Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Survivor - Extreme Home Edition episode 5

When we last left our hard headed but bloodless heroine was alone in a dimly lit room at the dark of night. The Sainted one had gone home to more cozy accommodations which lacked the tube and needle set up or the frequent interruptions by James the friendly hemoglobin peddler. And where exactly was the heroine’s blood or at least the decency to look weak and pathetic without it? Did James have a day job on some street corner selling overpriced concert tickets or questionable used cars or was this his main gig? Was the Saint resting comfortably in his warm, cozy and currently extra roomy bed? Was he wearing soft fluffy PJ's all snuggled up in the down comforter unencumbered by that otherwise pesky conscience?
Traitor. No, I’m not bitter. Why would I be bitter?
On with the story.
Nursing staff and doctors in training hovered at bedside with bemused and befuddled expressions. Tests were performed and theories posited. Probes were sent in and were promptly sent back in a mangled uninformative mess. More elaborate tests were then devised. It eventually became apparent that a large and Evil Gnome was living within our brave heroine and stealing her blood for his devious plans of world domination.

The Evil Gnome with his diabolical plans had made a single grave error that would ultimately lead to his utter destruction. He had chosen a host already engaged in heated battle with an even greater nemesis that also had designs on world domination.
There would be no quarter given to this would be tin pot dictator. She simply couldn’t be bothered. Long grueling hours in dark smoky rooms passed as heroic efforts were made to study the enemy’s weakness. Desperate ideas for daring rescue missions were hatched under the strain of to much coffee and not enough sleep. Either that or someone in a white lab coat cracked a book and said “hey, how about we do this?” “Sounds good Bob, are there any frosted donuts left?”

Oh, fine! Here’s the TMI part of the post. It was a benign tumor roughly the size of Montana. They said they needed to shrink it before they would even attempt to remove it so, they gave me hormonal drugs. The result of which was my summer of Sudden Extreme Menopause…home edition. Now, I may be a late bloomer since I haven’t even come near menopause yet but if that’s how it’s going to roll when the time does come, I’m getting a sex change or going into an induced coma. Whichever one the insurance covers, I don’t care. There’s just no way I’m ever doing that again! Did I mention…EVER! Holy cow I thought I was on fire half the time life was dull as dust and I lost the will to live and…and…just thinking about it makes me want to curl up in a fetal position and suck my thumb.

Figuring out the source of the problem was just the first bit of resolving it. They had fueled me back up but the Evil Gnome was still working his evil disappearing magic operations. The supply lines needed to be reinforced and fresh troops brought in. Over the next few months they yo-yoed me between ridiculous amounts of birth control and the menopause from hell shots. I was on an iron dosage so high that the pharmacist actually laughed at me when I told him what I needed. No, he actually laughed. Out loud. He looked at me like I was two pills short of the Prozac prescript I should have been asking for. Then he gently explained that “the human body simply can’t process that much iron.” I said “Well that’s OK ‘cause it’s just going through the express lane anyway. Now give me the damn ship anchor and I’ll be on my way.”

I was instructed to eat a Caveman meets Popeye kind of diet. This also included such things as dinosaur eggs, lizard tail and pumpkin seeds all of which are apparently high in iron. As if sucking an iron ship anchor like a giant lolly pop wasn’t enough. Well I’m a good patient and since I have clearly displayed that I lack the good sense to know when I’m dying I obey the new diet rules dutifully. The dinosaur eggs tended to be a bit pricey and the lizard tail just too chewy, so I went with the pumpkin seeds. I put little jars those potential pumpkins all around the house so that I might snack on them throughout the day. I nibbled these little iron packed chips between sucking down eight million pills and moving rocks.

Yes, of course I went right back to slinging the pick axe and lugging rocks. I said I was a good patient I didn’t say I was a smart one. I’m actually a complete idiot when it comes to recognizing a limit. I took that first day off because well, I figured I had already missed most of it by the time I got back from the hospital anyway. The next day however I was right back out there on that darn ROCK digging away. It took a few days for the new juice to flush through the lines so things didn’t seem that much different at first. What’s that? Oh, where was the Saint? Safely back at work of course, where his annoying meddling in my affairs wouldn’t bother me. I always made sure to drop the pick ax and scurry back up onto the porch when I heard him coming.

I figured that we were going to need some river rock for this little project but upon learning that an Ivey League College education would cost less than the amount of rocks I needed would cost, I decided to scout out some other sources. I’ve been advised not to discuss the details but let’s just say I did find a source. I began daily trips out to the afore mentioned source and loaded my car up just until the tires began to flatten out from the weight. There was a lot space on that pond to consider so there were a lot of daily trips, sometimes three in a day. Sure I was loading and unloading rocks but I reasoned that I was actually resting more because I had to drive twenty minutes or so each way. I had to sit to drive. You can see the logic.

During this round of adventures however I began to suspect that something somewhere might be going a little askew. I began to have a little pain in my mid section. Ok, it wasn’t so little. I cried like a convicted hedge fund manager and begged to be put out of my misery. And just like that I was back in the ER visiting with all my old friends. Tests scans or whatever was done and I’m back in the too small paper gown with the blue pelt uni socks. This time I get a skinny bed with wheels and a sheet but no shower curtain. I do get my own room though, except it goes up and down and has little round buttons with numbers that light up. Cool! I’m getting sudden unplanned surgery. And I thought it was just going to be another boring night at home with the heating pad.

“That’s OK giant Evil ROCK. I’ll be back! I will be back to finish you. I’ve got my three feet down and that’s room enough for fishes. Do you hear that? Fishes!” Now I don’t know if the Evil ROCK actually heard me but I swear I heard him chuckling. Of course it may have just been the anesthesiologist.

On the next episode of Survivor Extreme Home Edition the Sainted One gets another confused call from a doctor and vows to never answer the phone again. The handsome chiropractor will actually make his appearance. No, really I promise this time he shows up. The track hoe riding neighbor and his wicked sense of timing will make an entrance and two famous Hollywood actors will share a heartwarming moment with our heroine.
See you next time on Survivor Extreme Home Edition!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Washington Apples

Just outside of Leavenworth is the Wenatchee Valley. I suppose technically the town of Leavenworth is within the Wenatchee Valley but somehow it manages to stand on its own, laying claim to a more mountainous identity than fecund farm land. That’s OK with me. A two minute drive around the corner and I am thrust deep into ample hillsides richly covered in sweeping orchards. Swaths of delicious fruit trees and lush grape vines cover hillsides that look down into a wide sparkling river cutting through the valley floor.
As far as the eye can see there are fields upon fields of trees and vines. Seemingly random impromptu fruit stands appear along the road side with upturned fruit crates for tables and simple awnings for a roof. Magic marker signs of cardboard announce the enticing farmer’s market prices and the variety is almost too wide to choose from. Samples of delicious fruit are handed out like free candy at a birthday party.

There are makeshift shelves lined with homemade jellies and jams. Recipes for pies and sauces compete for space on wooden tables covered with red checkerboard cloth. There are no green aprons or pristine white smocks of the conglomerate grocery here. There is just some member of the family who came in from the orchard that day to man the fruit stand.
The worn weathered hands of farmers hold out sugary slices of their hard work. They offer easy conversation and helpful information about their product. When I take a sample from their hand I know that this is the result of years of hard work and dedication. I can smell the soil on their skin and see the shimmering sun in their eyes. The satisfaction on my face as that sweet juicy fruit hits my tongue is their reward, their pride and joy. I am happy to pay them. In the performance of this simple transaction there is the completion of a circle that is often broken by the glare of florescent lights and plastic bags.

The markets and impromptu stands each have their own personality. Some are simply upturned crates with cardboard boxes and a lawn chair. Others have vinyl awnings hung over jarred treats and long wooden tables. While still others offer colorful banners beside dried corn stalks and hay bales complete with petting zoos and miniature cow trains for the kiddies delight. I love them all. We often ask if we can collect fallen apples for the horses back home and they always give us some bags just before asking if we’d like a box instead. I am so grateful that I live close enough to visit and soak all of this in.
I have been waxing poetic on the glories of fruit fresh off the tree and all things farmy but have left out one important element of the area and that would be the Applets and Cotlets Capital. What this means I have no idea. They make some kind of fruit based candies here and apparently they are quite famous for it. I don’t understand it. I don’t care for the candies so I don’t go. I just wanted to mention that these guys seem to know their Applets and Cotlets stuff and have really made a name for themselves since the early 1900s. The town of Cashmere is where you can find Liberty Orchards and take a factory tour of the Applet/Cotlet production. It looks pretty cool and I know a lot of people really love these candies. If you like this sort of confection, you couldn’t find a better place to visit. I just wanted to make sure that my personal preference for um, chocolate didn’t short change any of you fruit candy loving peeps out there. Just keeping it real folks.

There is a little stand that we frequent because they are one of the select few that grow the Cameo apple. This is my favorite apple. It is sweet, crisp and bright in flavor. It is in general an all around perfect eating apple. During this season we took a few trips over to the orchards and stopped at this particular stand for some of those Cameo apples. The farmer there is a sweet gracious man who is always eager to offer fresh fruit slices and tips for the best apple sauce combinations. On this last visit the gentleman was not at his stand. There was no one to be seen anywhere around. Just the highway and the dirt lot with fruit trees going off into the distance. Cue crickets. We had come a long way for some Cameos and Boscs so we were reluctant to leave without them. Then we noticed the cash box on the table. Sitting there simple and alone was an unassuming little silver box with a slit in the top. The man’s cash box. It wasn’t bolted down. The fruit wasn’t locked in Lucite boxes. It was just sitting out there in wooden crates with plastic bags hanging from the side. A sign hung on the wall with price per pound written in black marker. We smiled and began filling our bags. We weighed and reweighed our bounty on the old metal scales and then counted out our money. We folded the bills neatly and slipped them into the little slot that represented so much.

For many this kind of trust is a common affair but I come from a world of mistrust and suspicion in which the worst is assumed and “get them before they get you” is the code of the day. While I have never been able to assimilate this defensive attitude I often worried that I was hopelessly outnumbered and desperately na├»ve. I don’t consider this a gift of trust toward myself or even others so much as I see it as a gift of hope for the world I live in. It is an act of faith in the better nature of man and for that I am truly grateful.

PS. For those of you who are local: Stockings Garden and Nursery is just outside of Monroe but they get their produce from the Wenatchee Valley. I like their display and they sell Cameo apples.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bavarian Disneyland

Leavenworth Washington is a special place. That’s a pretty simple statement isn’t it? I love this town but oddly not for all the reasons I usually hear. It truly is a beautiful magical place, romantically nestled in the shadows of majestic mountain peaks. The town of Leavenworth is like a Bavarian Disneyland. Everything and I do mean everything is Bavarian themed. From the Hotels, restaurants, and gift shops right down to the gas stations, Safeway grocery and Starbucks. Heck even the McDonald's payphones are housed in tiny Bavarian chalets.

The gift shops boast the finest quality to be found. Exceptional creative works saturate the entire area. Hotels are adorned with exquisite art which can often be found in one of the many gallery boutiques. There are all sorts of shop doors and windows filled with whimsical art, unique clothing and the most wonderful confections. Oh, had I forgotten to mention those? The warm buttery scent of big toasty pretzels with dipping sauces draws you into quaint bakeries full of aromatic breads and pastries. Savory hot bratwurst with potato salad washed down with a frothy micro brew draw you into underground lairs of deep forest timber. And then there are the candy shops filled with a kaleidoscope of rainbow colored treats. Sparkling glass jars filled to the brim with the delicacies of childhood and the richest chocolates of your wildest dreams.

Music plays in the streets while costumed merchants stroll and do business along the bric-a-brac lanes. Horse hooves and carriage wheels can be heard clicking and clomping as they carry people through the streets in a festive display. In every season Leavenworth has found a spectacular way to celebrate with festivals and events that revel in the natural beauty and charm of this amazing place. The piece De la resistance however simply has to be the winter lighting festival. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to live in a Currier and Ives Christmas card or even a Thomas Kincaid painting this would be it. I have never seen a more enchanting winter wonderland.

Now having said all that, singing the praises of this quaint little Bavarian Disneyland in the Great Northwest I must go back to my original statement. These things are not why I love this town. The reason I love this town is because it is the most inspiring little town I have ever known. Leavenworth was originally a timber, rail and fruit town. It was never a large town by any measure and only has about 2,100 residents at this time. In the not to distant past it boasted a dubious reputation of brothels, saloons and hard living. In the 1920s the rail line moved its roadhouse and rerouted the rails to bypass the town thus killing the timber industry in one fell swoop. The depression further hammered the town’s economy and the subsequent war years drove the last nails into its economic coffin. By the 40s and 50s Leavenworth’s boom years were a faded dusty memory. With their economic opportunities dried up and gone there was little hope of survival.
Then in 1962 the town leaders went to the University Of Washington Bureau Of Community Development in search of ideas that might save their town. It was the natural beauty of the area that gave birth to the idea of a Bavarian theme with the hope of attracting visitors. While longtime residents, Pauline and Owen Watson are credited with being instrumental in this Hail Mary pass it was a total team effort. In 1965 key business owners made the brave decision to remodel their buildings. Pauline drew up some sketches for the remodeled store fronts and sold the idea to other business owners. Soon an agreement to Bavarianize Leavenworth was reached and Project Alpine was formed to guide the process along. By that summer in 1965 the first remodel was underway.

Now here is the part that makes me love Leavenworth the most. They did it all on their own dime. The whole town got together, made a decision and gave it their all. There was no government money used. Instead it was entirely financed by the hard work and sweat of people who were dedicated to a goal and to each other. They used their own money, mortgaged their own homes and took on a tremendous risk individually and as a team. Their town was a dust bowl in the middle of nowhere dying a certain death with no hope on the horizon. And they banded together, pulled a stroke of genius out of the air and had the good sense to grab it will all their might. This is a true story of survival and redemption.

So while I do love the Bavarian Disneyland and the picture perfect winter playground what I really love about Leavenworth is something you don’t see. This town is a beautiful testament to beating the odds. When I visit and I do visit often, I see something else in those cute little payphone chalets and lederhosen clad shop owners. I see the triumph of the human spirit. Passing the bric-a-brac fronted buildings which are teaming with visitors from all around the world I am filled with awe, though not of the exquisite Currier and Ives images that meet every turn. I am filled with awe at the people who took a dying town and not only breathed life into it but turned it into something far beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. I love Leavenworth because it makes me proud. It gives me hope and renews my faith in the impossible.
Oh yeah, you may be wondering about the hats. I can't explain it. There is a fantastic silly hat shop. They are the official mad hatters of the town apparently. I think the ample beer gardens help.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Eternal Love

Every year we take this particular drive to see the fall colors. We often end up taking it twice because the first time we go too early. I am quite certain that we could eliminate this redundancy if we did a wee bit of research before hand. Each year one of us mentions this little fact and each year we both look away and pretend not to have heard a thing. We like this drive. We take our time and will often take mysterious side roads for no apparent reason other than curiosity. It adds a sense of adventure and discovery to our little drives.

We follow rivers and waterfalls to cut through mountain passes and ski resorts. There are sweeping vistas of the richest greens cushioning fierce and rugged mountain peaks with crystal clear waterfalls seeming to pour from every rock and crevice. When winter’s cold hand turns them to ice it will look as though the mountain is crying diamonds.

Passing downward we again follow along the rapid flowing river as it winds its way through the mountain pass. There are so many places to stop and marvel that it is impossible to imagine having to pick only a few. We always turn our heads to grab a quick peak at Deception Falls. That is an entirely different trip though so we have to pass it by on this one. Spring time is the best for that one when the snow is melting the falls are rushing and roaring so loud you can barely the person next to you. But this is fall so we just give it a fond glance as we pass by.

The scenery on this drive is enough to break your heart. You almost have to wonder at the purpose of such beauty. Edward O. Wilson suggested that the world was beautiful to us because we were creatures of it. In his book Consilience he connects science to beauty in such an elegant and reverent way saying that everything about who and what we are is created to perceive this beauty. It is as though our very existence were meant to rejoice in the beauty around us. I am gratefully not finding it difficult to perform this portion of my human duties.

The river winds along chasing rocks and fallen trees as we follow it to the valley below. The trees and shrubs along the way are bursting with an unimaginable explosion of color and seeing the sunlight through the autumn leaves always makes me cry. It is as if these two elements were always meant for one another. It is a beautiful love affair between them, perfect and eternal. I feel small against this spectacle. It is one of those blessed times that I am granted a clearer perspective of my own humanity.

Of course fall is one of those cozy up to the fire times full of pumpkins, hay bales and hot apple cider. It is warm and pleasant with the sweet melancholy of sepia toned photographs and faded summer flowers. There is a moment however just before that which touches my soul deeper than any memory or personal thought ever could. It is this beautiful dance between eternal lovers. When the sunlight hits those leaves its like there’s no one else in the room. It’s just them, each one glowing in the other’s gaze. And so we stop at this little grove every year to watch this dance between the sun and the trees. There will be plenty of time for pumpkins and cider but for right now I am content to watch a beautiful love story play out another chapter in this golden romance.

We will follow this river to our next stop in Leavenworth for some Bavarian fun and then onto the Wenatchee orchards for tree fresh apples and pears. There may even be some grapes left at the vineyards.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Scrappily Honest

This is a slightly different post for me today but then again I don’t really have an actual theme do I? I keep looking for one but just can’t seem to figure it out. I have decided that I will post pictures for no good reason. Why? Because I like them, because it will give you something to look at while you are wondering just why in the world you come to my blog. It will distract you from my writing and you will forget all about that dangling participle or misplaced comma. Quick! Look over there. Ooh pretty flower….

Tara over at Eye Feathers hit me with… I mean honored me with the Honest Scrap Award. It’s sort of like Slug Bug for the Internet. It’s a game, people get hit, somebody cries and someone always gets in trouble. So I said, “You bet I’m in!”
Here are the rules:
You tell ten truthful things about yourself.
You pass the award on. You know like that horrible cold you had last winter.
You include the link for the louse…darn, I mean the super great friend who gave it to you
And include links to your victims, shoot…nominees.
Not only does Tara have a wicked sense of injustice she is also a pretty savvy editor and not to shabby with a pen and paper of her own. She is currently working on a novel for young adults. Give her a visit.

OK so here I go. Just like truth or dare but without the bottle and the cute guy your spin never lands on. At least my hands aren’t sweaty…anymore

Ten truths about me

1. I paint to disaster movies. It keeps the other side of my brain occupied so I can just do and not think. Dante's Peak being a frequent disaster. As a matter of fact the more you watch it the more you see just how big of a disaster it is. Love that movie. hehe
2. I regularly encourage my adult son to quit his day job. He has a good job. I have my reasons.
3. I bite M&Ms in half. OK, there’s no defense for that I just do.
4. When I was a kid in the first two weeks of the school year I would read through all my text books and do all the work. I think I might be an undiagnosed nerd.
5. I saved a man’s life. (not kidding)
6. Painting or sculpture I always hate it right before I am finished. I have learned to stop tossing them out.
6.a. Bonus truth: I secretly want to take back paintings I have sold and “fix” them. My ego is attending group meetings. We’re working it out.
7. When I was kid I ate Peanut M&Ms while watching Sean Connery in Live or Let Die. I got sick. I threw them up. To this day I can not look at a Peanut M without gagging. Looking at Sean Connery, not a problem.
8. I worry that I will die before I have done anything spectacular with my life.
9. I’m not afraid to die. I’m just not interested. No seriously. I’m not interested.
10. While I appreciate grocery stores I hate shopping in them. It’s the lighting and deliberative psychological layout. It rubs my instincts the wrong way.

Now this is the part where I list my victims…I mean my nominees. There is a wonderful mix of characters here so I hope you will stop by each of their blogs if you don’t already. Yes, even if they don’t want to get all honest and stuff. Oh, come on guys, it’s not like I’m asking you to reveal your deepest darkest secrets to the whole wide world. Well, unless you want to that is. I mean that’s ok if you do. It’ll be just between friends. You can totally trust us. It’s only the Internet after all. Who could possibly be watching?

Terry Lynn Johnson: I want to learn more about someone with such an appreciation of nature and her adventurous spirit. Was she outdoorsy as a kid or is this new? Has she ever been attacked by wild animals? What’s the strangest thing she ever ate? Does she secretly wear fuzzy pink slippers because they make her feel girly?

NuttyGnome: Because while we have only just met she sure seems like very interesting character and I have questions. How did she get that way? What is going on in that quirky head of hers? Does she have a maniacal master plan written up somewhere? Does she have minions and what’s the application process for that?

Rosey Pollen: because she just seems really fun, brave and like a pretty cool person. I also bet she has some juicy dark secrets. Hehe Has she ever been in a motorcycle gang or a member of a quilting bee? Does she have a secret talent that we don’t know about?

Janie is a brand new mystery to me. I just met her but I love her energetic spirit, joy for life and I would like to know more about just what makes her tick. What is it that puts that great big light up a room smile on her face?

FlowerLady: My sweet dear friend who has had a pretty interesting life and yet is so shy about it. What wonderful adventures has she had that she keeps stored away in a box at the back of the closet? What makes her such a sweet and thoughtful person? Is it the bread machine or her adventures in Europe? Who is the mysterious DH and does he have anything to do with it? Does she wear fuzzy pink slippers because they make her feel adventurous?

Jeni at Highly Irritable: just because I wanted to see if she would yell at me for tagging her. The woman is a terror and her children are plotting world domination. Seriously, if you want to know the enemy you should read her blog. Her stories are hilarious and so representative of what we’re all thinking but too chicken to say out loud.

Jewel at Pink Ink: this amazing woman is always trying on new hats in her life. She lacks the good sense to be insecure and embarrassed like most of us. She lives boldly, with passion and honesty and I just want to see what she has to say. It should be a lot of fun!

You realize of course that I have we will never hear from these guys and that I have been banned from their blogs. sigh. It is a terrible price we pay for art.
A Post post correction: In item number 7 I stated it was Sean Connery in Live or Let Die. A reader has graciously informed that it was actually Roger Moore in that film. A great big Oops and apology to all involved. I still think Sean Connery is pretty nice to look at though.