Posts Tagged ‘travel’

I woke up this morning to snow cascading down outside my window. It was of the fluffy white cloud variety. Boo, the Queen of Cats, was positively riveted at the sight of large chunks of white ice falling just beyond the pane. Several times, she swatted in their direction. I tried to explain to her there was glass in between her paw and her target, but you know how cats are. I read an article recently stating cats are capable of understanding, I believe the writer said 150, human commands, they simply choose not to do them. Why am I not surprised? Over the weekend, I took her on a field trip to Richard’s house. The drive, around forty-five minutes each way was thankfully uneventful. I secured her in her carrier for the trip. I bought her a new, lighter fabric carrier, last month thinking she might prefer it the hard carrier we have been using. As usual, the cat made up her own mind about the choice to be made. When I tried to ease her into the open end of the new crate, she proceeded to lose her little cat mind. After squirming and writhing nearly out of my grasp, and she is surprisingly strong, she spread out like a flying squirrel and dug her claws into the fabric and wouldn’t let go. She was not, and I repeat not, going to go into the hole without a fight. Fine. Ah well, another item for the donate pile going to the animal rescue. It will join the scratching board (she much prefers furniture), or and the ring with plastic mice running around in circles inside, (I believe she actually yawned when I showed her that gadget). Conversely, my old cat, Kitty, loved to to travel. When the carrier was produced, she happily hopped inside and waited for the adventure to unfold. Boo, not so much. She views the carrier as a device of extreme cruelty that usually signifies a trip to the vet. She would not shed a single tear if I threw it off a cliff somewhere in a remote location and never looked back. Rick and I once took Boo on a three hour drive to visit my mother’s in San Jose. An hour and a half of the drive, she crouched in the carrier and vocalized what a bad idea she thought this was. After 90 minutes of caterwauling, it was pull over and leave her at the side of the road (Rick’s option), or let her out to walk around in the car, (mine). The cat behaved far better when freed, so we opted to allow her to roam free again on the return trip. While standing on her hind paws to look out the rear window, she set a front paw on the window’s down button. When the window went down, she escaped into the street before I could grab her. Unbelievable. We spent the next hour trying to coax her out of the bushes in the meridian. Not doing that again. Once bitten, twice shy really applies to that piece of business.

She actually seemed to have a lovely time at Richard’s house. On blustery days like we’ve enjoyed lately, he keeps a roaring fire going in his fireplace. During our stay there, I found her often fully extended on the carpet before the hearth soaking up some of the lovely heat it brings to the room. There are four squirrels that stop by periodically during the day to mooch peanuts Richard puts out for them. He refers to the furry four as his “livestock”. Oh come on now, that is kind of cute. At any rate, my house has no floor to ceiling windows for her to look out, so seeing these four strange beings was something novel and new that really captured her attention. At one point one of the squirrels was nose to nose with Boo, each eyeing the other safely from the opposite side of the glass. Took the squirrels a few passes around the deck to understand the cat could not get out, before they would come close enough to grab the nuts on the mat. Was fun to watch the interaction with no bloodshed ruining the moment.

I drove to work this morning at a snails pace. This area gets snow rarely, and I am a tad rusty as to how to behave when it’s covering the ground. Several times, when either accelerating or coming to a stop, I found myself in a skid. I’m hoping by the time I go home, it will have melted off. When I was a kid snow was a treat. On school days, when heavy snow fell in Nova Scotia, my grandmother and I would have our ears pressed up to the small radio in her kitchen. If a snow day was called, I would be zipped into my snow gear and released to go play outside. Before long there would be a snowman in the yard wearing one of my mother’s old scarves and sporting a carrot from the vegetable bin for a nose. These days, though I still find it so pretty to look at, I prefer to admire it from a distance. I really have little interest in playing in it for long, and no interest at all in either shoveling it or driving in it. If it continues at this rate, pretty soon I won’t have any television to watch when I get home tonight. If enough snow accumulates on the dish on the roof, it will totally block reception. Ah well, I just went to the used book store over the weekend and stocked up on reading material so I won’t be without something to occupy myself with. All I ask is that the electrical grid holds. I start getting a little squirrely myself when the lights and heater shut off. My little house was built in the 1930’s. Insulation was not as sophisticated in those days as it is now. The heat, once the source is turned off, dissipates very quickly. The last time that happened, I ended up beneath a tent of blankets on my couch wearing earmuffs and snow boots watching my own breath freeze in midair. I would prefer not to have to repeat that behavior.

Richard offered to come get me should I be powerless, so to speak. He has four wheel drive in both his vehicles and being a retired truck driver, a little snow on the ground means little in his world. My hero. Truly, I really appreciate the offer. A warm fire trumps a freezing cold house every time in my book. Just sayin.

I’ve taken on some new non-profit work. Basically, they can’t find graphic artists in the area to do volunteer work, so word has gotten out I am willing to draw the short straw. I don’t mind, or I wouldn’t have signed up in the first place, but I’m not sure where I’m going to fit it into my schedule. Things are getting a bit tight in my life. Tomorrow I work, and then need to come home and whip up scalloped potatoes for a dinner party for ten on Sunday. Perhaps I will cheat and use a couple of package mixes. They are pretty good, and certainly beats thinly slicing all those potatoes. Promise you won’t tell. I had a dream in the middle of the night I was stooped over a huge pot of water. One hand was holding a potato, the other a potato peeler. Next to me, sat an open bag of potatoes, and covering my feet was a pile of discarded peels. I was crying and peeling, peeling and crying. Was it onions I was peeling this would have been understandable, but potatoes? This says a lot about how I’m feeling lately without having to delve much deeper into the subject. lol

Work, has proved a bit problematic of late as well. Hmmmmm, sounds like I’m complaining. Perhaps, because, I am. I work with five directors, each with their own set of priorities and way of doing things. One tells me one thing, the other something totally different. One wants me to gather a lot of information from the caller when a call comes in for them, the next one wants me to simply tell them they have a call and on what line it came in. Ach. When the calls are coming in rapid fire trying to remember who wants what becomes more of a chore than fielding all the lines that are ringing. Perhaps I am getting tired of working. Wish I could get tired of collecting a paycheck as well, but I’m not quite there yet.

Richard would like me to throw caution to the wind, pack up Boo, give my notice, and take off in the fifth wheel to do a tour of the United States. I have to say, this is a tempting offer. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve run away from home. I toured the country with my first husband and my then toddlers for nearly a year, and did it once again for about five years with my last. Sometimes I get to wondering if I am imbued with nomadic DNA. I seem to end up roaming either on my own, or pairing up with someone who also likes to flitter and land. Seems like a bit of a pattern looking back on my life that apparently doesn’t intend to right itself anytime soon. This opportunity to have this kind of adventure probably will not present itself again. I have to decide if I still have enough adventurous spirit tucked away inside me to tap into and do it one more time.

Well, we’ve gotten through Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and Mardi Gras. On to St. Patrick’s Day, which is coming up next month. I believe after that it’s smooth sailing holiday wise until the Easter bunny gets busy for another year. In between all the holidays littering the pages of my calendar, I have birthdays popping up all over the months. I have two children, who have seven children between them. Each of my children is married, so there are spouses. Now, I have Richard and his extended family. For these occasions cards are probably how I’ll commemorate them. Then you move onto friends with occasions like birthdays, hospital stays, grandchildren arriving on the scene, weddings. Whoa. My best friend called the other day and started our conversation by asking, “do you know what day this is”. A loaded question at best, I began flying through my memory bank only to come up with Tuesday, which I felt was not the correct response. When I said I had nothing beyond Tuesday, she said it was her wedding anniversary. Really? I can barely recall what I had for breakfast. I was her matron of honor, so I suppose perhaps I might have remembered at least the month they were married in, but it would have been a stretch even on a great memory day.

As we get older, we have a massive amount of information stored away in our brains. I like to think, that rather than becoming more forgetful, I just have more to sort through before coming up with the information I am searching for. Working with people each week who have memory issues, I am very aware of how important it is to exercise your mind as well as your body every day. I try to do puzzles when I wake up, read a lot, and challenge my mind to do more than write an occasional grocery list. I always have a crossword half completed somewhere I can pick up when gifted with a free moment. Keep those gears moving, I say, so they don’t freeze up. We can’t ensure that dementia will stay at bay, but there are steps we can take to keep it at bay.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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Continuing the discussion of our recent trip to Carmel I began in my last blog, would bring us to day two of our three day trip. The first day, as reported previously, the weather was mostly about rain, clouds, and overcast skies. Though we held out hope for good weather, we presumed if the forecasts of late here in Northern California prevailed, cloudy days would likely remain the case for the remainder of our time on the road. To our complete delight and surprise, we awoke the next morning to see sun streaming in through the slats in the windows, and bright blue skies overhead when we went to the car to head out for breakfast. Yay.

Like you might notice in many European towns, visitors to Carmel also often choose to get where they want to go on foot. This, I would presume, not only because it is a lovely setting for a stroll outside, but also it is a very popular tourist destination. Parking during peak season, can be at a premium. Many times I’ve circled the town ad nauseum waiting for a spot to open up, with people jockeying for position like competitors in a game of musical chairs. This day, however, we were going to take the scenic route around 17 Mile Drive to do some sight seeing, and then on from there into Monterey to visit the aquarium. I have been along 17 Mile Drive many times over the years. The first time I ever saw this unique and gorgeous span of coastline, was the day after I married my first husband. Three days of our honeymoon were to be spent at the Del Monte Lodge, located about at the center point along the route of the drive itself. The lodge today, is known more familiarly as The Lodge at Pebble Beach, and is touted as a five star luxury golf resort. Back when we got married, the room rate was $68/night. I was nineteen and my new husband but twenty-two, so for us $204.00 was a big splurge. I still have the cancelled check tucked away in my yellowing memories album to remember it by. Today, $68 is less by half than the rate you would be charged by the hotel for the privilege of having your cocker spaniel spend a night with you in the same establishment. Woof. Well it is not the same establishment as it was when we were there. Though the view is unchanged, still spectacular, and the basic look, outwardly at least, remains much the same, the price tag for a night’s stay has gone up considerably. A room overlooking the garden were you to book it today, begins in the $1,000+ range, with rooms offering a view of the golf course or an ocean view increasing exponentially from there. You will not find my name written in their guest book any time soon.

I have actually stayed at the hotel twice, the second time was with my second husband and my two children. I don’t remember what the bill was for the second stay, but I know we had secured two rooms for a three night stay. I guarantee, if it had been $1,000 plus a night for each room, I would have remembered the details most vividly. There were several things that stood out about the hotel at Pebble Beach, aside from the magnificent cliffside view of the Pacific. First, though not necessarily remarkable, a porter loaded our luggage in a golf cart once we’d checked in. When all baggage was on board, he conveyed us, along with our bags, to our room (Hotel 6 does not offer this perk). When we arrived everything was then offloaded and carried up the stairs. Well not us, of course. I believe we managed the stairs without any help, thank you very much. Our hanging clothes were neatly tucked away in the closet, and each bag was opened and placed on a luggage carrier. After that, the porter explained the amenities to us, such as ice machine locations and pool hours, and provided us with restaurant information should dinner in their lovely dining room be in our plans. There was a nice tip involved for all his helpfulness, naturally. The rooms, I must say, were bright and spacious and beautifully appointed. Each room had a sitting room with a settee, two end tables, lamps and an easy chair facing a fireplace. A fire was laid in the grill waiting to be lit by a hotel employee each night if the room guests desired them to do so. The big thing for me, was along with the expected room phone sitting on the writing desk, there was an additional phone located on the wall in the bathroom alongside the commode. Interesting. Perhaps more business is conducted from that particular vantage point than I’d previously realized.

I guess “you get what you pay for” may well apply to the above paragraph. For $1,000 plus a night and an additional $140 for my dog, I want to get a lot. As I said, our little inn had a lot of quaint wonderful things about it, but none of them included carrying any of our bags up the two flights of stairs to our room, nor was there an elevator available if it happened you couldn’t mount the two flights yourself. What you would do in that case, I have no idea. I would assume either book a room on the lower level, or commandeer a hotel employee to help you move in and out. However, my feeling is that I don’t go on vacation to live in my room. If I did, perhaps $1000/night would seem less prohibitive. I suppose if money is no object, and that concept doesn’t live in my world, than whether the room was $150/night or $3000 a night would really be a moot point. I do have to say, like flying first class, all the delightful little spoiling touches are most welcome. A whole bar of soap, for example, and, yes, a phone by the commode for those calls that simply can’t wait. I do not require such a high level of spoiling as a human being regularly, though I do not reject the pleasure of indulging in them from time to time.

Approaching the entrance to the Aquarium, a young woman stopped us asking if we were members. To be honest I didn’t know they had members, but we both shook our heads no. If not a member, she told us, tickets must be purchased on-line as there is no longer a ticket booth on the premises. Really? I looked up the site on my phone, clicking on tickets. Entrance to the Aquarium now costs $60 per adult. If either Richard or I had never been before, I would have just booked it. Since both of us have been numerous times, $120 seemed a lot of money. Talking it over, we decided we could probably put that money to better use during our trip, so we decided to pass. Leaving the Aquarium to another trip, we wandered over to the Cannery Row area. Steinbeck coined the phrase “Cannery Row” in his book of the same name, and it is today officially the name given to it. There are no operating sardine canneries along the wharf anymore, of course, just rows of touristy shops and restaurants, anchored by the Aquarium at one end of the street. One shop pretty much looking like the next, most selling tee shirts, sweat shirts and touristy items with “I Visited Monterey” or “Monterey is calling, and I must go” emblazoned across the front. We took a walk along the beach, and made our way along the boardwalk, ending up at the pier. Walking along the pier had sort of a carnival feel to it. Gulls hopped about on the well worn wooden planks, grabbing up a piece of discarded caramel corn here and there, or scavenging for a handout from someone walking by. In the distance, the steady barking song of the seals on the rocks across the marina provided background noise. Vendors were busy stocking their display cases with cooked crab, shimmering oysters, and other seafood offerings. Had it not been for the fact I had reached my capacity at the restaurant earlier, I might have signed up for some crab on the half shell accompanied by a chunky slice of sourdough bread. Docked on one side of the pier were two boats each bearing signs on their sides advertising whale watching tours. People were lined up in front of the designated boarding areas waiting to be let on. Have to admit, I was curious about the tours. I might have gotten in line but for the fact though the sun was shining, it was chilly out, so decided to reserve that adventure as well for another trip when warmer weather prevailed.

Having our fill of store hopping, we collected the car and headed south towards Carmel again turning right at the roundabout and following the arrow towards the entrance to the 17 Mile Drive. Paying the $11 requested by the guard at the gate, we began the drive following the arrows as we drove along. So many trees were down from the recent storm. There were huge root bases evident on both sides of the street everywhere we went. Tree and stump removal trucks could be seen all along the route with massive cut pieces of trunk lying around them. A local told us the crews were concentrating on clearing the streets of debris first and moving on to the side areas for clearing and cleanup as time permitted.

As always, when in that area, I was struck by the incredible opulence of the homes nestled among the trees. Some of them appeared to me like palaces fit only to be dreamed of by kings or titans of business with vast coffers from which to draw. Many were built right on the lip of the ocean, perched high on the edge of the rocks so close to the sea they looked as if they could easily slide off only to disappear into the frothy surf. Those homes with uninterrupted views of the ocean, cost more than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. Though I have never been invited in for tea, I imagine these palatial estates to be vast showplaces for beautiful art such as is displayed in the many art galleries available for viewing in downtown Carmel. It would be fun to be able to peek in a window here and there and see what surprises lay inside the walls. I’m quite sure there are laws covering such behavior, so we stayed beyond the fences in our own world, satisfying ourselves with simply observing the beauty of our surroundings as we wound around from one curve to the next.

There are many opportunities to pull over along 17 Mile Drive and take pictures, some which we availed ourselves of. Most of the pullouts had signs posted offering up a brief history or some background information about the view you were looking at. I will include some photos with this writing, though they could never convey the breathtaking beauty we were experiencing. At Bird Rock, we stopped so I could grab a few shots of, well, the birds. The birds in question, according to the sign posted in the parking area, were cormorants. Large numbers of these mid size grey/black birds could be seen perched on the rocks not far beyond the wave line. According to the sign writer, cormorants are coastal birds, as would be obvious by where we were standing viewing them, known for their impressive diving capabilities. A young man was standing not far from us holding controls guiding a drone as it swooped down low above the rocks. Manipulating the controls, he brought the drone back to where he was standing. Curious about what he was doing, I struck up a conversation. Michael was his name, he told me, and he was Canadian. “Good day, eh”, had already given him away as one of mine, from Toronto. The drone was being used, he told us, in the filming a documentary he was producing about the western shoreline and it’s inhabitants which he had hopes to promoting to a studio or television station in Southern California. After a moment, he asked if I’d be interested in previewing some of the footage he had just taken. Peering into the lens it was amazing some of the images he had captured. Chatting for a bit longer, we parted ways, wishing him success on his venture.

When the afternoon began to wane, we turned the car back towards Carmel. Not wanting a big meal such as we had enjoyed the evening before, we went into Carmel proper in search of a good old greasy cheeseburger. Mulligan’s Pub was where we ended up. Mulligan’s was definitely a local watering hole. A lovely crackling fire was blazing in the corner of the bar and we sat at a table close by to soak up some of the warmth. Two cheeseburgers with fries were ordered and we sank back in our chairs to take in some of the local color. People came and went mostly calling each other my first names. Though we were not part of that band of travelers, they were fun to observe. The cheeseburgers arrived, and were absolutely delicious. Leftovers boxed and put in a bag, we walked the half a mile or so back to our lodgings and called it a day. More in my next blog about our last day in town. That’s all for now. Have a lovely rest of your weekend.

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Richard and I drove down to Carmel last week for a three day mini-vacation. With all the unpredictable weather that has been circulating around Northern California the past few weeks, some of our friends didn’t think it the best time to travel. Our reservations had been in place for several months. Listening to the pros and cons, particularly with so much water on the ground, in the end, the lure of the coast won over over the arguments not to go. After that, it was damn the torpedoes full speed ahead. Certainly it wouldn’t be the first time either of us made a decision other people in our lives didn’t support. Most probably, it will not be the last. As I always do, I asked my “angels”, who seem ever present in my life, to hang close and keep an eye on us just for a little extra insurance.

Monday, our first day on the road, proved to be the most challenging of the trip. Gray skies persisted overhead most of the morning. Far off in the distance the, massive accumulation of darker, angrier looking clouds, left little doubt there was more rain on the horizon. Many of the side roads along the route we’d chosen leading to Highway 5 were either closed or had significant water in the roadways. Once in the belly of the beast, it was either forge on, or turn back. In either case, it was obvious there would be water to be dealt with. Having grown up outside of Auburn, Richard is a fount of information about just about everything going on in the Sacramento area. According to him, the farmers in the lowlands take care of their own water issues, be it too much water, or not enough. Whether this is true or not, I have no way to verify except to ask Richard, who I believe we have already established has an opinion on the subject. Interesting though. (As an update. I learned from another viable local source this in fact is correct. The land, and the waterways are privately owned.) From the looks of things, whoever is in charge, had way too much water to take care of this year. The weatherman I watch in the mornings said today the snow and rainfall counts this season mark the third in the highest in recorded history.

Driving along, there were trees down on many properties, some with wires wrapped around them secured with yellow caution tape. When we got stopped in one direction, we’d try another. At one point, we came upon a huge pool of water. We pulled up behind two similar looking mid sized delivery trucks parked in tandem at the lip. The pool spanned the width of the road oozing into the pastures on both sides, then spread out about a half a city block from the middle. The truck drivers stood talking animatedly with their heads together next to their cabs. Though we couldn’t hear their conversation, we surmised they were discussing whether to go through the massive puddle, or turn back. While the men came to a decision, a short line of cars had begun to fall in together on the opposite side of the pool. All of the vehicles present seemed to be waiting to see what the truck drivers were going to do, before making a move themselves. Shortly, both drivers returned to their vehicles, and started up their engines. Our small band of silent witnesses watched as the two trucks, one following the other, tentatively entered the water. I figured the point man had the most to lose. If anything was going to go down (literally), he would be the first to tell the story. Richard’s take on the situation was if either truck didn’t sink beneath the surface, then we should be safe to cross. Swell. At that point, I was leaning more toward the logic side of the argument of our friends suggesting not to have come at all, but it was a little late in the game to switch teams. We watched, holding our breaths, as one truck then the next slowly forded the overflow area, each making it to the other side without incident. Next in line, like pioneers crossing a raging river in their wagon, we moved up to the edge and slowly drove forward into the water. Out the window it looked like waves lapping at the side of the car. I had a mental picture of all my doubting Thomas friends glued to the 5 o’clock news as Richard and I were helicoptered out of our sinking vehicle all with “I told you so’s” forming on their lips. Mommy.

When we reached the other side, the small caravan waiting there, taking our cue, began to cross as well. After that, it was a short distance to the main highway which we traveled sans puddles. Once on Highway 5, other than the wind which was strong enough to nudge us into the next lane if not paying attention, the weather cooperated with only a light rain falling the rest of the way to Carmel. My first glimpse of the ocean came after cresting a hill outside of Monterey. It has been a long time since I’ve seen my beloved sea. Bouncing up and down in my seat like a kid who’d consumed too much chocolate, I nearly burst out of the door when Richard pulled over next to a sand dune, and raced down the hill towards the water. Rain or no rain the ocean, to me, is the best place to find yourself on earth.

Once I’d gotten enough sea air to hold me for the moment, we drove on down the coast and checked into our room at a charming Carmel inn. The rooms, as usual, are photographed with a wide angle lens for the benefit of promoting guests to book them on the website. What had appeared on-line to be a large spacious room, was in fact in person a small, not so spacious one. As usual, I’d packed enough clothes to cover any event from an alien landing to a volcano eruption. The closet held about five hangers comfortably but we made it all work. The bathroom was very small, definitely a one person affair, with only a shower and no tub. Along with half the clothes I’d brought with me, the new bubbles I’d tucked in my overnight case were definitely not going to be put into use. Note to self “Bring a bar of soap”. Don’t know who’s body the small versions of soap in the guest packs were for, but they wouldn’t have covered the average infant. By the time I’d had one shower my little bar was down to a nub, and I don’t have a lot of area to cover. I’d purchased four traveling bottles so as not to have to carry larger bottles with me. Each bottle came with a different colored lid. I was sure memory would serve me as to what product was stored in which color, so didn’t feel the need to mark them. I must remember to remember I can’t remember —-. I’m not sure whether I washed my face with conditioner or shampooed my hair with cleansing cream. If so, they are apparently interchangeable. Good to know.

The first day of the trip was pretty much devoted to getting to our destination and getting settled. In the evening, we went to the Mission Ranch Inn for dinner. What a lovely setting for a restaurant. During the summer months, you can sit outside in lawn chairs and enjoy your adult beverage of choice while overlooking the ocean. Flocks of sheep roam on the pasture beyond the patio area and can sometimes be seen being herded by the owner’s (I assume) Australian shepherd. What clever dogs that breed. Amazing how instinctively they know to manage a herd of animals so much larger than themselves. I’ve always had a secret yen to own one. May do it yet.

It has been years since I’ve eaten there but remembered the food and the ambiance. There is a fireplace and a piano bar, for those who are so inclined. We sat in the back room which was a little more intimate, and quieter. Dinner was not a disappointment. Three tender ribs of rack of lamb resting atop mint chutney, served with pan basted baby yellow potatoes and Swiss chard. Yum and double yum. I left only the pattern on the plate. There was a tense moment, however. I asked the waiter for mint jelly. I KNOW!!! From the look on his face, shooting was probably too good for me. Why can’t they just give it to you and keep their thoughts to themselves? For the price of the meal, it should have come with a vehicle. Mint jelly doesn’t seem too much to ask. Our chef, when we owned the restaurant, used to get sooooo upset if I asked for either tartar sauce or mint jelly. It’s simply not done in the high end culinary world, and it galled him to no end I insisted on doing it. Their opinion is the flavors should carry themselves without enhancing them with anything else. Personally, I don’t care if you want your lobster dipped in marmalade or pour A-1 on your Brussels sprouts, as long as you enjoy your meal. Even if I’d cooked it, I would feel the same way.

After a delicious meal and a long day, we sank into bed. Sank, being the optimum word here. The bed, well loved from the feel of it, was like an old stable horse. It was high on both ends but dipped deeply in the middle. I looped one leg over the side to keep me from rolling into the abyss. Also, for a room with a fireplace on one wall, it was chilly. The fireplace, gas not wood, looked lovely, but when lit and on high didn’t seem to provide much heat. There was a small wall heater which we cranked up to the max and by the time our stay was over the room had come up to a comfortable temperature. These, I always say, are the fun things about staying in quaint old inns. This is precisely what gives them character. You can go to a new hotel with all the amenities, but then what would you have to write about?

I read recently an article about tips passed on from workers in well known businesses. Secrets you need to know, or perhaps would prefer not to, about how these businesses are run. One such tip was from someone who had worked in a well known and rather pricey hotel chain. His suggestion, “never walk on the carpet in your bare feet”. According to this whistle blower, hotels only shampoo their carpets about twice a year. Whatever is spilled, projectile vomited, or tracked in on your boot, is covered up in between washings with room spray and quick fixes. I worked in a motel as a maid for nearly a year when traveling with my ex-husband. I remember being amazed at how infrequently they washed the bedspreads. The sheets were washed in between guests of course, so that is where you want to rest, but the bedspread can be full of whatever it’s full of. My tip would be, don’t sleep with your face pressed against a hotel bedspread with your mouth open. I’m just saying.

Carmel was as wonderful as I remembered it to be. The line of Northern California coastline along the 17 Mile Drive really can’t be matched in shear beauty and accessibility. This trip was made all the better by it being early in the season so less people on the ground and parking everywhere we went was easily accessible. I will finish my story at my next writing. There is frost on the pumpkin this morning but the sun is up and shining brightly in the sky. Yay. Happy humpday to you.

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The rain continues to fall here in Northern California, each day setting a record that tops the one proceeding it. I drove home from Richard’s yesterday through what looked to be a war zone. Huge trees were lying like fallen soldiers, draped across manicured lawns, some leaning precariously against a rooftop or pushing against a fence line. In some areas, I was detoured by blinking police cars to avoid a tree obscuring the lanes of traffic or to safely avoid downed power lines posing a threat. The reservoirs are filling up at a happy pace and our drought situation is definitely taking on a happier face than it was wearing last year. As always, I wonder why we don’t put more effort into capturing all this glorious precipitation falling to the ground. A state with the vast resources of this one, it seems to this small blonde at least, should be dropping some serious pennies in the jar to pay for new reservoirs or underground containment centers. Makes no sense to me, but then I’m not running the government thankfully. I wonder at times if anyone responsible is, but that’s a topic for a whole other blog.

I am headed down to Carmel for three days R&R next week. It seems an odd time to go with the weather behaving in such an erratic manner, but Richard and I have reservations at a lovely B&B, and have no plans to cancel at this writing. My heart is excited with the anticipation of seeing the ocean in whatever face it might be wearing. The last time I was there, can be counted in years not months. When the gap in between visits is this long, my soul begins to actually crave the smells and sights associated with being by the sea. Most likely it will be overcast and foggy. I grew up with fog horns in the background in Nova Scotia, so inclement weather is no stranger to me. A little rain never bothers me much. I’m not a high maintenance girl who worries about her hair or getting her shoes wet. They dry, and then there you are again. I actually love to get out and walk on a rainy day. I’m not talking about blinding rain, but I don’t mind taking a good walk in a gentle rain. There is something about a rainy day, in truth, that fires up my engines. I find myself singing in the kitchen, or industriously cleaning out closets. This has been a little more rain than usual for certain, but still it is nice to turn off the lights and drift off to sleep hearing it playing a tune on my roof.

I was called into work an extra day this week so here I am sitting at my work computer writing this. Several of the residents reported to me this morning no one won the enormous lottery up for grabs Tuesday night, though apparently 15 people will have an extra million to spend in 2023. Drat the luck, and I had my Porsche all picked out. I told them if I win the next drawing, don’t expect to see my face behind this desk come Friday. Looking dismayed at that statement, I assured them I would return often to take everyone out to dinner at one of the pricey steakhouses around the Sacramento area before retiring. I checked my numbers against those drawn to see if I might be one of the 15. Got one number out of two tickets. From all appearances I needn’t wait for the million dollar check to hit my bank account any time soon. Ah well. I realize the odds of winning are astronomical, but someone’s got to win. I’m just as unlikely to as the next person. lol

Someone was commenting to me the other day about how “off” their time perception has been since the beginning of the year. From all I’ve gleaned from the metaphysical reading I do, the energy collectively circling about in our world at present is very jumbled and disruptive, so this is to be expected. I totally feel it in my world. I’ve been off all week. Yes, yes, even more than my usual off. Tuesday all day I thought it was Wednesday. Then when it was Wednesday I kept thinking it was Thursday. I have missed two appointments already this year and we’re not even through January yet. It’s just an unsettled feeling of being slightly out of sync with the universe.

Because the weather significantly reduces outside activities, my son and daughter-in-law finally talked me into watching Yellowstone. I fell in the pot with the minority of TV viewers who had not seen a single episode of the well touted series. Two nights ago, I watched the first episode and have tuned in for several more since then. The story line definitely holds your attention. Though I have to say, if you’re offended by graphic scenes, I don’t suggest you grab your bowl of popcorn any time soon and tune it in. Whoa.

I have always wanted to go to Montana. Dale, my ex was from there, and before he got ill we had planned to drive up for a visit. I have teased the borders a time or two, having been in Wyoming once and Idaho many times, but Montana and Yellowstone have eluded me. Also close by and on my bucket list, I would like to get a glimpse of the Dakotas. The other night instead of counting sheep when I couldn’t sleep, I got to thinking about how many states I had visited, or lived in. To me, it was an impressive amount, but I have missed some of the ones I especially wanted to see. I will have to find a way to add those to my checked off list somewhere down the road. My mother visited one such city in Georgia, Savannah. She was enchanted by it, as I’m sure I would be. I have been to Atlanta on business, but that is sort of an encapsulated situation. I never really saw much of my surroundings other than the hotel where the trade show I was participating was located. After reading “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” Savannah was added to my list of must sees. Places steeped in rich history hold a fascination for me. Would love to see that area. I’ve never been to the Carolinas, nor have I traveled up the road a piece from there have I visited Rhode Island or Connecticut. I have lived in Washington, West Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama, and Massachusetts outside of California. People have asked me on occasion which one I preferred. To me, they all have their own pluses and minuses depending on where you are in a particular state. Even with all the tiresome infighting endlessly reported on the news, somewhere else I really have a yen to see is Washington D.C. We shall see. The year is young and my freshly printed updated passport is burning a hole in my pocket. Somewhere either this year or next, a trip to Canada is a must do for me. Many of my father’s family who I’ve been in contact with live in western Canada. Most of us have never met face to face. My dad died at 25 and my mother and I went to live with my maternal grandparents. Other than my paternal grandmother, my contact with my father’s people over the years since then has been sketchy at best. I would love to be able to restore that connection by meeting them in person. Growing up, it was just my mom and I out here in California. There were never any of those big family gatherings in my world unless we made it to a family reunion or a visit to Nova Scotia now and again. My son and his family sent me a kit for 23andMe I’m excited to explore. Be interesting to see what my DNA stirs up out there in my family tree I am as yet unaware has bloomed there.

Well work calls. Happy Thursday. Enjoy the one day without a raindrop associated with it if you’re in Northern California like myself. Look up from time to time and be aware of your surroundings. The ground is mushy and the trees unpredictable.

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Over the past week, I have been hit twice with some sort of intestinal bug. Either I ate something not quite right, or a germ hitchhiked on my sleeve somewhere while I was out and about and entered my system. Since it happened not once but twice, I did begin to wonder if perhaps it was something in my refrigerator. As I’ve said previously, my new refrigerator hasn’t been working properly. Everything I put in it seems to freeze, even though it is set at the lowest setting. When my old refrigerator died, my landlords did not go all in for a replacement appliance, though I am grateful for their effort. It is an upper freezer old timey model, equipped with none of the amenities available in some of the upscale newer refrigerators. For example, there is no ice maker. That being said, there is no external bar for ice, water, etc. and the freezer doesn’t offer a lot of usable space once the ice cube trays are in there. This is an old house, and I love it, but it does have a setback or two. The sink has no garbage disposal, and the dishwasher is in a drawer. Other than that, and the new frigid refrigerator, I love, love, love it here.

A repairman was called to check out the situation. After giving the fridge a thorough going over, his conclusion? It’s fine. Hmmmm. Before he arrived, I prepared my visual displays. On the counter were several rock hard bottles of frozen water, two ice laden green onion bouquets, and one fifty pound cauliflower now a solid block of ice, I referred to as a veggie pop. After checking the dials, and calibrating the whatsits and thingamabobs, his conclusion, “it’s fine”. In what universe is it fine? Am I missing something? He suggested I put less in the freezer. That would limit my usable space to two Lean Cuisines and a bag of frozen peas. After bantering back and forth for a bit on the “it’s fine” theory, he called the game and went to the locker room. If this is the worst thing I have to deal with in my life, I will manage, but it is annoying. I texted my landlord his findings and she texted me back, “keep me advised”. Hmmmm, again. Shall I text again tomorrow and each following day with, “still not working”?

Let’s move on. Most likely if things are freezing they are not contributing to my internal distress. More likely to cause a problem, would be if it was running too hot. Could be a bug. Not in the fridge in me. Whatever is going on in the deep nether regions of my body, it all came to a head night before last. I beat a solid path back and forth to the bathroom for about four hours. Boo accompanied me, seating herself next to me on each visit. While I hung my miserable little blonde head over the toilet, she remained vigilant by my side. I believe the cat thought perhaps this was some new weird sort of game I’d thought up for her entertainment. After a while, seemingly bored with it all, she went back to her bed, looking at me as if to say, “this really wasn’t that much fun”. Blessedly, I finally fell asleep, not waking up again until around 9 a.m. When I opened my eyes, Boo was standing my chest, her wet nose pressed firmly against mine. If I could describe the look on the cat’s face, it would be quizzical. It was as if she was asking me, “are you broken”? I am usually up way before the chickens, so most likely her food bowl needed to be filled and no treats had been deposited on her mat as the usual eight o’clock routine required. (It’s in her contract.)

It is much less fun to be sick, not that it’s ever a really good time, when you are living alone. My head, toenails, eyelids, eye teeth, and belly button were all complaining as I rolled myself out of bed and set me feet on the floor. Was the room spinning, or was it just me? Since there was apparently no one riding in on a white charger to come to my rescue, I needed to get myself up and moving. Padding into the kitchen, I did my due diligence by filling the cat dishes and distributing the treats on the mat. I looked at the coffee pot longingly, but my stomach issued an urgent message to my brain saying, “touch that pot and you’re a dead woman”. Okay, okay. Fifteen minutes later, I was again staring at the ceiling trying to recalibrate myself. Thankfully, by yesterday afternoon I was feeling much, much better and seemed to be heading toward being fully on the mend.

Today, I took a long look inside my refrigerator. I wore industrial gloves and an anorak so as not to develop frostbite. Turns out, one of my egg cartons had an expiration date of the beginning of January. Thinking back on recent events, both days I got sick I had eaten eggs from that carton in the morning. I also remember thinking as I took a last bite that the last egg had an unusual after taste. Tossing them, I decided I need to pay more attention to the dates. With Dale gone I’m not using food as quickly and doing far less cooking.

Due to this freezing situation, I have had to toss a lot of food, and these days it’s a pricey thing to do. I keep mentioning how expensive food is getting, but really it’s getting kind of alarming. I stopped by a local farmers market a couple of days ago and bought two heads of broccoli and three small zucchini. When I went to the cashier I handed her a ten and got thirty-eight cents back. Whoa. I thought she was kidding. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry, I might have handed them back to her and gone elsewhere.

Lately, I have been toying with the idea of ordering in from some of the websites who deliver pre-made meals. Doing some research, it appears you can pick and choose from all manor of flavors, frequency of delivery, and preparation types. There are meals you cook yourself, meals already prepared for you you simply heat up, healthy meals, meals for those needing special diets, low-calorie plans, those with no calorie limit, all manner of ethnic foods, a little something, something for all ranges of tastes and desires. Looking at them en masse, was like being handed a menu at a restaurant with page after page of items to choose from. Two hours later, you still can’t make up your mind.

Eating out every night is a lovely option, but my budget resists the idea strenuously. Too bad, cause the CEO of this company, namely me, was all over that idea. So, either I need to begin cooking again, a task I normally find cathartic but lately daunting, or find a partner who is skilled in the culinary arts.

I’m not doing any partnering anytime soon. It is a time in my life where I need to take a look at myself, where I am today, where I want to be tomorrow, and how I wish the rest of my life to look. Until I get that sorted out and in a neat pile, a partner wouldn’t be fair to either of us.

I am involved in a class that helps to narrow down the playing field. This has been very helpful for me in identifying things I need to change, things that make me fulfilled, and things that I can slough off and leave behind me. As I’ve said, adventure is in the air this year, and I intend to fly with it.

Currently I am in the planning stages of a trip to Montana which is very exciting for me. Dale was born and raised there and always wanted to take me with him to visit. His daughter, sister-in-law and I will be flying into Seattle for a few days, then renting a car and driving east to Missoula. Missoula is a bit of a concern for me, I have to admit. My ex-husband has settled there with his new wife, number 5 (but who’s counting). That would be an awkward reunion. Maybe I’ll get one of those masks with the glasses, nose and moustache? I told the ladies, if I suddenly throw myself on the floorboard, hit the gas there’s been a sighting.

Once we have seen what we plan to see in Montana, we’re going to at least do a short stop in Yellowstone. The park is really something that needs to be the intent of the trip, I believe, rather than a stop, but it will be interesting to see what we can see while in the area. Apparently there is a convergence close to one of the park gates of an alpine river (cold) and a second river (boiling). Where they meet and combine creates the perfect temperature for a spalike dip in the water. Well, that sounds perfectly wonderful.

So, exciting new things on the horizon. Almost the weekend, yay!!

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As I said in my previous blog, I plan to branch out and pencil in some adventures on my calendar for 2022. First and foremost, I need to see the ocean. I don’t say I want to see it, because really for me it can be a pull of such strength I would actually have to describe it as an emotional longing or need. Having grown up in Nova Scotia, a peninsula, water is as much a part of me as my breath and I miss seeing it every single day I am away.

Last year I located an old friend, Sam, on Facebook I had lost contact with twenty-five years ago. She and I parted ways after a disagreement. For the life of me I can’t remember now what it was about, but we let our friendship slip through our fingers over it. Funny, what seemed so important at the time doesn’t even resonate with my memory bank today. Goes to show you, petty arguments should be able to be easily resolved if the relationship is solid. Truth is, my life was kind of a horror show the year we drifted apart, so if I had been my BFF back then I might have taken the only lifeboat and rowed to shore without me as well. At any rate, since reconnecting, we talk once a week by phone and have planned a reunion trip for the week after Mother’s Day. Yay. The last time we saw each other, both of us were living in Redondo Beach on the Palos Verde peninsula in Southern California. These days, I make my home in the foothills around Sacramento and she relocated to Oregon several years. So, the plan is to meet in the middle for a few days and get to know each other again. Consulting a map, dead set in the middle between the two points is Yreka, California, a lovely little historical mining town with a population of 7,800 and change. As picturesque as the area is, there isn’t a whole lot to do there. That being said, I have been bouncing around the Internet looking at opportunities within driving distance where we can get in some trouble. Mission accomplished.

The first thing I came across was a Dude Ranch. When I posed this suggestion to Sam, she immediately asked if the price per person included the dudes. I told her I believe dudes are only included if you purchase the deluxe package, but we could look into it. It sounds like a silly suggestion to some perhaps, but to me I think it might be fun. I haven’t been on a horse since my early thirties, but I’m willing to give it a go if the horse is up to the task. Also, I found a national park within driving distance offering zip lining, which is high on my bucket list. The bucket being there in case I lose my lunch immediately following.

Mt. Shasta is an easy drive from Yreka as well. Years ago, I visited that area with my third husband. The beautiful snow capped peak holds many mysteries for native americans. Many believe it to be the center of the universe and even of creation. Truly, if you’ve been there, it does hold a mystical kind of feel around it.

We took a couple of days while there to explore the natural beauty of the area. Before leaving for home, my ex suggested we also take the tour of the Lake Shasta Caverns. Finding enclosed areas such as caves a slightly offputting, I was a bit hesitant, but finally agreed to tag along. The odyssey began with a spine jarring bus ride up the hill to where the entrance of the caverns located. There are tee shirts being sold in the gift shop reading “I survived the bus ride at the Lake Shasta Caverns”. There is a reason these are sold there. It is like putting a warning label on a poisonous substance. Someone is saying to you, run, save yourself. Seriously, that whole day was a bit of a minefield for me, but I have to say the bus ride really was putting the worst of it, first. The person hired to drive the bus up the winding road apparently harbored a huge grudge towards humanity in general, and had been given a weapon with which to wreak his vengeance. OMG. At one point, three wheels were on the road with the fourth wheel hanging suspended in mid air over the valley below before it once again engaged with the dirt and caught traction whipping us around the next u shaped curve. Mommy. When we were finally deposited at the top of the hill, shaken but not stirred, I swear I heard shrieking demonic laughter as the bus driver once again engaged the clutch and headed back down the hill to gather up his next group of unsuspecting victims.

A chirpy guide greeted us at the entrance. Before we entered the caves themselves, she asked if we had any health problems, specifically heart. Personally, I think they should have asked that before allowing us on the bus, but the fact they were asking it at all was somewhat concerning to me. Also, she asked if any of us were claustrophobic. Three hands went up, one of them attached to my arm. Oh-oh. She went on to say there were some tight spaces and long staircases if any of those health problems applied. I thought of going back down, but I’m not one to run away from something that scares me. Besides, I would have had to get back on the bus, and I wasn’t ready for that yet. So, onward and upward. It really was beautiful inside. Amazing natural sculptures raised up from the floor of the cave reaching up towards others equally as spectacular spiraling down from the ceiling. As we moved further into the belly of the beast, my claustrophobia began to make itself known. First, my heart began to pound like a conga drum and then beads of sweat began to form under the hair on the back of my neck. If that wasn’t enough to deal with, we came to a staircase that reached from where we were standing up, up, and up, looking like it ended somewhere near where the universe began. Someone made a joke about it, asking where the elevator was located. I was hoping there was a definitive answer for that. What seemed like hours later, we finally made it to the last of those massive set of steps. Secretly, I hoped there were paramedics waiting for me at the top. Good Lord. It reminded me of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The stairs going to the top there spiral around for days. By the time Rick and I got close to the end of that ordeal, he was crawling on to the next step on his hands and knees. Though the view was magnificent once we made it, I’m not sure I’d sign up for it again.

That will be one of at least three trips I plan to make this year, Covid willing and the creeks don’t rise. It is exciting to think of seeing new places and experiencing new things. I’m not a person who likes to have one day closely resemble the day before. While on this train of thought earlier in the day, I found myself wondering if Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, ever gets bored. She’s always lived inside a house, perched on her mountain of pillows. Each day at two hour intervals she shows up on her mat for two treats, and then it’s back to bed until the next round comes along. Sometimes, she varies the routine by doing wind sprints round the house in the middle of the night or throwing her stuffed mice around the living room, but there’s not much about one day that isn’t as familiar as the one preceding it. She’s never written me a memo to attest to the fact, but secretly I think she likes it that way. This, I fear will remain locked in her kitty mind and left for me to ponder on.

I am taking a software class this afternoon so I shall end on that note. Have a great weekend if I’m not back til Monday. Did want to end by saying how sorry I was to hear Sidney Poitier passed. What a wonderful gift he was to the movie world. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched In the Heat of the Night or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. I will miss him.

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Sleep is not a happy place for me these days for whatever reason. I suppose I could blame this on the pandemic. Why not? Everything these days seems to be blamed on the virus. If I do sleep, my dreams, if I’m lucky enough to achieve that level of deep sleep, are plagued with crazy scenarios and angst filled situations. Last night I was at a doctor’s appointment. There were two men in white coats attending to me, and neither of them were happy with my person. The individual I identified with as being the head cheese, if you will, was an insipid little man who kept rolling his eyes at me when I made a statement as if I was a ridiculous person who had never said a word worthy of paying any attention to. Hmmmm. What, one might ask, is this dream trying to tell me? I put my purse down on the chair next to me and a team of cleaning people rushed into the examining room, whisked up the offending purse, plopped it in my lap, and proceeded to de-lice the entire area around where I was sitting. Thank you? The doctor kept reading aloud out of my chart in almost a whisper. Since I am not a lip reader, I kept saying I couldn’t hear him, triggering another round of eye rolling in both men. Fine. Finally, I determined he was saying I was very ill. According to his version of the story he’d told me this last visit and I hadn’t paid attention. Huh. As I found this a little off putting at 3 a.m., I woke myself up. Lying under the sheets now feeling totally unsettled, I padded into the kitchen and pushed “brew” on the coffee pot. Coffee makes everything better, or at least it does for me. There is something so satisfying in taking that first sip off of your morning cup of freshly brewed beans. It’s like that first bite of an In ‘n Out cheeseburger. That first sip, or that first bite, always seems the most satisfying of the lot.

Love is sort of that way as well, don’t you think? In the beginning so new, so fresh, so full of promise. That golden glow when a couple is first discovering each other. The honeymoon period before there are shared experiences of piles of dirty laundry, overdue bills, hours spent walking the floor with a crying baby, nights hung over a toilet after eating bad Chinese. Just two people totally wrapped up in one another. If we started at the other end of the spectrum when we first met and worked our way back to the beginning most likely there wouldn’t be as many babies to walk the floor with in the middle of the night.

I come to this avenue of thought because Prince Phillip passed away. He and Queen Elizabeth were married for 73 years. I always wonder what the secret is to the extreme longevity of some relationships. I’m sure part of it, probably a large chunk, is compromise, patience, and a certain amount of me time. Now in their case, I would also suppose their union did not suffer breaches from the usual make or break moments we commoners do. The only breeches in their lives covered their behinds while galloping along well manicured polo fields. One of the top reasons couples fight is money, and in their case I feel I can say safely they weren’t sweating their next mortgage payment on Buckingham Palace. Still, whether your coffers are well padded or not, some natural leaks occur in the dam in all marriages, I should think after years and years of waking up to the same person on the pillow next to you. The lives of royals would be totally unique, of course. Queen Elizabeth would not be wiling away her days trying out a new dish soap for grease control, or sewing curtains for the spare room. One could only imagine what life might look like beyond the palace walls when the cameras weren’t rolling or the servants not present in one of the many common rooms. The Queen said he was her rock. As the women in my family were wont to say, “lovely”. Sometimes I got more of a slippery slope of pebbles and loose gravel feel from the men in my life, but that’s for another blog another day.

After all those years losing a spouse would be like using a part of yourself I would imagine. So many shared experiences and memories would have been created together they must feel like they’d lost half of their whole. My kids dad died at thirty-three. I remember at the time thinking, no matter where I went in the world I would never see his face again. Death is such a final note, you have to lean in on your faith in whatever you believe once that door is shut to make have the end of the song make sense. Faith, for each of us is a very personal thing. I try never to ask anyone to walk my walk nor do I opt to walk theirs when it comes to the hereafter so I shall leave it at that.

After Rick died, a friend gifted me with an “Angel Reading”. Basically, an angel reading is a visit with a psychic who tunes into the guides and angels surrounding you. I am very open to all ways of thinking when it comes to this, largely because no one up to this point has come up with the definitive answer to what actually occurs. That being said, I am willing to look at all options lying on the table. I do know for sure after he passed away there were signs everywhere he was still in the neighborhood. Several months after he was gone, a realtor friend of mine took me to look at this wonderful little house for sale in a neighboring town. At the time I was toying with the idea of buying rather than renting, before deciding renting offered me less restrictions. In one room of the house, the owner had decorated the bed and shelves with pillows and pictures with handwritten messages scrawled across them. My friend noticed even before I did, every one was either something Rick regularly said to me and several contained a nickname he used for me “little one”. Both of us just stood there in that room for the longest time amazed. It was as if he had written me a love note. I’ll never forget it. Truly I almost put an offer in on the house because of it. Another odd occurrence during that meeting was the “angel reader” was she mentioned Rick came and sat on the end of our bed. This gave me goosebumps. They began at my toenails and worked their way up to the top of my skull. As I have said ad nauseum, I am very neat. When I make a bed, that bed gets made. A military sergeant could stop by and I bet I’d pass inspection. I was a motel maid for a year in my misspent youth, and I after making twenty beds a day got pretty efficient at it. But, I digress. Anyhow, each day I would make the bed, no wrinkles, no bumps. My grandmother made her bed every morning before relieving herself. She told me it was in case she died while on the toilet, and whoever picked her up for in the meat wagon noticed her covers askew. Again, I’m off to the left here. Each day after I made the bed, an hour or so later, or whenever I went in the room next, I would notice at his end of the bed there would be what I would call a perfect “bum print” on the blanket. I can’t explain it, but I assure you for the first month or so it was there like clockwork, and then one day it wasn’t. It never was there again after that day. Go figure. Perhaps he stayed to make sure I was all right before going on to where he had to go. That being the case or not, it makes me to happy to think it was him checking in one last time.

Quite often partners sharing so many years together pass away close to one another. One departs, and the other literally dies of a broken heart. According to the news stories, the Queen has been preparing for the loss of her husband for some time. I thought I was prepared as well. I knew that I would lose Rick months before the actual day he died. But, you are never really prepared for such a catastrophic occurrence in your life, I don’t think. Perhaps knowing it is coming gives you time to plan, but I’m not sure it eases the pain of losing someone you love when it actually occurs. Death is as much a part of life as breathing and a heartbeat, yet we know so little about it. It is not a subject we here in America are comfortable with, so I shall move on to lighter fare.

To veer off the highway on another subject entirely, I have had my vaccinations and am ready to do a little exploring. The new man in my life at the hails originally from Montana. Born with the wind in my sails, I have been fortunate enough to cross the U.S. and Canada numerous times, but Montana is one state I have never stepped foot in and would love to add to my list of those visited. The big sky country, as it is referred to because it is told the sky seems more blue and more vast when in Montana. Sounds lovely (in the summer), and I am looking forward to seeing it. It would not be for me in the winter. Winters there are brutal and I am done with digging myself out of anything other than a huge plate of curly fries. A road trip is my favorite way to travel. Truth be told I’m a poor cruiser. I don’t like being stuck on a huge ship with nowhere to go but above deck or below, with a group of people I’ve never met, and nothing to do but eat. I prefer to have the freedom road travel provides. It’s wonderfully unburdening to be able to stop whenever the mood strikes you or go wherever the wind moves you. Though I do enjoy flying, when in an airplane all you see is the city below as you ascend and another city when you descend. Otherwise, most of the time the view out the window is clouds, clouds, oh, and did I mention clouds? If I’m in the mood to get somewhere fast, flying is the obvious choice, but at the moment there is nothing pressing getting me to get from point A to point B, so I prefer driving along at whatever speed I choose to drive and getting there whenever I do.

Another mode of transportation I enjoy is going by train. When I was four, my mother and I boarded the Trans-Canada train in Montreal and went west all the way to Vancouver before stepping back off. What a wonderful trip that was. Though very young, I can picture myself kneeling on the plush cushions in the Pullman car, face pressed against the window, watching the glorious vistas of the snow capped Rocky Mountains whizzing by.

At any rate, as you might have noticed I’m all over the map today. Wish that were more literal than figurative, but for now, I shall plan my trip and look forward to finally seeing something beyond whatever lies within a twenty-five mile radius of this house even if only in my unsettled dreams.

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone. – George Eliot

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Need and want are interesting qualifiers. Since I’m home more than not of late, I find my mind enjoys a little word play now and again. I need air to live, for example. I want to win the lottery (from my lips to your ears). I don’t want an obscene amount of money mind you, just enough to allow me a little latitude when it comes to fulfilling some of the items on my bucket list. Too much money can be both a blessing and a curse. If it brought you undying happiness why is it so many privileged people find themselves unfulfilled and unhappy? Truth is, I have had lots of money and no money in my lifetime and haven’t found that having a well padded bank account contributed to my happiness significantly except for the freedom it provides. When I was young I was never in pursuit of great wealth. I didn’t marry for money any of the four times, and this is well reflected in my present financial state; not on the street, but certainly not on my way to total solvency either. Have I done anything myself to earn large sums of money? Nope. Do I wish I had lots of zeroes behind the numbers in my bank account? At times.  Not because I have my eye on a red Ferrari or there’s a Coach handbag I’ve been admiring. That answer, would be only because I would love to have the freedom to travel, and financial stability allows you room for that. After seeing to my family’s welfare and world peace, of course (thank you Miss Universe), if suddenly independently wealthy most likely I would rarely be home. Rather you would find me sipping ouzo on a lovely patio in Greece, cruising down the Danube, or exploring the Chichen Itza ruins. Ahhhhh, what lovely thoughts on this Covid-19 driven Monday.


Boo, of course, would have to accompany me. Though she believes she runs this saloon, in truth when it comes to what we do and where we go it is I holding the wallet with the credit cards not she. Perhaps she would ride on the plane with me as my support animal. God knows she qualifies. Knowing Boo she would want to be in First Class. It would be nice to travel first class for a change, rather than in steerage like I usually do. I have only flown first class once, and business class twice. Each time it was a luxury to have both elbow and leg room to spare. The airlines are squeezing you in so tight these days it can actually be hazardous to your health. The only time I flew first class was to Hawaii in 1983. Such a treat. Now, from what understand first class passengers have pods for sleeping and other amenities reserved for the rich and famous, but even back then the perks were obvious from the moment you sat your behind in your comfy, roomy seat. In tourist waving down a flight attendant is like finding a sales clerk in Kmart. I remember once in Kmart after actually locating someone who worked there, I inquired as to where I might find the candles. His response, “In the candle department, I believe.” All that in-store sales training really paid off.

In coach when flying if you need immediate help your heart attack will simply have to wait until your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position and your seat belt is correctly fastened and the guy in the window seat has made it back from the bathroom. In first class if you as much as crook your finger a flight attendant appears like magic at your aisle offering you a refill for your drink, a glistening smile, and another pound bag of nuts. On the flight to Hawaii where I flew first class they actually sliced delicious slabs of perfectly cooked prime rib at the aisle, served with a twice baked potato and fresh asparagus with Hollandaise sauce on a real plate. So far superior to the unidentified meat in a plastic tray you are treated to in coach. Whoa. You pay for the prime rib several times over when you consider the difference in price between coach and first class so perhaps in the end you’d be better served to cook one at home and pack yourself a sandwich.

When this pandemic allows for activities beyond my front door a road trip is planned with a friend to Montana. I have been through, lived in, or visited a good majority of the United States. Montana, is not one of them. I’ve been close by, having driven through Wyoming. Beautiful. I’ve got a friend in the Boise area and have cruised as far north as Priest Lake in Idaho which is close to the Canadian border. I’ve passed through Nebraska, but missed the Dakotas and generally visited most everything south east of Montana at one time or another. If not for the virus holding us captive I think it would be fun to take an extended road trip and cover the spots I’ve not seen yet. For example, I’ve been to Phoenix numerous times, and seen Sedona, but I have yet to take in the majesty of the Grand Canyon nor have I had a glimpse of “The Thing” much advertised on Interstate 10 as a tourist attraction not to be missed.

When I was small, I lived in my maternal grandparents house from just after my first birthday until nearly nine. My mother and I went to live with them when my father died unexpectedly at twenty-five. My grandmother, a lovely and accomplished woman in so many ways, never drove a car. For someone who never took the wheel, she thoroughly enjoyed being in the car when someone else did. Many weekends during my childhood were spent on the back roads of Nova Scotia exploring all the wonderful sights to be seen in that beautiful part of Eastern Canada. Often we took a day trip down the Cabot Trail, a must see if you are in the area or would stop for some fabulous seafood at one of the many restaurants littering the picturesque outer areas of the province. Always I loved those trips. The window would be half open and untethered by seatbelts as we were in those days, my nose would at the top of the glass taking in all the images whizzing by as we drove along.


My first long road trip was from Nova Scotia to California with my mother and my recently acquired step-father in the summer of my ninth year. Our transportation was a shiny new Buick sedan of which I took up one half of the rear seat. With nothing pressing to get us to Santa Ana and my new “father’s” first day on the job still a month away we stopped often on our route.  In Chicago we began our southwestern trajectory on Route 66. I believe we ate at every Howard Johnson’s along the way. Never heard a complaint from me. They had 28 flavors of ice cream and as a chubby little girl my goal was to sample every flavor. In New Mexico we visited the Carlsbad Caverns. All these years later I can still picture those eerie caves with the beautiful formations. Funny how some experiences imprint themselves on your mind. The painted desert was also on our playlist, as was Las Vegas. Never having seen a desert nor a cactus (Nova Scotia is not known for either) my nine year old brain was like a porous sponge soaking up all these new and fascinating visual experiences.


Some of us choose to remain close to home on our life’s journey. For me, there has always been the urge to see what lingers just beyond the rise of the hill. As I get older it sometimes feel my world has gotten smaller, but still if given the opportunity to cruise over the crest of the ridge again straddling the back of a Harley, I know I would grab it in a second without hesitation.

Aging is just another crossroad on our journey, one more experience to be embraced. If lucky, we are all going to get a little ripe around the edges and the best way to approach it, for me at least, is to make it yet into another adventure. There is no guarantees at any age how many years a person will continue to inhabit this earth, so with that in mind I feel deeply the importance of living fully each and every day. Make it a good one.

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My seventh day in Northern Manitoba with my farm family was to be spent with Chris and the children. What a lovely day it was. On this particular day I was pulled into service in the kitchen, a job not unfamiliar to me. That evening there was to be a party in my honor which was such a lovely gesture on their part. Chris, as usual, would be doing the catering.  In her typical efficient way, she had printed menus for her guests. One was handed to me before we began dicing and chopping to provide a glimpse of what we were to be preparing. Breakfast that morning was self serve. Cold and hot cereal with a large bowl of fresh fruit and a plate with a variety of Chris’s homemade breads were set up on the dining room table for anyone to help themselves. Three golden crusted pies were lined up on the sideboard by the open dining room window to cool with strict instructions from the cook not to be touched.

Reading the menu I could see it would be a busy day. The cocktail hour was to begin at 5:00 out by the patio. Icy margaritas, wine and beer would be served for the adults enjoying a cocktail, and lemonade and sweet tea for those too young to imbibe or not inclined towards adult beverages. The appetizers, mostly comprised of ingredients from Chris’s impressive garden, were to include pastry wrapped asparagus with mustard sauce, sausage stuffed mushrooms, and deviled eggs as well as whatever contributions the guests provided. For someone who had spent little time in the city Chris had a very sophisticated palette. I noticed her reading material included magazines such such as Bon Appetit and Food and Wine, magazines I also enjoyed.

Eva and I were dispatched to Chris’s garden to gather some of the necessary ingredients. What an amazing touch the woman had with growing things.  Some of the vegetables in the massive garden area I had never actually seen on the vine before. I was fascinated to peer inside one enormous leaf only to find a cauliflower tucked under the wing of one fold. Up until then I had only seen cauliflowers in the vegetable section at the market. Carrying the baskets provided by our hostess for our harvest, Eva and I filled each to the brim with huge beefsteak tomatoes, green onions, sweet peppers, bouquets of basil, springs of mint, summer squash, cucumbers, and whatever else was on our list.

The main course was to be lamb. I was pleased no lambs were included in the cast of barnyard characters on the farm so it was not to be a family member served to the guests. Chris explained they got their lamb locally which didn’t surprise me. During my stay I had seen several large flocks grazing in the area. Though I had not mentioned it, coincidentally lamb happens to be one of my favorite meats. Growing up it was often the main course at my grandmother’s table alongside a bowl of mint jelly or creamy mint sauce. I assumed, since mint had been included on our shopping list, one or the other might be showing up that night as well. This was not to be lamb as I had ever prepared it before, however. Several whole lambs were going to cooked outdoors on a spit. Sounded wonderful. When I was living in Alabama I attended a huge backyard party where a whole cow was cooked on a spit. Watching that spit revolve all afternoon was too much for my delicate nature bringing out in me the urge to rescue the poor thing and run away with it. Brings to mind a quote from Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,”He took the Who’s feast, he took the Who pudding, he took the roast beast.” I vowed to avoid the spit area later in this day and simply enjoy my dinner.

Back in the kitchen the aromas were beginning to titillate my nostrils. The lamb was to be served alongside a cheesy, creamy zucchini gratin, crispy Greek lemon potatoes, several salad selections including a fully loaded garden salad and Chris’s simply amazing yeast rolls. Oh yummy for my tummy. I was put in charge of the Caprese Salad, creating several eye catching plates of ripe ruby red tomatoes alternated with slices of mozzarella cheese. This was finished off with fresh basil, and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If an organ could do a happy dance my stomach would have been in the middle of the macarena.

After a quick lunch, the girls were relieved of their aprons and left to play outside allowing Chris and I to to concentrate of the tasks at hand. There is something immensely satisfying to me in the preparation of food. Perhaps it’s the colors, or the aromas, or just the immense gratification you get when someone puts a bite of a dish you’ve prepared in their mouths and says “yum”.  A meal, to my mind, should be party for our senses. We eat with our eyes, our noses, our mouths and even our ears. There’s nothing as tantalizing as the sound of a good piece of meat when it hits a hot grill. Good food arranged artfully on a pretty plate is just appealing. No matter how mouth watering your food may be, if you just throw it on the plate and hand it to someone to eat, the full enjoyment of eating the meal is somehow diminished. As good as the meat and potatoes on the left might taste, a person might not feel as enthusiastic about taking a bite of it as they might what is displayed on the plate to the right.

The Caprese salad plated and wrapped, I asked where to store it. The kitchen had one large side by side refrigerator and every inch of storage space was already accounted for. Chris directed me to the sunroom. The sunroom was at the back of the house. It was a large shotgun style room with a bank of windows running along both ends and the yard side. During the warmer months Bob P. said the screens kept the air flowing in and the bugs out making it a lovely place to sit and let your bones dry out after a long day of work. On the inside wall there was a side by side refrigerator and though I had not seen it Ray had mentioned a large walk-in freezer in the barn where they stored butchered meats.

Setting the Caprese dishes on a shelf in the refrigerator I remembered Chris asking me to grab several jars of pickled green beans which she said I would find in the cupboard next to the fridge. Having been told the Mason jars were in alphabetical order (of course) I easily located the appropriate jars under the sign marked “G”. Like many farmer’s wives, Chris said she canned and preserved several times a year for off season months. Looking at the amount of jars, it seemed an excessive amount of food for five people but at harvest time it was my understanding there were plenty of mouths to feed, and if not I believe most preserved items enjoy a fairly long shelf life.

Mid afternoon with everything done and tucked away we separated to catch a shower and clean up for the evening ahead. I had not thought to pack a dress for a week on a farm, so Chris, about the same size as myself, offered me a choice of several light summer dresses from her closet.

Always I have gotten butterflies when having to integrate with a large group of strangers. It’s not that I’m an introvert, I actually love interacting with other human beings, but too many of them at once I find a little overpowering. Once dressed I wandered out in the garden to find Bob J. already dressed and seated in the shade in a lawn chair. After surveying me with his gaze as if checking for weapons he commented that I cleaned up very well. In the world of Bob J. I believe this was a compliment, so I took it as such. In turn I thought he “cleaned up well”. Face free of stubble, hair combed, a freshly pressed shirt tucked into a well fitting pair of clean jeans, most attractive. We sat next to each other for a while enjoying the lull before the storm. He shared he was glad I’d come and that his family had been pleased with how I’d rolled up my sleeves and got dirty along with the rest of them. I thanked him knowing it was high praise from someone who did not relieve himself of praise easily. The moment hanging between us was broken by a truck driving through the gate allowing the energy to dissipate. Excusing myself, I went inside to let Chris know our first guest had arrived and to see what I could do to help.


About forty people ended up filling the chairs out back, some filtering inside after the sun set and the bugs made their nightly appearance. The margaritas were as promised icy cold and tart and if possible each course served was better than the one preceding it. The lamb, well I don’t have words. Ray had cooked it to perfection. It was tender and juicy and, yes, served with mint jelly and sprigs of fresh mint. The tables were set up eight to a table with a smaller table for the children of which there were exactly ten. Twinkling lanterns were strung from tree to tree to provide illumination. Each table was beautifully decorated with long trails of wildflowers. A young man I recognized from church the day before sat on a bale of hay entertaining us with country music and playing his guitar. Desserts were served with a lovely after dinner wine. Chris’s triple berry pie, a recipe I use to this day, was the star sitting alongside a glass bowl of trifle, an assortment of cakes and plate after plate of cookies and bars. About nine, people starting peeling off and heading towards their vehicles as the next day was a work day.

What a wonderful night that was. Everyone pitched in. Once the last guest’s taillights had disappeared down the road we all carried something into the kitchen. Eva and Dawn, running on a sugar high, had to be carried sniffling into bed. Chris and I stayed up late and washed dishes putting leftovers in containers to be stored in the fridge. When finally I walked down the hall towards my room I realized I would really miss this new family of mine. It was a night I shall always keep with me, and of course the blueberry pie recipe.

Chris’s Triple Berry Pie

Double Crust Pie Shell

2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
4-5 Tbsp. milk

Combine flour and salt in small bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture looks like course crumbs. Sprinkle with vinegar. Gradually add milk tossing with a fork until a ball forms. Cover and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Divide pastry in half leaving one ball slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger of the two to fit 9″-10″ pie plate. Transfer pastry to pie plate. Trim to rim. Brush bottom of shell with 1 Tbsp. water whisked with 1 egg white. Reserve the rest.

Roll out second shell to fit over top of the first. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


2 1/2 cups blueberries, sorted and any stems removed
3/4 cup raspberries
3/4 cups blackberries
3/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg white
2 tbsp. water

Place berries in large mixing bowl. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over berries. Using your hands gently turn until well coated. Pour into prepared shell.

Lay top pastry over berry mix. Press and seal edges with bottom shell. Trim as needed. Cut four slits in center to vent. Brush top with remaining egg white/water mixture.

Bake for 50 mins. or until browned and bubbly.

Cook on wire rack.



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Day two on the farm in Manitoba began when the rooster crowed, literally. The feathered alarm dutifully did his job at precisely 5:30, rousing me from a well deserved sleep. Others had heard his cry as well apparently as movement could be heard in the house, along with muffled conversations. Jet lag had settled over me the night before, a residual of the long flight from California. The time change coupled with the laborious nature of the work I’d performed on my first full day of work on the farm, had my eyes already closing before my head hit the pillow.

Dragging myself out of the lovely warm bed, I washed my face in the bathroom sink to shock my loggy brain. Before putting on makeup, I slathered sunscreen on my already pink-tinged face. Looking at the time, I pulled on a pair of jeans, a clean tee shirt, and quickly slipped into my work boots. Excitement began to build in me as walked down the hall towards the kitchen. Opening the kitchen door, I was greeted by the new but now somewhat familiar faces already seated around the table.  Filling my plate from the mosaic of dishes arranged on the center island, I found myself thinking a five-star hotel could not have provided me with a finer breakfast. I began with the plate of blueberry pancakes, piling several on my plate and drowning them in syrup, Bob J. explained the pancakes had been made using wild blueberries his granddaughters had picked for me to enjoy.  I thanked both girls sitting at the end of the table for their efforts, and moved past the pancakes to help myself to a light as air homemade biscuit, which split open and topped off with a generous ladle of thick, creamy sausage gravy. A chafing dish of fluffy scrambled eggs was next in the circle, and, to complete the menu, the most decadent cinnamon rolls my mouth ever had the pleasure to welcome in.  OMG. They were hot, sticky, gooey bundles of wonderfulness dripping with butter. Chris, the family chef, must live in the kitchen to produce such amazing displays. Yum and double yum.  All this had been created by her with two little ones running around beneath her feet. “Amen to you girl”, that’s all I had to say. Made me want to break out my “Women Rule the World” apron and slap that baby proudly on.

I took a seat at the only empty chair at the table. The girls, done with their breakfast, had been asked by their mother to remain seated until the adults had finished their meals. While thoroughly enjoying my blueberry pancakes, both children provided me with little glimpses into their lives. Eva, the oldest, explained she would be celebrating her birthday in two days. When asked how old she was going to be, she held three fingers up while proudly replying “four”. Dawn piped in one of the dogs had puppies which she would show me later if I’d like to see. I assured her I would love to see the new arrivals, adding a visit to the puppies to my already half full dance card. It was obvious their mother had time for something besides cooking. The girls were nicely dressed, their matching bib overall shorts outfits neatly pressed with not a spot to be found on either girl. Eva, blessed with a huge mass of chestnut hair, had it pulled it up tightly into a thick pony tail, secured by two yellow ducky clips.  Dawn, younger by a year and a half, wore her hair down in long ringlets of gold living up to her lovely namesake the goddess of the morning. Completing the picture, her sweet young face was accented by a sun kissed band of tiny freckles running up and over her slightly upturned nose. Both girls were very well behaved. While at the table they received just one admonishment, this from their grandfather who didn’t appreciate Eva referring to her sister as “a poop-head”.

While the two Bob’s were discussing the work schedule, Ray turned to ask his wife what she had on her calendar. Wiping her hands on the dish towel, Chris said once the kitchen was empty she and the girls were going to harvest vegetables from the garden before starting her day.  Taking my now clean plate over to stand next to her, I asked what “her day” usually looked like. The first chore on her list, she said, after the humans had been attended to, was feeding the livestock housed within the gates of the compound. This included an assortment of chickens, pigs, goats, dogs, and two horses. Chris went on to say there were always pens to be cleaned and fresh hay to be hauled in and laid down.  There were twenty plus hens and one rooster occupying the hen house. Eggs had to be gathered and the bedding changed for these tenants as well on a regular basis. My guess was free moments were at a minimum for this lady as she went on. Three times a week the horses had to be groomed and exercised. Ray, usually in charge of this, left it to her when there were crops to be seen to. I suddenly felt tired. A simple “I keep busy” would have sufficed. As she went on I wished I could slip back under the covers for a short nap. In between all her chores she raised two toddlers plus cooked and cleaned for the family. Perhaps an amen wasn’t enough. I began to suspect the woman should be knighted.

As for my day, it had been decided I would accompany Bob J. and Ray to the feed and grain while Bob P., the elder statesman of the group, stayed around the compound to keep an eye on the children. Bob P. mentioned he was going to town for supplies later in the week and if interested in seeing the town I was welcome to join him.  Accepting the invitation I was ushered out the back door to head to the feed and grain.

Piling into the cab of the old work truck, I was positioned once again between the two men. We drove down yet another deeply rutted dirt road before pulling onto the main highway. Now, in Northern California this main highway would have been considered more of a byway, but in the area we were in I believe it was the main traffic bearer. At least it was paved, unlike most of the roads connecting the farm. Whether it was the truck had no shocks at all or they were just old and worn I don’t know, but with each rut in the road it felt like another vertebrae snaked it’s way into the back of my brain. Ray, definitely the conversationalist of my two companions, talked to me about the fields of crops we were passing, explaining what this row was growing and the next. In between crop updates, he regaled me with a general history of the people living in the farms scattered around as well as the area as a whole. Asking what crops were grown on their farm, he told me we would be working in the fields later in the day so he would show me first hand. Apparently there were also sprinkler systems to be maintained, animals to be monitored, and then later in the day, very late I was to find, the tractors would be put to work spraying the crops. Nap please.

Being in the middle of the two farmers afforded me an equal vantage point to observe both men simultaneously. Certainly they were drastically different physically. Ray, the taller and leaner of the two had dark red curly hair reaching to just above his shoulders. Slightly balding at the top, he covered the thinning spot with a ubiquitous ball cap displaying an embroidered maple leaf across the front. The only time I saw him without that hat during my stay was at meals when Chris insisted it be left on a hook by the door. Bob J., easily three inches shorter than Ray, was by far the sturdier built of the pair. In comparison to Ray’s mop of longish curls, Bob’s brown straight hair was tidily trimmed rising up over his ears. Both his face and neck bore the imprints of a typical “redneck” tan which had turned the skin above his collar line a deep rusty gold. The bronze color contrasted startlingly with the most gorgeous pair of sea blue eyes ringed by unusually long lashes most women would most likely die for. He wore his fifty two years easily, nothing belying his age but a touch of gray sneaking in around his temples and the latticework of fine lines branching out from his eyes and mouth. All in all, I thought, a very attractive man. Uh, not that I noticed.

Aside from looking like polar opposites, Bob leaned towards being on the quiet side. Ray, on the other hand, was prone to story telling, stealing the spotlight whenever he could. Ray shared his impressive repertoire of jokes with me at every opportunity often laughing uproariously before the punch line had ever been delivered. Bob, I noticed, mostly surveyed the sky during Ray’s joke telling giving me the impression he’d probably heard these stories a time or two before.

Thankfully the truck eventually slowed, coming to a complete stop in front of a bank of silos giving my spine a chance to realign. A train track stretched as far as the eye could see on either side of the massive buildings. Bob J., explained local farmers had used this grainery to store their crops until it closed, along with many others in the province, several years back. He spoke at length about the dwindling labor pool and crop processing and shipping issues making it difficult for the farmers to get their grain to market. Many families worked farms that had been handed down generation to generation for decades and were deeply vested in their land and their way of life. There was something incredibly lonely about the tall empty buildings before us. It reminded me of many small towns around the area where I lived in Arkansas. A deep country way of life leaning precariously on the precipice of extinction. Towns marked by banks of store windows bearing wax “x’s” with dusty main drags where old men sat in front of empty shops drinking sweet tea in worn rockers remembering better days. Young people mostly moved on from those no name towns in search of larger cities and a chance at better jobs and a higher standard of living. Always found something profoundly sad about watching a town die.


When he was done bringing me up to speed on the silos, we moved on down the road twenty another minutes or so. Under a huge sign reading “Feed and Grain” he turned the truck into a large parking lot looking more like a pick up dealership. Trucks of all shapes and sizes filled the parking spots, some hauling trailers and some without.  It seemed there was a stock auction that day which explained all manner of livestock peering out of windows in trailers or simply standing held by ropes in the beds of the trucks. Huge chutes were releasing grains into pick up beds as we walked inside the massive warehouse. A welcoming gush of cool air washed over us as we walked into the main store area. Jeans and boots were definitely the outfit of the day. Pallets with enormous bags of food were being checked out by the cashiers. I wandered off as Ray and Bob J. went about their business. While perusing one aisle I heard a small tinkling noise. Looking down I was pleasantly surprised to find a small pig returning my stare. Around her neck was a pink and white bandana and below that hung a studded collar with a tiny gold bell dangling from a hook. “Oink”, it said. “Hello” I said in return using my native language, not well versed in pig. I was to find out shortly this was a mini pig fittingly answering to the nam Petunia. Petunia it seemed, was owned by the proprietors of the place and somewhat of a local mascot of sorts. If cuteness could be bottled this little one’s owner could be making some big money.  Petunia and I accompanied one another down several aisles before she left me to follow a family with a small dog on a leash. Fickle these pigs.


An hour later with all their purchases loaded in the truck we turned back toward the farm to have lunch before going out to the field. Lunch? I had packed in enough food in a 48 hour period to sustain me if lost in the wilderness for two months. Like a camel I could probably have lived on my stored fat indefinitely. However, once again seated in that comfortable kitchen I found myself tucking away another delicious meal followed by a bowl of fresh fruit topped with a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream. Amazingly I could still button my pants.

Ray stayed behind after lunch to help Chris in the barn, leaving Bob J. and I to ourselves for the afternoon. As we talked easily with each other while working it gave me time to find out more about my long distance friend. I shall begin there at my next writing. Each day added another dimension to my adventure. Many things I’ve done in my life have held a little risk. I have a few regrets, but not many, mainly memories of times that I treasure. If you never color outside of the lines life can be so unimaginative. Day Three coming soon. As always, stay safe. Hopefully their will be hugs and a rejoining of the mainstream not too far in the foreseeable future.

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