Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Yeasty beginnings

Time for another delectable batch of home made bread. Kneading it is most therapeutic, as I can imagine my fingers squeezing, squeezing, throttling...well, Mr. Rogers used to sing a song called "What Do You Do When You're Feeling Mad," and one lyric suggested pounding on a piece of clay, so if that mild-mannered, lovable old feller advised it, the activity must be somewhat productive in a sublimative fashion.
Made my mom happy by getting her to the hair salon. Once again, we're existing under conditions only a giant Pacific octopus could love, icy-temperatured water, sluicing down, flooding the low spots. Now, naturally, is the time slot I have in which to run.
It in fact became soothing to run along in the cold rain, pissing and grumbling about the state of the union; to squish into the gym and throw weights around; then to run back up a mile long towards home, feeling at least hollowed out, and warm, finally.
The bread is delicious.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Toe Jam

Had to haul my mother into the doctor to have her toe examined. She ended up with two absolutely adorable young women, one a third year medical student, the other a Family Practice resident. They were cheerful, respectful, solicitous of both of us, and my mom was delighted enough by their attentions that she forgot to be anxious over the visit. Fortunately the young resident gave her firm clear directions about some things that I haven't been able to get her to do, so we may make some progress on them now. Our regular doctor, another fabulous young woman, is spending the next month at a satellite clinic of our healthcare provider, but if we need to go back any time soon, it's swell to know we have such great people at hand. So Mother's almost 88, and all her vitals are fine. She's even lost a couple of pounds, which is good.
Goldanged sun is out again, making even a saunter to the grocery store an ecstatic experience. Snowdrops are appearing, as well as a few early crocuses. My hellebores, also known as Lenten Roses, are beginning to bloom, as are the common violets scattered around my front garden area. My sphinx statue has a weedy covering of myrtle, but that will be removed as soon as it's pleasant enough to do a little yardwork.
Must confess uh, not sure I still like Hesse...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Down a quart

Another broken night's sleep, and I feel lousy this morning. Only thing for it, go ahead to the climbing gym and wear myself out. The company of some friends should help.
And indeed it did. One friend's 16 year old daughter, who's some ways along into learning to drive, provided our transportation. She regaled us with anecdotes about her driver's ed teacher, a 50-ish fellow who runs The Teenage Driving School; less mysterious a moniker than The Hong Kong Driving School, which is on the same floor as my dentist, in an old building in Chinatown, also known as the International District. The Teenage Driving School sounds well designed, and the guy sounds like a former stand up comedian. When we asked her about instructional videos, she said the other day he informed them they were about to watch Martha Stewart's "Blood on the Asphalt and Morgue Tour." They bought it completely, even started writing down the title in their notes. She said he drops bizarre and unbelievable tidbits about his life at evey session, and she' s been recording all of them to compare notes with a friend who took the course, and had warned her that he fabricated things constantly. He sounds rather odd to me, but the parents seem to like him.
We met another friend, and had a moderately good session. None of us felt terrifically energetic,
but it was good to touch base and exchange a few morsels of news.
Just started re-reading Hesse's Magister Ludi. I think it may wear well, although I'm not one for pompous narrators.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Living underwater

The beloved spouse has safely returned from the hinterlands of Milwaukee, heralded by torrents of almost freezing rain. Seattle's starting to look like the setting of one of Ursula LeGuin's science fiction stories, wherein the denizens of some godforsaken ball of half-frozen mud must drag themselves thither and yon in some kind of inexplicable, miserable survival ritual. Now, if we could just manage the part in one of her novels about how the aliens had to change sex every couple of years or so, it wouldn't be so deadly monotonous to live soggily!
Miraculous bout of sunlight in mid-afternoon, hope arises in the aquarium.
Beloved spouse and I walked out for Thai food. We sat near the large fish tank, and observed the lion fish and big puffer swishing around. The puffer seemed to get very interested in the surface, and would hold his face up to it with a gasping mouth, his lacy little yellow fins swirling madly. Probably looking for food, but at a certain point, he would seem to give up hope, and sink slowly to the bottom, where he'd hit, bounce, and languish. Maybe he was coveting my plate of spicy noodles with tofu, or spouse's ginger prawns. It was difficult not to ascribe sadness to his features.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Honey-baked meatbombs

If that story about the vegans protesting in front of theHoneybaked Ham headquarters being busted wasn't so ominous, it'd be surrealistically hilarious. Of course it's a dry run on any of us who don't go along with the pod people who support Bush&Co. I kind of like the concept of using big hams to bomb people, though; gives a fresh twist to the notion of delivering pork to constituencies!
I have made some headway in that novel I was skeptical about, Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult. The writing continues to be rather unchallenging, but it's a pretty good story. So when I see my friend today for a climbing session, I won't have to mumble sheepishly about how I haven't had time to try it.
My other traveling man is due home in the wee hours of tomorrow.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The wandering boy is home

Woke up from a strange dream about our beloved son, and a while later, heard his door open and shut, signifying his presence, unless it was a spirit. ("Are they friendly spirits?" asked Rocky the Flying Squirrel.) He had driven marathon from Bishop, California, and was about to drop into the sack. He'd left LA, been able to get up the road to the Buttermilks, a renowned bouldering area near Bishop, and had one fantastic sunny day there. It was bitterly cold at night, however, and he decided he should move on.
I dipped into the novel one of my friends loaned me, Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult, and am not thrilled thus far. How plain and unbrilliant 21st century writers seem by comparison to You Know Who! (referring of course, to Ms. Bowen) I find myself wondering what has diluted the quality of writing these days. I'm not a "classics only, please" snob like some people I've encountered, but I am becoming a bit more sympathetic to their complaints about recent fiction. Is it the laxness of our daily conversations? The Great Satanic Eye of TV and movies? Diminished attention spans? Lack of time to read? Could it be I am growing increasingly grumpy over this? No need to respond, just wondering aloud on that last one. There are a handful of young writers I've found satisfying, like David Mitchell, Zadie Smith, Monica Ali - hmm, all Brits, despite varied ethnic backgrounds - oh, and some Canadians and Aussies. Their countries still produce people with some literary intelligence.
Okay, to bed with Jodi.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mysterious boldness

Of yesterday's typeface, not the content. It wasn't intentional, I had some wrangling with the font size drop bar and gave up in mystification. Last night I finished Elizabeth Bowen's Collected Stories, and have but one novel of hers left at my disposal, The Little Girls, since I haven't been able to find every one of them, nor her essays. Dare I observe, after raving about her for weeks, that not every tale was successful? Fantastic command of the language, and intriguing idiosynchrasies in her usage, but some of the stories were a bit flat. However, I now see from whence came many of her images and themes, and how she refined them over the years.

Today marks one year since I began this blog. It's still plain and rather in a brown wrapper, but that doesn't bother me. I leave the excellent photography to my beloved spouse, as well as the snappier prose style. I intend to persist, wending my eccentric path through the increasingly thorny and hostile wastelands of this world. Hm, are those purple thorns?
Had an uncharacteristically late climbing gym session, from around 5:30-7:30 this evening. They were having a shoe demo, so it seemed horrendously crowded; no routes available that you wanted to try, all potluck. Fun to catch up with some of my women friends, but generally not as much fun as the earlier hours have been.
One friend loaned me a novel she was keen on, and I'll start it tonight.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Not a cloud in the sky

Those of us here at this little hearth were up earlier than usual this morning, perhaps owing to the blinding sunlight seeping in around the edges of the blinds. Breakfasted, increased my heartrate via blogreading, visited the ever-busy neighborhood chickens on my mother's daily rounds, got her lunch, talked with my brother, who's just returned from a fabulous two week long trip to New Zealand after quitting his job of over 21 years as a nuclear radiologist. Didn't get a detailed report on this trip, but I know it included fly-fishing and hiking. Off for Hairdo Day for my mother, and now I'm getting the hell outta the house for a nice run and workout.
Not much to reflect upon, as my thoughts overflow regarding current events. I'm escaping to postwar England and Ireland again, as I am nearing the end of Bowen's collected stories...

Monday, January 23, 2006

Me so tired

Lousy night's sleep, so bad that I accepted the free cup of drip coffee the local coffee bean perveyors offer me every time I buy a pound of beans, and drank just about the whole thing.
As I was driving home from PCC, the place of organic and kind of expensive foodstuffs where one can procure fresh fruits, vegetables, maple butter and other delights, I heard Jim Hightower on a local public radio station. As I heard him comment on the Jack Off... I mean Abramhoff lobbying shit scandal and the GOP's constant spinning of lies and rationalizations about it, and as I thought about all the boxcarsful of shit they are constantly dumping over everything, 24/7, a hideously appropriate image came to mind: Way out here in the Pacific Northwest we have these gigantic manure spreaders that look like enormous lawn sprinklers. They are used to fertilize fields. They pump, and pump, and pump vast quantities of cowshit. Maybe pigshit, too, which would really be appropriate, since it smells much worse than cowshit. I envision the GOP, and some Dems, too, I'm sure, but mostly Repubs, as an endless source of dark gooey manure, sluicing out over the country, befouling all they touch, and filling the atmosphere with the stench of their presence. Pumping, pumping, pumping, spraying chokingly foul shit upon every inch of this country, and the rest of the planet. This is the true image and meaning of their "spreading democracy." I would like to envision them drowning in a vast pool of their own ordure. Like the character in "Seven Beauties" who put himself out of his prison camp misery by jumping into a cesspool of human waste. Oh, in real life, it would be figurative, of course...
I am very weary of much.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Peace between the gatos

Awoke out of convoluted dreams around 4:00 this morning, and wandered downstairs for a gulp of cold water. Peeked out the front door, and in sped our mildy feral cat. His more housebound brother ambled downstairs, sniffed him all over, then all of us went back to bed. There were no territorial skirmishes upon the counterpane.
Got away today for an indoor climbing workout. Carpooled with my oldest climbing partner and friend, met up with another one for an afternoon of moderate fun. I had to lead, since I chickened out down in Joshua Tree on putting in gear. Well, geeze, even the "easy" routes went some ways up, oh, say, 20 or 30 feet before one could place anything, so I sure as hell wasn't risking my 55 year old ass and bones! The gym is all sport bolted, with draws in place, so there's no excuse up to a certain degree of difficulty. We had a good session, and it was good to catch up with these women. They go later in the afternoon/early evening than is best for me, so we've been out of touch for a while. My oldest climbing partner/friend and I have gone on some good trips together, and I hope all of us can manage at least one this spring, perhaps up to Squamish, BC.
Onward with the Bowen short stories.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Slow moving

Getting out of the blocks around here today...nothing much to speak of, other than a successful walk of some blocks without any "spells" for my mother, and a bit of a run and workout for me.
I shall be connecting with two of my good friends for a session in the climbing gym tomorrow around noon, which should be convivial and restorative. Better than high tea!
Gonna nail that novel tonight. I'm weary of its strange emptiness.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Los perritos redux

Once again I volunteered to get the Ferrari brothers out for their walk this morning. I had to do an unexpected airport run this morning in my beloved spouse's behalf, so I arrived a bit later than suggested, but the little fellows were still lounging about in their owners' bed. In fact, I think I woke them up. They were stretching and rolling over for tummy scratches when I went in to get them. As usual, it was cold and drizzly, and they were not thrilled about going outside, particulary the younger one. As soon as any kind of waste product was eliminated, they turned tail for the house.
Later in the afternoon, the rains halted for a bit, so I got my mother out for a bonus two blocks, then took off by myself down to Gasworks Park, a mile or so away at the bottom of our hill. The park was crawling with people taking pictures; the late afternoon light was astounding, blue skies on one side, low-angled sunshine creating dramatic shadows. The city skyline was dark gray on an even darker one, a dire backdrop with thin areas of illumination, and lighter scudding clouds layered like chine colle. Glints of sun broke though and reflected from distant passing vehicles, flashing on Lake Union's unusually glassy surface. Distorted reflections of buildings bled out onto the water, and two crew shells full of women rowers lurched along, accompanied by a cruiser containing their coach giving amplified corrections to their form.
I ascended Kite Hill, and caught the sun going down over Queen Anne Hill. Half walked, half jogged uphill towards home to get warm.
To bed indeed to read.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bits and oddments

It's cold. It's cloudy, but not raining, so I'm off to run hills and lift weights. Only way to keep any semblence of fitness.
As I ran uphill towards home this afternoon, I passed a Thai restaurant we like. They make wonderful phad thai, as well as the best spicy noodles, wide ones, with tofu, basil and other ingredients, that I've ever had. The staff was sitting at a table in the window, chowing down on something, oh, probably one of their terrific noodle dishes, I figured. I drew near, passed, and looked in to see them digging enthusiastically into a steamy plate of... pecan caramel sticky buns. They didn't look particularly happy, but they were indeed eating with great relish, it seemed.
Was thinking about the movie "Brokeback Mountain." It seems as strange to me that lgrt advocates would be all het up aout it "validating" gay relationships as it does that rightwingnuts are up in arms about how it's going to turn all the kids who see it gay. IT'S FICTION, FOLKS!!!! Both sides are idiotic for putting too much stock in a flick that Hollywood only made because they wanted to cash in on the controversy of gay rights. IT'S ABOUT MONEY!!! Period. But guess what, people are so stinking dumb they think either it's some wonderful honor for gays, or dangerous for kids. Come on - how many of you base your life on stories? Fiction, which, although it may point up some truths if it's any good, is basically a pack of lies.
Good grief. Grow some gray cells, folks.

Unhappy synchronicity

This morning I happened to look at a blog listed on the roll of another one I read. The blog owner had written a bit about seeing a car accident happen in front of him, and stopping to assist the victims, with a general observation about how quickly one's life can change due to an accident. Someone responded to his post with one about knowing a woman whose husband had fallen in a freak climbing accident in Joshua Tree National Park last Saturday afternoon. He was declared brain dead on Monday, and his donated organs were transported around the country by Monday night. As I read this post, I realized my family and I had witnessed the end of this young man's life. Our son was belaying his dad up a route on a rock formation some distance away from the one the man fell on. We heard a siren approaching, and watched a group gather to assist the fallen climber. A helicopter arrived and landed on the road. Our son remarked that it was a difficult route involved, if your gear pulled out you could land on a ledge. We didn't hear anything by the time we got back to our campsite, but Monday night I spoke with our son, who told me the guy had had a piece of gear pull out, and fell onto the ledge, hitting his head, never regaining consciousness. This could have been a freak failure of the gear, or it could have been a poor placement by the climber. By this time, I suppose it doesn't matter, he's gone. We walked past people on that climb; we may have seen him in his last moments of life, excited, maybe a bit scared, climbing for all he was worth. Yes, climbing is risky, but less so than driving a car. I tell myself this, but I feel sick inside at the tragedy. I know of climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts who've been killed in car crashes coming home from an outing. I don't know what to say, except that it still beats sitting inside.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

How to set a crack climb

It can't be done, not very well anyway, in an indoor climbing gym. When I went this afternoon to set, all I could picture were the lovely routes I'd done in J-Tree. So I set the route I could with the holds I had. Just another one of my little sweet ones, nothing contrived or hard. Did a spot of traversing and bouldering, and went home.
Trashed out for a bit watching "Lost" on beloved spouse's laptop.
More reading of Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty. He's not holding up well against Elizabeth Bowen...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Reminescing already?

Oh, the sun' s out! Time to run hills and stop maundering about missing the desert!
Okay, after some running and weightlifting, I feel a bit more balanced. Now I will hark back to our days in J-Tree....
The two young musicians were fond of Jameson's Irish Whiskey. Eric, the cellist, went at the climbing so hard his hands were bashed and bloodied, but I presume stronger for the effort.
His pal Tom the violinist was quiet, very sweet. Jo Lynn, the other satellite of Campsite #13, seemed at first kind of unusual, but a most generous and good-hearted person. She had a specialty, a little dutch oven in which she cooked really delicious desserts. One night, she made a wonderful chocolate cake with cranberries and chocolate chips, which I also scarfed for breakfast the next day; another night, it was an oatmeal banana chocolate chip cake that was kind of like a moist scone. She also made some rice noodles with veggies and peanut sauce that tasted heavenly. She came and went unpredictably. I got out of our tent one morning at dawn, and there she sat, putting pine pitch on her bleeding toes. She said it worked as a natural healing agent. A couple of the climbing routes I worked very hard at on toprope, she soloed, meaning she went up them without any kind of rope or gear...truly scary for me, but I suppose anything I do seems scary to others as well.
I'm still not certain about all the interpersonal dynamics that were at work. I do know that one night, we had an enjoyable literary discussion; Eric had recently been reading Moby Dick and Don Quixote, and it was fun to exchange thoughts about these classics. Not sure what relationships anyone had with anyone else, but we were all cordial.
Got a call tonight from beloved son - he and Jo Lynn were "in town," perhaps doing laundry or showering. His car was intact, parked safely behind Coyote Corners, a gift shop at the turn off to the park. I reminded him to send his grandmother a postcard.
Off to read.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Hoarding inner warmth

It WAS lovely, warm and sunny where we were, just two days ago...it's hard to keep a grasp on that lift of the heart I felt as I wandered down the washes among the rocks, or scrambled atop the boulders. Hard because it's sluicing ice water back up here in the Pacific Northwest, and I feel I'm frantically trying to jack up my energy level with no environmental inspiration. Maybe baking bread will help.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

J -Tree journey

We returned from our four and a half day sojourn in Joshua Tree National Park late last night. Our son has been there since December 27, and had urged us to join him. Despite the lack of running water, electricity or any amenity other than outhouses with toilet paper, I think it must take a week or more to really soak up the energy from the place. And after all, it's car camping, you're not out in the back country trying to live off the land; you can go "to town", the tiny Joshua Tree, and get a shower, procure gear at the outdoor shop, or an excellent dinner at the funky but wonderfully welcoming Crossroads Cafe. We took our son and two of his climbing comrades there on Thursday, and I had the most delicious ahi sandwich with a mixed green salad that I've ever tasted, except for maybe the ahi I had at the fish shack in the little strip in South Kihei on Maui.
So we weren't totally roughing it.
However, we slept in our brand new tent, on our Thermarest inflatable mattresses; the first night was probably in the high 20's, and I wore just about every layer I had with me, including a very puffy down jacket that our son insisted we bring, my knit hat and gloves, as I burrowed down into my ancient three quarter length REI down bag from the early 70's, and it stuffed inside a lighter weight polyfill Coccoon bag. I slept better that night than I have in months. All our camp mates slept out under the moon and stars. There were two young guys who are professional musicians, one a violinist, the other a cellist, and a woman who leads Outward Bound expeditions, an interesting kind of desert person.
The following nights I woke up in the wee hours to the sound of serenading coyotes, or perhaps hunting coyotes. There was a sharp scream at the end of one set of howls. The moon was waxing larger and larger, heading towards full by Saturday night. I got out of the sack officially just after dawn every morning, unheard of here at home, and walked through a wash on one of the prettiest trails to an outhouse I've ever trod. There were always a handful of rabbits lurking nervously, and covies of quails that fled in their eccentric way behind rocks or sagebrush, or flushed softly up onto the boulders.
We made filter coffee, mixed up organic instant oatmeal, ate nearly frozen bananas, then figured out where we would head each day. The afternoon we arrived we had enough time to hike out and scramble, although we got a bit off route, to a climbing route called "Loose Lady." It resembled an enormous potato on end, almost vertical, but I was informed it wasn't considered steep. Beloved son lead it, and I managed to get up to the top, despite slipping off at what he'd called "the crux." Imagine having your feet delicately poised on almost invisible edges, then trying to move up somehow...
Subsequent forays into the area around Hidden Valley Campground and beyond provided a variety of wonderful routes. On one formation called Intersection Rock we did a route called "North Overhang", two pitches long, up into a cave and over its roof to the top. To the right of this route was "The Flake," which starts in a chimney, goes up along cracks and a big flake to finish on "easy" slab to top out. I'd never tried a straight chimney with no face holds on it before, and found it difficult, although not impossible. You have to stand up into it, legs locked off fore and aft, get your arms into play, and maneuver upward.
Other routes included in the sampler were "Double Cross" and "Dogleg Crack", on the back of a formation called The Blob. These were purportedly "easy" cracks, particularly the second one, but I had trouble getting good handjams into what was billed as a "perfect" handcrack. Every time someone tells me that a crack is a perfect hand crack, I resign myself to a struggle, since usually our hands are different sizes. But I do admit my jamming technique is inadequate.
We did another "super easy" crack route called "The Bong," and beloved spouse gamely tried it and topped out, his first official climb outside. It was probably 70+ feet long, and he got the hang of hand jamming quickly. He remarked that he had to, since there wasn't any other option.
We headed out to a route called "Coarse and Buggy," which at 11a was the most difficult problem I did. It started right into challenging stemming in a big corner, then provided good handholds in between thin cracks and a relatively easy finish.
We had more thin cracks after a period of wandering in the wilderness while seeking a climbing wall we never found; instead we spent a couple of hours scrambling in boulder strewn gullies. We finally went out to a rock face which had two thin cracks called "The Mels." One I couldn't do all of a piece, the other I did. Little fingertip jams, reaches, kind of tricky sequences of feet and hands, but good fun. We had a fine hike back to our campsite, through an area pretty much deserted and uncrowded.
For our very last route, beloved son led us up a route called "Eye", or "The Cyclops," which ended in a cave which was functioning as a wind tunnel that day, and probably the coldest spot in the entire park. We all got to the top, up a spooky-looking and scooped out wall, full of huge holds of every type. It was beautifully sunny and warm on the backside, and we could walk down, albeit gingerly, at least for us parental units. Dear son sort of dances down the steepest rocks and slabs, while we follow behind. He took us out for a final hike, out toward a place called Barker Dam, which we didn't have enough time to reach, but it was still fantastic walking past all the huge Joshua trees and rock formations.
It was a bit hard to leave. There are thousands of routes in the park, and I climbed, over the course of a few days, what some people do in a day or less. It seemed, despite its size, a fragile place. Evidently there are people who want to build-what the fuck else? - golf courses that would infringe upon the park. I hope to return before the barbarians start scraping away at this amazing corner of the earth.

Monday, January 09, 2006

It takes a village of luggage...

...to be prepared to camp, uh, shall we say rustically. There will be no running water, well, no water at all, other than what we bring in. We're taking a brand new tent we haven't tested out yet; maybe this evening we can open it on the rug upstairs? Sleeping bags, pads, clothes, really cool little mess kits we just got from REI, our son's accoutic guitar...not too sure how this will all get lugged about.
Okay, packing up is pretty much done: four big gear bags, and a daypack each. Plus the kid's guitar. clothes to cover just about every eventuality except a blizzard.
Off to the hallowed rocks of Joshua Tree - I shall report anon.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Sunlight, briefly

Then gone again, grudgingly giving us about half an hour in a damp chilly wind to get a bit of walking in for my mother. She barely made it to the turn around point for four blocks, and when she got to her usual resting place on our neighbor's wall, almost fainted, needed to be put level on her back with her feet up. I am perplexed, she was cheerful, wanted to get out; she sometimes hates the wind. Or maybe it was a bit earlier than we usually go out these days. She remarked that she must be getting older by the day, which I tried to jolly her out of. I just hope she can hold her own while we're gone for most of this next week. She'll have in-home caregivers for parts of the days, and it's usually only when she's outside that this has happened.
Fortunately I was able to get away for a couple hours of gym climbing. Unfortunately, stress over my mom hampered me; so strange how draining worry can be, even when you think you've put it aside for a bit. I managed to get fairly well exercised, so that's the best I can do for now.
The trip coming up this next week seems unreal. Dreamlike.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Soggy ground

We've had something like 3 weeks of days with measurable precipitation, whatever that's supposed to mean; I thought all precipitation was measurable. Yeah, so, wet. Saturation point wet, with landslides abounding, getting the TV "news" droids all hot, hoping for a family or two to be buried in mud to perk up their worthless nightly pablum. Or maybe more domestic violence, caused by pent up people going slowly mad. I despise the weather Barbie that chirps,"Well, we're going to have a very very soggy January!" She must be jetting off to Palm Springs on weekends with one of the other droids, for golf and hot Republican sex. She looks a little bit TAN to me...
Beloved son called this evening from Joshua Tree National Park; it had been 80 degrees there today, perfect weather. I'm finding it hard to make the leap of faith, that I can bring some shorts to wear this next week when we get down there. Summer clothes in the daytime, and down jackets at night.
Eerily, Elizabeth Bowen's short stories frequently depict weather conditions identical to ours. So I sit up in bed, with rain lashing the windows, and read about winter rain in the English countryside in the 1930's...one could lose one's composure...

Friday, January 06, 2006

Joy in a soggy land

Five blocks this morning, before lunch; a view, with chickens. Memory jogs and back to reading blogs.
Got hailed by a person who a few months ago joined an online book group we've been part of for a few years. She's a student at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon, and wanted to find out more about the books chosen for discussion. This young woman speaks and writes Arabic, French and English fluently, and is working on her Spanish. After an exchange in which I wistfully mentioned I had studied French in high school, decades ago, she urged me to practice. Today she steered me towards a French TV network website, which has a trivia quiz en Francais, answers to be typed in in less than 20 seconds. What with my rusty French and learning disabled keyboarding skills, I was lucky to get the answers to three questions in before the bell. I even ran upstairs and got my trusty Larousse English/French dictionary, but realized it would take too long to look up unfamiliar words. So I plunged in. I will go back and try again.
We made a run to REI, the outdoor equipment store, to get some items for our trip to Joshua Tree National Park next week: Tidy little mess kits, sleeping pads that are not inflatable, and just an inch worth of padding away from the ground, the odd stuff bag and pair of socks. Climbing chalk. We still haven't tried setting up our new tent.
Had a very nice seafood dinner at Chinook's, and a swell discussion about writing, fiction, drama and other essentials.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Waiting for family

My sister, her husband, mother-in-law, 11 year old biological son and the two newly adopted Ethiopian orphaned brothers, ages 10 and 7, were just here for an hour or so before heading over the Cascade Mountains to Troy and Moscow Idaho. Baruk and Dawit are gorgeous, and full of life, and looked to me to be bonding nicely with their new parents and sibling. The younger one doesn't speak or understand much English, but is a keen mimic, and has his older brother as an interpreter. That brings up a funny phenomenon: For a while here, until they acquire more English and/or my sister understands more Amharic, their first language, they have this little secret code thing going on. Besides the League of Justice lunch boxes that my sister requested that I get them, I also picked up a couple of My First Dictionaries, one of them a Disney cartoon character themed one, over which they pored and giggled. We would ask them what things were in Amharic - i.e, a cricket is called a "zitzit", and a wasp is "neb." I've already forgotten how to say hello and thank you, or what each finger of the hand is called - surprisingly complicated sounding names. So the little dudes will be having a sort of grace period here in which one can only hope that what they tell people to say in Amharic is the word for food, for example, and not camel dung.
So they had two instant grandmas who sat together on a couch, smiling and making quiet remarks to one another; they sat on the other couch with their new big brother, a quiet, brilliant child whose life has been drastically enlivened, wiggling all over and dissing one another in their native tongue. You don't have to be multilingual to pick up that sibling vibe!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Starting off with a waffle

Such forethought! I mixed up the waffle batter last night, and actually got out of bed at an early enough hour to get downstairs and cook it. This despite waking up in the middle of the night and having to read a couple of Elizabeth Bowen short stories in order to get back to sleep. Thus fortified, I got my mom out for a short walk, then went to route set.
I really savor hanging up on a rope, working my way up to set the holds. The top is about 32 feet or so, and it's nice to be up there, contemplating the problem and nothing else. It's ever so much nicer on real rock, of course...
Just got off the phone with my sister. They have returned from Ethiopia after another 24 hour long flight, this time with two more boys in tow. I also got to speak with them - ages 7 and 10 - and they sound lively and wonderful. Evidently the younger one is the challenge: He was informed by an Ethiopian man that he couldn't hit people in an American school, or he would be thrown out. His response? "Who's going to throw me out?" Hoo boy, have they got a live one!
We shall meet tomorrow, before they head back over the Cascades to Moscow, Idaho, and their even smaller town of Troy.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Breakfast of champions

Forgot we were out of the little chocolate muffins my mother has every morning with orange juice and a cafe au lait which I make for her. They'd been out of them at the store, so I'd made a plan B: Get her little chocolate doughnuts from Mighty-O, the vegan doughnut bakery and coffee house nearby. This is the same place Dave Matthews takes his twin daughters to on nice days; we see him every once in a while, and the last time, my mom said she'd like to ask him to sing for her. We watched part of his recent Red Rocks concert, and she enjoyed his mellow (and to my ear, bland) sound. I hope I'll remember to ask him for her, if we see him again.
Well, this morning they were out of little chocolate doughnuts, but I did score a couple of normal sized chocolate-glazed chocolate ones for a buck apiece. "Little chocolate doughnuts" were what the Craig Baker character John Belushi gave voice to on the National Lampoon Radio Hour claimed he ate as training food.
Manana I must go to put up the climbing route.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Must get climbing

Even if it was only the indoor gym, I'm so glad I went. I added traverses to some easy and moderate leads, making them longer and a bit harder. As the endorphines started kicking in, I got that jolly old urge to really throw myself into the effort. Life looks brighter, despite the unrelenting misty gloom outside. (Stealing one of my beloved spouse's chocolate bedaubed, pecan encrusted caramels contributed to my chemical well-being, too).
Off to get a burger for dinner.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

So it's a new year...

Thus far, not off to the best start; my mother had another "spell" near the end of her five block walk, resulting in me pushing her back on our neighbor's lawn and getting her feet up. The dark and awful looking sky at once opened up, while she was getting her breathing steadied. She's been a bit off the last couple of days, one of those cognitive troughs into which she slips now and again. Starting to ask certain questions repeatedly in the span of 10 or 15 minutes. Forgetting her morning pills, even though they're always out for her to see. I'm wondering what's going to happen when we go away the week after next, but I really need a break.
We got out in the late afternoon to run an errand, a quest for "superhero" lunche boxes for my sister's new sons, our new nephews. Mission was accomplished, in the maw of a Fred Meyer store 2+ miles away. Beloved spouse got to fondle a nice digital camera, as he pursues comparison shopping for one with a bit more fire power than his old one. He's developing quite a good eye for the capturable image, and indulges my suggested ones.
Our beloved son man contact this evening; he had to go to some point high enough in Joshua Tree NP in order to get cell phone reception. It sounds as if htey've been having a good time, doing more hiking around to find climbing spots than he had wanted to, and having a bit of a confusion with the park rangers, whom he and others I've talked to say are getting increasingly fascist - the higher ups in the National Park Service had to swear an oath of loyalty to the Bush administration some time last year, never a good sign - which I hope he has worked out by the time we get there a week from tomorrow. It's been nice there, sunny mostly, chilly at night. Just about any place without endless ice water falling from the sky, as we have here, would be wonderful.