Wednesday, September 19, 2012


The house is quiet, my husband playing his guitar on the front porch. Both dogs lay panting from a run in the park, and with their breathlessness offer a rhythm for my typing. I could meditate to it if I could meditate.

I wonder what my life will be like in five years when I am sixty four. The Beatles made it seem so far away, but I am just around the corner from being an old woman. I can feel it in my knees, my step, my intolerance of celebrity. In the way I view the pale sky; a sky I know I will never see again -- not in just this same way. Where I live now, I have to walk three blocks to get a good look at the evening sky. I used to stand on my deck with the whole of the sky sprawled before me, unaware that there would ever come a time that I would want for a view.

One night the Aurora Borealis dipped down into my backyard, swags of scarlet and purple light. I remember my neighbors pouring out into the street like marbles from a bag, some of them calling it the end of the world. “And the sixth seal was broken and read, ‘The moon became as blood.’ It is the end of days.” Voices either keening or drunk, it was hard to tell. I remembered my mother just then, how she would have quoted the same scriptures, how she would have feared for our souls. For some of our souls. For mine. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

more camping stories

 So we're finally home, back with the running water and electricity.

Wait. I had all that in the trailer. Here it is, My sweet little Aladdin, nestled in the shadow of the Wallowa Mountains, on Wallowa Lake. Staged perfectly by my showoff husband for maximum effect. We'd made reservations at this crappy RV place in Enterprise, Log House RV Park, certain there'd be no room at the campground so close to Labor Day Weekend. But there was. We hurried back to Enterprise where I begged for a refund and got it. I'm a pretty good beggar. At Wallowa Lake there is a tram that takes you 3500 feet straight up the mountain. The view was spectacular. I kept pointing this out to my husband as he clung to the pole in the middle of our tiny, metal gondola, knuckles white as a trout's belly, until he opened his eyes briefly and said, "You enjoy the fucking view. I'm hanging on to this pole," as though his grip would somehow protect us as we plummeted 3500 feet to our death. Once at the top of the mountain we had to walk to see the view. I was pissed. "I didn't come to exercise," I said. "I just wanted to watch." But he made me walk to the edge of the world. Actually the edge of the EagleCap Wilderness. Home of the Imnaha Wolf Pack -- more about that later -- and drank perfect clean water from a spring gurgling out of an iron cistern in the middle of nowhere. Well, clearly it was somewhere, but it was remote.

Speaking of remote. My xfamilyinlaw has had a piece of property way way up in the Wallowas since the sixties. It is a forty acre plot of mountaintop, an elk pack-camp, where my son's grandfather led pack teams to hunt elk each fall until his death. I don't think I understood my inlaws until, in 1987, I drove to the property to pick up my son after a long summer visit with his grandparents. I knew they were country people, pioneering types. I got that. But they told me: drive to Joseph, take a left and keep going. I remember I borrowed Vivian's little Escort station wagon, and when I turned off the Imnhaha Highway onto 4inch-minus rock and bounced straight uphill for nine miles, I began to understand their comittment to a certain pace of life. I finally arrived at camp with a punctured gas tank and stood among a forest of sugar pines and a hand-made lodge with four hunting cabins that are still there today.

So we drove up there to see Julie. She is so tough. She is living up there, "fixing the place up" in her words: re-chinking the cabins, cleaning out thirty years of rat shit and neglect since her father's passing. She is turning it into more than it was. People will still come to hunt game, but she is making a place for wounded warriors to heal.

"You like to help people," she said. "You can help me." I think I don't so much like to help people as it is my default means of support. She likes it, really. She has that kind spirit in her.

So we had a good visit. Her closest neighbor, a trail runner, was out for a morning run, and noticed the Imnaha wolf pack running alongside her, she on a trail, the wolves a few trees in. She bought a gun. Julie says, "I just carry my iPod in a bucket and turn it up really loud."  A bear left claw marks on her screen door. Okay.

So, we left Julie and went west. Way west. And found these guys and ate them all up. The end.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


I'm a whiner. Sue me. I un-posted my complaint. Then reposted it.

A social worker asked me, "If you worked in obstetrics, would you get sick of babies being born?" I just said yes. First, to be difficult, second, to appear right.

But it isn't the same thing. I didn't want to point that out to her because she was busy helping me. But I'm sick and tired of helping and helpers.

camping world

I like to think of myself as a country girl. I am. I am a girl from a country-ish place. Talent. Jacksonville. Ruch. The Outer Banks of Medford, Oregon. I've lived in log cabins, carried my own water, split wood for heat and for money. I know what a rick of wood is, and what it used to cost. But I like camping in parks. I like the running water and hot showers, the noise of other families trying to make music around the campfire at least once a year, kids learning how to play again: hopscotch, jumprope, the you're-it, if-you-don't-quit-it-I'm-not-playing-with-you-anymore, kind of games. I miss my son as a young boy, catching crawdads in the creek while I kicked heroin in the tent. ah. memory lane.

We have been on the road for a week, and I just wanted to take a moment to discuss campgrounds. Not the ones with the white trash ambiance, close enough to Leavenworth to service the townies, as though the meth lab just used up its two weeks and pulled up stakes: this was Tumwater Camp, a dry and crusted patch of firestarter nestled along a sweet little stream, dribbling past, unaware of the company it keeps. The Wenatchee River, I'll admit, is a fantastic river and maybe it was just too late in the year, but there was nobody else there hardly except for the people for whom camping is not a happy little vacation option, and that is scary to me. I'm not afraid of bears, I'm afraid of people. Maybe it was just too close to Leavenworth to make camping seem viable. Leavenworth looks like winter at summer's end. Scalloped rooflines, alpine trees and rocky mountainsides naked without their blanket of white. With shopkeepers that just can't let go of the inaccurate notion that everybody loves Christmas stuff. Like those yard sales with special areas for Christmas items such as melting faded pine tree candles, over-used silver garland and ceramic Mr&Mrs Claus with calico clothing. All of the tourists just seemed to be waiting for the snow and Christmas lights so a visit to the Nutcracker Museum would make at least some sense.

I love Wallowa Lake Campground. I love Birch Bay Campground. I love Beverly Beach. This is where the nice people camp. I have become, while I was not looking, a nice person. I have matching towels for camping. I know I should hate these places of rules and regulations and sale firewood and paved pathways, but they comfort me. The idea of roughing it no longer appeals to me. There. I've said it. That is not to say that all people who rough camp are not nice. I am just nicer.

Sid hates camping. He has no hair, bugs bother him, he isn't at home where he feels safe and knows what to expect. He'd rather stay in the trailer than roam around like an animal, calling into question whether or not he is really a dog. His skin breaks out, he shakes and stares at us, and the very mention of the word "home" is the only thing that makes him wag his tail.

I'm exaggerating.

Then there's Duffy. In the unbridled out of doors, he becomes even more dog-like and obnoxious, if that's possible. He waits at the window of the trailer and growls, stalking chipmunks. He plans his escape. He never forgets. As soon as he has an opportunity, he bolts, scrambling up a tree he has no hope of climbing. If he had any idea how impossible his hopes and dreams really are, he'd commit suicide. On a long hit list, Duffy's top two disgusting events while camping, are: 1.) Pissing down Kurt's leg and filling his shoe with dog urine, which is not all that rare for Duffy. (See previous posts.) He seems to equate the human leg with a fire hydrant or tree. It is upright, afterall. Besides, Kurt was standing on his leash to keep him from running off first thing in the morning. I know, I rationalize. And 2.) Drumroll.......... Rolling in human shit. Now, as profoundly disgusting as this is and was, do I blame Duffy? Or do I blame the bottom-feeder who crapped in the campsite? Well, Duffy was closest, so he got a pretty cold bath, me gagging through the whole thing.

We did bring him home with us though.