O Love Olive Oil

And now, here is the rest of the story.

Our EEVO and Balsalmic Vinegar Picnic

I used to be the world’s pickiest eater. Then one year I made a New Years resolution to learn to like one new food per year. And then, when my ex-wife returned to college, I took on the task of cooking for the family, and started looking for healthy recipes instead of just making the four things I knew how to cook. Somewhere in that timeline, I discovered olive oil. I think it was watching Rachel Ray when I got intrigued by EVOO as she called it – Extra Virgin Olive Oil and started looking for better quality olive oils. Apparently others were doing the same thing, because specialty stores started popping up selling oils from around the world, and offering free tastes before purchase. Drizzle in Bellingham, Washington became my favorite local source; weekend trips found my new wife and I tasting in Port Townsend, Leavenworth, Coquitlam, B.C., and at Pike Place market in Seattle. Longer trips found us slurping exotic oils in Santa Fe and Sonoma. And then came Italy in 2016.

This ancient guy is 200+ years old!

I have always been enamoured of Italy, always wanted to travel there, but had never been abroad before, so it seemed a little daunting. One day we were wine tasting at Hellams Vineyard in La Conner, and saw lots of photos of people wine tasting in Italy on a large TV they had. It turns out they conducted guided trips there, and had one coming up to Puglia, ‘way down in the heel of Italy’s boot. Seven days, less than 20 people, staying at an Agriturismo with daily excursions to wineries, fabulous restaurants, historical sites … and an olive oil producer. We signed up.

Historic underground olive oil press

Every day, after breakfast in the huge family manor dining area, we would walk about a third of a mile down the narrow roadway to the equivalent of a small county road to wait for our bus to take us on another adventure. One day we headed out, and were taken to a small town where we got to go underground and see the remains of an old olive oil mill. It was recently discovered when someone went to construct a new building, and broke through the “roof”. The workers had apparently just walked off the job one day, and left it intact. Back in the day, olive oil was used primarily for lighting, as well as cooking. Once electricity came, the demand for olive oil plummeted. 

A small portion of the small plates we tasted

From this ancient mill, now a museum, we went to an olive grove, owned and operated by two brothers, one who spoke excellent english, and gave us great insights to growing olives. Besides some older trees (which can live to be hundreds of years old, and are protected by law), they are planting ancient varieties that used to be grown and harvested there. We then went to his home, where a treat awaited us – a small simple repast, complete with a lesson on how to taste olive oil. We were instructed to fill a very small cup with the oil, then taste and swallow. 

Maybe even more so than wine, every olive growing region has a distinct flavor profile. Once swallowed, great oil should leave a bit of a burn in the throat. Apparently, most olive oils consumed in the USA are actually a mix of olive oil and other vegetable oils. Also, they have a shelf life; the best oils will have a harvest date on the label, and should be consumed within 12 – 18 months of harvest. The “tapas” they served paired perfectly with the olive oil; we were not only able to take the small, unfinished bottles with us (which we used in cooking our own meals in Italy after we left the tour), but we were also able to order 3 liter tins of the oil from the orchards we had visited for pick up once we got home. You can check them out here.

Our latest EEVO purchase

Since then, we became even more picky about our olive oil purchases. We typically have two olive oils on our counter at all times; one high quality bottle for cooking and everyday use, and one very high quality one for special uses. Pouring some in a small bowl with an exceptional balsamic vinegar, and using it as a dip for artisan rosemary bread (from Avenue Bread in Bellingham) is simply wonderful. So, besides visiting every olive oil purveyor we can, we found that Costco often has pretty decent oils from Puglia and other southern Italy or Greecian locations. Now COVID has put the kibosh on both olive oil tasting rooms, but also in-store Costco shopping for us. In desperation, I went online to Costco, and low and behold, they have some really good olive oils in 3 liter tins that they ship directly to our home! We’ve nearly finished off two tins, and just got in two more. These are from southern Italy, and sound like they should taste great.

So, this is a journey that never ends, as long as there is a new pressing of oil from a far-flung location for us to try. Years ago, I’m sure I would have politely declined the invitation to go to an olive oil tasting. Now, I’m so glad I’m out of that box, and ready to explore all the flavors of the world. Join me?
P.S. Our friends Gary and Linda turned us on to what is now our absolute favorite balsamic vinegar. Napa Valley Naturals Balsamic Vinegar is available from almost every food co-op, or online. You may want to check it out!

Breaking Up with Facebook

Burned out or burned up, or just burned?

At this point in life, I would venture to guess that many of you have awoken in the middle of the night, and struggled to get back to sleep. It doesn’t often happen to me, but it did about a week ago. My mind started working and churning, and my thoughts twisted and turned in myriad ways.

I found myself struggling mightily with the present circumstances of isolating against coronavirus, of worrying about the future of our great land as we find ourselves sharply divided on a host of issues that seem perilous. I questioned why it feels like so many others whom I know don’t see the dark clouds rushing towards us carrying a mighty storm. I turned my thoughts to Facebook, and how junked up it had become, with so few posts from friends and relatives, and so many advertisements and miscellaneous junk.

Then posts I had recently made came to my remembrance, and I was upset at both what I had posted, and also the apparent indifference with which they were received. I perceived that I had slowly formed a bond with feedback or lack of it on Facebook and my own self-worth. I’ve mentioned before that my wife, correctly, has called me a “boy scout” due to my proclivity to try and fix every problem I see, and I saw where that’s precisely the task I had set for myself on this social media platform. I could clearly apprehend how this had slowly malformed me, and at 4:00 in the morning, in the pitch-black, I could also clearly see what I needed to do … I needed to put some real distance between me and Facebook.

I’ve always been an early-adapter to new technology and techniques, and so got on FB and other social media sites soon after they were introduced. I loved being visually connected with my friends and family, and I also realized its potential for businesses and groups. The hooks were set early and deep, and I embraced them willingly. But in the dawn of the new day, my resolve was clear, and I started my “trial separation.” I wondered how my … addiction? … obsession? … dependence? … on FB would impact me when I pulled the plug. 

Now, several days out, I am quietly pleased at the change. Yes, I miss the engagement I would occasionally get during this season of social deprivation. And it feels like I am going to have to reinvent myself, or rather reconstruct myself, as I go forward on this path. But there is also a new sense of peace that I didn’t expect. 
So, what does the future hold? For now, you can find me on Instagram at adventuresingraying and billscamera, or feel free to connect with me using FaceTime, Messenger, Zoom or even email me at adventuresinaging@gmail.com. Thanks for taking the time to read this; I always appreciate comments and shares with your friends.

The Other Cabin Fever

I’m not sure when I first really desired to own a cabin, but guessing it was nearly 50 years ago when I first got the itch. Remember when we were all going to move back to the land, grow our own food, and save the world? Yep, I was going to have 20 acres, with a cabin right smack dab in the middle, off the grid and self-sufficient. Gosh, that may sound even better today than it did back then! 

Bath Time 1950

My first exposure to cabin life was when I was maybe eight months old. Our church had property between Battle Ground and Yacolt, Washington, across the road from the Lewis River called “Lewis River Campground”. Back then week-long family gatherings would be held, called “Reunion.” Many families built, owned and maintained their own basic cabins where they would stay, attending classes, services, playing softball or volleyball, and singing songs at campfire.

Typical cabin scene

My mom’s mom owned a cabin there. I wish I had more historical data about it, but I’m assuming my grandfather Ross built it before he passed away when my mom was 16 years old. We “inherited” it, and used it faithfully. I’m guessing each cabin was about 20’x20’, and were similarly appointed inside.

I remember when my dad’s dad came down from Canada to “remodel” the cabin. They took about 8’ of the cabin length, and lowered the floor about 18” which allowed them to build two 10’ long bedrooms, each with a bunk bed. They then built a loft above the bedrooms, which became my parents bedroom (and sleeping place for Jae, the youngest of us five kids).

Our cabin, best as I remember

As I recall, the walls inside were not finished, so we could see the studs. We had a small cook stove that also served as heat on chilly nights, a real-live ice box (it was my job to get the blocks of ice when they were delivered to the camp, and to empty the drip pan), an old medicine cabinet with (maybe?) a small chest of drawers under it with a washbasin on top. Memory fades, but pretty sure there was a countertop near the stove with a linoleum top, and fabric “doors” below. A tall fir tree grew near the cabin, giving us great shade in the afternoon.

Creek or Crick, fun to play in!

There was a crick nearby (cricks have crawdads, creeks don’t) where kids spent hours making dams out of rocks, splashing and being splashed. Across the county road was a rough dirt track down to the Lewis River, which served as both a swimming hole and baptismal fount. When I was quite young, no older than two years old, I ventured out on a large stone outcropping to get a better view of a baptism, and slipped into the river, and started being carried downstream. My dad had to shuck his suit coat, and dive in after me. I have no memory of the event, but I’ve always been leery about putting my head under water, and didn’t learn how to swim until college.

Swimming hole/Basptismal Fount. Rock in background is where I fell in the river.

Long ago, I found and bought an old book from the 40’s about designing and building our own cabin. I treasured that book for years, and wish I had it yet. It was chock-full of wisdom and common-sense insights on site selection, various types of construction, and how-to building tips.

Still perfect for family camping experiences.

I would still love to own a little cabin, alongside a crick or small river, fir trees nearby, and just simple furnishings inside. A serene place to go and just relax without distractions of town and traffic, memes and emails. An escape from the cabin-fever of our self-imposed confinement to escape the pervasive pandemic. I’m thinking a cabin would be a good cure for my cabin-fever; hope springs eternal.

P.S. Thanks to Adrienne Chilberg (the first girl I held hands with, at a camp at Lewis river) for the photos of the Lewis River Campground cabins, and Susan Gregory for the photos of the creek, river, and me in the basin.

Seniors Stuck Inside Escape!

Seniors Stuck Inside Escape!

Today, July 14th, marks four months of our determination to practice extreme social isolation to avoid Coronavirus. I am high risk due to my age, and my lungs have never been as robust as I would have liked. Terri is at extremely high risk due to a compromised immune system. So for four months we have either 1) stayed at home; 2) driven to Fred Meyer to have them load our groceries into the back of our vehicle; 3) walked a neighborhood in Anacortes where the sidewalks are deserted or 4) hiked the least-travelled trail in Little Mountain Park in Mt. Vernon. For four months.

The rain had settled in for days (weeks?), and our four walls really started to close in, so we began thinking about how we could safely escape for a bit. Renting a mid-sized motor home seemed like a possibility, until we figured out that it would be about a thousand bucks for three actual nights of camping. Looking more closely, all the nice spots in the state and National Forest campgrounds we wanted to go to were already booked – and in private campgrounds, we would be camped cheek and jowl next to dozens of other campers. Scratch that off the list.

View from our deck

Then WorldMark opened our condos in Leavenworth for July! We quickly booked three nights, then started analyzing the situation. Pros: every unit has an outside door, so no elevators or corridors to share with anyone else. It has a great kitchen, so we can take all the food we need, no need to go to a restaurant or even a grocery store. The units have nice views overlooking a golf course and out to the mountains. Multiple calls revealed they have a much more stringent cleaning procedure; 100% of the bedding is changed, they are disinfecting everything, and then they use a disinfecting mist for the furniture and flooring. They even offer curbside check-ins!

Icicle River with Cascades in the background

Cons: Is it as safe as they say? Will we be safe on the trails we’d like to hike? Is it wise to travel? How long is the room vacant before we check in? We examined all these concerns and more in the days before our scheduled departure, then settled on a course of action. WM agreed to open all the windows once they were done cleaning. Once there, we masked up and put our box fan in the door while also opening the deck slider to really air the place out as we moved our gear in. Terri brought additional cleaning supplies, and re-cleaned every high-touch surface in the condo. 

Whew! Once all that was done, we celebrated with a glass of wine on the deck, with a fabulous view of the surrounding mountains, and the sun shining all around us, the air like a warm blanket. Sooo relaxing! So nice to have a view! So nice to have a change of scenery from our backyard! The next day we just took it easy, and went for a drive up the Icicle Canyon, just to explore a bit, and check out the campgrounds for future reference. 

Lots of powerful rapids along this river!

The following day, we awoke filled with energy and determination to get out and hike the Icicle Gorge Loop Trail, a beautiful 5 mile loop that circles around both sides of this wild river. We weren’t alone. There were literally dozens and dozens of families out doing the same thing, which presented a challenge to our desire to be as safe as possible. As often as we could,  we got at least 6’ off the trail to let others pass. When we couldn’t get off the trail, we masked up as we passed the oncoming hikers. Maybe 20% of the other hikers were masked. We just kept telling each other that every article we read said that there was almost zero risk of infection when walking outdoors, and not sharing the same outdoor space with others for more than 10 minutes. The hike was absolutely beautiful, and nourishing to the soul.

Narrow channel through a rocky gorge

Our three nights and two full days slipped past like the fleeting memory of a dream upon awakening. It was hard to leave. And coming home, we had to keep reminding ourselves that the steps we had taken to stay safe and healthy were effective. Now I’m checking the website every day, hoping that someone will cancel there soon so we can return. In the meantime, we’ve rejoined the ranks of Seniors Stuck Inside.

My Historic Find

Somehow, by the grace of God, I graduated from high school in 1967. I started at what was then Portland State College that September at age 17 with my best friend, Jimmy D. One day as we were in the campus neighborhood, we chanced upon a turn-of-the-century home that was being torn down to make room for more modern buildings, probably for the college. We looked at each other, and knew we had to check it out.

Very little remains of that memory, just being awed by its age and history and faded splendor. Exploring around, I ended up collecting a few treasures that otherwise would have been bulldozed into oblivion. Someplace I may still have an old patent medicine bottle that once contained laudumnun, and a very small pill vial. I also found books of sheet music, printed in the late 1800’s. I also collected an old cast-iron gilded and painted small chandelier. Alas and alack, lost in the fog of history.

Two things remain; a Sunset Magazine from 1907 extolling the virtues of the Pacific Northwest and a newspaper dated March 24, 1918 reporting significant setbacks for the allies against the “Huns” as they are labeled in several front page stories.

Sunset Magazine spine showing date
Move west, young men!

The Sunset Magazine is a real treasure of history. Articles on the limitless amount of trees to be harvested in Oregon, with “trees as big as houses” and showing the skid roads where the fallen giants were hauled on the way to the mills. An article extolling young, vigorous and ambitious men to move to Oregon where they would quickly make their fortune. Photo heavy spreads showing construction of lots of new high-rise buildings in Portland, along with pictures of Craftsman style mansions labeled as “typical homes in Portland.” And so much more: photographs from Vancouver, B.C. to Seattle’s downtown to Tacoma waterfront shipping terminals to the Columbia River Gorge – and Multnomah Falls before the iconic bridge to Crater Lake.

Old Tacoma Shipping
Multnomah Falls before the iconic bridge

Downtown Seattle

I’ve held onto these micro-treasures for 53 years. They take up almost no space, but I am loosening my hold on the past. I wish I could professionally digitally copy the Sunset Magazine and let everyone in Oregon and Washington read it from cover to cover and reflect, but that’s not a reality. What would YOU do if they were yours?

Believe It or Not! Half-Bike, Half-Boy in Portland!

Bike-o-taur noun (def): A supposedly mythical half child, half bicycle creature. Known to spend all waking hours wheeling around their local habitat. Fearless and adventurous.

It turns out that for people who gain inspiration to write blogs from their daily lives, and people who are also still in a state of extreme isolation (due to high risk factors), there is not a whole lot to write about now that the novelty of doing nothing for months on end has worn off. In my case, that means it is devolving into personal history. 

Growing up “mid-century” (as it is now called in architecture) in Portland seemed to be story-book stuff. Ramona Quimby and Henry and Beezus, written by Beverly Cleary, were set just blocks away from where I grew up, and in almost the exact time period. Like Henry, I was obsessed with getting a bicycle, but it just wasn’t in the budget for the family.

I first learned how to ride a bike when I was visiting my Grandpa Wehlitz in San Diego. He was living in something similar to a  U-shaped motor court; a cute little girl lived in another unit and had a bike, and I somehow persuaded her to let me use her new bike to learn on. She may have been a bit upset about a few minor scratches that appeared once I mastered staying upright, but learning how to ride just increased my desire to own my own bike.

Sometime later, a family friend presented me with a bike … of sorts. It was a Frankenbike, put together out of several very mis-matched parts, and it weighed more than I did. I managed to navigate it around the block a few times before I gave up. And then, my grandpa got me a bike! I don’t remember if it was for a birthday, Christmas, or just because, but it was a shiny red Schwinn with a headlight and a … luggage rack? … over the back tire. It looked exactly like this:  

I had forgotten about the horn button on the side, and it’s not a luggage rack, it’s a carrier – which it did; passengers, newspaper bags, and anything that could be tied or bungee-corded to it. Soon my friends Jim and John got bikes, as did the rest of the guys my age in the neighborhood. We rode, and rode and rode and rode all around Portland, starting when we were maybe 10 years old. No helmets, no parental supervision, on four-lane main arterials that criss-crossed the city.

One memorable event Portland used to host during the Rose Festival was the “Kiddie Parade”. Sure, there were grade school bands, local business floats, and I guess even more, but the best part was the decorated wagons and bicycles. Streamers were woven in through the spokes, taped onto the fenders, hung off the handlebars, with playing cards held by clothespins on the fender supports, creating a racket as they hit the spokes when riding. Here is a photo of my sister Susan with her decorated bike: 

If you look at a map of Portland, we grew up in what I think is the exact geographic center, halfway between the Hollywood and Parkrose districts. Besides often riding our bikes to school, we rode all the way north out to the airport, just because. We rode all the way east to the Rose Gardens, across the Burnside Bridge. We rode to Laurelhurst Park, miles away to the south. And of course, we rode to Mt. Tabor. But our favorite was riding east to Rocky Butte.

Rocky Butte is an ancient cinder cone that, back then, had two roads up to a viewpoint on the top, presumably built by the CCC. Before they built tons of trophy homes on it, we thought it was a park. The only dwelling was the city jail, on the opposite side of the mountain we would ride up. The road we used almost exclusively had the added distinction of having a tunnel! 

We would ride the couple of miles there, then labor up to the top on our single-speed bikes. We would always challenge ourselves to see how far up we could get before we had to dismount and walk. We finally made it one day without having to walk the bikes! Once at the top, we would gaze at the 360 degree view for a few minutes, and then race down. When I say race, I mean we would have a contest to see how far down we could make it without using our brakes.

One time, John was in front of me on his 24” bike (mine was 26”), and we were screaming down the hill when we entered the tunnel. Now, this tunnel was curved, besides being steep, and had a rounded concrete “curb” as a divider between uphill and downhill travel. It had never been an issue before, but we had never gone as fast before. I’ve never been any good at physics, but as John entered the tunnel, my young brain computed his speed, the degrees of tilt as he took the corner, and the comparison of the arc of his curve vs. the arc of the tunnel, and I foresaw either him tilting all the way over to street level, or intersecting with the concrete curb … which happened as if it was in slow motion. The bike was launched into the air, did a complete roll, then bike and rider reconnected with the pavement.

The other kids took off, but I walked with him allll the way home, the bike battered and unrideable, and the rider bruised and bleeding from pavement rash. Unfortunately, many events like this resulted in a condition known as “grounding.” I’m told that the idea was to restrict the movement of an individual to their yard as a punishment for disappearing for hours on end without proper notification or approval from the governing authorities. So, I’d be sitting on the little hill on our yard, bike motionless beside me, when Jim and John would ride up and say “Hey! Wanna go for a ride?” I’d look around, and unable to locate any permission-giving authority, I’d say “Yes!”, and off we’d go. We won’t speak of the difference in punishment between then and now.

A few years later, and with a job washing dishes at Woolworth’s, I bought a Three-Speed English Racer! Hills were like level ground, and I could go faster than any of my peers. One thing we used to do was ride a few blocks away, up two pretty steep hills, then scream back down, up an embankment in a friends yard, and catch some air. I rode up the hills, then came down … first gear, then second gear, and finally third gear! So fast, I hit the embankment, flew in the air … and hit the side of his house. No broken bones, somehow, but the bike was mangled. 

I got it repaired, but was somewhat chastened. For a few days. Then we all rode up to the top or Rocky Butte again, and decided to come down the back way. Once again, how far down can we go without hitting the brakes? I now had a speedometer on my bike – 20 -25 -30 mph! I came around a curve, and there was a car doing maybe 20 mph in front of me. My brakes were not adequate for the task, but a rocky, unpaved, extra-wide shoulder was there, so I took the escape route. The skinny tires on my “racing bike” threatened to take me down every foot of the way, then I was back on the road again, still just behind the car, but able to slow enough without hitting it.

Then one day, I graduated from high school; my graduation present was 50% of the price of a 1955 Ford, 6 cylinder, three-on-the-tree, four door sedan. It didn’t last long, but that’s another story.

Flipping the switch to Manana

Still waiting for assembly

My little electric pressure washer died. It wasn’t unexpected; late last fall, I noticed it was leaking oil. Never a good sign. This spring I tried to see if I could take it apart and remedy the situation, but it took tools I didn’t have, so I shrugged my shoulders, and pressure washed the patio pavers, the gutters on the north side of the house, AND the whole north side of the house, which (as is common in the great PNW) was starting to grow a soft, green covering. Much to my surprise, it just kept on working … until I moved to the east side of the house, when it immediately died.

So, like any good American, I went on Amazon, found a new one that fit my needs, and ordered it. It came in a few days later in a nice box, which I moved to my workbench for assembly. Which is where it still sits. As I was in the shower the other day contemplating putting it together, I thought, nah, I can always do that tomorrow. And that’s when I realized covid isolation time had flipped my switch to manana time.

Another project in the wings…

I admit I have a propensity to over-plan. I make spreadsheets about every detail of our vacations; mileage, gas cost, meal cost, sites to visit, etc. Each year I pull up a list of 12 categories where I set at least three goals or projects. Almost every day I make a list of things I want to accomplish that day. It makes some of my friends shake their heads when they find out I actually have a list of my lists, but I just smile – that’s who I am. So my realization that I had slipped into manana time made me stop and puzzle things out a bit.

A formula popped into my head – “If I xxx now, then I can yyy later.” If I work now, I can vacation later. If I paint the house now, I can enjoy summer later. If I plan now, I can make my plans real at a later specified date. Make the list, complete the tasks, check it off the list, and move on to something better. 

It turns out that La Manana means tomorrow morning; but manana means maybe tomorrow, but probably some unspecified date in the future. Which is most likely when my new pressure washer will be assembled. The sun will come out, the day will warm up, and I’ll want to finish my pressure-washing job NOW, and I’ll be upset at how long it will take me to put the thing together and get to work. Oh well. 

In manana time, it’s easy to lay in bed a few extra minutes in the morning. It’s easy to play a few more games of Words with Friends before getting on with the day. It’s easy to put off unpleasant tasks until they become urgent. A shrug of the shoulders, a quick sideways tip of the head, and hey presto, manana! Unbidden, the image of an older person in a rocking chair on the porch pops into my head. Didn’t someone once say that sitting in a rocking chair was the fastest way to get nowhere? End-stage manana.

Well, I haven’t put buying a rocking chair on my to-do list yet. Maybe I will manana …  and now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make my To-Do List for tomorrow.

Anti-anticipation or Antici-zen-tation

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I kinda rejected the “Faith of Our Fathers”, and went in search of a “better” way. Enlightenment, nirvana, achieving a “Zen” state all seemed to offer an interesting way, maybe a “backdoor” to heaven. That’s not really what this post is about. 

Starting week 7 of extreme isolation, with the world all around me being shut down as well, I’ve found myself not really down or depressed, but just kind of floating about in a detached way, with little or no enthusiasm, no exciting projects, no compelling reason to invest myself beyond the very superficial. As I was self-analyzing my feelings (or lack of them), I realized two things.

First, if I remember right, “Being Here Now” is the essence of Zen. And that is pretty much where I’ve been for the last six weeks. And I’m pretty bored with it, which is why I will never reach that state of Enlightenment, where you are 100% happy to live totally in the now.

Second, I realized how much I love anticipation! And therein lies the rub, as anticipation has been cancelled for some dark, murky future date. Someday, there may (or may not) be a cure for COVID-19. Someday, there may (or may not) be a vaccine for COVID-19. Someday, there may not (or still may) be a need to be compulsive about social distancing and isolation. Someday, there may (or may not) be a return to a simulacrum of the life and activities enjoyed pre-pandemic.

As I’m sure I’ve written before, planning a trip or visit provides me nearly as much enjoyment as the trip itself. I can spend hours and hours planning routes, lodging, sites to see, activities, and expenses. My imagination takes me on the trips several times before I go, and my anticipation grows as the time for the trip approaches.

Once on the trip, I try to milk every moment of being there then (heh heh), lapping it up, reveling in it, totally opening myself to the experience. Once it’s over, I like to compare my plans with how the trip actually turned out, and I generally get satisfaction from that. But now, planning feels more like buying a lottery ticket, knowing full well that the odds are stacked against you. The conspiracy of life removing the joy I get from anticipation is ANTI-anticipation. On the other hand, the extra joy I get when I’m living life to the fullest in the moment I planned for I call anti-ci-zen-tation

So for me, this is a battle between anti-anticipation and antici-zen-tation. Terri said I just needed to fight these feelings, so I guess that would be anti-anti-anticipation. I’m trying to fight it; although there is no way I could even think about planning a significant trip anytime in the next 12-24 months, I am looking at some more local possibilities in another six weeks or so. I may be looking at those reservations with the same skeptical hope I do at lottery tickets, it’s a small step.

PS: I know in the light of the profound suffering of many, this seems puny and very self-centered. It is – I freely admit it. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones, who weren’t able to be with them at the end. My heart goes out to those who are losing the businesses they dreamed about their whole lives, and everyone who is really struggling to get by. 

I am blessed beyond belief! I was also blessed with a very introspective nature I have to deal with occasionally, helping me to learn more about who I am, even at this age. I share this because you or someone you know is trying in their own way to figure things out right now; this is me, trying to figure out deeper parts of me. I hope your journey, whatever it is, is leading you to light places.

You Might Be Right

Way back when, when I was a teenager, I LOVED to argue. I’d get together with my friend Jim, and we’d pick a subject to argue about. We’d argue for a while, and then switch sides to argue against what we had just argued for! Ah, those were the days.

In my previous life, my spouse would get a bit extra angry at me, because I seemed to have the knack of taking something I (in all truthfulness) had been in the wrong about, and make it convincingly sound like it was actually her fault. Mea culpa, my bad.

I was never one to back away from a verbal argument, and occasionally said some things I would regret later. During an argument, it felt like I could instantly identify the flaw in my opponent’s argument, and ratchet it up a notch in my comeback, and it would escalate from there. I particularly regret one argument with a family member that very nearly ended in disaster, until I realized what an ass I’d been, and was fortunate that my apology was accepted.

Well, so soon we get old, and so late smart. A few years back, my friend David introduced me to an aphorism I’ve tried to adopt – “Never miss an opportunity to shut up.” Wise counsel I’ve managed to implement maybe 80% of the times I needed to. What generally gets me into trouble is my passion, especially for the environment and when I see what appears to be willful suffering inflicted on the defenseless. Sometimes I just get sucked in, which happened recently.
A person from my past asked me for the source of a post about the administration rolling back all the protections of our waterways. I got sucked in, and posted my source, which was the Department of Ecology for Washington State. With an impeccable source, he had to resort to an argument that only works if you pick and choose where your beliefs dictate; not so well in areas you might want to protect. What I should have said was (I don’t remember where I read/heard this) “You might be right,” and dropped it. Instead, I responded with his argument being applied to one of their sacred cows, which led to a bit of vitriol. Well, I don’t need that in my life, so just ended it by saying “Goodbye, xxxxx” and making that real. So not only did I miss a chance to shut up, I missed a chance to snuff out the flame before it turned into a wildfire by saying “You might be right.” Still learning lessons at 70 years old, but I guess that’s how life goes.

What are you reading?

Up in my attic someplace are two very old books of poetry – A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, and another I’ve forgotten the title of, quite small and very ragged. I remember my mother reading to me from them, which was my first introduction to reading. I learned how to read at an early age, and it remains a passion today.

Loved My Weekly Reader back in the day

Growing up I was always the second fastest reader in my class – Candy Beach (her real name) was always faster than I was, and I could never beat her. One of my favorite times of year was when our classroom got to place orders for books that we could select from a list. I’d excitedly bring the “catalog” home, and wheedle and cajole some money for my mom to buy as many books as possible. A few weeks later they’d come and be distributed, and a couple of days after that, I’d have read them all. I guess that’s about when I started going to our local library to check out books (check out my blog post on my history with libraries here if you haven’t read it).

My home library, a shadow of its former glory

Even back in grade school, I’d find an author I liked, and read everything they wrote – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (primarily Sherlock Holmes), Edgar Allen Poe, Zane Gray were just a few. I’d go over to Jimmy D’s house, we’d both sit and read for a couple of hours, then I’d go home. I was incredibly fortunate in high school to have an English teacher who would start out every class reading an excerpt from a book, where I got introduced to The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, which opened up a whole new world to me. And then there was Foydor Dostoyevsky – deep, dark brooding books that suited my teenage angst to a T. Oh, and can’t forget Hemmingway!

Perfect timing to read this book, for many reasons

Dozens of years and authors later, I’m still at it. Mark Twain remains one of my favorites, and I think Pat Conroy (Prince of Tides and many more) was America’s greatest novelist. Okay, I could go on forever about amazing, even life-changing books I have read, but I won’t (at least, not now). Here is what I am reading now: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is primarily set in Bogota, Columbia, from the late 1899’s to around 1930. The title has always fascinated me, and this just seemed like a perfect time to read it. While historical novels have never been high on my list of favorite reads, I love the use of language and descriptive prose detailing granular details of both the physical and social environment of the times. 

Bet I wish I’d read this last year…

Next up, when I finish this is The Next Human Die Off (and how to prepare for it) by Robert Chapman. While the premise seems to be based on collapse of sufficient food production that leads to mass starvation, it also addresses plagues. Yeah, sounds a bit dark, but fascinating like looky-loos going past a car wreck. I might need something lighter when I finish it – so, back to my question, What are YOU reading? Please share your recommendations in the comments!