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Monday, April 06, 2020

Sis July 28th, 1947-March 6th, 2020

"A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost." ~ Marion C. Garretty

   My big sister, Susan Louise Anderson Muntean,  died March 6th. She was a decade older than me, born in 1947 in Williston, North Dakota. We shared the same mom but different fathers. Sis was fine boned and small in body with a blazing spirit, an enormous sense of humor, and a HUGE temper. One did not ever want to get on her bad side because Sis cast a long shadow for a tiny woman.
   These are some of the things I remember about my sister:
I recall our mom saying once, "Susie was the prettiest little girl. Blond hair, big blue eyes, and a sunny smile. She knew it too. She thought she could charm the birds out of the trees." My sister was a classically beautiful blonde, petite with long hair--never shorter than shoulder length--nice legs, and a lovely figure. Men flocked to Sis like bees to honey.
Sis aged 10 with me, 1957.
   With the ten year age difference, my memories are mostly those of a pesky little sister. I remember when I was about four years old, I was fascinated by my sisters' jewelry, perfume, scarves, and lacy slips. There were three of us, with Sharon being four years older than Sis and fourteen years older than me. We had to share a bedroom and whenever I was put to bed for the night and my sisters were out on a date or visiting a friend, I would go through their jewelry boxes, try one their slips, drape their scarves around my neck and spray myself with their perfume--and fall asleep with all the evidence on! I look back now and wonder how on earth they put up with me.
   I turned four in 1961 and it was about that time when skin tight jeans and long, straight hair was all the rage. Sis had a summer job and she bought herself several pairs of new Levis which were nearly too small for her. She managed to work herself into them by lying down on the bed, sucking in her stomach until it nearly touched her back bone, and doing up the buttons. Then she filled the bathtub with steaming hot water, laid down in it with her new Levi's on, and let them soak until they shrunk right to her body. She got out and wore them until they dried. It was a little sister-big sister conspiracy. She bribed me with Tootsie Roll pops not to tell mom, who would've been pissed.
Sis about age fourteen.
   I remember Mom saving the large cardboard cans that frozen orange juice concentrate came in so Susan could roll her hair on them and have board-straight locks. She looked so goofy walking around the house in her chenille bathrobe and fluffy pink slippers with ginormous orange juice cans bobby-pinned to her head!
   Sis hated doing chores. She ran the sink full of scalding hot water, then sat in the living room with a Photplay magazine reading about the stars while the water cooled off. Hours later the water was cold, the dishes were still dirty, and Sis was in trouble. Susan also took turns with our older sister in babysitting me--another chore she didn't like. For awhile on her nights (our mom worked nights cleaning airplanes out at Anchorage Airport, when it was a simple Quonset hut), Susan would either get her date to pay or she would use some of her own money and take me to a place called The Kitty Drop. It was about five blocks from where we lived and it was a place working parents left their kids. I remember it was dark and full of cribs. I was put into a crib and left there to cry myself to sleep until Sis came back for me. When mom found out what was going on, Sis got into deep trouble. From then on when it was her turn to babysit, Susan would take me with her on her nights out, clearly not telling Mom what she was doing. I remember going to a teenage dance place called the Cinnamon Cinder. It was just a dingy hall with folding chairs around the walls and bands playing music. The alcohol-free dance club for teenagers opened in 1962. Owned by KRLA disc jockey Bob Eubanks, the club spawned a TV show, a national chain of teen clubs and a hit record by the same name as the club. A year or so later after Sis got her driving license and Mom managed to buy her an old 1950 brown, cloth-top convertible, Sis would make me up a bed on the back seat with my pillow and a blanket, and we would cruise downtown. I remember the traffic lights changing color, and Sis playing music on the Radio: Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, The Beach Boys singing Surfin' USA, Blue Velvet and Blue on Blue crooned by Bobby Vinton, My Boyfriend's Back by The Angels, Peter Paul & Mary singing Puff the Magic Dragon and Blowin' in the Wind, The Four Seasons demanding in harmony that we "Walk Like a Man, Walk Right In by the Rooftop Singers, Sam Cook telling us all about Havin' a Party, Be My Baby crooned the Ronettes, and Nat King Cole singing Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer.
   I recall too when KENI radio broadcast from the roof of the Bun Drive-in on Northern Lights Blvd. The Varsity Show with Ron Moore as host was all the rage with Anchorage teens. Sis used to plunk me down on a red leather spinning stool inside the Bun at the curved Formica counter, order me a small burger, fries and a Pepsi, and tell me to stay there until she came back. Susan would disappear up the stairs to the roof and dance to the  music. I remember sneaking up and watching her do the Mashed Potato, The Cross Fire and The Pony. Sis was the best dancer there and the prettiest too and the music was fab: The Loco-Motion by Little Eva, Do The Mashed Potatoes by The Fabulous Echoes, and Bony Maroni by Larry Williams. Sis introduced me to Rick and Roll when it was all the new rage. I recall waking up on Halloween morning in 1962 to the radio playing on the bedside table between our beds. As we lie there in the October dark a funny new song debuted: The Monster Mash. We listened fascinated, laughing together at the lyrics. We used to walk everywhere throughout Spenard which was originally a 160 acre homestead of a  man name Joe Spenard. Our tiny home was located 2.3 miles south of the city of Anchorage. Across the street from where we lived was a wall of solid forest that ran seven miles east to the foothills of the Chugach mountains and eleven miles north from Merrill Field air strip, South to Rabbit Creek Road. We used to walk up to the new Caribou Ward's department store on the corner of Spenard Road and Northern Lights Boulevard. Next door was a Woolworth's and it had a cafe inside. A couple times a month either mom or Sis would walk with me to Woolworth's and I would get a cup of Campbell's vegetable soup  and an orange sherbet ice cream cone. I was about two or three at the time. 
Map of Anchorage, Alaska. The yellow highlighted area is Joe Spenard's original homestead site. The turquoise line encompasses everything that was forest when we were children. I not talking about lightly wooded areas but thick forest that stretched seven miles from our home on the corner of 36th Ave, and Arctic Blvd.  and the foothills of the Chugach mountain directly east, and elven miles north form Merrill Field air strip south to Rabbit Creek Road. The light green square under Dimond Blvd, is where the Hideaway Club is located. It was the ONLY thing located on this road when we were kids. The small bright blue dot on 35th Ave where the yellow highlight meets the turquoise line is where we lived. The two large green boxes on the far right are the forested acres where the girl and boy scout camps were located--way out of town!
  One time Sis made Mom so angry she was put on restriction; for three months Susan could not go anywhere, see anyone, or leave the house. She had to do her chores to Mom's satisfaction, babysit me...and work on patience. One morning two months into her sentence, Sis decided she would super clean the kitchen as a last ditch effort to get a reduced sentence. When Mom walked in the door after work, she looked around at the sparkling kitchen and spotless floor as she hung up her coat. When she turned around Sis popped out of the hallway, bent from the waist, head turned cockeyed, hair streaming down and arms hanging loose. She said in a kind of odd, zombie like voice: "Maaaooottthhher, pleeeeeze will you let me out of the house now?" as she swung her arms and shambled sideways towards our mother who, taken by complete surprise, burst out laughing--the one and only time I ever remember hearing our mother laugh until I was nineteen years old. It worked and Sis was sprung from house arrest.
   I recall spying on Sis and her boyfriend Tom when he brought her home from dates and they stood kissing on the porch and how utterly heartbroken Susan was when Tom was drafted and left for Viet Nam. She pledged to wait for him, but it was far better to be gone from our house than caught in it when Mom and our step-father Bill were drinking and fighting, which could be any and all nights of the week and all day on a weekend, and Sis was soon caught up in Spenard night life. I didn't realize until I was a young woman myself, that Sis was fair game for beatings along with our Mom, but not me. For some reason we will never know, Bill wouldn't beat a child. He might grab you up by your ankle, peel off his thin leather belt and whip you all over until you were crying so hard you stuttered for hours afterward, but he saved his fists and steel toed boots for women, which was any female in his house that bled every month.
   As soon as Susan could drive she was gone most of the time. Occasionally when our parents had friends over for a party, Sis would stay and have a beer with them until things got out of hand; then she slipped quietly out the door and was gone, my eyes following, wishing I could go with her instead of being left behind in hell.
   I know some of the things that happened to my lovely sister out late at night roaming the streets of Anchorage at age fourteen, fifteen and sixteen, when she should have been home in bed asleep, had  our home been a happy, loving place. I won't divulge those stories because they are hers--not mine--but I do know they are not pretty. Alaska has always attracted male predators and the ratio has always been eight men to every woman in Anchorage. I recall having to walk the gauntlet of perverts trolling low and slow in their cars, fondling their tackle in anticipation during the endless sunny days of summer when all the neighborhood kids walked a mile and a half to go swimming at Lake Spenard. I remember Sis telling me, "No matter what, you never ever go up to their cars when they call you. Do you understand me?" She would give my skinny little body a good shake to underscore the importance of her words.
Cousin Joanne with Mom, 1970's.
   Sis looked after me in her fashion.
   I recall listening to Susan and our cousin Joanne Plimpton Reinnikka reminiscing over coffee one afternoon when we were all old enough to have children of our own. Joanne and Sis were thick as thieves, very close but they didn't see each other often because Joanne lived way across town from us. To know Cousin Joanne was to love her. She had sparkling brown eyes, dark hair, and a ten-thousand watt smile, and when Jojo laughed the world came along for the ride. Sis said, "Joanne do you recall that winter evening when we put Jackie on your sled and we were pulling her down the street behind us as we chattered like magpies? We had stayed out sledding too long and it was getting dark."
   "Oh Susan, I remember thinking the sled felt awfully light to pull and we turned around laughing and there was Jackie all bundled up in her baby suit half a block back in the middle of street waving her arms and legs in the snow! We were so lucky no cars had come along. God was really watching over us."
   "Oh Joanne--when I think of it now my heart goes to my throat, but we were just silly little girls out playing in the snow, laughing and having fun. We didn't realize how dangerous things were at that moment."
Sis and me, aged 27 and 17, 1975.
   Sis was the one I went to for information on birth control, sex, and dealing with life in general. She was my confidant with whom I shared all my firsts, and she opened her home and made a bed on her couch for me more times than I can count when life in the continual front line of household terrorism became too much for me to cope with.
   Susan married when I was twelve and she gave birth to my niece Brandy the day after my 13th birthday. I was mesmerized by "our" baby and I loved babysitting for Sis. She is my favorite niece and I loved spending time with her and her mom. Sis trained as my childbirth coach for my first pregnancy.
   As the years passed our lives grew apart, but we still managed to make some fabulous, funny memories--ones that I alone am left to remember now. I am so glad I visited Sis last May. We hadn't seen each other for twenty five years--not since our Mom's memorial service. Sis led a hard life due to alcoholism and prescription drug addiction. There were so many things in her childhood if one can even call it that--which left deep trauma in her soul; so many demons chasing her through the snow.
  When I was four, we lived on Doorbrandt Street in a wonky little gray house. I loved it because for the first time I could recollect our Mom seemed happy. She would sing as she put groceries away: "Today is the day they give babies away with a half a pound of cheese--absolutely free-a half a pound of cheese!" Mom baked on her days off and she and Bill were still in the new stage of their relationship, not married but co-habitating. Mom had managed to divorce my alcoholic father and I think she believed then, that her life had a slim chance of being happy. Bill decided one late winter weekend that we were going winter camping. I don't remember any other details about that weekend which is strange for me, because I am our family's collective memory and I have memories that stretch back to when I was six months old according to my Mom. What I do remember is that Sis didn't want to go camping with us. At fourteen she would rather stay home where it was warm, and watch TV. Bill talked Mom into letting Susan stay on her own. I remember Mom turning on the porch light and how it created illuminated pools of warm yellow light across the shadowed snow berms and black night. I can close my eyes and hear Mom telling Sis to be sure and lock the door behind her, while she grabbed my arm because there was a huge chunk of ice built up on the threshold to the door. Then we turned, got in the VW bug and drove away.
   Mom and Sis thought the door was shut tight and locked but the ice on the threshold was just enough to keep the door from locking. Susan fell asleep on the couch in her cotton nightgown. She woke in the dark with a man's hands around her throat, choking her. He had women's stocking pulled over his head, distorting his features. Susan fought for her life, managed to break the man's hold, jump over the back of the couch and was out the door in a heartbeat, running barefoot down Doorbrandt street at 3:00 AM in minus 10 degree weather, looking for a house with a porch light on, looking behind her to see if the man was chasing her. She pounded on doors until someone woke and answered.  We moved out of the little grey house shortly afterward, to the house on McKinley Ave. where life grew bitter and angry; a twisted seed watered with alcohol and violence, punctuated with knives and guns, our Mom calling for help whenever Bill beat her.
   Sis had never had any form of counseling for the terrible trauma she survived. Back in 1961 no one even heard of mental health or trauma counseling or knew that such events could cause PTSD. Sis always maintained that her attacker was someone she knew. She couldn't see his face but she knew his voice. He was never found and Susan spent a lifetime living in Anchorage, fearing he would return. She could never again bear to be alone at night and she began drinking to shut down her fear.
   I also knew Sis had never talked with anyone about how horrible our childhood was. People back then simply didn't discuss such things, and certainly not when the abuser threatened to make sure you wouldn't wake up in the morning if you told anyone what went on in our house. So part of my visit last summer was to bring up our childhood and open Pandora's box. I wanted to give my sister the gift of acknowledgement: recognition of the facts as we remembered them individually and together, and permission to speak about those terrible things, to weep, get angry, and be sad and let it out. Susan carried that awful burden from age five to age seventy two and I wanted to find some way to help her lighten the burden.
   It was good, our visit. We did all of the above, revisiting some of our favorite memories together too. We were so lucky to live in Spenard when we did--before "civilization" arrived, cut down the forests, paved everything over, Anchorage swallowed up Spenard, and flat-landers from the lower forty eight states moved up in the many thousands to escape their suburban nightmares and turned Anchorage into the same soulless urban landscape they left behind.
   We both love Led Zeppelin and we put on their music and danced, two old ladies feeling the weight of decades falling away, young and beautiful again for the length of a song. We also made new memories with plans for a few more. We went shopping together and I introduced her to Lush. We played Gin Rummy in the evenings, while listening to a host of good rock and roll which I made for her from my computer music library.  I met her best friend Kim and her husband. We all had dinner together, reminiscing about having moms who were school lunch ladies, and the Good Friday Quake in 1964, and growing up in Spenard. Susan and I went for walks and talked about a world of ideas, laughing like crazy, sarcastic old women do when they have seen it all. I am so grateful to have countless wonderful memories of Sis that make me smile through my tears. I've never laughed harder in my life than with Sis and Les. I carry them both in my heart.
   Susan was going to come down to Gresham in June to visit for a few weeks. I called her a week before she died and we talked for over an hour, singing The Witch Doctor song to each other and laughing like giddy girls; "Ooh-eee-ooh-ah-ah-ting-tang-walla-walla-bing-bang!" We were planning to visit the ocean together. We wanted to rent a yurt and camp out with my daughter Sparky,  my daughter-in-law Kelli, and my foster daughter Mary. We planned to smoke a bowl, eat some good grub, do a bit of hiking, lots of laughing, and enjoy the seashore...but it was not to be. I only hope Sis' death was quick, painless, and her spirit has risen with joy to find a place far better than we knew in this world.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

I Cannot Help But Wonder...

"Suddenly she realized that what she was regretting was not the lost past but the lost future, not what had not been but what would never be." ~F.Scott Fitzgerald, American Author, 1896-1940

  The quote for this post and it's title refer to Les. In the final months of his life Dear Sir wondered often about what amazing and wonderful things the future without him would herald. There is no way he ever considered the future marred by global climate change and a pandemic. I do find myself having conversation with him now, in my head.
   "What do you think about the current state of affairs my love?" I see his spirit looking at the world from wherever it may be now, considering a much larger picture than I can see from my own myopic viewpoint. I suspect Les would be shocked and terribly saddened, frightened for those he loves, and angry. Were he still alive we would be on board NB Valerie and he would feel as I do, that living aboard on the cut is one of the safest places we could possibly be during a pandemic. With his near encyclopedic knowledge of the canals Les would have chosen the best place for us to fetch up in order to wait things out, move once a week to fill with water and empty the rubbish, and get groceries delivered. We would have faced the fear and uncertainty together gathering strength from each other.
   Meanwhile my friends and loved ones on boats have issues of their own to contend with; the ubiquitous usage of the towpath by non-boaters for jogging, bicycling, and walking groups along with dog walkers all crowding in along a narrow towpath to escape the lock-down and get some fresh air and exercise. Never mind they pass within two feet of people on boats who need to get off and on unimpeded and attempt to do so while obeying the six foot self-isolation rule. After all boaters aren't real people are they? Its only a puppet!! (Brits will know to what exactly I am alluding with this statement!)
   I always found it comical when Les would bring us in to moor somewhere that appeared to be way out in the country and by the time we had properly moored up at least eight people and their dogs would walk past on the towpath, and that was on a weekday in mid-morning! I've been woken many mornings by townies standing out on the towpath by the boats, dogs running loose to piddle while their owner takes that moment at 6:30 AM to call someone and have a conversation loud enough to be heard five boats down, completely oblivious to the fact that people actually are on those boats, curtains closed, asleep in bed--or they were before the dog walker decided to have a conversation on the cut.  Below is the latest poster from Canal River Trust (CRT) regarding this issue:

   My email inbox receives a daily news update from the New York Times newspaper. Yesterday's update included a link called The Great Empty, of photos taken around the world of famous cities and sites eerily empty of human beings.
   Looking online I came across a Youtube video someone filmed of seven minutes on a double-decker bus through London's Westminster, Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus, and Oxford Circus. I am familiar with this route as Les and I traveled it by bus quite a few times on our three forays into London by boat. This was filmed two days ago. It was seeing London so empty that got me to thinking about Les. Having been born and raised in Paddington (West London), Dear Sir loved showing me the great city and I loved finding new things that surprised him. I can imagine Les' face, watching the video with me, astonished and shocked at the empty streets and the abandoned feeling at Westminster Underground station which usually has people boiling up out of it like ants out of a giant underground mound. Nearly nine million people live in The Big Smoke and one million more commute in and out daily with 2.56 million cars licensed in London. No trouble getting a seat on the bus these days!
   For Americans reading this blog who have never been to Britain, I urge you to pay careful attention to the signal lights. There are three sets of lights for each direction, mounted on three different posts on each side of the street! British signal lights turn green-yellow-red-yellow-green. Why the extra yellow you might ask? I was told it was to signal the driver that the light was about to turn green! I could not for the life of me understand why this was necessary until I discovered that British drivers are supposed to use their parking brake each time they stop.
   Notice the lack of street signs with actual names of streets in plain view, and how directions are written on the lanes. Notice too how narrow the streets and the buses appear! The video begins with Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament across the Thames on the left. Watch this in full screen view so you can stop it to really look at things as the journey presses on. Look closely and you will see signs about half way up on the outer walls of buildings at each junction or intersection, which is where the actual street names are located. See if you can easily spot crosswalks in the video. In London they tend to be at the top of the lanes by the signal lights but everywhere else they are located back down the lane before the actual intersection.

Notice how quiet things are on the bus, and how stunningly free of litter and clean the streets are without humans everywhere. Below is a video of what Oxford Circus Underground station is usually like!

   Finally I leave you all with a link to The Londonist. It's a great blog to follow for all things London. Today's posts offers a link to their free Youtube channel with all kinds of interesting videos about London's floating village, secrets of The Victoria Line (Underground), a search for 221B Baker Street for Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson fans, a look at Europe's largest Sikh temple, London's old and new pagans, the secrets of Borough Market, and several other very entertaining and informative videos. Stay safe, stay well!
Love Jaq xxx
Mona takes a personal break while the museum is closed! :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Grocery Roulette

“Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don't always like.” Lemony Snickett, pen name of American writer and musician Daniel Handler

   How are things where you are??? Here in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) of the United States, the Army National Guard has been called in to assist Washington State with its pandemic response, along with California, and New York over on the eastern seaboard. We in Oregon are under a Shelter-in-place order with 30 days in jail and a $1200.00 fine possible although that will occur as a last resort.
This became necessary as people incomprehensibly got into their vehicles and flocked to sites of natural beauty like Multinomah Falls and the coast, 98 miles away, to hang out in the several hundreds, because you know, if you are on a suggested self-isolating order in your county why not drive to another county and take a chance at sharing Covid-19 with them? I know the same thing occurred in Britain yesterday, for the same reason.
   I found it necessary to go out for groceries yesterday. I checked online and Safeway opened at 6 am, Fred Meyers at 7 AM. I opted for Safeway and at 6:15 AM I pulled into the car park in the pre-dawn dark. The doors were locked and a note said they would not be opened until 7 AM as they are using the hour from 6-7 in the morning to clean and disinfect the store each day. I looked inside and I could see employees wiping down everything is sight. I should have just waited there...
   I allowed impatience to guide me a fifteen minute drive through downtown Gresham to Fred Meyers--a large box store. There were only seven of us waiting in the car park at 6:30 AM. By 6:50 the entire side of the parking lot was full of cars. People parked in the pearly grey dawn, got out with their shopping bags and I noticed three distinct things: they were all senior citizens, many were disabled, and most wore either masks, gloves, or both. Then a curious thing happened. These vulnerable people clustered at the locked doors of the store in a large group! It was eerily like a scene from Dawn of the Dead Zombie Apocalypse.
   I waited ten minutes until most of them had disbursed and then grabbed my grocery bags and headed inside. It took me about thirty minutes to fill my cart and buy some of what I needed. The shelves were mostly still empty; only four packages of boneless, skinless chicken limited to 2 packages per person. Plenty of packages of chicken wings, legs and thighs with the skin and bones still in them.
   I discovered that women and men maneuver their shopping carts differently. Women are more careful. They look to see who is around them and gently swerve around each other. Men just plow through assuming they have the right-of-way. As I was standing in front of a mostly empty shelf looking for tinned fish, a man without a mask or gloves squatted down very close to me, brushing my leg as he reached for something on the back of a bottom shelf.
   "Hey! You are too close, Please move back."
   "Gee," he said as he scratched his head, "I didn't think about that."
Really???? I got the hell out of there ASAP and decided to swing by Safeway near our apartment for the missing grocery items on my list. I drive down Powell Boulevard and usually turn left on Powell Loop to take the shortcut back home. The Loop was blocked by multiple police vehicles with fire trucks and EMT rigs behind them. I carried on to Safeway and was pleasantly surprised. The store was nearly empty, the air was redolent of disinfectant, and the shelves and coolers were fully stocked. As I shopped I noticed employees removing the skirting panels on refrigeration units and disinfecting underneath and behind them. Safeway has instituted a Tuesday and Thursday 7-9 AM shopping time for seniors and other vulnerable people. I brought latex gloves with me and I put them on after I loaded my groceries on the belt to pay for them. I pulled my debit card out of my wallet , inserted it into the machine with my left hand, punched in my phone number, said no to a donation, and no to cash back, and then punched in my PIN with my right hand. I pulled my card out with my left hand and returned it to my wallet, and then removed both gloves to load my bags into the cart. I have no idea how often those debit card reader machines are cleaned but I wasn't taking any chances!
   I took the back way to our apartment; as I turned onto Pleasant View Drive, I looked back down towards Powell Loop and a school bus was pulled off the road, hazard lights blinking with a road hazard sign blocking the lanes. Beyond it were scores of Police, Firefighters and EMTs in clutches around their vehicles. I looked for news of the incident later on but never did find out what had transpired.
   Back at the apartment I unloaded groceries and the girls took them inside while I parked. I sprayed my hands with sanitizer, opened the apartment door, sprayed the outside handle, closed the door, sprayed the inside handle and my hands again. I pit my coat and my clothes in the wash and took a hot shower. I have a dry cough--but I've had it for several months along with a slightly phleghmy cough I always have every morning due to post nasal drip, but I find myself monitoring the rest of my body responses throughout each day. This is the first time in my entire life when I have been frightened to enter a grocery store, aware that my actions and my choices could result in my death or that of someone I love.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Pandemic!!

"I don't think pandemics make us afraid of death, I think they make us afraid of oblivion. They force us to grapple with the futility of effort. Also they make us barf which isn't fun either. Wash your hands, cover your coughs, and find a way to hold in balance, the futility of effort with the necessity to struggle." ~John Green, American author (Looking For Alaska, The Fault in Our Stars).

   Without an adequate response an epidemic can develop into a pandemic, which generally means it has spread to more than one continent. An important thing to remember is that people and gorillas, horses, duikers, pigs, monkeys, chimps, bats and viruses: we are all in this together. It is time for humanity to let go of the ancient idea that we are somehow separate from nature. Covid-19 is not a wake up call; we are way past that. The majority of humans have not been paying attention. We are now, but too many are waking up to the wrong reasons and behaving like the virus that is hunting us.
   Thursday March 12th I listened to an emergency radio broadcast featuring the Governor of the State of Oregon, the Oregon State Public Health Officer, and the Mayor of Portland. We were told that all schools were closing, self -isolating was required, and electric, water, sewer, and rubbish will stay on whether or not folks could pay their bills. The White House also released a notice that the country was now functioning under a national emergency. It was time to get serious about Covid-19.
   I had been seeing and hearing reports of panic buying and hoarder shopping taking place in various countries already struck by the virus and in some States here as well, but I shrugged it off reasoning that if I didn't panic and waited a few days, common sense would no doubt prevail and I could calmly go about my weekly shop for the four of us. With the emergency notice, I decided on Friday the 13th to go out early and get groceries for the week. I vastly over-estimated my Gresham, Oregon neighbors. a light snowfall over night and that morning didn't help.
   Portlandians and their suburban neighbors absolutely melt down if there is 1/8th of an inch of snow on the ground. That alone will trigger panic buying at Coscto. As I cautiously set off on the main road I was shocked as people drove like they were drunk; weaving around other vehicles gong slower, and speeding way too fast in a 35 MPH zone down hill with wet snow accumulating. I drove the quarter mile to Safeway grocers and the parking lot was rammed! I joined the queue and finally pulled in to a parking space. I grabbed my bags, locked my car and walked into the store.
   There were no shopping carts left! The last one was being fought over by a young mom with two small children, from whose hands a large, beefy bloke was trying to wrest it. People coming in behind me went to her aid. I continued into the store and headed for the toilet paper aisle because we actually need a six roll pack! I walked into hell. People had their faces covered with scarves, bandannas, and medical masks, panic shining form their eyes like a fever. They were bumping into others with their cart, shoving, and knocking down aisle displays. There was shattered glass and splattered food in almost every aisle, with store employees frantically attempting to keep people from driving their carts down those aisle and through the mess. I quickly left and decided to drive to Fred Meyers which is a large box chain grocers. It was exceedingly crowded there too but controlled chaos ruled, with store employees out in the aisles to assist and to keep an eye on behavior.
   No loo roll at all! As I stood looking at the bare shelves, a woman came up next to me and surveyed the scene. We began chatting about how ridiculous this hoarding behavior was; how that behavior was now forcing those of us who were attempting to remain calm into buying more than we needed immediately as well, in case others simply stripped the stores bare. I said I guessed I would try Coscto next. She replied, "Don't bother; I just came from there. You know things are serious when Costco's shelves are empty." All right then...
   I rolled my cart over to the diaper aisle and decided to stock up in baby wipes. There were two shelves left. A couple came up behind me and the wife said, "Oooh! baby wipes will work in place of toilet paper." Her husband sighed and said, "No honey we can't use those; they don't flush." I said a quiet prayer of thanks as they moved on. I stopped using loo roll years ago, only using compostable baby wipes and I always place them in the rubbish bin and empty it regularly. I bought $40.00 worth of baby wipes for our two bathrooms and four people. The pack of 56 wipes I would pay £1.00 for in the U.K. sells in the U.S. for $3.59 each, which quickly adds up when buying a case.
   I was shocked at the empty aisles: no kitchen roll, tissue, bottled water, bread, convenience foods such as canned chili, and Kraft Mac and Cheese, Ramen, pasta, milk, prepared spaghetti sauce--all shelves were empty. People were lined up by the fresh meat section because the entire frozen meat and chicken section was bare. I considered the situation and noticed that no one was buying the Bison meat so I stocked up on ground, steaks, and roasts, with a few other essentials; plenty of fresh fruit and veg too, and I cook from scratch so we will be okay. I guess this is a time to consider Crohn's disease a blessing in disguise because the Gluten Free and vegan products remain on the shelves.
   That evening my foster daughter Mary went out to look for loo roll, two percent and lactose free milk, and cat food. She had to visit four stores to get everything. She picked up two-20 lb. bags of food for the cats and my daughter-in-law Kelli ordered two bags of specialty dog food online as the dog has multiple allergies. We also stocked up on cat litter, keeping some of the extras in our cars for storage.
   Each day now we all check the latest news upon waking. My daughter Shiery works four 12 hour shifts a week as a medical technician at an assisted living facility with a frail at-risk population. Her usual commute time is forty minutes to drive fifteen miles. Nationwide now the emergency law is that no visitors are allowed at these facilities except medical personnel or families if it is end-of-life. Shiery fears that a mandatory lock-down will be called while she is at work. The governor of Oregon announced last night that she is considering this very step. Shiery is also at-risk herself with two auto-immune diseases and Diabetes. My daughter-in-law Kelli works as a pharmacy technician for a large wholesale pharmacy chain which fills large orders for assisted living facilities. She has a an hour commute across the I-205 bridge and over the Columbia River to Vancouver, Washington, across the river from Portland. We fear that Washington or Oregon will close their border while Kelli is at work and she will be stuck away from home. She too is part of the at-risk population with Type I Diabetes, asthma, and Psoriatic arthritis. As far as that goes, I am also at-risk for being older and having two auto-immune diseases. I keep my trips outside to a minimum, grocery shopping early in the morning or late at night when it is least busy. 
   I went out last night at 8 pm to round up my week's shopping. There were only a handful of us in Safeway; all older or disabled. We were all smiling at each other as we politely kept our six foot distance, carts swerving gently around one another, folks patiently waiting down the aisles for other folks to get something from a shelf and move on. As I was stopped in an empty aisle to find Parma strained tomatoes, I suddenly felt someone right behind me. I whirled around to find a young 20-something on her phone, obtusely focused in on looking for a product, right at my knees. I wanted to shout, "FFS back up and give me my six feet you self absorbed child!" I gave her a look and quickly moved on out of the aisle.
   Viruses are tricky things. They are not really alive. They can build a protective outer walls around themselves and go dormant--sometimes for thousands of years--until just the right environment presents itself and then they magically wake up, open their border walls and begin infecting hosts and they are constantly evolving as they exchange DNA with prospective hosts. I figure I am going to contract it at some point along the way. Let us hope Covid-19 evolves into something less virulent and not more deadly. There are news reports already that Influenza H1N2 is now stalking those that are recovering form Covid-19 but whose lungs are still fragile.
   In the meantime there are blessings to be discovered in all this. With the world population either in hospital or cocooning itself in mandatory isolation, and the lack of world traveling and tourism, nature is beginning to show us how it can recover when humans are not overwhelming and assaulting the environment constantly. The canals of Venice are clear once more. Venetians can see fish swimming in the water, and swans and dolphins have returned. In China, people can actually see blue skies for the first time in years without the ubiquitous clouds of pollution that blanket the country. In Italy, France, Spain and China people can again hear birdsong in city centers.
   As we stay home and self isolate I offer you these virtual ideas for entertainment, enjoyment, and stretching of your minds:

1.The NASA Media Library: the entire media library of NASA--all photos and videos, are available for free online. Indulge the budding astrophysicist in yourself or entertain your inner star seeker!

2. Story Time From Space! Check out this amazing online site that has astronauts at the Space station reading children's stories such as Astronaut Annie, Kalifa and Ahmal Go to Space, Max Viaja a Marte, Lucian Braving the Deep, and other interesting titles. This is a great site to entertain kids.

3. 500 Museums! There are five hundred museums around the world aavilable for you to wander through online, including the British Museum in London, The Guggenheim in New York, The National Art Gallery of Washington DC, the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, The National Musem of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, Korea, The Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, The Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Brazil, and the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City!!!

4. Seattle Symphony Live Broadcasts. This web site offers information and schedules of shows/music as well as how to view the live performances on Youtube and FaceBook.

5. Open Culture! Open Culture brings together high-quality cultural & educational media for the worldwide lifelong learning community. Web 2.0 has given us great amounts of intelligent audio and video. It's all free. It's all enriching. But it's also scattered across the web, and not easy to find. Our whole mission is to centralize this content, curate it, and give you access to this high quality content whenever and wherever you want it. This website offers free access to 1500 free online courses from top universities, 1150 free movies online including classics, film noir, Indies, Westerns and many more! You can access 1000 free downloadable audio books, 800 free ebooks for Kindle, iPad and other devices, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), many of which leads to certificates or statements of completion though not degrees. A "$" indicates that the course is free, but the credential costs money. Learn 46 languages online for free and access 200 free kid;s educational resources with video lessons, books, apps, websites and more.

6. The National Film Board of Canada. To access free films please find the word AVAILABILITY on the page tool bar and click the arrow so the menu unfolds. "Free" is one of your options. Currently this site offers free short films (5-30 minutes) featuring First Nations and Native Americans under Indigenous Cinema. This is a fabulous resource, especially for those of us who like documentary films.

7. The Paris Opera! From 17 March, the Paris Opera will be putting its most beautiful shows from its archives online free of charge. From Don Giovanni to Swan Lake and The Tales of Hoffmann, there are many great classics to see or rediscover from home. The website can be viewed en Francais or English. Their schedule of upcoming events is available on this web site and includes: Don Giovani, Manon, Das Rheingold, Die Valkyrie, and other performances.

8. The Monteray Bay Aquarium! You may have had to cancel your spring vacation, but you still can (virtually) visit the aquatic animals housed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Peek at the groups of jellyfish and sharks, do some bird watching in the Aviary, follow the African penguins as they waddle around, and catch a glimpse at the pulsing moon jellies all through the institutions’ free live streams. And for close-ups of the species, head to Instagram. (via Laughing Squid).

9. Storyline Online! The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and dozens more.

10. Grow Forage Cook Ferment! This web site is a fabulous resource for recipes and Youtube videos showing how to make Mead, hand made soap, herbal salves, Chickweed Pesto, and loads of other interesting and helpful things.

11. British Wildflower Finder. this comprehensive web site was created and is maintained by Roger Darlington, a friend of boater Chris Thorp (NB Ceiriog). It is brilliant and easy to use. I posted this specifically for all my British friends, family and loved ones. As you are out walking along towpaths or National Trust properties, or public walkways through the glorious British countryside you may come across a plant you don't recognize and this site may be quite helpful. xxx

12. Teaching young children the importance of washing their hands! I found this simple video the perfect teaching moment to illustrate to young children, the importance of washing our hands. To replicate it for your children and grandchildren all you need is a shallow bowl or plate, pepper, liquid hand or dish soap, and water. Explain that the pepper in the bowl is pretending to be a virus. Follow the video and watch young children become startled and amazed!

Finally, today is Les' 72nd birthday. We are remembering my Best Beloved at dinner tonight with one of his favorite meals: Three Sisters Chicken and Chorizo Casserole. Unfortunately I couldn't bake his favorite Carrot cake as we are half packed and in the process of moving to a new, larger apartment soon. Happy birthday baby! You are missed and loved, always.

Les at the dinette in April 2013. We were moored up on the Lea navigation just near Waltham. I love that look on his sweet face!

Friday, February 28, 2020

The Tale of the Tumbling Tumbleweeds

"And the wind blows, the dust clouds darken the desert blue, pale sand and red dust drift across the asphalt trails and tumbleweeds fill the arroyos. Good-bye, come again." ~Edward Abbey, American author and environmental essayist, 1927-1989

   It is 347 miles from Gresham, Oregon to Spokane, Washington. The route takes one along the Columbia River Gorge and then Northeast up onto the Columbia River plateau and across several hundred miles of arid bush land and high desert; mostly flat but punctuated with basalt mesas and canyons. It is the kind of topography that seems empty a lot of the time and vast, sending one's mind back into the far past when there were no Europeans or their offspring on this continent. This is sagebrush and Tumbleweed country.
   A young, confident driver can make the trip in just over five hours; I have driven it in five hours thirty years ago but not anymore; it takes me eight hours now with several toilet stops, a couple of rest stops to put my seat all the way back and close my eyes for thirty minutes, and a lunch hour detour. I tell myself this is fine. It is perfectly acceptable. I am no longer young and I have health issues that make travel more nightmare than vacation. I hear boater Alan Fincher over in the U.K., after Les' death, cautioning me not to be so driven. His warning echoes in my thoughts frequently. 
   I made a trip up to Spokane last Sunday to spend a couple of days with a dear friend--one of the Wednesday Women--who has received a cancer diagnosis. We got together for lunch and to bask in the warmth of deep friendship in the face of frightening news. The weather forecast for Sunday from the NOAA (National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration) weather page included a Hazardous weather warning for Eastern Oregon, Eastern and Central Washington. High winds of 50-60 MPH and rain with snow mixed in higher elevations. Sigh...there was nothing for it but to begin the trip and hope for the best.
The "always-green" of Western Oregon. This is a shot of the Columbia River from an overlook about thirty miles East of Gresham. 
   I Left Gresham under roiling, dark clouds and pissing down rain with wind gusts in the 40's. A large storm front rolled in off the Pacific Ocean, ninety eight miles West of Portland and funneled the weather towards us along the Columbia Gorge. The winds picked up as I traveled 102 miles to John Day Dam, crossing from the always-green rain forest topography of Western Oregon into the arid brush land of Eastern Oregon. I stopped once already to rest my eyes for thirty minutes and the winds worsened while I checked my eyelids for holes. At John Day Dam, the rain fell away as I ascended onto the Columbia Plateau, but the wind increased and the car began rocking and vibrating in the high winds.
   Tumbleweeds appeared and I experienced a very strange phenomena: the dried, skeletal shrubs appeared to have come alive! They trembled in the wind, at the side of the freeway like shaggy, frightened animals waiting for a gap between cars in order to spin across the blacktop of two lanes and make it in one piece to the other side. Most of the Tumbleweeds were small and easily shattered against the front of the car but traffic slowed from 70 MPH to about 65. Then I came around a large curve and the wind changed direction, coming from directly behind both lanes of traffic. As I came out of the curve I was astonished (as was the driver in the lane next to me whose mouth dropped into an astonished O), to see tumbleweeds filling both lanes in front of us, racing along as though to some invisible finish line far ahead. We could not drive through them; we could only pace ourselves and drive along behind the spinning herd. Several miles on, the road curved again and the tumbleweeds continued to roll off the freeway and catch on the fencing separating our traffic lanes from those heading in the opposite direction. Soon enough the fence wore a prickly sweater of various size and colored weeds, giant sweater pills stuck to the fence for hundreds of miles. 
   Approaching Biggs Junction (yes you read that right!) the sky darkened appreciably as a giant dust storm kicked off, spreading for 118 miles of driving with the headlights on and a slowed speed of 50 MPH. It was like driving at night only the dark was a swirling blanket of dirt kicked up by the winds. Tumbleweeds still careened across the road and drivers were swerving to try and miss the larger weed balls. I finally merged onto I-82 and then crossed into Washington and onto Highway 395 North. Two large semi trucks had flipped over on the opposite side of the freeway and it looked like the apocalypse outside: dozens of police cruisers with lights flashing, the dirt-dark sky closing in everywhere and tumbleweeds shooting across the landscape like round mortars shot from a rocket launcher. Traffic was backed up for twenty seven miles all the way back into Kennewick. People were milling around in the flying dirt with shirts and scarves pulled over their faces; a crazy zig-zag of  headlights on stopped cars strung along highway 395 from the scene of the second overturned rig all the way back over the Blue Bridge into town. I kept a steady pace of fifty MPH and finally made it into Kennewick where I planned to stop for lunch. It was 1:58 PM, dark as evening outside and my Subaru Outback shuddered and shook with the wind gusts. The metal signal light post hanging across the road ahead bounced up and down as if an invisible hand was moving it. 
As you can see, the signal light arms are not exactly flimsy things. It takes a big wind to make those steel poles bob up and down like a a child bobbing for apples. 
   After lunch I struck out again and didn't see blue skies and true daylight for another forty miles after finally passing the last of the giant commercial agro-farms and packing plants that are spread across the face of the high desert, existing only because of the Columbia Basin Reclamation project. Begun in 1943, it services 671,000 acres, allowing fruit and vegetable crops to be grown on high desert land with irrigation from the mighty Columbia River.
   Tumbleweeds still bounced, swirled, raced and spun across the road and would continue for another forty one miles until I merged on to Interstate 90 at Ritzville. Two and half hours later I was heading down Sunset Hill into Spokane--a site for very sore eyes. 
  The visit was bittersweet. I love my Rise Up Sisters as the Wednesday Women are also called. We lost two of our number last year to the vicissitudes of old age. We do not want to lose another one. Spending time in the company of Kialynn, Rhea, Gina, (Marian and Rosemarie are dead now) has always fed my intellect. They are women of great thought, good deeds, and deep creativity. Time with them nourishes my spirit. 
The Wednesday Women, Left to right: Kialynn, Marian (seated), Lisa, Rosemarie, Gina (seated), and Rhea, 2013.
Mt. Hood from I-84 driving West, just outside of The Dalles, Oregon.
   I am happy to report that for the most part the drive home was a lot less harrowing. The sun was out, the skies were blue, and the wind was calm. Mt. Hood, a partially active strato-volcano and one of the tallest peaks in the Continental USA, appeared suddenly just West of Arlington. It looked like a tall white shark's tooth jutting up in the far distance. As I continued on Westward towards Portland, the mountain popped in and out of view, growing larger as my car ate up the miles. I was astonished at how the tumbleweeds seemed to have vanished from the landscape! Perhaps they are lying in wait down in the canyons criss-crossing Washington's central basin. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Settling Into Oregon

"All that we see and seem is but a dream within a dream." ~Edgar Allen Poe; American Writer, editor, and literary critic (1809-1849)

   I've been living in Gresham, Oregon now since mid-December. I am pleased to be a help to my flat mates: my youngest daughter Sparky, my daughter-in-law Kelli, and my foster daughter Mary, who refers to me as her Pond Mom, since I lived across the pond in Britain. We all share a similar sensibility and sense of humor. Life is tough these days in the USA and it takes everyone contributing and pooling resources to make ends meet. I make the weekly menus and the grocery lists, purchase the groceries, and cook the meals. Now my chickens, as I call my girls, are eating proper meals. Before I moved in they were eating fast food and prepared processed food products from the grocery mart. Each of them works a different shift so someone is always coming in or heading out.
   I also live with a herd of felines! I am over the moon to live with cats again. I am the mobile petting station, as their food bowl is on a table near the end of the couch which is also my bed. Like furry sharks, the felines circle past me on their way to the food bowl, the litter boxes, and the dog's water bowl which they drink out of, getting up on their hind legs and leaning in to the bowl. From behind the cats appear to be scrying in the water which cracks me up. I have developed a relationship with each one and they with me.
   I have been saving ideas for this blog on bits of paper and I finally sat down with them all, determined to get this post written. Without further delay here are some interesting things that have crossed my path in the past two months:

1. Relax Melodies. My oldest daughter introduced me to this app by Ipnos and I love it. It is a sleep application which I downloaded to Les' Kindle Fire. There are graphics that look like the wooden blocks that hang on the end of chimes. Each one plays a different sound. One can choose as many sounds as one wants, layering them together to save as mixes to play when one wants help to fall asleep. My mixes include layered sounds with names like Night River Owls, which reminds me of mooring up on NB Valerie near the woods with owls hooting at night. Wind Chime Storm layers a delicate wind chime with the sounds of a thunder storm and rain. Evening Chorus is a layer of lapping water, owls, frogs croaking, Loons calling, and crickets. Cottage Sonata layers wind in trees, wind chimes, fire crackling, and a river. I find it extremely difficult to shut my mind off and fall asleep. This app is incredibly relaxing and effective. You can try it for free which gives one access to about fifteen sounds. I bought an annual subscription for $23.00 and have access to over thirty sounds.
2. 1 Tac Safety Lights/Roadside Discs. While these amazingly tough lights were developed for use in vehicles as accident hazard lights, I can also see how they would come in extremely handy for boaters as well. They can be set to flash like police lights, blink, or static brightness, and they are magnetic, waterproof, and tough enough to drive over with a truck. The link for these in the USA is here; the link for these in the UK is here. They are sold in a pack of three. 
3. BBC Reel. Since I can no longer access the BBC stations in the USA , I go their website for European news with my morning cuppa. I find the BBC website far less biased than their TV news and some of the add-ons available are fascinating. The home page offers a Playlist link in the upper right. This will take you to different short videos clustered around ideas like Culture, Villages, Physics, history, Living in the Future, and The Science of Everyday Life. I've watched intriguing short vids about villages in Spain selling houses for €1 and entire villages for the equivalent of $30,000.00. I've been captivated by Japan's mysterious keyhole tombs, the flower that blooms every 12 years, the map (of the world) that survived 700 years, the rarest fabric on earth, creating leather from mushrooms, why Swedes won't talk about wealth, a rem]mote town made form Opal mines, secret worlds: a journey to the most recondite and hard to access places and communities, the secret world beneath Alhambra, is our perception if time wrong?, and the origins of the mysterious Guanches! What might those be, you ask?  Check them out on BBC Reel. 
4. Dezeen. This is an architecture and design magazine with a weekly newsletter that covers the world of design in all things: architecture, clothing, shoes, jewelry, automobiles, AI virtual beings, and technology to name a few and many of the design pieces favor reader input. It also offers links to design and architecture job openings if you are so educated and inclined. These recent stories on Dezeen caught my eye: Scientists at Tufts University have created xenobots, tiny robots made from frog skin and heart cells that can walk and heal themselves; Samsung has developed AI-powered virtual beings that look and behave like real humans, much to reader disgust; the car design inspired by the movie Avatar. Mercedes-Benz's Vision AVTR concept also incorporates battery technology centered on a graphene-based organic cell chemistry that is free of "rare earths" and metals such as nickel and cobalt. The materials used to make the battery are compostable and fully recyclable, making the car free from fossil resources. The Vision AVTR interiors are also made from sustainable materials such as vegan leather seats, with a floor made of rattan. Practice Architecture worked alongside hemp farmers to erect this zero carbon home in Cambridgeshire, England, from pre-fabricated panels in just two days. Who's buying that information? Danish Architecture firm BIG has branched into smart home products. Controlled via smartphone, the Friday Smart Lock can automatically unlock a door when it senses the resident approaching, lock it as they leave, or allow them to remotely control who has access to the property. Designed in Hackney: last summer Hackney architects Studio Weave turned an old narrow boat into a floating cinema that toured the canals of east London. You can go to the web page of the newsletter and type narrow boat, canals, or canal boat into the search function and all sorts of design stories related to your search will turn up to intrigue and perhaps disgust you!
5. Wordsmith. If you are a logophile--a lover of words--then this website and free daily word email will satisfy your need for verbiage. Nearly 400.000 people in 170 countries have a free subscription to the Word of A Day email which always includes a new word, its pronunciation, etymology, definition, usage, and a thought for the day, and each week's words follow a theme. Created by Anu Garg--a computer programmer from Northern India, it is the only daily email that I am reluctant to consign to the rubbish bin after reading. Yesterday's word was Faff and of course it made nostalgic for Britain. My thanks to my dear friend Karen Barron in Pullman, Washington for sending me the link and getting me hooked!!
6. Black raspberries. Black raspberries have the highest amount of ellagic acid compounds of any fruit, and Oregon produces 90% of the world's black raspberries which are neither blackberries or raspberries. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center clinical studies indicate the anticarcinogenic effects of ellagic acid against liver, esophageal, prostate, and colorectal cancer cell lines. It was also shown to induce apoptosis and potentiate all-trans retinoic acid myeloid differentiation therapy in human leukemia HL-60 cells. Human research studies at the University of Ohio have worked with one farm in Mt. Hood, Oregon and one producer who provides a standardized black raspberry product used for their human clinical studies which show that a paste of black raspberries on pre cancerous mouth lesions can stop the progression to cancer and return the cells to normal functioning. According to James Wong, a British Kew-trained botanist, with a Master of Science degree in Ethnobotany, he has pursued his key research interests of underutilised crop species, ethnopharmacology and traditional food systems through field work in rural Ecuador, Java and China. On his website Wong says, "A Phase 1 clinical trial at the University of Ohio suggested that consuming the fruit reduced the markers of DNA damage in oral cancer survivors . Additional test tube and animal studies also suggest their consumption may be linked to the inhibited growth of esophagus and other cancers. The researchers are careful to not make claims that go beyond their limited data & more clinical trials are underway."
   I follow Chris Wark's website and blog. He chose alternative treatment to heal from colon cancer at the age of twenty six. He investigates both western allopathic cancer treatments and alternative treatments and I highly recommend his web site to anyone facing a cancer diagnosis. I only wished I had found it when Les was diagnosed in 2013. His blog post for this week happened to be about black raspberries and he has a video interview with the man who produces the standard black raspberry product used in human clinical trials at Ohio University and also in research at Oregon State University. I encourage you to read through this blog post from top to bottom as he also has links to research on this subject.
7. My Modern Met. Somewhere along the way on my thousands of sleepless nights I came across this website and fell in love with it. If you love art and culture in all its myriad forms, you too will enjoy this site. MMM has a weekly newsletter delivered by email without any adverts. Here are some of the topics I've discovered through this weekly newsletter: Land Artist Surprises Beach Goers By Leaving Striking Stone Arrangements Along the Coast; People Are Shocked to Discover That Not Everyone Has an Inner Monologue; Finland Solves Its Homelessness by Providing Apartments for Anyone Who Needs One; Bees Create Heart-Shaped Hive When There Aren’t Frames Up to Guide Them. My Modern Met also has an online store with some fun and intriguing items that make fabulous gifts. I love the vertical Jenga style game made with elegant wooden cats cut out to stack, and the GI Joe plastic soldier figurines in rainbow colors. None of the soldiers are holding guns; instead they are engaged in holding a yoga pose! There are vivid super saturated water colors in a small book no bigger than a small mobile phone for easy transportation, and handbags that appear to have the front cover of either Pride and Prejudice or The Raven by EA Poe on them.
8. A lovely woman I know named Mary Kunkel has become a writer in her golden years. She writes slice-of-life pieces about 500 or so words and there is a link to her blog over on the right, titled, Lightly Tethered to the Earth. Recently she wrote about Ravens in a post titled "Learning a New Language". In it she references wilderness explorer and writer Craig Child and his piece about Ravens which appeared in The Sun magazine, which I think you will find fascinating. Mary's piece led to Craig's book The Animal Dialogues. Child's writing is simply beautiful. It is deeply resonant. He paints word pictures of great depth and feeling about the wilderness, the animals which cross his path, and his small place in the larger picture as he interacts with them. I highly recommend it.
   Until next time!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Les Biggs, In Remembrance



"A thousand words won't bring you back; I know because I've tried. Neither will a thousand tears; I know because I've cried." ~Kily Dunbar, grieving mother

Les died three years ago today at 9:08 am. It seems like yesterday...I count myself so very lucky we found each other and loved one another for a brief span of time. I tried to post a few of my favorite pictures of him, but Blogger kept deleting them when I tried to add captions, and then shuffled them out of sequence, so I will just go with this one as it captures so well Les' joy for life. He loved to laugh and how he made me laugh!! He was and always will be my brown eyed handsome man, my heart's desire...
Les on our deck under the Lilac tree at Cloudhouse in Pullman, Washington, August 2011. Do you know I viewed this picture many dozens of times before I realized he was making rabbit ears at me!

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs