Category Archives: Hiking

Dear Tom (and Ray), I met prejudice/ignorance today.

Loess Hills

Loess Hills.

I know I haven’t posted in a long time. Sorry. Been insanely busy re the upcoming move to Montana. But I have to say something about what happened today, and I’m including Ray because he’s a Midwesterner. Upper Midwest, but that’s okay.

I was chatting with this guy who had a real cute dog, a Scottie. I love Scotties, attitude and all. They are like little bearded hairy men. (Oh, by the way, when big ol’ Jake goes to puppy camp he’s greeted with, “Hello Sunshine!” He’s a happy camper!)

Anyways… I was chatting with this guy. He was here in Napa enjoying the sunshine. He’d driven down from Portland because he wanted a break from all the rain- which we happen to be having for a minute. Our weather has been beautiful.

We discussed the rain. We discussed my recent stop at PDX, landing in the midst of a horrific downpour. If you get off one of the little planes you have to walk through the downpour to get to the terminal. We were all soaked.

I mentioned my parents. Told him that they’d retired to Southern Oregon.

He asked, “Oh, did they move from California?”

I answered, “No, they moved from Iowa. We’re all from Iowa, I’m not a native Californian.” (‘Cuz yeah, I’m proud as heckfire to be from Iowa.)

He said, “Oh. Iowa. Bunch of illiterate evangelicals there.”

And I was like… “Um, what?”

He said, “Yeah, everyone is stupid religious. Nothing there but cornfields and ignorant racist white farmers.”

I asked, “Have you been to Iowa?”

He shrugged. He said, “I’ve read about it.”

Hey Tom, and Ray, I wanted to punch him in the face.

This is what I deal with on the West Coast. People who think they know the Midwest even though they’ve never been farther east than Vegas (or maybe they’ve flown to NYC). People like this dude, who was about as white as a slice of Wonderbread, who think everyone in the Midwest is a toothless dumbass church-goin’ snake-handling redneck filled with hate and vitriol; that we’re uneducated hicks who stupidly refuse to accept the superiority of the West Coast elites who should be in charge of EVERYTHING.

I don’t care if he had a nice dog. I wanted to kick the living shit out of him.

But I didn’t. I said, “You know nothing about Iowa. Have a safe drive back to Portland.” And I walked away.

Tom, you would have been proud of me.

XOXO! Julia

The Loess Hills: I grew up here, played here. My ancestors lived and died here.

Did I mention the University of Iowa Writers Workshop???

Besides, Iowa is home to one of the best bugs in the world – Fireflies! If you watch the video you’ll discover that we’re not all toothless yahoos.

 

Dear Tom, the misadventures of Jake and his bestie.

I wish I had photos but these days life is too busy for photos.

Jake and I went for a hike along the river. I chose a trail he loves. It’s a grassy trail that meanders through a flood plane. One one side is a slough, on the other side is the river. There are no roads. He can’t get killed chasing cars. There are no bicycles. There are only birds, the occasional fox, coyote, river otter, beaver and mountain lion. All good.

Oh, farther down the river, actually farther north along the river, is a place I’ve cristened Rabbitzville. Cuz there are like a million rabbits. But Jake and I headed south. There are fewer rabbits. Perhaps only a thousand rabbits as opposed to a million rabbits.

Jake and I crossed the slough via a makeshift bridge of boards and driftwood. Jake ran right through the water, while I picked my way across. When we reached the trail I let him off leash. I mean, c’mon, it was just us. There was nobody there but Jake, Julia and ducks.

We had a great time. He romped up and down and around, running in big circles like a puppy. It was a terrific hike. But then Jake scared up a rabbit. He scared up a jack rabbit by stepping right on him. The rabbit flew across the meadow, Jake in pursuit, because if there’s one creature he can’t resist, it’s a rabbit.

He chased that sucker for at least half a mile and then the rabbit dove into the slough, right into a huge patch of xanthium strumarium. Jake froze. When I saw him freeze I knew what had happened.

cocklebur

OMG. Those horrible horrible awful terrible cockleburs. They are the stuff of nightmares if you are a long-haired dog. He made his way back to me, walking like he was in absolute misery. Egg-shaped sharp stickers were matted into his hair, everywhere. His armpits, his belly, his chest, his legs, his tail.

We had a two mile hike back to the car. Once we got home I cut out as many of the stickers as I could. But I couldn’t shave his armpits or his belly. The stickers were matted right up against the skin.

He had to spend the entire day at the vet’s, sedated. They removed the remainder of the stickers, or so we thought. I’ve since found four more, had to cut them off his thighs. Yikes!

The same day his bestie, Hastur, was sprayed by a skunk right outside her front door.

Oh, California. Where the wild things are.

XOXO! Peace out. Julia

 

Dear Tom, this morning’s harvest~

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Garlic. Purple potatoes. A couple leftover spring onions.

Yesterday I harvested asparagus, three bunches of celery, and a big bunch of broccoli. Now that the garlic is out of the ground I’ve got to get the clover-stuff out of the bed. Last year I purchased plants from a new nursery and unfortunately contaminated one entire bed with this yellow clover-ish weed. You can see some with the garlic.

My four baby robins fledged! Now a pair of mockingbirds have moved into the robin’s nest. They spend all their spare time begging for worms (making sounds like a puppy) and attacking Jake. Unlike the great horned owl, he can safely ignore them.

Yesterday we went to a beautiful beach. Jake had a wonderful time. He ran around like a maniac, then he and Oscar took a three mile hike. Unfortunately my climbing days are over until I’ve had surgery and rehabbed, so I walked along the shore and collected semi-precious stones. Then we drove over the Golden Gate into San Francisco to meet our youngest and her boyfriend for coffee. He lives at the very top of one of those hellacious hills and yes, I drove. Driving up the hills scares me to death. I always feel as if my car is going to flip upside down. Down doesn’t bother me. But believe me, I’d rather be driving than sitting in the passenger seat. I remember the first time I rode in the passenger seat up one of those hills – I was nineteen years old. I insisted the driver stop and let me out. I walked up the hill.

Last night we got lost in the mountains outside of Lafayette, looking for a retirement dinner. One of my husband’s managers is retiring after 40 years. The event was held in the middle of the wilderness (not kidding) at the end of a single-track road after we’d wound our way through a maze of country roads. Reminded me of the roads in Scotland but without the necessary turnouts. We had a hill on one side and a cliff on the other. We somehow managed to make it there without encountering another car (3 miles). The way home was another matter. All I can say is at least we were on the hill side, not the cliff side.

I only mention this retirement dinner because it made me sad. This woman has dedicated her life to her job. She’s married but has no children and only one sister. Her co-workers are both her family and her closest friends and now she’s leaving them.

There was a photo retrospective running on a loop on a big screen television.

Oscar’s co-worker is a happy healthy 70 year old woman. She radiates warmth and intelligence. But I experienced this weird disconnect as I watched the slide show. I’ve only known her for a couple years and I know little of her history. I was, to be frank, stunned. She was a glamorous young thing. She had model looks, kind of a combination of Bridgette Bardot and Twiggy. I had this completely inappropriate thought – If anyone ever makes one of these retrospectives of me I’ll come back from the grave and kill them. I think it’s kind of the same reason movie stars don’t watch their old movies. We’re young and then one day we get old. It ain’t always pretty.

Time does fly, doesn’t it?

XOXO! Julia

 

Dear Tom, Remember that skunk?

Well, she apparently lives under our deck and she has a litter. I can’t fence her out of the yard away from her babies. I just can’t do it. So we’re learning to live with the situation. At least there is no odor. When they babies grow up and everyone leaves, we will figure out a way to close the gaps along the sides of the deck.

In the meantime, we are in the midst… wait, let me clarify. I am in the midst of rebuilding our broken fence (the rotting areas of the back fence and side fence the skunk uses to get in and out of the yard)– so I’ll have to cut a couple holes in a couple old boards. I’ll replace the boards later. I’d rather cut holes than have her rip down the new boards or dig beneath them.

I say ‘I‘ because Oscar is out of town and has been for two weeks. Which allows me to get stuff done. No offense, Tom, but husbands, aside from you, say they’ll complete a project yet somehow never get around to starting it. At least that’s been my experience. Of course in this case it’s just as well. As my plumber once said – “Do I diagnose your husband’s patients??? Well tell him to keep his hands off my toilets!!!”

I got new carpet installed in his home office. (OMG that carpet was soooo awful!) I’m fixing a broken coffee table- yeah, me, as in I’m doing it myself- so I can move it (can’t move it with a broken claw foot, it’s too heavy and I don’t want to break it worse) along with all the other furniture in the family room in order to replace the big threadbare throw rug. And then I’m tackling the hardwood floors. I’ve been studying up on how to refinish worn areas.

Yep. Jake and I are going to town. Speaking of Jake…

His robins are back, in the same nest. Mama robin has laid at least four eggs. I’m so busy feeding her worms I have no time to write. Boy, does she have it good. Since robins have a relatively short lifespan, I figure giving her and her babies a leg up is the least I can do. She sits on the nest, flutters down to the worm feeder for an occasional bite. Gets a drink out of the bird bath, maybe takes a plunge or two, and then heads back to the nest. She never has to leave the yard. Sweet. She’s even willing to share the feeder with the towhees, who have babies of their own, and two pairs of mourning doves. She’s pretty nasty to the blue jays though. Can’t say I blame her but I do miss their squawking.

What does this have to do with Jake? He hangs out in the yard with the birds. They love him. He keeps the predators at bay. None of the songbirds fear the dog. They hop all around him, preening, feeding, bathing, drinking. He likes birds. Now the squirrels… they are another matter altogether. And that skunk… Jake has grown wary.  He won’t go outside at night unless I turn on all the floodlights first. And even then he sniffs the air before he sets one foot on the deck.

He’s been a great companion in Oscar’s absence. Not hyper. Rather, he’s showing a lot of self-control. I think it’s because I’m pretty chill while Oscar is pretty loud and sporty, (kinda like Sporty Spice) and he gets him revved up.

Yesterday Jake and I had to wait on the side of a trail for thirty minutes. We happened to hit a bend in the river trail the same time as a kids’ 5-K. He and I needed to cross right at their turnaround point. There were so many participants, and the trail is so narrow, we were forced to wait until the end of the race. But you know, he just lay there like an angel and every single kid was cooing and fawning over him. Fortunately he likes kids. But if you’re an old lady in a floppy hat, beware. Jake hates nothing more than a floppy hat. Fortunately we didn’t see any floppy hats yesterday, although today we did see an old lady wearing an enormous floppy straw hat and, of course, even though she was across the road Jake had to bark at her.

Well, I’ve talked long enough. Will chat again soon. Love, Julia XOXO!

Dear Tom, I miss you!

I heard from Ishbel the other day. She’s been on my mind, although I know she’s all right. She was married to you, after all, so I know just how tough she is!

But I know your family misses you. I miss you.

Here’s all the news that’s fit to print~

I’m still pretty much a mess. But there are worse things than broken things. As you well know. I did take Jake to the beach last week. The surf was so high we couldn’t do much beach combing.

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Also a woman wearing a pashmina tried to hit Jake with a ball thrower. Seriously. She was at the far end wearing her blue pashmina (I hate pashmina’s because they are so pretentious) and white slacks. She was using her ball thrower to dig a hole in the sand with her golden retriever who was, as this is an off-leash beach, off-leash.

Jake bounded up to them, all happy, his entire body wiggling like a puppy and a look on his face that said, “Hey, wassup? What y’all doing over here?”

Her dog just looked at Jake, but the woman started swinging that ball thrower at him. So I yelled, “Hey, lady, knock it off! Don’t you dare hit my dog!” I called Jake back to me. He came right away, with a look that said, “Is she crazy or what?”

She’s lucky he didn’t bite her or grab her ball thrower and run off with it.

So I yelled to her, “If you’re going to have your dog off leash you can’t be swinging your ball thrower at other dogs when they approach.”

Two other dog walkers witnessed the incident and turned around, walked the other way, as did Jake and I. This is only a spit of a beach on the best day. The surf was so high there wasn’t much walking to be had. Unfortunate. But a beach is still a beach!

Fortunately for Jake, we discovered a new park in Napa. It’s off the beaten path. There are no cars, and he can be off leash. He made a new friend, one whose owner did not swing his fishing pole at Jake.

My Vionics – shoes to help plantar fasciitis. I think they are super cute although since it seems I have a stress fracture of my left heel as opposed to plantar fasciitis they really aren’t helping a bit. Gotta see a man today about a cast…

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Oh… And you’ll be both pleased and disconcerted to note that my youngest (in the center) went skydiving for her birthday. She is now certified. Whatever that means. I’m trying not to look. Seriously. Can’t look.

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Her instructor is Israeli which makes me feel better. Nevertheless…

Okay. I’m done. Gotta go swimming before I get a cast. Oh I so don’t want another cast…

XOXO! Love you, Tom! Julia

 

 

 

Dear Tom, I am loving my birdies!

I get so much pleasure from watching and feeding my birds, hours and hours – despite the occasional hawk. But of course I love hawks as well and want to be one in my next life- not anywhere near a wind farm though. Wind farms are deadly to raptors.

Here’s the list of birds in my backyard:

Towhees.

Spotted Towhees.

Mockingbirds.

White Crowned Sparrows.

Golden Crowned Sparrows.

Savannah Sparrows.

Fox Sparrows.

Hooded Junkos.

Dark-eyed Junkos.

Western Scrub Jays.

Blue Birds.

Robins.

Cassin’s Finches.

House Finches.

White-breasted Nuthatches.

Goldfinches.

Bewick’s Wrens.

Cedar Waxwings.

Olive-sided Flycatchers.

Red-eyed Vireos.

Warbling Vireos.

Mourning Doves.

Bullock’s Orioles.

Anna’s Hummingbirds.

Black Phoebes.

Oak Titmouses (Titmice?).

Evening Grosbeak.

Mountain Chickadees.

Chestnut-backed Chickadees.

It’s so much fun because they know me and they know Jake and we are both allowed to get very close to them. In fact, they love having Jake about because the redtail hawk won’t bother them when he’s outside.

Things are a bit better. As I await surgery to repair my hip– gotta get that repaired before I can get the knee surgery– I joined a health club, and I’ve been swimming and rowing every day. I’ve had to decrease my hiking to two miles a day, four days a week. That’s about as much as I can do and I’m still pretty slow. Tomorrow I hope to visit a sports medicine physical therapist. If there is a way to avoid hip surgery I’d just as soon find it, but a torn labrum does not heal. It can only be sort of fixed. Regardless, I did get two batches of lemon curd made yesterday. Yay! Already gave most of it away. And I’ve frozen the juice for two more batches. Of course the tree is still loaded with lemons. Want to come help me harvest? 🙂

Perhaps I’ll get around to photos one of these days.

Needless to say, 2016 isn’t looking quite as bleak as it was just a week ago. Of course don’t ask the poor hubby – he’s the one responsible for insane Jake’s exercise now! He might have a different opinion of 2016, especially since his team, the Minnesota Vikings, lost today. He’s a Minnesota native.

(I’ll whisper this secret down a deep well at midnight- While I found Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to be marginally entertaining, I also found it to be pretty much a disappointment. My son and I had a long discussion about it today. Sometimes a discussion can make a less interesting movie more interesting. He liked the movie, but then he’s been a big Star Wars fan since he was a baby. Me? I expected better, although when one considers the three horrendous prequels, The Force Awakens was genius.)

Oh! The PBR is back! Gotta love those bulls! I’ll give you a little taste. I know most of you aren’t as blood thirsty as I am. (Big Airtime fan here):

Love you, Tom. Miss you! XOXO! Julia

 

 

Dear Tom, I saw a bald eagle down by the river today. And I thought of Shakespeare. Can’t imagine why…

Shakespeare is not my favorite playwright. (Although I like him a whole lot better than Tennessee Williams, a writer whose plays should come with a trigger warning- Warning: The Glass Menagerie May Cause Suicidal Thoughts. We won’t even mention A Streetcar Named Desire or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.)

But sometimes Shakespeare nails it.

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter
and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that.

And~

The quality of mercy is not strain’d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.

Or this one~

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious;
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest,–
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men,–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honorable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honorable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honorable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

Or this~

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.–Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.

This~

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything

Love this one~

Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Towards Phoebus’ lodging: such a wagoner
As Phaethon would whip you to the west,
And bring in cloudy night immediately.
Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,
That runaway’s eyes may wink and Romeo
Leap to these arms, untalk’d of and unseen.
Lovers can see to do their amorous rites
By their own beauties; or, if love be blind,
It best agrees with night. Come, civil night,
Thou sober-suited matron, all in black,
And learn me how to lose a winning match,
Play’d for a pair of stainless maidenhoods:
Hood my unmann’d blood, bating in my cheeks,
With thy black mantle; till strange love, grown bold,
Think true love acted simple modesty.
Come, night; come, Romeo; come, thou day in night;
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow on a raven’s back.
Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow’d night,
Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
O, I have bought the mansion of a love,
But not possess’d it, and, though I am sold,
Not yet enjoy’d: so tedious is this day
As is the night before some festival
To an impatient child that hath new robes
And may not wear them. O, here comes my nurse,
And she brings news; and every tongue that speaks
But Romeo’s name speaks heavenly eloquence.

This one, lovely~

Make me a willow cabin at your gate
And call upon my soul within the house,
Write loyal cantons of contemnèd love
And sing them loud even in the dead of night,
Hallow your name to the reverberate hills
And make the babbling Gossip of the Air
Cry out “Olivia!” O, you should not rest
Between the elements of air and earth,
But you should pity me.

Another~

Our revels now are ended. These, our actors,
As I fortold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like the insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Mix and Match – Twelfth Night, The Tempest, As You Like It, Hamlet, Julius Cesar, Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet. If you have your favorites I’d love to read them! Julia