Category Archives: travel

Feasting in weather and among friends.

My son Pathfinder told me that Oregon — at least the western part — is a place trees really like to grow. When I traveled north from his house the trees filled my vision and my heart. I didn’t have time to pull over at every turnout and go hug one of them, but that is what seemed the reasonable thing to do.

My days were full of trees, ocean, rivers — and weather. I walked on this beach, four days in a row, and listened to the rain clattering on the metal roof at night, and the wind howling.

My trusty raincoat was necessary attire, but while I was at the coast there were daily breaks in the rain long enough for a good outing. But the weather could change so fast! These next pictures were taken within a couple of minutes of each other:

As long as I was on the coast I didn’t feel the cold, and the weather was only exciting. I had worried just before setting out, about the prudence of traveling to a colder and wetter climate in this month of the year when one wants to start hibernating. But I never regretted going.

When I left the coast and drove inland it was to Corvallis, new-old home of my former housemate Kit, who had been with me the last two years. She took me to one of her favorite eateries in that college town, the Yummi Café, where they make their signature Yumm Sauce that I have come to love because of her.

And she showed me her favorite tree on the Oregon State campus, a beautiful and comforting sight out the window of one of her classes the first autumn she was a student there. You can see why she would love it:

My first night with Kit we slept at the farm where she had lived for several years before moving to California. Several generations and families live here in Philomath, and they all work at chores such as keeping the forest floor clean by burning downed wood and trimmings.

As the sun was already lowering when we arrived, Kit suggested we take a walk around the property to see the animals such as Soay sheep, and also down the road to Marys River and the covered bridge.

I was really glad for my other new coat, a warm winter parka, because now the temperature was near freezing, and the air damp from the daily rain. Our walk was brisk in every way, and the children among us bump-splashed their bicycles through a string of potholes filled with rainwater.

As the sky grew dimmer the burn piles shone brighter, and their wood smoke scented the wintry air. I remembered in my body the cold fog of my childhood winters, but this was a cheerier feeling, like being in a Little House book, or a Currier and Ives video…?

I was thoroughly charmed, as well as humbled and warmed by the farm family welcoming me so heartily — and feeding me heartily, and giving me a spacious and cozy bedroom all to myself.

In the morning this was our view, the clouds hanging out between the ridges and in the little valleys of the wooded hills. And we all — about eleven of us — drove into town for Divine Liturgy.

I spent another night with Kit and her parents in Eugene, where I was also treated royally. I began to wonder if all my hosts were conspiring to see how much fattening up of me they could accomplish in a mere two weeks. All in love, of course!

Most of my driving was not in the rain, until the last day, and then I drove in and out of clouds so frequently that I was captivated by the times when I emerged from a downpour to see the white drifts hanging out prettily nearby.

Then suddenly I was back in northern California…

…and in another day or so was home again. Just in time for Thanksgiving! I’m oh so grateful for a fun expedition and vacation, but even more glad to be in my own bed and kitchen. When I came in the front door it was to a bright wood fire that housemate Susan had got going, the most welcome sight.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends!

I explore the north country.

Yes, another road trip! My first stop, as often works out best, was at Pippin’s. The children doted on me and I on them, and well, I like the parents a lot, too!

I drove through the rain the last couple of hours of my first day, up through the top center of California, and arrived in town just in time to catch the last ten minutes of Ivy’s ballet lesson. She is a beginner ballerina but was fun to watch.

Everyone was surprised that all three children and I could spend so much of the next morning coloring pictures I had brought, as we watched birds at the feeders. We colorers chatted about how it is way more fun to do coloring with other people, and we were proving the principle.

Between rain storms and frost the next two days we went on a couple of splendid nature walk expeditions, first to Lake Siskiyou where the Sacramento River comes into it.

Pippin remarked at this point, “From here we tend to make slow progress because there are so many rocks to look at.” Indeed. And to bring home!

Indian Rhubarb

On my second morning I stood at the kitchen window while eating my breakfast bowl, and watched four deer eating their breakfast of willow leaves off the back lawn.

And that afternoon found most of us along the Sacramento River Trail near Castle Crags. The last time I’d been here my husband was still feeling healthy and we were here together with Pippin’s family.

This time was lovely, too, nearly four years later, during fall instead of winter, with bigleaf maple leaves covering the paths, oaks and firs and Port Orford Cedars and more kinds of trees…. The children had a ball on the rocks jutting out into the river and Scout named one spot after me: Pearl Point, because I had told him the day before that Gretchen means little pearl.

Jamie was missing his nap but you would never know it by the way he marched along the trail and climbed cheerfully for hours up and down banks and over countless large river stones.

On our drive back home Scout’s mind was busy planning the evening’s activity and chattering about all his ideas. His mother and I were not enthusiastic about the first ambitious projects he came up with, so he said, “Well, then, Grandma, what would you like to do?” It shows a developmental leap, I think, that he was showing this willingness to consider what other people’s preferences might be.

I thought a bit, and answered, “I would like to do something that wouldn’t require thinking or talking, or being on my feet.”

“Is reading considered talking?”

“No.”

“Well, then, would you like to read that book about Kit Carson that you gave me for my birthday?”

I surely would love that, and I read three chapters while dinner was being prepared by other people on their feet, and Scout colored another picture while he was listening.

Now I’ve moved on to Oregon, where Walt has found and started restoring the truck he was only dreaming about back in September when I was here.

Oregon trees and their knock-out gorgeous fall colors
are competing for my designation of Favorite.

So far I think I like the last one best.

I’m not halfway through this road trip. Before I get home I’ll have slept twelve nights not in my own bed. I’ll have seen five friends and ten family members, staying in five homes. It does feel like a little much for an old lady, but I’m enjoying myself and will try to check in at least once more to tell you more about my northern adventures.

 

I eat bread and take naps.

Last week I took a nap three days in a row, something I’m sure I hadn’t done since I was three years old! What it was about my condition or the environment that facilitated that, I am still pondering….

I’d flown from my daughter’s new home in Wisconsin to Tucson, Arizona, to visit friends Martin and Mabel. Those are nicknames, of course. If I didn’t care about preserving their privacy I’d use their real names, which are more beautiful and carry for me some of the flavor of who they are. These people are dear to me because of what we have shared over several decades: joys and sorrows and homeschooling, food and gardens, chickens and laughing and lots of babies. And over all and in all, the love of God.

Mabel confessed to me once that she just wanted “to make bread and babies,” and I always wished I had thought to say that first. But no one could hope to match her turns of phrase, songs that spring up from her good heart ready to bless and teach, and her amazing metaphors. On this visit she described Martin and herself as being a heavy stone on the end of a string, keeping a helium balloon with a happy face on it from floating away. I don’t remember who was symbolized by the balloon (It wasn’t me!)

The temperature was mostly in the 80’s while I was there, maybe the low 90’s, but as their house is about 2500′ elevation and the desert air is so dry, I never felt uncomfortably warm. Their spirit was peaceful, no air conditioning spoiled the mild October atmosphere, Mabel and Martin both cooked healthy food for me, and the bed was firm. I took the cure.

We talked and talked, drank tea, and walked a little  –  then I strolled alone Sunday morning in the cool air, and admired the mesquite trees, ocotillos, purple cactuses and palo verde trees. I attended Divine Liturgy at the elegant and evidently new Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church.

Mabel has not stopped making bread, and she fed me two kinds — first a hearty no-knead oatmeal stout bread baked during my visit. Then sourdough rye from a Tassajara Bread Book recipe; she sliced a good portion of that loaf into a ziploc for me to take on my journey home. I can’t remember ever eating anything like that bread, each fat slice sustaining enough to the body and soul that a single one would have done for a meal — but orange zest, caraway and other seeds combined in a flavor whirl that made me unwilling to wait for the next meal to have that experience again.

I think God knew that it would be hard to come back home where the fires were still burning, to a ravaged land full of sad stories, so He provided these friends to remind me of and lavish on me His everlasting Love, to shore me up beforehand. And He surprised me with naps!

I hadn’t cracked open my own copy of the Tassajara Bread Book in a very long time — my book that I bought because of Mabel in the first place. But I came home determined to revive once again my old sourdough habits, at least long enough to bake up a batch of that Sourdough Rye. It’s not as easy to turn out a homey metaphor or proverb that pleases, or to make pizza dough like Martin does, but I guess that just means I’ll have to visit again soon.

 

 

Brick and stone and blue skies.

The second half of my week in Wisconsin the weather was blue skies and perfect Autumn. Pearl took me to downtown Milwaukee for a brief tour of a few places. We saw the new skyscrapers and the tall old buildings, which seem to blend well stylistically with each other. They made me want to take a virtual tour of the architecture of Milwaukee, or even better, to come back another day for an on-the-ground tour.

We walked along the Milwaukee River a bit, and bought cheese and sausages.

And saw these sidewalk tiles evoking Paddle-to-the-Sea, perhaps?

Pearl’s husband Nate works at Marquette University now. We walked on campus…

…and headed for the little chapel that Nate had told me about many months ago when he first encountered it; he knew I would want to visit it, too.

It’s the St. Joan of Arc Chapel, dating from 15th century France, which has twice been taken apart stone by stone and reassembled. In the 20th century it was given to the University where it has been a house of worship on the Marquette campus since 1966.

Many years ago I read Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc, which he considered to be his best book. It is completely serious, and fascinating. Joan’s story is so compelling and strange — I would love to read that book again. Just being in this chapel, decorated with some artifacts that are older than the building itself, and are there for the touching, made me feel that I must surely have at least a few drops of French blood in my veins!

My dear daughter and I wrapped up my stay with a hike in the woods. After the rains, the leaves had taken on more color, and many were drifting down through the forest, which would have been deeply quiet had we not been crunching along and chatting. During my stay the weather had been ten degrees warmer than average for this time of year. All in all, it was a happy introduction to Pearl’s new home. The next day I would fly away and be gone.