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Hold Me Accountable

Once a month, I get together with a group of people I used to work with. We started the ritual when my former supervisor “retired” in 2013 as a way to keep her spirits up. The group has expanded since then to include people who left the company several years ago but who remain friends, and to include people who were victims of the most recent lay-offs. We all have the one thing in common: the place where we all worked at one point in time. That is not really enough of a tie to keep the friendships going: there has to also be mutual respect, interest in the current lives, and a look toward the future.

We are all of an older demographic and the job market has not been kind to those who have had to brave the unemployment lines. Eventually, they have all – without exception – accepted their new “forced” retirement. Not all have accepted the new phase of their life with grace, but some have.

I wonder what would happen to me if I were to be thrown into their ranks? Right now, I still hold a job in the same industry that forced their retirement. It is this thinking that has prompted me to wonder what I can do to kindle my passion here at home and turn that passion into employment. I don’t want to take being employed for granted.

I have a coworker who is returning to school to pursue her Master’s Degree. She has a lot more energy than I do, I think. I should have the energy to do that: pursue a degree after hours and expand my options. I’m just not entirely convinced that having a degree helps after a person turns 60 (I’m not there yet, but soon).

I need a kick in the butt to take some art classes. I could do that part-time. Or writing.

But here’s the excuse:

 

OK. I don’t have one. At least not a good one.

I think I will look into my online options over the weekend. Art. Writing. Master Gardening.

You are my mentors. Hold me accountable.

Passion in the Work Place

It was a hot and steamy affair between the copy machine and the handsome postage machine, but they were separated by a wall they could only breach by cable…

Wait. Let’s try this again.

I had a dream last night.

I was in a house that resembled the elementary school I attended in the early 1960’s. I had the sense that the dream was picking up where my subconscious left off the night before: leaving that building in a pouring rain storm, thinking I was late for high school and wondering why I was even bothering to go.

I was leaving the elementary school in the pouring rain, wearing my son’s black windbreaker with the hood pulled up over my carefully coifed and heavily hairsprayed hair. I only had to walk the two blocks to my childhood home. The first block had a Farmers’ Market going on that I had to pass, but I pulled the hood down and avoided the stares and calls of the hawkers. I crossed Bridge Street to the last block. There was a ditch between the one-way streets, but in my mind I knew the ditch had been covered over since we moved out and so I forced it to appear as it would now. It was covered in snow. The house looked the same, but the entire drive way was blocked by snow piles up to three and four feet in depth. We didn’t live there, but I needed to get to the door and I was crushed that I couldn’t get past the snow.

I returned to the school and decided to start over. This part of the dream was jumbled: I was in a house that was the school, but I was also at work and a coworker was there. I did not recognize anyone else, but they were incidental. A pile of work mail and files was atop the coverlet to the bed in the Master suite. I commented that I was “off the clock” now, but I noticed that a check in a UPS envelope was among the items on the bed. “I’ll just put this in the safe drawer before I leave,” I said.

I repeated my walk home, but this time the ditch was covered over in grass and the drive to the house was wet concrete. “I made the snow melt!” I thought, and I felt elated. I had a key to the house and as I put it into the lock, a stranger approached. She wanted entrance because she knew the people who lived there now, and I let her in. I no longer needed to enter the house; I was happy to know I had access.

I went into a guest house (unfamiliar to me) and locked the door. This was where I would be staying. A king-sized bed awaited me and a long glass window that ran the length of one side of the house and which opened only at the top and at an angle to let in the air. I headed to the shower.

I googled the meaning of snow before I headed off to work and this is what struck me: “To see snow in your dream signifies your inhibitions, unexpressed emotions and feelings of frigidity. You need to release and express these emotions and inhibitions. Alternatively, snow means that you are feeling indifferent, alone and neglected.  If the snow is melting, then it suggests that you are acknowledging and releasing emotions you have repressed. You are overcoming your fears and obstacles.” (from DreamMoods.com)

The fact that the dream has stayed with me all day is also significant: I only remember dreams that God wants me to remember and they are often prophetic or they are important in other ways. I don’t sense this one is prophetic, only that it is a clear working-through of an issue, or a problem. It is significant to me that it came on the heels of yesterday’s first post about looking for passion in my work.

Several images jump out at me. I cut and pasted from the website (my favorite dream interpretation site). What is in italics is my interpretation and thoughts:

school – a dream that takes place in school may be a metaphor for the lessons that you are learning from your waking life. You may be going through a “spiritual learning” experience.

I can’t find it tonight but I searched “late for school” yesterday and the result was about looking for answers, feeling unsettled in life, and general turmoil. It is a common dream thread.

ditch -To see a ditch in your dream indicates that there is something in your waking life that you need to avoid.  Alternatively, the dream suggests that you need to let go of the emotional baggage and frivolity that are holding you back.

I’m not sure of the significance in my dream. When I was a kid, the ditch was real and had steep, rocky banks. Sometime just before we moved, the city put in culverts and covered the ditch, covering it with a nice park-like lawn. If the ditch had significance in my dream, it was that I was in a lucid dream state and I could control the imagery. I knew the ditch was covered up and I “forced” it to appear that way in my dream. Therefore, I was forcing the emotional baggage and frivolity back.

The dream may also be on pun on ditching school, work, appointment, or something that you are now feeling guilty about

Now, that is funny. :)

childhood home/not needing to enter when I finally knew I could – In particular, to see your childhood home indicates your own desires for building a family and your family ideologies. It also reflects aspects of yourself that were prominent or developed during the time you lived in that home. You may experience some unfinished feelings that are being triggered by some waking situation. To dream that you cannot find your way home indicates that you have lost faith and belief in yourself. It may also signify a major transition in your life.

I find this interesting. My childhood home has often been a theme in my dreams, but only because it was a haunted house and I was still dealing with the poltergeist of my childhood. Sometime ago, I finally banished that demon. In this dream, the house was not haunted, did not pose a spiritual threat, but only beckoned to me as a place I needed to return to. Once the snow was removed and I could reach the door, I no longer had a need to enter the house. I even allowed someone else to go in and take up residence there, because I knew I did not have ownership of the place – nor did I desire that.

key – To see a key in your dream symbolizes opportunities, access, control, secrets, freedom, knowledge or responsibilities. You may be locking away your own inner feelings and emotions. Or you are unlocking the answer to some problem.

OBVIOUS.

the check – To see a check in your dream suggests that you may feel indebted to others. The dream may also be a pun on checking things out. To see a blank check in your dream symbolizes your unused potential. It may also indicate unclaimed rewards.

This is interesting. I thought it was just a reflection of what I do for a living (I receive in checks and make the daily bank deposit). I didn’t actually see the check so parts of that may not apply – but I knew a check was in the envelope because that is what I do for a living in real, waking, life.

being ‘clocked out’ (but needing to finish the job – at least by putting the important mail into a safe place) – To see a clock in your dream signifies the importance of time in some waking situation. You may be feeling some anxiety of not being on top of things. Your mind may be preoccupied with a deadline that you have to meet or some other time-sensitive issue. It is time for you to tread on and speed up your actions. Alternatively, clocks symbolize the ticking of the human heart and thus is indicative of the emotional side of your life. If the clock has stopped, then it signifies death

Death is not necessarily physical death, but death of the past or a spiritual or emotional death. Death is always symbolic of change.

shower – symbolizes spiritual or physical renewal and forgiveness. You are washing the burdens out of your life

That would be appropriate. I had the very definite sense of washing off the old (the former school) and entering something new (the guest house which was a new structure to my dreams).

To see a guest in your dream signifies new challenges and interests in your life

Ya think???

—–

The windbreaker is not important: it is merely an image of the black windbreaker of my son’s that I took possession of when he moved out ten years ago. It’s a nice windbreaker and he was amused that I still wore it when I visited him last week. The subconscious picks up on strange things.

Carefully coiffed hair – probably not important, just an image of how impossible it is to keep my hair “carefully coiffed” even with a ton of hair spray and gel products. It rains and my hair-do is toast. Heck, my hair-do is toast by noon on a dry day. I have lame hair.

I share this dream because I believe it has everything to do with what I am looking for. It’s a sub-conscious extension of the blog I posted yesterday and of what I am looking for in my life. It is also an answer.

I just need to find the key to the answer – but I know something has already shifted in my search because the snow melted. That is significant.

 

Pursuing Passion

I am in a strange place of wondering. Or is that wandering? I work at a job for a corporation and the job not only pays the bills but it provides me with health insurance (albeit high deductible insurance, which, at my age, is expensive)(face it: my medications for one month are costly and my dental needs have always been <ahem> expensive. And I wear trifocals). The job does not fulfill my need for passion and intellectual growth; it is ‘just a job’. I feel no deep, lingering, sense of loyalty to a corporation that doesn’t even know I exist.

My children have not only grown and flown the nest, but they have taken my grandchildren with them (darn those parental units!). I have no one to homeschool anymore except Harvey and Murphy, and neither one of them is interested in listening to me read “Old Yeller” or “Where the Red Fern Grows” out loud.

My studio is currently littered with the detritus of art supplies, school supplies, and desk necessities: how many sets of oil pastels can one person accidentally acquire? Erasers? Tubes of oil paints? Watercolours in various forms? Clay? How often do I actually sit down and sketch something?

I have a little sketch journal I carry in my car. It has two or three sketches from camping trips over the years and it is only half full. Unfinished paintings and drawings litter the boxes and drawers. I have stacks of unused canvas board, watercolour or ink pads, and an interesting collection of India ink bottles.

Hidden in my desk are reams of college-lined loose leaf notebook paper, spiral notebooks, and pretty stationery I purchased when stationery stores were still commonplace.

Summer is not a good time to be in the studio. It is in the loft of our home and heat rises. There are two fans at either end of the loft and on a “normal” summer, they suffice to keep the house cool on the three or four days in a row of hot weather that we get. This summer had been unusually dry and warm, and the loft has been stuffy. But I don’t play with all these things in the winter, either, so blaming my catharsis on heat is merely an excuse. Still, I am paralyzed.

I have a novel I am working on. I get in about a thousand words a night when I actually sit down and work at it. It is easier now with MS Word as the typing paper doesn’t stack up and get mixed up, and I can delete paragraphs with the touch of a key. The story is stalled on a crucial plot pivot. I’ve rewritten it several times in the past two months.

The fact of the matter is that I rise early and leave the house before 7AM. I drive to work, listening to the road report and 80’s music. I work eight hours with a one-hour lunch break. That lunch break is taken in my car, hiding from my coworkers and the public in general, working on a crossword and trying to commune with God or taking a nap. My drive home takes 45 minutes to an hour and a half, and by the time I walk in the front door, my brain is dead. All creativity has been sucked out of me. I only want to hide in a darkened room with no sound for an hour. I’m dead to the interesting objects around me.

What is the answer? I need to find my passion. I need to rekindle the fire that burned in me when I was young and had the whole world to burn. My mind imagines the paintings, but when I pick up the brushes to paint – I think about the clean up!! My mind imagines the plot twists, but when I sit down to type – the past day floats before my eyes.

I took a couple online tests: “find your passion”. They all came up the same. I want to learn, first and foremost. I want to create, second. I prefer to work alone, third.

I have a coworker who is constantly annoyed at the things I “know”. Somehow, acquiring knowledge is not her passion and she resents me for my interests and my passion for facts. I don’t mind people correcting me when I am wrong about something, but I really get annoyed when people who do not know anything themselves seek to mock me for at least trying to understand and know things. Can I slap her now? Correct me because you know more and I’m fine. I’ll go back and research the subject, acquiesce if necessary. But mock me because I know something you don’t? How grade school.

I need to write. Writing comes to the top of nearly every quiz or test taken. Art (which I had once considered my primary passion) is down a notch. Gardening and the natural world is tucked in between writing and art: I am a Naturalist at heart.

How can I be a Naturalist when most of my hours are spent in a concrete prison? My car is parked in a parking lot with almost no landscaping, only feet from the MAX lines and US Hwy 26 West. I listen to lightrail and freeway sounds during my lunch hour. I hate that parking lot. I despise the cubicle culture and the “modern” art on the walls of the office (really? couldn’t they have at least selected actual original artwork instead of mass-produced canvas imitations for which the artists received squat?). I resent that I have to petition my office in order to hang my framed Monet print or my framed Edward Robert Hughes print. At least my selections have signatures that mean something: who the hell remembers who squirted paint onto the canvas to resemble bird poop? (But that’s the Naturalist in me, again, isn’t it? Monet’s flowers and Hughes’ faeries versus paint tube splatters and Elephant art.)(Apologies to the elephants.)

The $64,000 question is this: how can I pursue my passions and still make enough money to keep the mortgage (and health insurance) paid? The job (which is just that: a job, not a passion and not a career) pays the bills. I have eight more years before I can retire. I am unhappy. I have deep stirrings to change my life and do it NOW. I also have a strong leaning toward being cautious (the Introverted self and the Controlling self).

I plan to continue blogging along this line for awhile as I seek, knock, ask. I intend to find the answer. I intend to succeed at my passion and my calling. Stay tuned.

 

CCU = Christ Centered Unschoolers. It is a Yahoo List/forum for homeschoolers with an unschooling bent. We’re not necessarily of the same faith despite the name and we’re all in different stages of life or raising children. It is not a list to go to to learn how to unschool or even how to homeschool, although you can get that information from the many members. It is more of a place for prayer, friendship, and support in all the issues that come with life and homeschooling. I discovered the list around the end of 1997 or early 1998, the first year I homeschooled my kids. I no longer have children at home but I remain a member of the list because the members of that list have become life-long friends.

My trip out to North Carolina presented me with the opportunity to hook up with some of these friends. (There are a lot of people I would have also liked to have met up with, also, but the ccu friends are the ones that made it possible with my schedule.)

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Karen drove from her home to Fayetteville to have lunch with my son, two of his children, and me. She’s every bit as beautiful in person as she is on line.

I flew in and out of Richmond specifically to hook up with one of my oldest ccu friends, Mary Ann. Mary Ann runs the website, “The Homeschool Mom”. Her website was one of my first discoveries when I was trying to figure out the “how to’s” of homeschooling, right about the time that I found the unschooling list online. A special bonus was added when yet another friend from the list, photographer April C. Raszman was able to drive to Richmond on the same weekend. (April’s link is to Facebook, so unless you have a FB account or her site is public, you probably won’t be able to see her beautiful photography).

To celebrate our first real-life meeting, Mary Ann looked up places to go and picked the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. That probably sounds pretty bizarre, but – it really is not. Mary Ann and I share a passion for genealogy and it was a wonderful photo opp for April. I think we all love old cemeteries (and I know my mother would have been in heaven in this place – pun intended).

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First stop: the pyramid.

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It is huge. From the webpage:

Monument to the Confederate War Dead
This famed 90-foot pyramid stands as a monument to the 18,000 Confederate soldiers buried in Hollywood Cemetery. It was created through the efforts of the women of the Hollywood Memorial Association, who tended the graves of the Confederate dead after the Civil War. They worked together to raise over $18,000 and commissioned the help of engineer Charles Henry Dimmock to design the pyramid.

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There are marks on the stones from the drills used to break the rock into shapes for the building of the monument.

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Mary Ann ponders our route through the maze as April and I take photos. Well, April took photos, I wandered off to read head stones.

The cemetery is for Confederate dead, and for families who can trace their family lineage back to Confederate ties. Mary Ann can do that, having grown up in the Richmond/Washington D.C. area where many of the battles were fought. The headstones close to the monument date from the earliest battles to the latest battles and are loosely grouped by dates. Many of the dead were originally buried elsewhere and were re-interred at the Hollywood Cemetery. There are dozens of unnamed soldiers buried there.

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One of the sights to see is this cast iron Newfoundland dog who guards the grave of a little girl. The website does not give her name or any other details, and the headstone is too worn to read. We know she died in 1862.

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The grave itself has become something of a modern day altar, strewn with baby toys. Did grieving parents leave the toys or did children who were touched by the story leave them? I found a blog post on the grave by Richmond on the James.

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I hope to see April’s photos soon. She showed us the raw ones as she set up her views. My own attempts at framing are pitiful, but that isn’t going to stop me from sharing them. I loved how ornate some of the later monuments are.

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Look at the detail carved in that stone!

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There were many family plots like this one, some of which are still waiting for the last family member to pass and be buried there. (I’m not sure I would be cool with that: having my name and birth date recorded on a headstone that is just waiting for me to die…)

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The tenth President of the United States, John Tyler, was buried at the Hollywood Cemetery in 1862. He was the first president whose death was not nationally recognized because of his ties to the south, but Confederate President Jefferson Davis held a huge going-away ceremony for him.

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The fifth President of the United States was re-interred at the Hollywood Cemetery due to his southern roots. This is the “Birdcage” where President James Monroe’s remains are buried.

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Last among the presidents is Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

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April at work.

April, Mary Ann, and I fell into an easy friendship. We’ve known each other for years on-line and the segue into real-life friendship was just as easy. I do wish Karen could have come to this outing, but I am still so very blessed that she drove down to Fayetteville to have lunch with me!

We had to leave the cemetery way too early: we arrived there a little after 4:00 pm EDT and the gates closed at 6:00. they closed right behind us, in fact. That’s how close we called it.

We then had dinner at a wonderful Mexican Restaurant on Cary Street, Little Mexico.

Our last stop was my motel, Four Points by Sheraton. I booked it through Expedia and picked it as one of the least expensive close to the airport with a free shuttle to the airport. I still paid too much ($112) but after spending the night there – it was worth the cost. For starters, the staff was wonderful.

I was subject to a lecture by Gwen (who checked me in and then took our photo) about not going skinny dipping in the pool and no boys in my room. 10357135_10203671998852835_4187457787783968504_n

We did not plan our outfits! This is just how good friends manage to think alike! It was so wonderful to end my vacation with a mini-get-together with some of my closest and dearest friends. I have many more friends from ccu that I have yet to meet, but getting to meet three of them in one week = priceless!

The cemetery was just a bonus.

North Carolina

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This was my view out the window when I left Portland last Saturday: Mt. Rainier (far left), Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams as the sun rises over the Columbia River.

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Miss Baby Blue Eyes met me at Richmond International Airport with her brothers and her dad.

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Mr. Trouble was full of hugs and mischief.

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Mr. Kindergarten wanted his photo op at the Airborne & Special Forces Museum.

I traveled light and I asked that my son not attempt to “entertain” me: this was about visiting, not sight-seeing. As a result, I spent most of my time with small people who felt the need to sit on my lap, comb my hair, run around in large circles in the living room, and squabble over the same things my siblings and I fought over in the 1960’s: “Dad! He’s looking at me!” “Dad! He touched me.” “Dad, She hurt me!”

The one tourist attraction we went to was free and kid-friendly, if your child is like Mr. Trouble. The other two were intimidated at first because the museum is set up to mimic a tour through several battlefields, with the constant sound of machine guns and artillery in the back ground. The sound could not have bothered them: they hear the same sounds from their own home just off base at Fort Bragg. I think it was the wax soldiers in uniform.

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I confess: I took a lot of photos just for my brother and my husband. It was a fascinating exhibit.

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It even included the rotor from one of the Blackhawks that were shot down in Mozambique in 1993.

I have a list of places I do want to see next time I visit North Carolina: the Cape Fear Botanical Gardens in Fayetteville and the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville.

I discovered I could decompress a little by slipping out onto the front stoop when no one was out there smoking. The humid weather was perfect for just sitting (not too hot, fortunately) and listening to the cicadas and the catbirds (and the pound of artillery and rat-a-tat-tat of machine guns). One day, a man stopped and said there was a dead copperhead in the roadway. I took a photo and have consequently looked it up: it was a corn snake and hardly poisonous. A cat-faced spider was living in the television satellite and she rebuilt her web every night.

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This wolf spider came into the garage and visited, too, much to the dismay of several house residents (and my delight, with apologies to my hosts).

I left Fayetteville via Greyhound bus: always an adventure! First, there was Pillow Woman. She had taken up residence on two seats with her belongings, most of which appeared to be pillows. When the bus started up the highway, she climbed atop the stack of pillows so she could see over the heads of the passengers in the row ahead of her. Her counterpart was Smiling Woman, who looked slightly drunken and never quit smiling. She stood for most of the trip, peering over my head to see where we were going. She was a tad bit unnerving.

We pulled off in Petersburg just as I-95 came to a screeching halt. Our bus driver warned us that noone who was traveling through to Richmond could get off the bus as we were behind schedule. Pillow Woman got off. What ensued was a short argument between her and the bus driver (“Ma’am, I am going to leave you. If you go in that building, I will leave you.” “But I want to use the bathroom.” “Ma’am, there is a bathroom on the bus.”). Bus driver won.

We left Petersburg and took back roads while the bus driver asked the nearest passenger if he would please dial 5-1-1 and find out where the accident on I-95 was so we could skirt the tie-up. It took the gentleman five minutes to complete this simple task, and when he finally had 5-1-1 on the line, he leaned forward and asked, “What highway?” I thought my seat partner was going to bust out laughing. (Really? You don’t know what highway we’re supposed to be on? Or what highway was at a dead standstill that we narrowly missed?)

The ride culminated at Richmond with a stuck exit door. It took our intrepid bus driver six attempts to push the broken hydraulic door open so we all could exit the bus. My seat partner just shook his head and told me, “This is so funny!”

I flew out of Richmond yesterday morning. I had to defend my window seat from DFW-PDX, but I held my ground. This HSP introvert desperately needed to stare out that window and attempt to decompress a little.

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Mt. Adams (foreground) and Mt. Rainier as I flew in.

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Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams – a poetic end to my vacation.

Camping Fun

It has been two years since I have been camping. Four years since I have been up in the woods to pick huckleberries. What has the world come to that I no longer go out on weekends to sleep on a hard bed, cuddled up to my one-and-only through a dark (and usually cold) night? Our relationship was founded on our mutual love for being outdoors, isolated from other human beings, discovering plants, flowers, bugs, reptiles, rocks, and critters.

Somehow, over the past four years, my life has eroded to work, commute, and rush through the weekend. I was not inclined to go camping this weekend, either, because I am trying to get ready to leave town for a week. So much to do; so little time.

The weather has been wonderful and dry, so I was surprised when my husband told me that he’d checked on the huckleberries and they were ripe – and there were plenty of them. I thought the dry summer would wither the berries. The combination was tempting: three day weekend (two to spend camping, one to spend getting ready for my flight next weekend), slightly cooler weather with a slight chance of showers, and an English Setter who was feeling much better than he did two weeks ago.

The last time I took Harvey camping was in 2010. It was awful. He only wanted to run away or bark. There was no containing his energy, except to use a tether. I tried the radio collar, but I was always a basket case because Harvey just took off and reining him back in was not pleasurable. I was afraid I’d lose sight of him in the brush, and he had no sense of us being his Forever Home.

HE seems mellower now, and he definitely has a sense of a Forever Home in us. So I charged up his radio collar and tossed in both of the long leads for tethering him while in camp. For good measure, I added the bark collar just in case.

Don loaded up the VW Van and I tossed in a few items into my car. We decided to take two rigs because I wanted to come home on Sunday and because we were taking both dogs.

Saturday morning dawned misty. It had rained in the night, but that was all that was predicted and sun breaks were expected later on. The mist turned to steady occasional rain as we drove over the hills and through the woods. My windshield wipers went from “use only when the road mist is obnoxiously blinding” to “steady on”.

We drove out along the Clackamas River, out across the Barton Bridge, through Estacada, past the old Ripplebrook RS, and left onto the paved road to Timothy Lake. We turned left toward High Rocks and Hideaway Lake, and took the left hand option at the Y. I told Harvey that the road would get bad now as we were on gravel, and the wash-board is terrible going up to Hideaway Lake. Ahead, I watched the right tail light on the van blink on and off and made a mental note to tell Don he had a short in his taillights. The washboard tossed my little car around, so I slowed down and lost sight of Don’s taillights.

Hy-uck. Hy-uck. Hy-

I glanced back at Harvey just in time to see him lose his entire breakfast on the hard plastic back of the seat I had down. Thank God it’s not the fabric! Stop. Find a rag I keep in the car, attempt to soak up the disgusting yellow slime mixed with undigested – Oh, nevermind! Gross!

Harvey needed to get out and stretch his queasy legs. I remembered that I’d forgotten to spray my windbreaker with waterproofing. Harvey didn’t want to get back into the car. We walked a little more and I convinced him it really was in his best interest to get back into the car and finish the trip. I opened the back windows a hair to let in fresh, cool, air. And rain.

I met Don coming back down the road, looking for me. He thought I’d had car problems. No, I said, I had a dog problem.

I followed him onto the Jeep Trail to our camp site. My KIA has lower clearance than the Van and I dropped it into 4-wheel drive after slipping through a mud puddle. Don stopped on the rise. Ahead of us, a large, deep, slicker-than-wet-clay, puddle blocked our path. He was pretty sure he could make it, but the water would be over my low-clearance bumper. Even if we did make it, how much deeper would the puddle get overnight?

We turned around and back-tracked a mile to the gravel pit. The rain turned to RAIN. Harvey stood out in it, reveling at the end of the longest tether: I’m Free! I’m free!

Murphy climbed into the back seat of my car (I put both back seats up now) and shivered. We had to drag Harvey back into the car.

035 Are we having fun, yet?!

034 Hi! I’m cold. And wet. And your car smells like wet dogs and dog puke.

All the windows fogged up. Once every half hour, we’d run the windshield wipers to see if it was still raining or not. Yep, still raining.

Finally! A break! We hurried out of the car, put Harvey on the tether, and started setting up camp. Murphy won’t run off; it’s the Harve-Meister we have to worry about. He just starts following his nose.

Half-way through putting up the tarp, a pickup truck rolled in. Two people and their tiny, hackle-raised, Chihuahua jumped out. Don grabbed a lunging Murphy with his one free hand. Harvey ran to the end of his leash.

“Hi! I’ve been camping here for ten years, Hope you don’t mind some company!”

Control of Murphy was handed over to me so Don could finish setting up the tarp. I pulled the straining ninety-pounder back to my car and shut him in. Harvey barked excitedly at the growling and prancing Chihuahua. I grabbed the bark collar and put it on my dog. We finished setting up camp.

Meanwhile, our uninvited guests stashed their dog in the cab of the truck and headed out with berry cans. We breathed a short sigh of relief: what were these people thinking when they opened the door and let their squirrel-sized dog out in front of two nearly one-hundred pound bird dogs, one of which was off- leash??? Oy vey.

The rain held off long enough for us to take our dogs for a long stroll on the gravel road. We didn’t want to pick berries in the rain, but we wanted the boys to stretch their legs.

036 The mist seemed to be sucked up into the clouds.

The rain returned. The berry pickers returned, ate lunch on their tail-gate, and seemed to debate setting up their camp there. They changed their minds eventually and left.

Note to the berry pickers: we really are nice people. We probably would have come out and talked to you and perhaps become friends, except that we are guardians of dogs that will probably eat your dog, mistaking it for a squirrel. Our dogs didn’t come out all aggression, with hackles-raised, but yours did. You didn’t even bother to consider whether to ask us if our dogs might be OK with a little dog. People with big dogs at least expect there to be some growling and establishing of dominance when an interloper is introduced. We decided that in the grander scheme of things, we didn’t want to get sued if one of our bird dogs accidentally ate your rodent-sized dog.

044When is the rain going to stop, Dad?

046I’m BORED. And cold. And wet, Mom!

047Can I play Solitaire, too?

048What do you mean, you eat off of this table? I’m not good enough for you?

The sun set at 8. We crawled into bed by 9: Don and I on the big bed, Murphy in the front seat on his pad, and Harvey on the floor boards with a blanket tossed over him.

Sometime in the night, Murphy climbed over the top of us and settled down on my feet. My feet cramped. My calves cramped. Murphy edged his way between us. Lack of water intake took its toll on me: my head split open from my neck around the cranium and through my eyes. My feet and calves cramped. Murphy stretched out on my feet again. Murphy crawled up and sat on Don’s chest at 6:30AM. Harvey began to whine.

ARE WE HAVING FUN YET!!!???

Somehow, we made it to 8AM. I think I slept a total of six hours. The rain was done, a cool breeze was blowing, and we put the dogs out. I changed my clothes: my flannel pajama bottoms tucked into my socks, with my jeans pulled up over them. My tee-shirt under my long-sleeved shirt, under my denim vest, under my Carhart™ coat. I tucked my dirty hair up under my ball cap. Harvey curled up on the gravel and shivered.

042A break in the weather

041Aw, come on, Mom! I won’t run away. <squirrel>

049The sun actually came out and we moved out chairs out from under the tarp.

Don apparently decided not to spend another night. We broke camp around ten and drove the mile or two down to “our” spot. The rain had soaked all the shrubbery, the creek where we pick (always a bit marshy) was down-right swampy, and the dogs were not thrilled about the wet brush.

I kept Harvey on a shorter tether, but he still had about eight feet of freedom while I picked berries. I was worried that he might yank me backwards off the side of the hill, but he was a gentleman. I filled half my quart can before both dogs were bored, wet, and insisted on being allowed to stay in my car while I finished picking. I cracked the windows, blocked the front seats, and covered the back seat. They didn’t even bark.

We saw no one.

050The berries were so thick along the creek bed that we never got out of voice range. We had full buckets by 12:30.

We were soaked to the skin, our boots were soggy, and my windbreaker was barely keeping the moisture off of my camera – but it was warm!

Camping, how I have missed it.

Note to self: next time I go, sleep in my own car. To heck with trying to sleep with Murphy!

I Have A Problem

Let me think: first, I should update you all with Harvey. The meds are doing the trick as far as reducing the pain he is in. he’s having a hard time being on “bed rest”, but we’re slowly discovering our limits. I have decided that he is banned from the loft where I spend most of my time, and that is hard. He just cannot manage the stairs. Up is fine: down hurts. We may rethink this as winter closes in, but for now, he’s content on the first floor.

I am still sorting through the left overs of the yard sale. We hauled everything to one or another donation center, but I am left sorting through the contents of the old file cabinet and the desk.

I own:

oil pastels (multiple sets).

pastels (one set).

oil paints (multiple tubes, many of the same color). A lot of them.

water-based oil paints (one set).

water colour paints (in tubes, and replaceable tins). A lot of them.

coloured permanent ink pens. (not too many)

India ink pens and nibs. A ton of nibs. Multiple nib holders.

crayons. Not too many.

oil pastels. multiple packs of oil pastels.

water colour crayons. combined with water colour coloured pencils.

coloured pencils.

pencils.

several kinds of clay.

Twelve rolls of Scotch™ tape.

TWELVE ROLLS OF SCOTCH TAPE™

And I have not even looked inside the boxes of gift wrap where I also hide tape.

I can make excuses for the art supplies (and I didn’t even mention the craft paint I buy at JoAnn’s or Michael’s). But Scotch Tape™????

Most are rolls that have been started, but there’s at least two rolls that have never been started AND a three pack. Still, not counting what is hiding in the boxes of gift wrap.

Houston, we have a problem. Scotch Tape™

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