Sunday, August 28, 2011


As fewer and fewer of my immediate clan remain above ground, family reunions become increasingly extended. It was good to see my first cousins, but I didn't know anyone else, and thank God for Vali, my treasured cousin. We, with our men, drove together and escaped together, and ate and talked and looked at a wonderful scrapbook of sweet memories from a time when the only way to preserve paper was in a scrap book, not digitized, not youtubed.

My aunt (of whom these children were born) was meticulous about every area of her life, her scrapbook a reflection of her genealogist-librarian mind. I will never be like that, and sometimes my personal unravelling is a source of unrest for me. We are the black sheep -- my immediates and I, but we are beloved -- there is never any doubt -- and as I spoke to one dying man who was hooked up to a power pack of some sort that was keeping him somewhat alive, our similarities and differences were in an odd balance. He hears that I am a writer. Yes, I admit. That's true. His family has a publishing company. Oh, my ears perk up, really? My husband whispers, this could be a good thing. I listen. The dying man says he is trained in theology and publishes theological books. Oh. Maybe his is not the publishing house for me. What kind of novel? he inevitably asks. Oh, darkish women's literary fiction. An autobiography? No, I tell him, although parts are emotionally true-ish. Ah. He knows what I mean. I wonder if he does. His face is gray and his feet are black. Whatever he knows, he needs to get it said and quick if anyone on this side of the veil is to hear it.

We ate burgers and potato salad and red velvet cake and went home, our names and photographs captured for and posterity. I guess photos are inaccessible as long as you are living. When a death date is entered, you become public domain.

Back at the office Rose is dying slowly. It is hard to explain to the living how hard it is to die, that dying is a process. Even you, my readers, will think I mean a spiritual process. I mean it is physical work. Something to attend to. Something to do. And your body knows just how to do this thing, this ending. It stops getting hungry and thirsty, it stops eating. If it is an indian back in the day it wanders away from the tribe where it can die unobstructed by the living and the loving. It is hard for families to stop feeding the dying. They think they are helping. But the person who is doing their level best to leave is sidetracked from the serious business of getting it over with, and made to digest another small container of yogurt or ensure, as though those small bites could somehow sidestep death. And they are so sweet, the dying are. They open little bird mouths and take another sip so as not to hurt anyone's feelings, making yet another detour on the way home. But we all make it home eventually.

Ah, life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

annual blackberry post

I just want to go on record as saying that if you live in Oregon and you don't pick blackberries, it is a sin. Conversely, if you live in Oregon and you plant blackberries, it is a sin. I think its pretty much like any sin-not sin determination: you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Also, I'm sure I've said, but will repeat myself, that cockroaches and blackberries will be the last ones standing. (see previous posts, turns out there is only so much to be said for blackberry picking and I say it once a year.)

There. I've said my piece.

Today we (he) got up early and (he) made coffee and we went to pick blackberries. As I pick, I think of this post, this yearly pilgrimage to the vines, wearing a long sleeved shirt not becasue I shoot heroin, but to protect my lily-white arms. (ghosts of summers past) And real shoes. Even my bzillion dollar keens can't keep the thorns away. And my overalls, which are now museum-quality. I'll take a picture. I actually order upholstery samples online to patch them with. A thing of beauty, depending on the beholder.

So, I pick - and this summer it is all low hanging fruit, easy pickin' - thanks to the endless spring of Portland. We picked for 45 minutes and filled a five-gallon bucket. Now, two pies are in the smoker (what?) and 4 racks of berries in the freezer for pies to come. Enough left for a smoothie. Yum.

This isn't blackberry 101, but there is a trick to it. Like any fruit, if it doesn't want to come off the vine, it isn't ready. You have to respect that or you'll have a sour pie and use a ton of sugar. Ripe berries have a shine to them, a fullness. If they've lost the shine and are a bit dull, they are still great for jam or juice, but will fall apart in your hand. So I just pop those in my mouth and call them breakfast. Then come home and make a smoothie and call it breakfast too. Then an egg sandwich on sourdough, but I'm getting into a problem area.

So, Kurt made the pies and is trying out the smoker instead of heating up the house with the oven. I appreciate the heat consciousness, but am tentative in my support of the smoker.

Okay. I've been busily editing the f**king manuscript and am making real progress. I should be finished in time to send it to the publisher of my dreams. Back to work.

Oh, this might surprise you, but I want to put in a pitch for french manicures. I'm a gardener and I work in health care and my hands always look like crap. A french manicure is the fix for that. Just sayin'.

Friday, August 12, 2011

kim's sauce

If you are from Southern Oregon and dined on the bad chinese food at Kim's restaurant (now defunct) I was given the recipe for the pink sauce, shrimp sauce, Kim's sauce they were famous for. Posting it on the internet is piracy, I'm sure. It was a best-kept secret until somebody got as drunk as the after-hours patrons and spilled the beans.

Kim's Sauce

Mix all ingredients in order, stirring each time.

1 egg
2 1/2 c. salad oil
7 oz. catsup
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. Chinese hot mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. apple cider vinegar

Blend until smooth
makes about a quart.
Store in refrigerator.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

requiem for a neighbor

John Spates died. One more of the Applegate boys is gone. We were neighbors up on Yale Creek. He lived one hill over on Shump Gulch with my running buddy, Helen, and her son Shannon. He's the one, if you remember, who killed the goat we bar-b-qued. He was beautiful.

I lived in a cabin of hand-peeled logs, built by John and Kenny Powers. That was what they did. They built log things: fences, houses, barns. My house was constructed of logs graduated in size from large at the bottom to small at the top. A half-loft had a notched pole to climb to sleep, and I did. A front porch, enclosed with a rail, all of peeled poles.

It was so beautiful. I hung snake grass and pressed leaves in the windows to rattle in the wind. These were my curtains. I had no close neighbors but John and Helen, and Topar when he was around.

But they're all gone now, Topar, Kenny, now John. And so many more.

Rest in peace.

Friday, August 05, 2011

my summer vacation

Lewis and Clark got nothin' on us.

This will probably turn into a series of shorter posts rather than one boring travel journal. We travelled many miles in not so many days, stayed in awful RV parks and worse motels and I have the pictures to prove it.

This blue haired troll followed us. Sometimes he rode the motorcycle. But he always seemed pretty happy.

Here he is in the Tetons. As you can see, he hogged the photograph.

We took off on Friday and spent the first night in our first RV park. These are strange places, in the event you find yourself wondering. We are campers, and we are country folk -- in a way -- but not like these people. They are very friendly and they make everything out of wood and rope and barbed wire and from the looks of things they worship cowboys and Jesus, in that order. My favorite sign: "I'm so confused I don't know if I found a rope or lost my horse."

We pulled into the Mountain View Park in Baker City, Oregon at about 8:30 in the evening, hotter than blazes. A Lorretta Lynn or some country chick other than Patsy Cline, CD was playing on speakers loud enough to entertain the entire park, and it was skipping, and the woman at the counter, Barb, told us she hadn't had much luck using toothpaste to clean her CDs.

Really? No luck at all?

Yep, she nodded, "and that's such a good CD."

We dove in the pool and tried to forget where we were. At 18 bucks for a spot to sleep, a pool and a hot tub, it seemed like a good deal even though we rented the scenic basketball court because it was th only place left because the entire park had been reserved by Shriners, even the clowns in the tiny cars. But they have full size RVs let me tell you. Next morning off we went after I scrambled some eggs on the free-throw line.

Not really. You should know by now how I exaggerate.

So, our destination at this point was Yellowstone. Well, not actually Yellowstone, but a spot beyond it, Shell Canyon, in the Bighorn mountains. It is a place Kurt passed through on his way to Sturgis and one he has tried to show me for years. And believe me, if you're hauling a big black bike, everybody asks if you're headed for Sturgis. We were not. I'm pretty sure I'd never go unless he bought me a sidecar. One with a/c and a pool. The thought of Sturgis irritates me. I love motorcycles but can't stand bikers. I speak from an informed point of view. I can't imagine standing six bikers deep to use one of sixty outhouses.

But I digress.

One of the education points of this vacation, and there were a few, was the unreliability of memory. Not just his, mine as well. He had blown through the prior trip at 90 mph, eyes forever on the center line until it turned to one long white stripe, on a mission to complete the male right of passage that is Sturgis. Turns out he missed some scenery along the way.

Shell Canyon made quite an impression.
So many birds: swallows and wrens and hummingbirds darting in and out of juniper and

sagebrush. I'm getting the order of things mixed up, but as we left Yellowstone, we came through the beautiful Shoshone River Valley lined on either side with red rock formations that went on for miles and miles into Cody, Wyoming. He hadn't remembered seeing this at all. In his memory, Shell Canyon went on for miles when in fact, the canyon is a blink, a mile at most.

I realize I have said nothing about Yellowstone. I know I was supposed to love it but it just made me sad. The forest there is dying of pine beetle infestation, caused, I have no doubt, by something we did to help it along, as though it wasn't doing fine in the first place. And what isn't infested was burned in the 1988 fire. And I'm thinking another big ol' burn would be really good for the problem in general. Start over. We saw pine beetle damage far up into Montana and across much of Idaho.

So, we went through Yellowstone and saw animals and paint pots and the black toothpick forest.

and then we went to the Tetons, but that's another story for another day.... In case you're wondering, I took the last photo. I'm not great at it.