agreement, a common courtesy if you will, that pertinent, crucial details of the novel are not explained.  Otherwise, why read the book in the first place?  That's what spoiler alerts are for so the book is not ruined by someone with an attitude or personal issues.

After the Big frigging bloody Reveal, the rest of the review turned out to be one of the most scathing I've ever had the misfortune to read.  I'm not going to get into the plot device this person found so utterly offensive, but it occurs at the start and drives the entire rest of the story. And frankly, peeps, I don't know about you guys, but I sure don't live at Disneyland.  The world is cruel, life often sucks, shit happens.

This woman could have stopped reading at any time, donated the book to the Goodwill, ripped it to shreds, whatever.  But to purposefully foist her attitude on other readers, ruin the story and actually say that no one should buy this book (from a best-selling, award-winning author, with exemplary reviews)? Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but that smacks of self-righteous censorship to me.

Or does it?  After all, she's entitled to her opinion, and I will always respect anyone's right to have one, even if I completely disagree.

But then again.  When does the right to opinion shift to censorship?  For me, the moment someone tells me what to think, how to think, or feel they have the right to stop, influence or intimidate me.

Which is why I immediately went to Amazon and ordered the book...