Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Remainder of Wellington, and a Token of Auckland

Find the last remaining pictures from my trip here.
In all, the trip was fantastic, and I missed Ian and the dogs a lot by the time Susan and I taxied back into SeaTac last week (and 3 hours later I went back to the clinic for my infusion).

November 2009 through November 2010 saw me in 9 different countries, on 6 different continents. I've had to add extra pages to my passport! I now have a specific travel goal--Antarctica in the next 4 1/2 years, so I can somehow get that trip into this passport as well.

Quite the whirlwind of a year!

Pictures of Milford Sound

Queenstown, NZ, is ideally set up for hemorrhaging money. The landscape is immediate and spectacular, with a gondola leading to a ski slope (and, in the warmer months, a luge for tourists to ride, although we didn't) right in the center of town, endless marching rows of sawtoothed, black and white mountain peaks, several blue-white, icy, braided glacial rivers, and deep gorges abounding, either for jet-boating down, or bungee jumping into. We didn't take advantage of all of our options (the aforementioned gondola and luge, four-wheeling in a canyon somewhere, bungee jumping), but we did take a jet boat ride (sorry, no pics--although the official one was funny, because they yelled at us to wave at the camera and Susan and I were the only ones on the boat who didn't see where the camera was and so we're both waving randomly off at a 45 degree angle), and a spectacular flight into and out of Milford Sound (we opted not to take the 3-hour cruise of the sound itself--I'd rather kayak if I'm going to be on the water and we were conserving time).
I think this area of New Zealand's South Island is also known at Fjordland; it certainly should be.
Anyway, here are the pictures. They do not REMOTELY do justice to the spectacular landscape.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pictures of Hobart, Tasmania and Queenstown, NZ

More pictures with captions can be reached here, and I am heading off to bed, for my second-to-last night's sleep on the other side of the Date Line. These are not all the rest of the pictures, and I hope to get some more posted before I get too entangled in the craziness of the holiday season back home. I tell you, it is WEIRD to be wearing shorts and sweating, and look at Santa figurines in their red fur suits decorating store windows.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Lotta Pictures

Here is a link to a lot of pictures from our week of riding. Helle took tons of pictures while we were actually out on the horses and I hope to include some of those when she's able to send them along.

For the most part I felt a little more in control of the situation on Zorro if I had both hands on the reins and my attention on what he was doing. He was a little bit like riding Hoover, I think. Very sensitive and alert . . . and very sensitive and alert. He could either listen to me so well that I could move a finger or a leg a fraction of an inch and he would do exactly what I wanted--he almost intuited what I was asking--or he needed to be controlled and soothed and cajoled and abruptly brought to task. A good guy over all and really sweet when I was on the ground with him; but also a little distractable, and given slightly to hysterics over unexpected things like the Three Blue Boxes of Death along one wall of the arena the first day, or The Ominous Chunk of Grey Cement in the Ditch Next to the Road, or the truly unexpected (by me as well) Old Rusty Washing Machine in the Woods.

On the first full day that we were out, a horse came up fast behind Zorro and ran into his rump as I was slowing him down to keep him from running into someone else's rump; he kicked out and Alison ended up in a ditch with a very bruised back. She was a trooper, though, and not only got back on that day; she continued to ride every day for the rest of the trip.

Also that day (it was a big test day, as far as my horse was concerned) Zorro tried to buck me off at a couple of different gullies. The horses like to walk down and trot or canter up; this happens in Idaho too and I do not allow it, and Zorro (perhaps talking to other horses whose humans were allowing the upward race) was annoyed in the extreme. At the first gully after he was knocked in the ass he tried to run, I held him back, he SQUEEE-ED loudly with annoyance and bucked his hind end up; I landed on his neck, completely out of the saddle. But not off of him. At the next one, I again held him, he again SQUEE-ED but with a little less intensity and bucked with a little less vigor and I stayed seated; the third one he kind of sighed an annoyed sigh and then never tried to run up a gully again without permission.

He finally decided that, if he couldn't get me off with acrobatics, maybe he could get me off with speed. Much of the way back to the pens we came to a long, wide, gently up-sloping mowed path along the edge of a grassy field. A canter, the first of the trip, was proposed, and we all agreed to give it a go. Several horses were in front of me, including Alex riding Alison's horse (she had, after all, gone home in the van that had met us with our lunch) and leading ("ponying") his own. I, having had some experience with Zorro's personality that day, decided to keep him on a pretty short rein. This all worked fine, more or less, although Alex trying to canter with a horse ponied to his seemed to wig out everyone a little. We all pulled up, and I rode around Alex to get a clear view. The signal to canter was again given and again several people took off--I think Mike Webb, Susan, Helle, and Rebecca were all ahead of me. So I asked Zorro to go, and he. took. OFF.

I did what I would do on any horse running very fast and clamped my legs on so I could stick with him, and HE. TOOK. OFF. MORE. I was coming up fast on Rebecca and so I steered out into the long grass and yelled "I'M OUT OF CONTROL!" as I went by, faster than I believe I've ever moved before, even faster than the greyhound I rode on the beach in Chile last year. So fast, in fact, that I'm sure the Doppler Effect was in effect, therefore rendering my shout as something like this "I'M OUt of control l l l . . . " to Rebecca as I shot past (she was cantering, but she may as well have been standing still). I didn't lose my reins with the brief losing of my wits, however, and I slowly pulled Zorro back, and by the time we were caught up with the others he was entirely my horse again. Talking to Rebecca about it later, she said she heard me shout and looked over at me, and I wasn't out of control as far as she could see. Well, nice compliment, and, in fact, at least half true. I was definitely in charge of the steering, but for a moment I was not in charge of the speed. Unfortunately, he never put on the afterburners quite so much again, and it would've been fun to experience it just one more time. Nevertheless, score one big one, Calin.

I actually loved that I was given Zorro to ride--I felt that I got to use my horse skills as well as my riding skills--and nothing was found wanting.

All in all, it really was a spectacular trip. I wanna go again. Actually, Susan, Helle and I are already talking about the next one . . .

Thursday, November 18, 2010

That's Alotta Bull


Susan and me riding (okay, mostly just sitting on) Lumpy, a 3-year-old Brahmin bull. He's expected to grow over the next couple years.
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Changes

Sorry, Ian, I have a new Life Partner. And this is our new adoptee.
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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Home From the Other Side of the Planet

Ian and I arrived back home on Friday around 1:30 pm, 29 hours after leaving our hotel in the Seychelles. We managed to stay frenetically awake until 7:00pm, at which point we fell into bed. At exactly the moment our heads hit our pillows, the phone rang; some friends calling me back. I brought the phone into bed with me and carried on a 15-minute conversation, about one foot from Ian's head. The next morning when I was telling him information gleaned from the call, he said, puzzled, "When did you talk to A.?"
"Last night, right when we got into bed," I said.
"But did the phone ring?"
"Um, yes, about 4 times before I got to it, and then I brought it back into bed with me so I could lie down."
"Really?!?"
He had no memory of the call whatsoever.
Anyway, we're here, and we've posted a bunch more pictures, many with captions, and until I find time (energy) for any more actual entries, I hope all you loyal readers will make do with these:
http://picasaweb.google.com/ian.g.taylor/SeychellesPart2# and http://picasaweb.google.com/ian.g.taylor/SeychellesFood# .

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Last Day

There will be more postings after we get home, I promise (if only a [rather long] bullet point post), but today is our last day and we are planning to fill it up.

Yesterday on day two of our two days on La Digue it was sunny, and we rode bikes, and we're both a bit sunburned (not too bad) and a bit stiff and sore from, for me at least, an activity I am completely unaccustomed to (excellent planning for the 25 hours of upcoming travel). We don't take off until around 10pm tonight (and I'm going to go double check that in a moment, because there's still time to rush to the airport if it's actually 10am this morning), and today we're planning a four-hour tour of the island, and then packing and organizing and one last swim and hitting the road.

We were going to rent a car today--they're everywhere, the rental cars, and I've driven on the left a lot, and have already, in my almost two weeks here, readjusted my sense of right and left (which seems to be how my brain copes with the change: "I'm going to make a right turn up here," I'll say, and Ian will say "Don't you mean a LEFT turn?" which, indeed, I do--the near turn, that's what I'm making) . . . but, coming home tired after dark yesterday, in a taxi Ian had already used several times going to work last week, we decided to just hire the driver for the day and relax all the more. So that's what we're doing at 10am (provided I'm right about our departure time)--having a more or less guided tour of the parts of Mahe island Ian hasn't seen (I had a private guide in the form of the wife of one of Ian's colleagues last week a couple times).

Our trip out here really wasn't bad with the 10 hours in Paris and the Croque Monsieur and the airport hotel dayroom; our trip back only has 4 hours in Paris, which, from what we could tell about Charles DeGaulle, will really be just enough time to get from one gate to the next before cramming ourselves back into our coach seats.

But then we'll be home! Friends! Family! DOGGIES!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

No Pants

I've been Without Computer for over a week now, and although my cell phone is WiFi enabled, it really only works for short emails back and forth with Ian, at work on the other side of the island, and that somewhat inconsistently, because his connection is spotty and mine disconnects whenever my phone falls back asleep, which is often--it's a lazy phone--and I then have to reenter the password we bought for 50 euros for the week (just renewed this morning, for 50 euros for our last five days). The one major issue I've found with the touch-screen keyboarded Android phone is that the text box in blogger does not actually trigger the touch-screen keyboard, and so I couldn't even post that it was inconvenient to post, without waiting for Ian to get home. Anyway, it's Sunday morning here, we're planning to go on a trip to swim with whale sharks this afternoon (if they've been spotted, and I'm ambivalent about whether or not I want them to have been), and so I get to use the computer for awhile and Ian gets to entertain himself however else he wants.

And so.

Several days ago, I set off to take a walk by myself, described as relatively easy and not too long, to the beach at Anse (bay) Major, more or less west of us down the island. It promised to go through some of the forest as well as along the glacis rocks, and I was ready for a change of scene from all the glistening white sand and glinting turquoise waters. I started out by walking down the road to the next town (Bel Ombre), which was HOT and a little scary (roads are narrow, people drive quickly, cars are on the left if a particular side is chosen, personal space is on a smaller scale than we're used to). Along the way to the trail head, I meandered down to the beach and back, I surreptitiously took a picture of a small tuna catch being loaded into a refrigerated van, I saw my first of the now many GIANT spiders I've seen (about 3 or 4 inches long; evidently, if you have the bad luck to run into one of their webs, you bounce off because they're so strong), I chatted up a man at the end-of-the-line bus stop ("Hello, could you tell me when the next bus comes?" "Yes, in about 10 minutes, at 11:00am." "And does it come often, every half hour?" "No no, every one hour." Titillating conversation.), and I bought a Sey Pearl (local soda maker; division of Sey Breweries and cousin to Seybrew, the local lager) Fruit Punch.

I continued up the hill and turned right onto a narrow paved track, following the arrow to Anse Major. I walked along into the forest, glad for shade, drinking my ridiculously sweet but undoubtedly electrolyte-filled punch, and I came up a hill next to a house and was hailed.

"Hello!" called a man. "I have a fruit bat here in a cage! Would you like to see it?" I hesitated, because I usually don't go in for such invitations in foreign places, but I glanced at the man and he was very thin, as if he had some neurological damage or something, and he was friendly, and it was hot, and I was following whimsy rather than plan, so I turned off the track and went to say hello.

Sure enough, this man had a fruit bat, one of the ones we see diving around the skies at dusk every night, in a cage in front of his home. Once I was up the walk, he explained that he sewed some things, and had a little shop in his house, and would I like to take a look, take a look, a look is free. I felt a little helpless to avoid taking a look--I mean, why not just a look, after all--and so I went in.

The man, Richard, was a talker. While I looked around at the clothes lining the walls of the workroom of his house, and took in the couple of old photos, the ancient sewing machine, and the, unfortunately, ugly wares, Richard told me about his life. He had three children, and a German wife, who was not his wife anymore and was back in Germany. The children lived with him but were at school. The German wife came to visit every year or so, but stayed in another bedroom, not in his, no, not anymore ha ha. About 15 years ago he had gone to work on a boat (I don't know in what capacity)--a great job--room and board paid, plus a salary--but he had had an accident after 3 years and had been crippled. He had not walked for over six months; had not really been able to walk before nine months (and indeed, now, 12 years later, made his way across the room by holding himself up and creeping around the wall). I assume spinal cord damage; at any rate, something to keep his body from fleshing out in a normal way, in addition to the severe unsteadiness.

Richard noticed my shorts (knee-length Old Navy drawstring ones) and said that they were good for hiking--better than the really short things other women wore on this trail--but that he couldn't make such things because elastic was hard to get in the Seychelles. I pulled up my shirt slightly and pointed out that they had no elastic, just a drawstring, and Richard was suddenly enthralled. A rope, my shorts used a rope, just like the skirts and things that he made! He could copy them, could make a pattern from them, if I would only let him have them for five minutes, just to make some measurements and to study their form.

"Are you asking me to take my pants off?" I asked, somewhat incredulously.

"Only for five minutes!" he replied. "You can wear some clothes from here! Just to have a look, so that I can make some myself!"

I thought about it. Richard was obviously not a physical threat. I had, hanging on the back of my daypack, a kikoy (piece of 3X5 Kenyan cloth Ian and I bring with us on vacations to use as towels, skirts, coverlets, etc), because I had wanted to be sure to be able to clean off my feet after wading at Anse Major. I normally don't like to swim at beaches alone--too paranoid about getting my belongings stolen--but I did want to at least feel the water. "Okay," I decided. "I have this kikoy here; I may not use it for anything else--I'll just wrap it around my waist and you can look at my shorts for five minutes. They're very sweaty, just be forewarned."

I duly wrapped my kikoy around my waist and removed my pants. Richard made his limping way around the edge of the room, then spent some time trying to locate his measuring tape. I, who had brought one along with my plane knitting project had, unfortunately, left it back at the hotel. A (male, physically fit) neighbor who had been outside cutting fruits came in and Richard sent him into the next room where, sure enough, one of his daughters had taken the tape measure. It was delivered, and much was made about how large my shorts were, although "you are not a large woman, but maybe a 46 size."

Then Richard started in telling me not to walk on to Anse Major alone. "If you were my wife, I would not let you," he said. "I could ask some man to walk with you, but alone, you will be stolen [read: robbed] or raped. In my 12 years of living here, four times women have come back to me, naked, they were swimming and their clothes were stolen and they were raped. Four times! It is not safe for you to be going alone. I would not allow my wife. These women, they come to me and I call the police for them, and I give them clothes to wear, but there is nothing I can do. But it is not safe. You should not go. Go another time, with a man. A man alone, he might be stolen, but a women alone will be stolen and raped."

I sat there on his sofa, without my pants on, and thought about this. I was not feeling particularly endangered by the environment, or lurkers therein. On the other hand, I was hot and tired and sweaty already, and it was another 1.8 km up and down a relatively steep, stony trail. Richard, also, seemed very insistent, very worried.

"You can go another ten minutes," he proposed. "There is an Indian man putting in a big hotel, lots of workers, and a beautiful view. You would be safe that far, you can take pictures. But then you should come back."

"Okay, okay, fine," I said, yielding. "I'm hot and tired anyway, and I have no interest in being stolen or raped. I won't go. My husband and I have several days together next week, and so we'll come back then." Even though four in 12 years is a pretty small proportion, and even though I wasn't feeling any frisson of fear for my own safety, if I didn't go to Anse Major, I was absolutely assured of not getting raped there. "I'll go and look at the view close by, and then I'll turn around. Can I have my pants back now?"

"Yes, yes, I am done with them!"

I went ten minutes further and spent some time on a huge glacis boulder flying high over the sea below, then turned (marveling a moment at the sheer number of vehicles that had driven this far on this trail) and went back. I waved at Richard as I passed, proving that I hadn't been stolen, and wended my way back to the bus, which I caught about 1pm and took back to Beau Vallon, the village (and beach) where we're staying.

Two days ago Ian and I did have a chance to walk all the way to Anse Major, on an afternoon that he was let out early, and as we passed Richard's house, we saw him in the doorway with his three children, home from school, and the friend feeding the fruit bat with a bit of mango. I thought "well, now he knows I wasn't lying about the husband, and I know he was telling the truth about his kids." And the walk the rest of the way to the beach was long, and was beautiful in an Indiana Jones sort of way--clear brooks babbling and swirling over the glacis boulders or deep under them, tunnels through tumbled rock, rich steaming vegetation and rotting fruits--and the bay itself was exquisitely remote and empty, complete with a blue jewel of a lagoon, coral-littered sands and gnarled, weathered trees and roots curling out over the beach. And a full moon on the way home.

It was very romantic. I was glad to have waited for Ian, regardless.



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Opposite

I was expecting to not put many pictures online while being here, because I don't have my computer with me, but I thought I probably would have stories to tell, and I would probably get myself to an internet cafe to tell them.

Well, turns out I have rudimentary WiFi on my cell phone when Ian's not here (a shared 50 euro pass) that's good enough for short emails but can't figure out blogger, and so I'm way less interested in sitting indoors at someone else's computer than I thought I would be. I want to be outside in this movie-set environment!

On the other hand, I have actually been taking some pictures, and we've been posting them on Ian's Picasa page every evening (well, morning for most of all y'all). Some even with captions, so I'm not leaving you completely bereft.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

More Pictures from Paradise, and a Definition

Ian, for the last couple days, has been waking before me (2 hours yesterday, just under one this morning) and spending time on his computer, both working for the conference here, and on some things from home, AND putting up pictures on a Picasa site. I'm guessing the number and quality of pics will fall severely over the next week while he's working, because I 1. have a less good camera and 2. have less mad skilz. But I'll do my best.

And now for the Definition of Paradise: NO MOSQUITOES.

Seriously, not only is there no malaria, no typhoid, no Dengue, no yellow fever, no cholera--there are NO TEENY WHINING DEVILS. How on earth???

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pretty Much Paradise

Before I follow Ian exhausted into bed, I just wanted to let you know we made it here after much of a couple days, and it's perfectly lovely, and I will titillate you with a few pictures.


Where we'll be hanging out hats for the next several nights.


Little orange bird. Very pretty. Some kind of finch?


The view from our bedroom window during this afternoon's warm downpour.


Just one example of the abundant flowers.



Friday, October 15, 2010

Ian's Brilliant

We are sitting in the airport Novitel at Charles de Gaulle right now, just off our flight from Seattle and just beginning our 8 or so hour layover in Paris. Instead of wandering around the airport getting tireder and tireder, or dropping our carryons (other bags are checked through) and wandering all day around town getting tireder and tireder, we're going to have a quick lie-flat, then go into the City of Light for lunch in David Sedaris's neighborhood (6th Arrondissement), then have another quick lie-flat before heading off to Golden, Equitorial Paradise.

I tell you, this man. He has the smarts.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Three More Stitched Pics and a Middle Panel

These are just three more views from around the property, and a middle panel of a failed stitched picture of some really mossy trees. I think a lot of moss must have grown this year; it's been a wetter year than normal, from what I understand.





More Early Autumn Pictures

Some of the multitudinous mushrooms out everywhere right now. *I* would NEVER pick any of them.

A noble neighbor horse, who huffed loudly and came over at a fast clip to investigate when Spackle wandered into his domain. He was perfectly happy to simply sniff and nibble my hand. But then, I didn't cross the fence and threaten his herd.

Just in time for hunting season!

The Beeves, arranged in their Grain Acceptance pose.

The Beeves in Nature, threatening to get closer to us than we were really interested in. They were coming toward us with purpose indeed, as you can see. We high-tailed it back out of their pasture.

Me with Sikem, today's Noble Steed, and my four Squires.

Infiltration

I would like to be keeping my I Thought I Was Done With This life separate from my Dilettante Traveler life but, as happens, because both those lives are, in fact, equally intimately mine, the two lives occasionally meet, and occasionally meet in a dramatic way, as happened this last week over here in Jerome Creek.

Originally I was planning to be here for three weeks--long enough to spend some time with K&A and my dogs and their dogs and all the horses and cows--no, beeves we're calling them now because they are all fixed but two are steers and two are spayed heifers--and then some time WITHOUT K&A (or anyone else), because they would be on vacation and I would be holding down the fort, blissfully alone in this wilderness heaven. Ian's singular job had us heading to the Seychelles, though, and so I planned to cut my trip here down with a razor to the very last possible day and leave here on the 13th, Wednesday, and Ian are flying out of Seattle on the 14th, Thursday (I have already packed my two bikinis and 3 sun dresses and crate of pills and medications. I'm ready to pop on the plane.).

Plans change.

I got: a migraine? Stomach flu? Food and/or alcohol poisoning (on one mug of hot buttered rum?)? A bacterial infection from throwing away a truly nasty bone the dogs were munching on, with my bare hands, and then forgetting and licking my fingers (I don't remember licking . . .)? Who knows, but last Wednesday, the day K&A were leaving, I woke up completely incapacitated. Roaring, jackhammering headache. Shivers. Nausea to the point of puking (only 4 times, I think). Orange diarrhea. Migraine auras of both visual and tingly kinds. Major anxiety.

This, of course, threw everyone (well, A. in particular) into a tizzy--because, what was going to happen with me? I couldn't be left alone (fair enough), and they couldn't stay with me. I began a preliminary rally around 3pm, A. managed to find a friend to stay with me for the night and pick up my mom from the Moscow-Pullman airport the next day, and Mom's been here ever since.

It's been a big, complicated stew of suggestions and proposals here since Mom arrived. Should she leave on Monday as originally planned, so that I have two days of renewed independence? But to save my nerves and hers for my drive home, should we have Marsh fly in Wednesday and I'll only have to drive as far as Moscow to pick him up and then he'll take over? Or, Mom can stay the whole time and, so that I don't have to drive with her, I take her to Moscow and she fly out while Marsh flies in? And how can she get to Medford, where she was planning to meet friends for the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland? Does this paragraph not make a whole lot of sense? Yeah, I think so too.

What we decided on is this. I did not sleep well last night (a ridiculous fly that would start buzzing about every 1 1/2 hours and, since it's so quiet here, rattle me awake), and I was worried this morning that I would not feel confident enough in my recovering health to take care of things for any time alone (although it was my overweening wish that I would feel comfortable), and it seemed that having two days in Seattle would be really helpful before flying to THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PLANET, and so Mom and I are leaving, together, tomorrow afternoon after a couple of appointments I'd already scheduled (therapy, for me, and a vet for Shadow to look at her eye).

Mom will get to Ashland, I will have someone to drive with me, Marsh will miss out on a lovely autumn trip back and forth across the state, and Ian will, after all, have a chance to see our dogs for a short time, the only time he'll get to see them in about two months.

I think that's the kind of cancer I have--Infiltrating ductal--and that's certainly what it's been doing the last several days, darn it all.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Early Autumn

All of us out for a ride--it was glorious. Well, that is, all of us but Tessa, who chose to stay behind on a comfy bed on the porch. Spackle was having none of that invalid thing.


Panorama looking over K&A's tree farm and pastures into the neighboring pastures. Dogs under tree at right, perfectly happy.


Panorama of horses and one of the big pastures. It was almost 60 degrees today--a perfect day to be outside exercising. It really is so beautiful here.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Going it Alone

I arrived at Jerome Creek this afternoon around 4pm after a perfectly lovely 5 1/2 hour drive. My goals were 1) Greet, pet, kiss, reprimand (mix, repeat) my dogs--Hoover squoke with joy for a whole five minutes 2) Unload my car and get my slushy fruits into a freezer 3) fetch Shadow and have a relatively short, easy bareback ride that all dogs could accompany me on. Shadow, of course, added a pre goal-3 constitutional because I'd come out with carrots as a lure and not grain--idiot--and so I trekked up the hill, then down the hill after flying heels, then back again and further up the hill into the trees after flying heels that were too fast for me to really track them, then back down the hill when no heels were to be found anywhere, flying or not, then to the Garagemahal for a bucket of grain, then, finally, to a fence post where I could acouter my steed.

The ride was absolutely lovely. Warm evening air, slanted sunlight, leaves just beginning to change, the smell of aging fir needles, horse who was, once caught, quite happy to be on an outing. Dogs ranging according to their ages and interests (i.e. Spackle right behind Shadow's now reasonably paced heels; Hoover covering ten times the ground). The worst thing, I mused, about riding alone, was that there was no one to benefit from the cleared path, from which I had taken 3,476 spiderwebs with my face, and 10,003 fir needles with the rest of my upper body.

Then, I mused some more, and decided that no, I was wrong, that was the second worst thing. The WORST thing was that there was no one here to perform those services for ME.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Preparations

As avid blog readers know (well, my avid blog readers of course), I'm going to be embarking soon on one of my major loves in a major way over the next couple months: Travel, capital T. I leave on Saturday for Idaho for starters, where I'll revel in northern Idaho October WITH MY DOGS!!!! I HAVEN'T SEEN THEM SINCE AUGUST!!!! and my blaze orange "I'm not a deer!" vest, for almost two weeks. I'll be returning to Seattle on 13 October, dropping the dogs at Mom and Marsh's DHOE I (Doggy Heaven on Earth One for less avid readers), and rendezvousing at home for one night with Ian before we both take off for the Seychelles morning of the 14th. We get back the 29th.

Now, to prepare for two weeks in a tropical paradise I did a couple things. First, I bought two new bikinis at J Crew's end of season final sale, and had Nordstrom sew faux-boob pockets into the right-hand cups of both tops. I was expecting to pay for this service, as the bikinis were not purchased at Nordstrom, but in an example of their fine, fine customer service, they stitched in the pockets for free. This did work in their favor, of course, because I'm going to be traveling with a girl friend, but not a girlfriend—I think Ian would object—as well as MS, probably—and, well, me too (sorry, MS, it's not that you're not attractive)—in November, and (little secret here) I generally don't wear pajamas, and I thought it only appropriate that I have some when sharing hotel rooms on a platonic vacation. Anyway, when I was there yesterday picking up my free alterations, the lovely young salesgirl in the lingerie department was only too happy to help me find truly the perfect nightgown, for only 99 smackeroos.

The other thing I did yesterday, with a bit of the spirit of experimentation buoying me along, was to get not just my bikini line sugared (like waxing but nominally less painful—so they say), but get my two whole legs sugared AS WELL. You may have caught the parenthetical statement encased in the last sentence about waxing and pain. All I can say is that I never had my legs waxed, but this. was. a. pile. of. hurt. For ONE HOUR I lay on a table under bright lights with my pants off and PAID SOMEONE to rip my body hair out by the roots. At one point, the sugarer eagerly encouraged me to sit up and look at all the short dark hairs, complete with follicles, in the wad of sticky sugary stuff she was holding in her gloved hand. Yep, ew. Periodic ripples of anxiety washed through me with some of the more violent yanks—as they would any person, I'm assuming. Although maybe that's supposed to be part of the fun. Anyway, my next appointment is in November, just before my trip Down Under.

I've ordered pills or made plans to order them from Idaho (and Ian can pick them up); I have a packing list for horseriding in the mountains and for swimming around the only granite oceanic islands on the planet, both of which I intend to fill by tomorrow night; I have baby-bottom-smooth legs; I've got a list of addresses for postcards, all ready to print on mailing labels for easy sending. If you'd like a postcard, send me your address. If you don't get one, it's because of African postal services. I'm pretty much ready to take off and see the world!

YAY!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Babies of the Family


Me holding Daisy on my lap


Me holding Lovemore on my lap


Note: it is HOT in Austin.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 30, 2010

All Closed Up

I've had nightly chats with K&A about the dogs since leaving them Friday afternoon—which was very, very hard, by the way, stupid dogs—and I'm pleased to report that Spackle's wound has been comporting itself well if he and Hoover haven't been—quite—model dogs. As of today the drain hole left in Spackle's hip wound is completely sealed, and nothing seems to be infected. Hoover's ear is, I'm sure, perfectly fine—it didn't even get a mention in tonight's call.

Spackle hasn't been an evil dog in any way—he's just been himself, rolling in fresh horseshit when he can't be bathed (A. used a deodorizing spray on a towel that she rubbed over him until he stank less), and getting all four paws in the pond when he's not allowed to swim—and only at the last minute, when A. was preparing herself to go in after him, heeding her commands and reluctantly retreating.

Hoover hasn't been an evil dog either—he's just been HIMself—which means he's decided he likes the Jerome Creek place and it could only be better if he were Top Dog. He's not going to be; everyone else, humans and dogs alike, are banded together against him taking on that role. Nevertheless, he's trying for it, which is trying the patience of Sadie at least, who is top dog.

Things here in Seattle are lovely and calm.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Improving

Hoover of course never showed any signs of needing rest, and is well on the mend, only yelping once yesterday when someone briefly caught his stitched ear. As for Spackle, he obviously has much farther to go, but is also showing signs of being well on the mend, and quite relieved to have the lumps off of him. He even, much AGAINST doctor's orders as well as my own, JUMPED INTO THE BACK OF THE 4-RUNNER last night as we were heading out for a picnic dinner, leaving the other dogs behind. BAD DOG. YOU NEED TO LET YOUR SUTURES REST.

For all you people who've had pets or children or partners recovering from surgeries and know some of the signs to watch for, I'm pleased to report that he's eating well (wet food, mixed with a little dry), drinking water and piddling normally, and pooping normally as well. And he is showing all signs of enjoying his exalted invalid status.

Good dogs.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sheesh. You Dogs.

I'm in Jerome Creek right now for 5 nights—which has turned into 6—while K&A are present. This was going to simply be a visit where I helped out a little with things that were specifically needed (there's only so much I can anticipate when I'm here on my own, outside of taking care of animals), rode some horses, and played with my dogs in the countryside before leaving them here for six weeks for K&A to take care of.

Yes, the shoe's on the other foot now, as it were, and they have kindly agreed to watch Spackle and Hoover while Ian and I go to our weddings/trips to see friends/chemotherapy for our pasture over the next several weeks.

Last fall when I was here for a length of time, of course, was when Spackle developed his serious, inexplicable illness and spent nights in the clinic and the WSU Vet School hospital. We ultimately gave him Prednisone for his ailments and that seems to have done the trick—for the past almost-year he's been quite well and happy. Years ago during our first visit here, Spackle caught a stick in the back of his throat and needed a vet in an emergency—he had not pierced his brain, however. Sometime in the middle past he tore an ACL out here but, not knowing what was going on, I didn't take him to a vet for that . . . but I should've.

His recent issues have been apparently minor—just a couple of benign cysts—one on his left hip and one just next to his spine. Our vet has been checking on these; indeed, checked them a week before I brought the dogs here, and the cysts were stable.

Well, the night before we came, last Friday, the cyst on Spackle's hip was larger. Instead of being the size of a marble, it was the size of two marbles. I squeezed it and some fluid came out, but it was like blood serum—not stinky, and mostly clear. Saturday, once arriving here, I squeezed it again, and again some clearish, non-smelly fluid came out . . . but by Sunday morning it was a large puffy patch the size of half a bagel, and Spackle didn't eat any breakfast. Uh-oh.

Sometime during the day it ruptured, and then Spackle started licking at it, and it was obvious by Sunday afternoon that a vet would have to be consulted. Thank you, Spackle, for making it all the harder for me to want to leave you for six weeks—not only because now I'll worry about you, but because you have left extra work for your hosts.

Hoover, apparently not wanting to be left out of the fun, managed to rip a 1cm slash in one of his ear flaps, in a flamboyant cavort away from chasing cows and under a barbed wire fence. I'd like to think this has larned him a lesson, but he doesn't seem to be that sensitive of his injury, and certainly didn't make a sound when it happened. I found out about it by reaching down to grab him so he wouldn't head back at the cows, and coming away with my hands covered in blood. He's mostly black, and so stains of any sort are pretty invisible. At any rate, he doesn't keep his head still, and so the ear would stop dripping, and then he'd shake his head, and fresh spots of crimson would appear wherever he'd been standing. It looked, as K said coming into his white-painted farmhouse, as if someone had been butchering chickens there.

I had a relatively sleepless night Sunday night (read a good article in Harper's about concealed weapons) while dogs licked and snored, and got a call into the vet yesterday morning early. They called back soon after 8am, by 9am I had the dogs in the Potlatch examining room, and they both had surgeries.

Spackle's was major—at least the cyst that had erupted. It had turned from nothing to a huge, infected, spidering mass of tendrils growing through his subcutaneous fat, attaching to blood sources, and generally showing beginning signs of world (or at least dog) domination—all of which needed to be cut out. The cyst on his spine, on the other hand, was completely contained and easy. But still left a sizeable, Frankensteinian bald patch.

Hoover's was minor, and the few stitches seem to be holding back the tides of blood. He's slightly more klutzy because of his round of anesthesia, but seems none the worse for the experience, and quite a bit the better. This was interesting, too: when I left the dogs yesterday morning, they were put into the same cage, because there was only one left and it was the big one. Someone came in and gave Spackle some drugs, because his surgery was going to be first, and he started to fall asleep. This evidently alarmed Hoover, who, much to my surprise and gratitude, became very protective of his older brother when they came back to get him for his procedure. Evidently, Hoover stood over Spackle and did some serious GRRRing at the people coming to get him. No one was hurt, and Hoover's worry was of course misplaced. But wasn't that sweet? Who knew he even cared???

Dogs are now back, and Hoover is a little subdued, and Spackle is more subdued, but in happy, healthy dog ways. Spackle didn't wait for a lift from the back of the car and leapt out, but managed not to faceplant in the driveway, so I think he's going to be fine.

And I will say this for them: Well done, The Dogs, having these procedures in rural north Idaho. The entire cost of the experience, including Spackle's two surgeries and Hoover's stitches, anesthesia for both, a night in the clinic for both, suppers and breakfasts, pills, a 12-pack of wet food in case Spackle's not interested in dry at the moment, and a lampshade collar in case Spackle licks: $406.99. Probably no more than a third of what it would've been in Seattle.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Stuff of Life

This is really a post that belongs on both The
Dilettante Traveler and I Thought I Was Done With This. I've been thinking a lot recently about the things that I like to do with my time, with my life. I like the horses, of course. My 20-year high school reunion was just last weekend and people I haven't seen in 20 years asked what I was up to and I said horseback riding and they nodded knowingly. "You always were into horses," they said. Which is a little weird, I suppose, since my being "into" horses has never involved the insane show circuit . . . it was, I have thought, a much more low-key "into horses" . . . but nevertheless, it's true. I am and I have been, into horses.

I like the fiber arts, if you will. Knitting hats and sweaters, most recently getting myself into the Fair Isle designs—which take a lot more time than the simple hats I've been doing for the past several years. I've also been sewing a lot—glitter bags for everyone I can think of (if I haven't thought of you and you'd like one, drop me a line)—and recently, crazy-patterned pillowcases because we've started using more than two pillows on our bed—hence, more than the number of cases that came with our sheet sets. Also, we like to have our pillowcases hold our down pillows together a bit—and so we only want them to be 18 inches wide. I've already had to alter most of our existing cases. I also bought some fabric just the other day to make some scrub-like lounge pants—much prettier, of course, than scrubs (particularly Dr Jason's black, Grim Reaper ones), but the same basic, loose-fitting drawstring design.

I've been finding it satisfying to keep the yard moderately tidy as well; it's been quite the season for lawn growth—particularly if your lawn consists primarily of dandelions—and twice I've had to do an entire sweep with the weedwacker before I could even begin to make any headway with our rotary mower.

As for the less domestic pleasures, well, travel. What can I say—I find it exhilarating to visit new cultures and new locations. The ability to fly around the world, observing people in all their natural habitats, and immersing myself in those habitats—I love that. And so, while I've been reveling in domesticity, I've also been making plans for World Domination. To that end, friend MS and I (you may remember her from the most recent day of lostness in Jerome Creek) are going to be taking an Equitours trip in Australia in November—horseback riding (with guides!) for a week from inn to inn along the Sunshine Coast. We're then going to pop over to New Zealand's South Island and add some more rides—in this case following in the footsteps of Strider and the Hobbits— and visit my friend C in Wellington (and, in fact, actually get to visit the place where I "moved" in 2007 when Ian and I sold our cars and rented our house and left town for several months). And I can't help being excited about this part: it will be my 6th continent within a year. I love my life.

And then, in April, KENYA! Ian and I have been wanting to go back to Africa for years—well, East Africa, since Cabo Verde last January certainly counts as Africa—and we've managed to finagle an unbelievable plane trip: two BA tickets in Club World, Seattle to Nairobi and back, for the price of only one set of airline miles. I tell you, if you can figure out how to work the system, the system REALLY works for you.

So . . . I'm happy. I'm still feeling a little anxiety associated with things that I commit to doing for other people . . . or even mention I may be interested in thinking about doing for other people (the problem seems to be my personal definition of "commitment," rather than any external expectations). I'm slowly, as well, figuring out the benefits of a life of scheduled days off (I have chosen to "work through" my day off this week, in the interests of, well, horses), and I'm learning to stop feeling guilty about enjoying the path I am so fortunate to have been given.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

My Inlaws Kick Your Inlaws Ass

Okay, I've been home for ten days now, and I've given up on writing anything new about the horses from my last Jerome Creek trip, but I would be doing a disservice to Ian's parents if I didn't share how badass they are when it comes to long trail rides that include, well, a bit of difficulty at the home stretch.

First off, J is 65 and D is 75. They've both ridden enough before that they've retained muscle knowledge, and they are both healthy and active in their day-to-day lives, so an hour or so on horseback is a pleasure much more than it is a penance.

We went on an average-length ride (5 ½ miles) the day after they arrived, taking the fateful trail J and I had been on a couple years ago when she fell off her horse, I flew off mine, and we both had issues for months after (hip for her, tailbone for me). I cleverly took us counter-clockwise instead of clockwise, in the hopes that J would not feel the stress of returning to the scene of an accident. She assured me that she had absolutely no idea where she was; that she was pretty much following me blindly; and that she not only wouldn't recognize one curve of grassy road in a thousand miles of grassy road; she would also in no way be able to make it back home.

D thought that he had a pretty good idea of where home was, however, and pointed off in a direction ahead. "Nope," I said, "not even close. Home is almost directly behind us." It didn't help anyone's sense of direction that the sun was hiding, of course, but still—it's hard. It took me years to figure out where I was, and even now, it only (as I hope I've made clear here in this blog) works most of the time.

And so, Ride 1 was uneventful and beautiful. The next day we were all set for Ride 2, which was going to be a little more ambitious—steeper hills, narrower tracks, clearer clearcuts, sweepinger views, an extra couple miles—but still well within our purview, because it was a circle I'd actually taken before. Although not, as of yet, this year.

Have I mentioned that I clearly do not run a 5-Star Luxury Establishment, All Your Needs Met Before You Are Even Aware Of Them?

The first 2/3 of our ride were lovely. J really connects with Snickers and finds her to be a sweet lady, and Shadow behaves well for D. "See if she'll let you open the gate," I suggested to D, our first afternoon out, "without having to get off of her." He kneed Shadow up to the gate and reined her in, and she stood perfectly for him to unlatch it, then stepped back efficiently so he could ride through (we didn't need to close it until we got home). She does not do that for me—she makes me work for it, walking this way and that, standing with the gate just out of reach, backing at the last minute when I almost have the clasp worked out, then, around the 7th attempt, standing, bored, rolling her eyes and sighing, as if to ask "why didn't you say so???" Sikem was also behaving, only balking a little when I rode him away from the mares and up and down various side trails so that I could get them charted with the GPS. We all, human and equine, enjoyed the several-minute walk/trot through the clearcut, seeing the last snow on the distant mountains, the new barn being built on a nearby hill, various birds.

And then we came to the woods.

From the beginning, there was a tree across our path. A giant tree but, there in the margin between woods and clearcut, easy to walk around. However, there followed another huge tree, then a smaller tree that we could see down the hill. I sent my troops back to open air and left Sikem in the care of D, and the gorp (trail mix, for those of you not from the PNW) I'd brought along in the care of J. I was beginning to worry about them—going back the way we came would be a long ride, and it was approaching Taylor dinner time. Having been married to a Taylor for almost 9 years now, I know that this is serious business. I hoped the gorp would keep things under control while I scouted.

Well, scouting was ultimately completely successful because I'm writing this from my desk in Seattle, and the Taylors Sr are safely back home in Bellingham. But really all it did was allow me to clear one tree with my handy saw, just enough to get us deeply enough into the woods to be committed. The trail was AWFUL. There were trees down everywhere, and it's a steep hill. Even when we reached Maple Creek, downed trees kept us neatly away from the well-established road there. We ended up, with the assistance of Shadow, picking our way across the creek and up a slope to end up on the road we'd come in on, a place where I've always wished for a trail, but could never see one. There really isn't one. You can check out our route here on my map. It's JCR6 and JCR6part2 because for some reason the GPS cut off in the middle. More than 9 miles, guys!

I was able to take us the rest of the way home with no more mishaps, however, and I'm pretty sure that was the night we went to the Hoo Doo. Everyone's tradition at Jerome Creek now is to have one dinner at the Hoo Doo . . . which meant that I had three dinners at the Hoo Doo this time around . . . which might be a bit much, etc. etc.

Anyway, Well Done the Taylors!

(and with this, back to ITIW)


 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Pack

As always for me, one of the great pleasures of spending time in Idaho is the intimate interaction with the animals (specifically the horses and dogs, of course). Here are some of the charming/humorous/annoying things I experienced with the canine group this time around.

First of all, Spackle was very healthy, unlike last fall when we thought he was dying. This was a relief and a pleasure. He is, of course, a simple soul—happy to fetch, happy to swim, happy to go for walks in the woods (where he keeps running back along the trail to make sure I'm following and everything is in order), and happy to go on the rides when I've planned for a gentle one that won't tax 9-year-old bionic hips—with the one exception being when Ian was still at Jerome Creek with me, in which case Spackle took careful stock of the situation— one horse and three dog companions already for me, no one for Ian—and elected to stay behind. He ate horseshit, but, unfortunately they all do.

Second, Hoover. Hoover, of course, is absolutely in his element. It's the cutest thing in the world to see him actually worn out at the end of a day—completely sound asleep, eyes scrunched closed, paws all together in puppy fetal, occasionally issuing muted grrrs and yips, his paws fluttering, as he relives the joys of the day—chasing deer and ground squirrels and wrestling with Sadie, leaping in and out of mud puddles and creeks, smelling the richest, most amazing smorgasbord of organic smells, and extra food at the end of the day because he's run a thousand miles. Judging from the scrapes and punctures we can see, if Hoover were hairless he'd be a solid mass of scars by now. Looking at my own self here just now, if I weren't wearing clothes on our excursions, I probably would be a mess, too. I currently have a healing scratch on my neck, several on my feet and hands, a bruise on the top of my right thigh, and a giant bruise (about five inches long) on the inside of my left knee. Like mother, like dog.

Third, Sadie. Not being a Lab, but instead being an Australian Shepherd, Sadie is interested in observing situations and, rather than blindly following orders for what may or may not end up being a tasty treat (which she may or may not deign to take even if it is), making decisions for herself—with a certain gravitas, a direct, calculating stare, and, perhaps, eventual compliance if she feels that either 1) the treat would be good AND she would like it or 2) it's not worth arguing about with a mere human. She has to take medication for incontinence, poor thing, and of course recognized immediately a couple years ago that the "liver-flavored dog-friendly" taste of the pill does not mask the fact that it's not food (the Labs, of course, drool over it and jostle each other to take it from my hand). For the first evening, Ian fed the dogs and, not seeing instructions to the contrary, merely put her ¼ pill in with her dinner. She ignored it as she daintily ate her kibble piece by piece—the Labs slavering around her, having all hoovered down their meals in seconds—and it was the one thing left in the bowl at the end. Before Tessa could muscle her way in, Ian snatched up the pill. He thought for a minute, then went and found some bacon grease to dip it in. THAT was very exciting—no hesitation on Sadie's part as she opened her mouth and took the pill . . . and sucked off the bacon grease and spit out the medicine. Ian remembered the Pill Pockets we had brought for Spackle, though—vile, oily-slimy, stinky gelatinous things—stuffed the now-disintegrating ¼ pill into the bottom of one, and held it out to her. Bingo. Sucked down, no hesitation. Take that, Sadie! Outsmarted! She is also very cute, and very sweet, though, and was the first dog (of three; the other two stayed on the ground) up on the picnic table with me when I went out to sunbathe one day, stretched out against my bare side, tickling me with her long hair.

Fourth, Tessa. Tessa met us as we drove into the yard, barking loudly and hysterically, of course, and who could blame her—aside from a morning feeding and letting out, and an evening feeding and putting in, she hadn't seen any humans for two days. And she is the guard. And she is the one who barks all the time, anyway. I rolled down my window and called out "HI TESSA!" and her face and barks immediately changed, from businesslike and warning to ecstatic and relieved. A friend! Someone to take care of things! Even compared to Spackle, Tessa has the best facial expressions. She is very clear about joy, contrition, disappointment, and ingratiating-ness. If you're having a bad time of it (as I occasionally have been since Tessa has arrived at Jerome Creek), she, of all the dogs, is the one who first comes over to rest her head on your knee and stare up into your eyes in mute sympathy. She also still eats anything remotely resembling food, and as quickly as possible before she is discovered—from places you had no idea she could reach. She therefore appears to be a pretty big, lumbering dog (even her ear flaps are plush), but she's quite athletic and is the first in any car at the first sign of an outing.

Fifth and Sixth, Dusty and Kalluk. These dogs belong to G&N, and theoretically were supposed to stay at their house, but Dusty (the girl) would frequently come down to hang out with all of us. I would go up to let them out of their barn and feed them in the morning, give them each a treat and tell them to stay home, and leave. Thirty minutes later, Dusty would arrive on our porch. I couldn't blame her. Ian and I took the five dogs for a hike up the mountain one day in our car, and Dusty was thrilled to be a part of the pack. Several days later, after Ian was gone, Dusty came down one morning, and then after a bit of time, disappeared. I assumed she'd gone home, although it hadn't happened before. At any rate, I didn't think too much about it. Several hours later I went with my inlaws out to start collecting horses for a ride. "Why'd you put Dusty in your car?" asked my father-in-law. "What?" I replied, then looked at my car. Sure enough, there was Dusty, in the back, standing at attention, waiting for the next AWESOME thing to happen. She had managed to jump and scrabble her way up the side of my car and in through one of the mostly-open back windows. From her experience, that was the place to be for some fun, and she was not about to miss out.

On the other hand, Kalluk never came down. After a couple days, I started to feel bad for him and so on several occasions all dogs went up to the top of the lonely mountain and we all went for a hike in his woods. He was a big sweetie and always very happy to see us, but seemed to have a sense of his responsibilities that Dusty didn't share. One evening, Ian and I were late getting up to feed him and put him in (Dusty was with us, of course), and it was almost dark when we arrived at the top of the hill. He was nowhere to be seen. "Kalluk! KALLUK! LUKEY!!" I yelled, and "WOOF!" came from the woods. A moment later, there he was wagging and milling about me, pleased to get his dinner and go to bed. None of the other dogs have ever told me they're coming. I was completely charmed.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lost and Found

Ian started out driving when we went to Jerome Creek together two weeks ago. I had been continuing my stressful, anxious times, even though April, my month of rest, had ended and May was in full swing, and so I was quite happy to ride (and occasionally point out errors in the way Ian was operating the car). At the Hatton Creek Rest Area at the junction of 26 and 395, I considered taking my own keys with me while I went to piddle and Ian went to piddle the dogs, but before I got to digging too deeply in my purse, I decided that was a ridiculous idea. We were going to be at most 100 yards apart; if I finished before the dogs, I could just go to meet them.

At K&A's, we mostly used their little Nissan farm pickup because we were mostly driving hay and dogs up and down a mountain, and so I didn't again think of my keys until the end of the first week, when we took Ian to the airport between Pullman and Moscow. As he was packing up and we (and his parents, who had arrived that afternoon to spend the weekend with me) were collecting ourselves for the journey into town, it gradually turned out that my keys were nowhere to be found, at least in a timely fashion. No matter; Ian used his and drove us to dinner and the airport.

There was a brief moment of thankful relief in the airport as Ian and I remembered, just before he passed through security, that I really needed those keys of his to get all the rest of us back home.

Over the next several days I looked through all the bags I'd brought (something like 24,006); I dug multiple times under the seats in the car; I looked over and under every surface in the farmhouse. I even found a number for the regional authority which oversaw Hatton Creek Rest Area and called them, just in case I had, in fact, taken my own keys for our 100-yard separation and then left them dangling in the restroom stall. Nothing.

In the last few days of the trip, I retraced my steps through the eastern Palouse, but no one had found keys. And here's the thing: it's a HUGE ring of keys. I look like a jailer when I'm carrying them around. They should've been very hard to misplace. I decided I'd find them when I packed up everything to go.

Well, of course I didn't. I had the additional challenge in packing up to collect everything Ian had left when he flew out: he was only taking a carry-on, and so lots of things were left around the house where he'd last used them—an accordion; an ergonomic keyboard rubber-banded to a sort of lap desk Ian had sawed; a pair of Vibram Five Fingers—gathering dust and doghair and becoming so much a part of the general scene of the place that I feared I'd simply overlook them. Nevertheless, even on heightened awareness, nothing keylike appeared.

The Colfax Chevron didn't have them.

Hatton Creek, even with a personal stop, didn't have them.

Blustery's didn't have them.

And, home again, and everything unpacked and put away and the car scoured again (well, not in a way that made it clean at all), there was still no sign of them. Our safe has a double lock system—the combination, and a round key. I usually just use the combination, but when we're going away, I usually lock the key lock as well. FORTUNATELY, I hadn't done that this time. I have one key for the safe, on my key chain; the other I gave to my brother for safe keeping (ha ha) when we "moved to New Zealand" a few years ago, and it's long gone. Anyway, I was able to retrieve the information about the safe which I store in the safe and order new keys (not a bad idea anyway), and everything else was pretty replaceable, so I stopped worrying about it too much.

I've recently been rereading the five books in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, and there are all sorts of coincidences taking place all the time for Arthur Dent. People and things turning up when and where they're least expected, and that's what happened to me.

I opened the door to our linen closet this morning, to change the sheets on our bed, and there, just inside, lying in a big obvious heap, were my keys. Now, there was absolutely no reason I would've needed to be in the linen closet the day we left for Jerome Creek, or, indeed, any days just before.

Obviously eddies in the space-time continuum. Who knows what he was doing with my keys.


Addendum: two notes about giving a safe key to my brother--the joke was a pun on safe. To really take advantage of my opportunity for bad jokes, I should've written "safe keyping". It was not a dig at my brother who, in fact, spurred by this entry, went in search and found the second key that I gave him years ago. So now I'll have four.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Home Again

Home safe after a GLORIOUS last ride. Bareback on Shadow, the air hazy but light, cool but not cold, all four dogs in attendance, MS and Snickers also delighting, gallops and brush-popping and I felt like a part of my horse. Heaven.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Weather-Enforced Rest

Yesterday was the longest ride I've been on here, coming in at just over 4 hours and around 11 miles. The ride I intended for friend MS and me to take was probably only about 3 hours and maybe 8 miles, which still would've been longish . . . but would've involved many fewer unbelievably steep climbs up unknown clearcuts and also many fewer precipitous descents through abundant and scratchy conifers and thick underbrush in a desperate bid for something—anything—familiar (well done the mares!), so that we could return home and have (eventually, after a scheduled pick-up of G&N in Moscow) wine and hot food for dinner, instead of having to hope for a few leftover grubs in a bear-mangled, rotted, fallen tree.

I had my GPS on during the entire ride, tracking our course, and when I realized that I had NO IDEA where I was, I tried to look at it for information on where we should go. It's a somewhat rudimentary app, however, and doesn't actually include a map on it when it's mapping—you only get the map when you upload the file to your computer back in the safety (assuming you reach it) of your home—and so the best I could do was look at the line it was drawing and draw the conclusion that I somehow needed to figure out how to go south and slightly east, to connect up the more or less featureless circle growing on my screen.

We could've gone back, of course, the way we came, but it was a long and brutal hill we'd climbed, and we'd been on the road for almost three hours. Going back would guarantee that we would in no way even approach being on time to pick up G&N. I voted to go forward, and MS pointed out that the sun doesn't lie. Even if the polarity of the Earth's magnetic field had switched while we were out in the wilderness, that didn't change the location of home vis รก vis our location—and since it was early afternoon and sunny, we could easily judge which direction we needed to go.

Hence the long, perilous descent down to what I now believe to be Boulder Creek, along a trail that may have been a game trail, and may have only been my mind's desperate creation of a game trail. It was not in any way a trail meant for human heads seven feet off the ground. Frankly, I'm amazed and not a little disappointed that my face isn't lacerated almost beyond recognition—that's certainly what I felt was happening. Once, a stiff young deciduous bush slashed me hard enough across the neck that I feared decapitation. At another point, MS actually got forced off her horse by a particularly acute combination of cliffside and pugilist branch, and only her skill in yoga allowed her to release her foot, caught perilously in the stirrup. That was really the only crisis point of our trip, however uncomfortable the bushwacking, because there was enough room for Snickers to drag MS if she had so wished, and instead of only bouncing along the ground and possibly getting a hoof in the face, MS just might have gotten her neck broken.

When we reached the creek—quite the tossing, splashing cataract at this time of year—MS suggested we follow it downstream, as that is what you do when you reach running water, because it comes out somewhere, and maybe we'll run into a town along the way, and so Shadow and I (occasionally following the lead of Dusty, who is familiar with these parts) forged a trail.

It is definitely at times like these that Shadow truly comes into her own—she knew where we were, she knew where we wanted to be, and she knew how to get there. She's rock-solid calm in the woods, allows me to help her check for the best routes around trees and bushes, but hesitates not at all to push through things and, before we knew it, we were on a clear, grassy Forest Service road, giddy and excited and joking about how much it would've sucked for me if MS had been killed by her horse.

Anyway, soon after reaching the Open Road, we arrived at a clearcut that I knew I knew, and then soon after that we were back on the Potlatch Road, and soon after that we were retracing our steps with a joyous gallop up the hill and over the trail K&A put in several years ago, the shortcut back to their house. We got everyone put away, briefly exercised, by swimming then in the pond, the two elderly labs who'd stayed at home, and made our way to Moscow in a fashion that allowed G&N just enough time to buy some groceries before we brought them back up here and served them a delicious homecoming dinner of putanesca. And wine.


 

Epilogue

Last night around 8pm, just before dinner, I went out into the pasture to bring the horses back in to their pens for the night. Usually they hang around down below in the evening, but this particular evening they were nowhere in sight. To collect them easily before our big ride earlier that day, I had left them in their pens, each with a flake of hay. The mares had worked hard for several hours after that, and Sikem had probably spent the hours in his pen bored and annoyed out of his mind (if one horse is left behind he or she is left in a pen), and so they had decided they were going to stay out. I began hiking up the hill to get them (about a 1-mile round trip) as a squall came over the hills just to the west of the farm, and suddenly I was out in a t-shirt, jeans, and my felt clogs, in a sleety, windy, hail-filled downpour. It was exhilarating, that's for sure, but completely fruitless as far as bringing in the horses. They ripped and snorted and galloped away, and I gave up and came home, assuming they would come and get their grain if they wanted it. And today, the weather has continued erratic—sunny one moment, hail the next, in five to ten minute intervals. No problem, Weather—we're happy to take it easy today.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saw My Chance and Lassoed It

G&N have these two horses, Strider and Palantir, who are young (maybe four and five), and have been trained, but haven't been ridden much, if at all, in the last couple years. I've had a secret hankering to try and ride these horses ever since they came to the neighborhood, in part because they remind me of my three-year-old quarter horse, Snappy, from my childhood, who was trained, and ridden, but still pretty young and exuberant (shall we say). And in part, I admit, because people who know better think they're probably unsafely wild and unpredictable at this point.

K&A don't ride these horses, they have three of their own of course; and G&N have an inhuman amount of work to do just to survive on their mountaintop, and so they don't really have time to ride them.

But they've been sitting there in the muddy front corner pasture, whinnying at the other horses and desperate to relieve their boredom with breakfast hay and dinner hay, and today I decided I would do it: I would ride one of them. I admit I poked around in G&N's shed to find the bridles, and I brought both down with me after letting the dogs out for the day.

I chose Palantir because he's slightly smaller and just has a friendlier demeanor—I've always felt that he likes me—caught him pretty easily with a carrot and the promise of something different, haltered him and led him out. He stood quite patiently tied to the fence outside on a long enough rope that he could graze; he let me curry and brush him, and he let me pick one hoof, then that was enough of that.

I took him up to the Garage Mahal to bridle, thinking that he'd better be standing over gravel if I was going to keep his attention, and decided there that I'd just put the bridle over the halter and not ever let him completely free, lest he skip away and I never catch him again. I was calm, he was wary, but after a dozen or so tries I got the bit in his mouth and the headstall over his ears, and we were good to go. I removed the halter lead rope from under the bridle, led him by the reins down to where I'd left my helmet and put it on, then stood him on the side of the driveway where I had a couple inches extra height to jump up to his back.

I leaned on him first, put some pressure on him, draped my arms over him, then jumped on. He was perfectly calm, and allowed me to ride him around the yard for the next ten minutes or so—just what I wanted!

He was, understandably, eager to eat any grass he saw under his feet, so we kept mainly to the drive up the hill and the gravel in the yard, but he was responsive, didn't try to run away with me, and quite happily snuffled in my hair and neck after I called it a day and put him away (after, of course, ten minutes of just grazing on the new grass in the yard, at the end of a lead rope, no more pressure to behave).

AWESOME.

Friday, May 14, 2010

That’s a Relief

Yesterday evening I was in the process of putting the horses into their pens for the night, after a long, glorious ride on Shadow, when a (spotless) white mini-SUV pulled over to the side of the Jerome Creek road at the head of the driveway a couple hundred yards away, and a woman's voice started cooing loudly at Palantir, who had gone rushing up to the fence.

"Oh what a sweet thing you are! Ooo, you are so cute and so wonderful! What a sweetie! What a cute thing!" and piercingly on in the still evening air.

Palantir was not being friendly; he was there demanding his dinner, which is usually delivered about that time in a small white (filthy) truck. I assumed the people in the car must be friends of K&A, or maybe even G&N since it was G&N's horse the woman was being so forward with; besides, I was in the middle of the somewhat delicate process of getting Sikem, without a halter, into his pen, and not Snickers's, where he would eat all her grain (just a nibble for each to entice them to do as I wished), and then getting Snickers into her pen without Sikem leaving his, and so on and so forth. The three horses are actually very well-behaved, and usually do exactly what I want them to do, although not ever without letting me know that they are much bigger and faster than me and are merely humoring me because they feel a bit sorry for me, slow, doltish two-legged beast that I am.

Shadow is the most flagrant about this. Yesterday before our ride, for example, the horses had been grazing about ½ mile away or more, up a steep hill at least a 10-minute panting, sweaty walk from the house. They do not come when called.

I had a small amount of grain in a metal can, and they know the sound. Often what I do is walk hike, panting, up to them, halter the one I want, use the lead rope to make rudimentary reins, jump on, and ride bareback back down to the yard. Shadow, however was having none of this. As soon as I was within about 30 feet of her, she lifted her head from her grazing, rallied Snickers and Sikem with a toss of her mane, and they all galloped down the hill and away. Yes . . . right where I wanted them to be . . . but definitely on their own terms. I trudged back down, still carrying the halter and the grain. I took the precaution of closing the gate to the upper pasture as I went through, just in case they attempted to run by me again, but Shadow was relatively easy to catch after this. I made the lead-rope reins anyway and rode her back over to the gate, opened it again for the other horses, and then we went on our way up to the Garage Mahal to tack up. All in all, preparation for a ride can take as long as the ride itself.

At any rate, Ian had come out of the house with Spackle and Tessa, who joined Sadie, Hoover and Dusty who had been with me, all five dogs barking their various barks at the unknown vehicle, and he went down and crossed the creek to see what they wanted.

"Hi!" said the woman brightly. "Can we talk to you for a little bit about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?" she asked, leaning out of the passenger window. "We're missionaries based in Potlatch."

"Well," said Ian, "We don't actually live here—a minister lives here, in fact, and we're just housesitting, and unfortunately I don't have time to talk right now—we have to get the animals in. Maybe you could come back another time," he suggested. "I'm sure the owners would be happy to have a discussion with you. (Sorry, K.) I'd take one of your cards, though," Ian finished, ever the polite one.

They handed over a card and asked permission to turn around in our yard, which Ian granted, assuming he'd put them off from any more proselytizing for the day. As they turned around in the yard, though, as soon as they reached hailing distance of me, just finishing latching gates, the woman leaned out her window again and called to me just as cheerfully as she had to Ian. "Can I interest you in any information about the Morman Church?" she asked brightly.

"No thank you, not at this time," I replied politely.

"Well, whenever you're ready, we're everywhere!" she exclaimed, exuding joy.

PHEW.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cartography Again

My fancy new Android phone comes with a GPS, and so we've recorded most of our walks and rides over the last couple days, and I intend to keep up the practice even after Ian leaves, tomorrow night. Sigh. I can't believe he has to go. Stupid work trip to Florida, of all places.

Check out my map, and look back every day or so to see what I've added!

By the way, JCR means "Jerome Creek Ride", and JCW means, not surprisingly, "Jerome Creek Walk."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

At the Circus

So far this trip to Idaho (we arrived Saturday evening around 6pm) has been just as beautiful as previous trips, but it's definitely been wetter (the ground, fortunately, not the air, so if you wear rubber boots for walking around and don't gallop too much in the sopping trails you're okay), and the animal care has been bumped up yet another notch from what I'm used to in the city. Everybody and their son is in Greece right now, on a ship sailing around the Dodecanese. By that I mean K&A, and their son Dr Jason and his wife and two teenagers, and my mom and Marsh, and G&N, who live up the Jerome Creek Road and would normally be my backup plan here at the Idaho ranch were anything to go wrong, but who have, instead, left me with 11 more animals to keep alive.

Several years ago, Mom and Marsh took a boat trip in France with K&A and four other of their friends; at that time, I had Mom's dog Loper with me as well as K&A's animals, but Loper's about 14 now and, while still full of life force and happy to be around, is deaf, walks like a self-animated puppet—i.e. as if his various parts are attached only by loosely-tied bits of string—and he's got a non-painful growth in his throat that makes his bark sound very like the cough of an old lady who had gotten her main sustenance for the past 3 decades from cigarettes and dry martinis, two olives.

Anyway, Loper is at home, being cared for by M&M's neighbors through the woods, who dote on him and give him treats as flagrantly as my mother does.

Nevertheless, I do have, with the 11 from G&N, 19 animals to take care of here, 21 if you count Ian and me, and we (well, at least me), as you know from reading I Thought I Was Done With This, need a lot.

The day begins between 7 and 7:30 with Ian jumping out of bed to feed our four dogs, while I take slightly more time to throw on my first outfit of the day: fleece pants, yesterday's shirt, a sweater and a knit cap. It's chilly here in the mornings. I then put on my rubber boots and let our three horses out of their pens and into their pasture for a day of grazing. This is the earliest in the season I've been here to take care of things, and it took me a bit of time to realize that the grass wasn't grazed down already; it hadn't begun to grow yet. In the last couple days, I've seen more and more green shoots coming up above last year's harsh yellow stalks.

I come back in and have a small latte, then jump in the old Nissan pickup to take care of G&N's animals. Their horses, who are young and somewhat wild, are down here for ease of care, in a small pen on the creek which is currently a churned up mud pit without graze of any sort. Every couple days I pull a 150 lb bale of hay into the back of the pickup and, morning and evening as I'm heading up to G&N's place to take care of the rest of their menagerie, I stop by and toss four flakes of hay over the fence. Strider and Palantir whinny and cavort and kick up mud on their way to the meal.

Up at G&N's, which is a true modern-day pioneer place at the top of a mountain at the end of a long road (i.e. off the grid), there are five young chickens still growing in a box with a heat lamp, until they're fully fledged, so they're mostly very easy to deal with (must take them out of their big box and clean it every 5 days or so but otherwise I just check to make sure they still have feed and water). There are evidently two cats; I haven't seen them, but the litter box gets filled quite extravagantly overnight, and at least once a day they clean out their food bowls; and there are two dogs, Dusty and Kalluk. I let them out in the morning and feed them, and put them in at night and feed them again. They're supposed to stay up at their place, but Dusty, the female, is more sociable and appears down here every morning about 30 minutes after I've driven away. I can hardly blame her. G&N, who haven't had a vacation in years and years, have been gone since the end of April. In the evenings, Ian and I load the back of the little pickup full of dogs (K&A's dog Sadie refuses to ride in the back with the other dogs; she sits behind the seats in the cab), and even homebody Kalluk gets some playtime before everything is battened down for the night.

We take a walk with all dogs in the late mornings as Ian's long lunch; on Sunday Ian and I rode together in the afternoon but since he's actually working from here this week, I ride alone in the afternoons now.

Yes, I wear my helmet.


Chickens. They really do race around and cluck frantically when you try to pick them up.


The home of the pioneers, and six dogs.

Farm Work.

Farm Fun!

Three labs in a truck.

Early Spring.