Friday, July 31, 2009

Having time for others...

It keeps coming back to that fourth dimension- Time. Somebody should take a stop-watch and secretly time the amount of time that we can get in impromptu conversations with strangers on the street. Would it correlate that more time equals happier people?

This past week, I got online and searched out people in Walla Walla who might know something about telescopes. Sue and the kids bought me such a nice birthday present and I don't know the first thing about setting up and using the telescope. So, I called around in Walla Walla to see if anyone might be willing to instruct me if I paid them? I figured to find a student with some extra time in the summer. Instead, one of the leading astronomers in the region happily suggested that I bring over the telescope so she could teach me! What lovely kindness to a total stranger.

My kite is meant to arrive any day "advanced beginner" model rated up to 24 mph windspeed. With no idea of how to fly it, I tried again on the web to locate somebody who might want to help me out. Turns out that Walla Walla is the headquarters for the nation kite-flyers association. Perfect!

Kites, telescope, and the outdoor shower. My goodness...cannot wait to be back to Grape Hill!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bliss and more bliss.

Shooting stars, satellites, a living night sky. All those wonderments that have made men and women ponder for millenia. I don't get to see these enough and nothing is better than gazing up from the chaise lounge viewing away from Walla Walla lights to see that living night sky. Any light from the house at all, even the little tiny bulb inside the doorbell, any light measurably diminishes the visibility. Caught the very best shooting star ever on Sunday night, sitting out chatting with Marianne Reed. Steve Reed and I watched and counted satellites Monday night.
Such a nice stay! Great company, dinner at Big Table, another dinner at jimgermanbar, searching out orchards for ripeness, peaches and 'cots, mostly. Steve knows so much about the fruits and about the growers, too, from growing up on his family's farm just up the road.
On the way home today, we drove another new route: north to Prescott, then west and north again to Lower Monumental Dam. Lots of fairly ordinary farming landscape and then we came to the dam. The map made it look like we could drive across and continue north, but the way was barred by high security fencing and it looked like we would be turning around to run a 1/2 hour south, forced to return to just where we had
left Hwy 124.
A moment later, a security guard buzzed up in his cart and asked for my ID. He then became very cordial and explained that he would open the gates and escort us across the dam! That was so cool, winding our way on top with the high lake to our right and the drop off to our left with the water pounding through the gates.
Just on the north side of the river is one of the more amazing volcanic rock structures that we have ever seen anywhere. As cooling lava was forced upward by new hot flows from below, the molten rock folded and slumped into remarkable weaves and steps...really something worthy of hours.
We missed Palouse Falls, too bad, and went through the dying little town of Kahlotus, a motley disarray of tired old wood buildings and even more tired mobile homes. Even the fields looked tired. Not a lot of hope for Kahlotus. A little girl standing at the fence of the public swimming pool gave me the sweetest little fingertips wave...
From Kahlotus we moved west through Connell, where things appear to be brighter and better-off. Nothing worth noting from there through Othello and Royal City on to Vantage, except that my favorite restaurant in the area has fallen to pieces since the eponymous "Judy" sold and moved on. Steer clear! One lesson that we are learning is to bring along food. When we are taking these meanders, decent food stops can be few and far between.
We are back in Bellevue now, taking care of days of piled up business matters, and still no outdoor shower. I brought all the materials and Noel worked all day yesterday, but there is still another day of work ahead. It is a simple shelter, straight out of pioneering days, except for lots more clean, clear, hot water!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Taking the slow road to China.

There are three routes that offer the "fast ways" to get from Seattle to WallaWalla. The freeway from Seattle across Snoqualmie Pass is always stage one of the fast path. At Ellensburg, we have either to head south through Yakima, Prosser, and in to Richland, Pasco, then on to Walla Walla, the single choice being to take the Hwy 124 cutoff and run north toward Prescott or south through Walla Walla. That choice usually comes down to whether or not we need groceries on the way in.
Another choice is to go past Ellensburg and follow I-90 across the river at Vantage and then turn south on the other side. A quick choice must then be made, to turn left toward Royal City and Othello, then continue south toward Pasco or stay on the river all the way until heading across and south to Richland.
Each route will run about four hours. Three and a half when really pressing, five with bad winter weather.
Then there are the "slow boats". With an extra day or two, meandering adds so much richness and actually makes the traveling feel shorter. Take a quick segue and run up Yakima Canyon from Ellensburg to Yakima. An extra twenty minutes that is lovely...time well spent.
On a lazy summer day, drive over across Chinook Pass rather than Snoqualmie Pass and "waste" a perfectly spectacular 90 minutes of startling beauty from Mt Rainier and the Cascades. Perfect rag-top drive!
We drove yesterday along a drunken sailor's meandering pathway, taking route 97 south from Union Gap across the Yakima Nation Reservation with stark scrub hills on which we saw wild horses...many of them. Good conversations on ecology, on how to manage these beautiful horses, on the role of horses in our heritage.
Further south, the landscape turned into pine forests that we had not expected. Lovely canyons and more water flowing toward the Columbia River. Very much like the Sierra Nevadas and not at all like any terrain we have experienced in 21 years of living in Washington State.
Just before Goldendale, our stomachs were shouting "Feed me!" and we passed a sign reading "Greek Bakery". I did a u-turn and there we were, at St. John's Monastery for tyropita, spanokopita, and pastitsio. A very happening place, too, with about thirty lovely young teenage girls wearing headscarves and long dresses, accompanied by mothers in like garb and a few dads looking quietly out of place. There was a very Amish feeling about us and we felt very much the odd ones, there in our shorts and tee shirts and flip flops. But everyone was extremely nice and not at all officious.
We had a chat with one of the nuns, American, not Greek. So explained that the monastery had been started by three Greek nuns from Volos, a town I know in Greece. She spoke no Greek, so I did not even try to recall the language. It turns out that the monastery is filling a unifying need amongst Romanians, Russians, and several Orthodox communities. The girls do not dress or live in this manner all the time, but they were there to attend a religious summer camp session. All seemed so enthusiastic and happy, while exchanging cell phone numbers and comparing their phones. Not Amish at all, but sweet as can be.
After driving through Goldendale we continued up the north bank of the Columbia, stopping at the Stonehenge Monument and then following the river to Umatilla, crossing over, and following the south bank east to Wallula, passing vineyards along the way and watching huge barges heading downriver toward Portland. Beautiful geology and another entirely different face of the Northwest.
I'm looking into whether we can drive across Stampede Pass next time. This could be a whole 'nother kettle of fish...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

winning and losing

twas a tricky one, this trip sue was going through some tough times with her first bout of ms...her left leg didn't want to work at all she is so amazing, making the best of things rather than dwell on the negative, she spent an entire day in the window seat cataloging recipes and sent me off to play texas hold 'em at the blue came home with a nice pocketful of othr people's money so off we went to jimgermanbar to spend it i still have not got 'round to finishing the outdoor shower, but all the parts are in the shop and i'm ready for next time
fourth of july was spent at the next place over with jay and debbie and their family nice people all the kids were all telling jokes and the raspberry rhubarb crumble was a knockout afterward sue and i sat out on the patio and watched fireworks displays in the distance the wind was blowing south so not a sound only the flashes
sounds came on sunday with an amazing thunderstorm sending zips of lightning down all round us and pelting down raindrops the size of peanuts pretty thrilling really...all that power and glory great clouds all weekend
we drove through selah and out yakima canyon on the way home got lost on the outskirts of selah and waived down a car going the opposite direction I asked the fellow which way is the yakima canyon road and he said follow me as we drove for a few miles i thought what a coincidence it was that he was going in the same direction when we got to the mouth of the canyon he waived and turned around to drive back to town nice is that such a good guy yes, they are out there and i might just be one of them hope so

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It's all about time.

The fourth dimension. Do we control time, does time control us? What is the ultimate request...more time. One of the cool things about vinyl records, beyond the fidelity, was seeing the wheel turning and having the switches to make a singer sound like I expected or sound like Bela Lugosi or like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Time and pace mattered. I still enjoy the spatial reinforcement of seeing hands moving around a clock face, too.
The pace at Grape Hill works for me. Maybe the thumping intensity of a rage party works for others...don't know and don't presume to know?
Sue just upped and suggested that we run over to the farm for an unplanned four day jaunt. How cool that is! Taking advantage of a bit of open time...adding layers to the time. Putting our fingers onto that fourth dimension.
My mother and father are with us on a short visit. They have suggested that all of us go on a cruise in August. Sue is inclined to wait and put it off until next year. I'm thinking about that pesky fourth dimension- it's a tricky one. I'd rather the time we have and fill it up to the counting on time.